Lesser Known Tool Companies

Vanadium Tool Co. (Athens, Ohio) & Affiliated

Here is the link to the Ohio Business Site and the filing for Vanadium Tool Co. on 6/16/1969.  The record shows a status of "Merged out of existance" on 12/29/1986.

Advertisements for salesmen begin to appear in newspapers in 1947.

The earliest HW Retailers magazine we can find Vanadium Tool Co. listed in is 1949, where they are listed under chisels, punches and wrenches.  In the '51 edition they also appear under screwdrivers.

There is an interesting article in the 11/29/1962 edition of the Wilmington News-Journal noting the formation of the Mecto Corp. in order to manufacture mechanics tools.  The article states that the President will be Wendell Fryer and Eugene Workman will serve as Secretary/Treasurer and GM, and Verne Gessner as Sales Dir.  It also states that Mssrs. Fryer and Workman have been directors of the Vanadium Tool Co. for 17 years.  This dates the Vanadium Tool Co. to at least 1945.  The article also notes that Mecto has absorbed the Hicraft Tool Co. and it's factory in Greenfield, OH to begin manufacturing, noting also that Hicraft was an auger bit manufacturer.  Further research on Hicraft reveals that in January of 1952 the company was sold to J. D. McFarland, a Hamilton, OH automobile dealer.  A 1958 edition of Hardware Retailer notes that Hicraft was producers of punches, chisels, screwdrivers, prick and drift punches, along with other small tool items.

Mr. Workman's obituary states he owned Vanadium Tool Co. and Mecto Corp.

Mr. Fryer's Obituary.

We have been able to place Mssrs. Workman and Fryer as residing in Sabina, OH up until late 1944 when they begin showing up with addresses in Athens, OH.  At this point we can make the assumption that the 2 owners likely came from Mechanics Tool & Forge (MAC).

The June 30, 1945 edition of the Wilmington News-Journal reports that Mr. F. H. Bennett and daughters will be moving to Athens due to his interest in the Vanadium Tool Co.  This is the first mention of Mr. Bennett and any affilliation with the company and we have yet to discover any further information.

This report from the State of Ohio (1948) suggests the incorporation of the Hicraft Tool Co. in Greenfield, OH.  Interestingly, the officers are noted as: Mr. William A. Harmon, Wendell F. Fryer, E. A. Workman, and J. S. S. Riley.

Mr. Harmon's Obituary also notes his founding of the Vanadium Tool Company.

The 1/24/1952 edition of the Wilmington News-Journal reports that the Hicraft Tool Co. has been sold to J. D. McFarland, a Hamilton, OH automobile dealer and that the management and employees will remain the same.

The 4/16/1963 edition of The Press-Gazette of Hillsboro, OH notes that the Mecto, Inc. (reporting Mecto = "Mechanics Tool Co") has been approved to receive a grant in order to build a new factory.  It also reports the company will make pliers, wrenches and screwdrivers as a minimum.

An article from the 10/7/1969 edition of The Press-Gazette announces the acquisition of Mecto by K-D Manufacturing and includes a nice historical review of K-D.

This obituary for Mr. Alexander Turner Topping notes that Mr. Topping purchased the Vanadium Tool Co. (along with 2 associates) in 1969 from Mr. William Harmon (see above note on the incorporation of Hicraft).  The article further notes Mr. Topping sold Vanadium Tool Co. to Cornwell in the 1980's, probably late 1986 when it dissolved.

UPDATE Vanadium Tool Co. Acquisition: We have discovered (thanks to a tip from a local Ohio resident) an article in the November 1, 1974 edition of The Messenger newspaper (requires free account to access link) of Athens, OH announcing the sale of Vanadium Tool Co. to Cornwell on October 30, 1974.  The article goes on to note that VTC has been producing wrenches for Cornwell for a number of years and will continue to produce wrenches, punches, and chisels under the Vanadium name and expand it's production of Vanadium and Cornwell items.  The article further notes that Mr. Topping will continue as President and that he purchased VTC from Mr. Harmon in 1969.  The article also notes that VTC was founded by Mr. Harmon, his father and three other unnamed men in 1945.

