Kinsley Iron & Machine Co.

Canton, MA - According to an advertisement in the 5/24/1909 edition of the Fitchburg Sentinel auctioning off the Kinsley factory, the company was founded in 1787.  We find the company listed into the late 1950's, particularly selling iron railings and decorative trim.

Here is another short paragraph from the book Canton on Kinsley that also includes a picture of one of their foot operated vises.  This book also says the company started in 1787. 

One incorporator is possibly Lyman Kinsley.

Here is the full text from the Internet Archives of the book A History of Canton Junction by

Edward D. Galvin

:

KINSLEY IRON & MACHINE CO.

Established 1787

The present site of the Kinsley Iron and Machine Co. was the location of the first saw mill in Canton. In 1703 it was known as “Deacon Joseph Tucker’s Saw Mill” In 1760 it became the site of “Quaker" Leonard’s forge.

In 1787 Leonard and Kinsley, workers in iron, erected here a plant for the purpose of manufacturing “useful implements from iron” and his was the start of the present business. In the decade 1790-1800, they turned out annually over 200 millsaws and 300 dozen scythes; cut and rolled 1000 tons of iron between 1793-97; began the welding of steel in 1792 and the manufacture of steel in 1797. In 1809 they put in operation a steel furnace and commenced the manufacture of guns, the Government being a very large purchaser preceding and during the War of 1812.

A little later the product of the shops was sleigh shoes, plow shares, crow bars and wagon axles. In 1821 the firm was discontinued, one member taking the property on the east side and the other on the west side of Washington Street. In 1835 the Foundry plant was completed for the manufacture of castings. In 1840 the entire property came into the possession of the two sons of Adam Kinsley, and the business increased rapidly from month to month and became more profitable year by year. With the coming of the railroads, the manufacture of car wheels and axles added largely to the business.

In 1852 the Rolling Mill was erected and equipped. In 1854 the present Corporation was chartered, and Oliver Ames of Easton became its president in 1859. In 1875 the plant was destroyed by fire, but immediately reconstructed as a more modern and up to date plant. To show the manner in which the business grew, in 1845 the manufactured material aggregrated 350 tons annually, in 1876 it had increased to 4000 tons annually and from this time on it made wonderful strides of progress as well as increase in size of plant and equipment, (making lots 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 in this sale).

In 1907 its principal manufacture was “Kinsley” merchant bar iron and wagon axles; crow bars, railroad splices and spikes: "Kinsley" blacksmiths' machinery; bolts and washers; general foundry work, forgings, truss rods, bolt ends and general machine shop work. At this time it was said to be the oldest manufacturing plant in continuous operation in the country. It is to be liquidated today for the simple reason that the owners have much larger interests that demand their entire attention. It should not be forgotten in the consideration of this location and property that its history is one of uninterrupted success for 120 years.

Its history is almost as old and just as clean as that of the Government. At one time it was the largest maker of car wheels and axles in the country. At another time, the largest manufacturer of wagon axles. It has seen all of its competitors start and many of them go out of existence. The existence of this ancient foundry into the twentieth century is in itself remarkable. The distance from its raw materials and markets prompted the Ames family’s decision to retire this truly historic facility. It is unfortunate that when Canton's industrial past is discussed the primary focus is almost always the Revere Copper Company. The K.I.M. deserves equal respect and warrants further research and study.

WORKING CONDITIONS

Comment must be made on the general working conditions that existed at the K.I.M. Company and the Revere Copper Company. With the exception of the fatal illness involving several men at the K.I.M. during the summer of 1888, very little of the hazards of industrial employment were ever mentioned in the local press or recorded in any manner. The fact was, of course, that the K.I.M. in particular was an incredibly harsh place to work. The iron works, with