The accouncement of Mr. Topping's purchase is also carried in The Messenger of June 22, 1969 (free account needed to access link).  The article notes that Mr. Topping was VP of Sales for SK-Wayne, a subsidiary of Dresser at the time.  It further states that Mr. Topping had been Sales and Plant Manager of SK - Lectrolite in Defiance.  The article further notes the other investors: John H. Melcher, Jr.; Thomas J. McCann, Jr.; H. Clark Harvey, Jr.  This article also notes that the Harmon family owned VTC outright since 1962.

In an article in The Messenger from July 23, 1972, it is revealed that VTC also makes tools for labels such as S-K and Craftsman.  The article goes on to note that they will be producing 700,000 punches for "a large tool maker" this year (1972).  Interestingly, and somewhat comical, Mr. Topping notes that "if he were approached by a large corporation seeking to take over his operation, he would not accept the offer."  This is just 2 years before selling the company to Cornwell.

Rhode Island Tool Company

This text is from the Rhode Island Historical Society, which posesses an impressive library of company documents in it's holdings:

 The Providence Tool Company was the outgrowth of the business ventures of two brothers. In 1834, Joseph and Jeremiah Arnold began manufacturing nuts and washers in Pawtucket. When Joseph retired, Jeremiah joined William Field, named their business William Field & Co., and moved to Providence in 1846. In April 1847 the name was changed to the Providence Tool Company.

            The company is known for its ammunition production. However, in its early years, it primarily made hammers, pick axes, marlinspikes, nuts, and bolts. In 1856 it merged with the Providence Forge and Nut Company. The Providence Tool Company was successful in supplying machine parts and tools across the nation.

            The Civil War created a demand for companies to make munitions for the Union army. The Providence Tool Company took up the call and began weapons manufacturing in 1861. The Company hired Frederick W. Howe, a former supervisor at the Robbins and Lawrence Armory in Windsor, Vermont, to help start the manufacturing of arms.

            During the 1860 and 1870s the company continued to produce hardware and machinery. The business expanded so much that in 1867 it opened an office in New York and London. In 1869 the London office closed and when the company encountered difficulty in 1875, the New York office closed as well. In 1873, it received a contract from Singer Sewing Machines to make sewing machines and made machines under other brand names.

            From 1872 to 1875, the Providence Tool Company obtained arms contracts with the Turkish government. These contracts helped finance the company's expansion from 148 West River St. to additional plants at 41 and 95 Wickenden St. By the turn of the century the Tool Company had produced 850,000 firearms. The Turkish government did not pay for the arms produced by the 1873 and 1875 contracts. The company became involved with legal battles and lost money on interest and defaulted loans. Finally in 1885 the company reorganized as the Rhode Island Tool Company, which still exists in 1999.

Our research indicates that while still operating as the Rhode Island Tool Co., The concern was acquired by L. S. Starrett in 1963.

Allen-Differbaugh Co.

The Allen- Differbaugh Co was likely formed as a reorganization of the Allen C. Allen Co. which was likely formed around 1914 in Morris, IL.  The Allen-Differbaugh was likely reorganized as the Kant-Slip Plier & Wrench Co. sometime in the early 1920's.  Here is the patent for the Kant-Slip wrench, submitted by Allen C. Allen and assigned to the Allen-Differbaugh Wrench & Tool Works.  In 1932, "Allen C. Allen" assigned a patent for pliers to the new company.  Here's a link to all patents by Mr. Allen.

From the 1921 Edition of The Automobile Trade Directory:

"Lesser Known" Wrench Makers (Nut & Bolt Wrench Maker Listing):

  • Allan & Co.; Morris, IL
  • American Pulley Co.; 4200 Wissahicken Ave., Philadelphia, PA
  • Armand Machine Works; 442-50 N. Wells St., Chicago, IL
  • Arrow Tool Co.; Buffalo, NY
    • Incorporated 11/12/1919 by:
      • R. J. Mackenzie
      • K. B. MacDonald
      • J. E. MacArthur
  • Art Metal Works (Ronson Wrenches) Aronson Sq., Newark, NJ
    • Appears to begin appearing in 1886 in Philadelphia, PA, under a Mr. Wiler.
  • Atco Wrench Co.; 127 E. Spring St., Lima, OH
  • Bergman Tool Mfg. Co.; 1573-75 Niagra St. Buffalo, NY
    • Begins showing up in publications in 1918, believed to possibly still be in business.
  • Bornstein & Co.; Ipawich, MA
  • Braunsdorf-Mueller; 205 Madison St., Elizabeth, NJ
    • Mentioned as early as 1900 in Iron Age, ad for punches and chisels.
  • Buffum Tool Co.; Madison, MO
  • C. M. B. Wrench Co.; Garwood, NJ
  • Caldwell Tool Mfg. Co.; 87 Warren St. New York, NY
  • Central Brass & Fixture Co.; (Buckeye Wrench) Segler & Hughes Sts., Springfield, OH
  • Chicago Mfg. & Distributing Co.; 411 S. San-Gamon St., Chicago, IL
  • Code Mfg. Co.; Chicago, IL
  • Cushman Co Inc.; Champaign, IL
  • Diamond Jay Dee Co.; 1400 Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL
  • Edelmann & Co.; ('Sexto-Rench' & 'Han-d") 3638 Crawford Ave., Chicago, IL
    • First appears in 1912
  • Efficiency Device Corp.; 198 8th St. Long Island City, NY
  • Efficient Vise & Wrench Co.; 4207 Clark Ave., Cleveland, OH
  • Erie Tool Works; 11th & French Sts., Erie, PA
    • Begins showing up in 1910, Frank Bacon is President in 1912
  • Evans Mfg. Co.; 620-22 E. 63rd St., Chicago, IL
  • Faw, J. H.; ("Fawsco") 27 Warren St., New York, NY
  • Gogle Hand-Forged Tool Co.; 1941 Polk St., San Francisco, CA
  • Gray-Heath Co.; 1440 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL
    • Begin showing up in publications in 1917 with B. L. Gray as President.
  • Guernsey, C. C.; Derry, NH
  • Guthard Co., Egar C.; ("Billmont") 361 E. Ohio St., Chicago, IL
    • Begin to appear in publications in 1917.  Makers of the Billmont Wrench (socketry).
  • Harris & Reed Mfg. Co.; 1510-22 W. 15th St., Chicago, IL
    • Earliest publication found is 1911
  • Helwig Mfg. Co.; Seventh & Locust Sts., St. Paul, MN
    • Earliest publication found is 1902
  • Hergl Mfg. Co.; Bridgeport, CN
  • Hjorth & Co., Wm.; 28 Taylor St., Jamestown, NY
    • Earliest publication found is 1905
  • Holley Tool Mfg. Co.; 1011 S. 12th St., Omaha, NE
  • Ketler-Elliott Co.; 3153 S. California Ave., Chicago, IL
  • Kilborn & Bishop Co.; ("Saxon") Chapel & Lloyd Sts., New Haven CN
  • King Pressed Steel & Mfg. Co.; 13 Hawthorne St., Newton, MA
    • The Iron Trade Review - Volume 66 reports the incorporation of the company.  Principals are Joseph F. King, Amato Pescoselido, Rocco Sementilli
  • Kokomo Wrench Co.; Kokomo, IN
  • L & L Mfg. Co.; 184 High St., Newark, NJ
  • Lamson & Sessions Co.; 3188 Scranton Rd., Cleveland, OH
    • Mainly reported as a nut and bolt manufacturer and still in business today, here is a lind to their History Page for more information.
  • Larco Wrench & Mfg. Corp.; 7800 Woodlawn Ave., Chicago, IL
    • Earliest mention is in 1918, likely beginning in Detroit.
  • Larson Tool & Stamping Co.; Attleboro, MA
  • Lawrence Mfg. Co., F. K.; ("Easy-Way") 615-618 First National Bank Bldg., Chicago, IL
  • Lowell Wrench Co.; 54 Commercial St., Worcester, MA
  • Lutz Co.; Morris-Banbrey & Moore Sts., Philadelphia, PA
  • McKaig Drop Forge Co.; 14 Perry St., Buffalo, NY
  • Martin & Co., Edward; ("Perfection") 33 S. Clinton St., Chicago, IL
  • Marvel Accessories Mfg. Co.; 1220 W. 6th St., Cleveland, OH
  • Mayer Auto Specialty Co.; ("Masco") 452-54 Ellicott Sq., Buffalo, NY
  • Mayhew Steel Products; 291 Broadway, New York, NY
  • Michigan Motor Specialties Co.; ("Becco") 120 Mt. Elliott Ave., Detroit, MI
  • Miller Tool & Mfg. Co.; 1725 16th St., Detroit, MI
  • Miller Wrench Co.; 1054-56 S. Clinton St., Syracuse, NY
  • Motor Parts Co.; ("All-Purpose") Ambridge, PA
  • National Jack & Mfg. Co.; 130-34 S. Clinton Ave., Chicago, IL
  • New England Forge Co.; 9 Plymouth St., Worcester, MA
  • Niagra Falls Metal Stamping Works; ("Pokitrenchis") 335-47 Tenth St., Niagra Falls, NY
  • Peerless Wrench Co.; 98 Sprague St., Providence, RI
  • Quaker Tool Co.; 120 W. Venango St., Philadelphia, PA
  • Red Chief Mfg. Co.; ("L. G.") Louisville, KY
  • Republic Auto Parts Co.; ("Humbolt" & "Sterling") 81-85 Tenth St., Long Island City, NY
  • Robinson Co., M. W.; ("Carll") 296 Broadway, New York, NY
  • S & I Co.; 55-57 Governor St., Springfield, MA
  • Scholler Mfg. Co.; 147 Leslie St., Buffalo, NY
  • Sedgely, R. F.; ("Hexall") 3311-13 N. 16th St., Philadelphia, PA
  • Shaw Propeller Co.; 574 Cambridge St., Allston, MA
  • Smith & Co., H. D.: ("Perfect Handle") Plantsville, CN
  • Smith & Hemenway; ("Red Devil") 130 Colt St., Irvington, NJ
    • Excellent article from Iron Age here.
    • Formed in 1895 by Mr. Landon P. Smith as Smith, Herlitz & Co., reorganized as Smith & Patterson in 1896 and finally as Smith & Hamenway in 1898 with J. F. Hemenway as Sec/Treas.  Major Mfg. representative of Utica Drop Forge.
    • The company "succeeded" (purchased/acquired):
      • Smith & Patterson
      • Maltby Henley Co.
      • Bindley Automatic Wrench Co.
      • Anderberg Importing Co.
      • John Byrnes (Glass Cutters)
      • Also organized the Shatz Hardware Mfg. Co (Mt. Carmel, CN)
    • Appear to have succumbed to the depression around 1936
  • Stadeker Metal Specialty Co.; ("Radco") 110 S. Canal St., Chicago, IL
  • Staff Bros. Co.; 1765 Broadway, New York, NY
  • Standard Tool Co.: 6900-34 Central Ave., Cleveland, OH
    • Incorporated and increased capital on 1/27/1917
  • Star Manufacturing Co.; Carpentersville, IL
  • Unique Tool Co.; 180 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL
  • Wakefield, C. E.: ("Wizard") 89 Exchange St., Worcester, MA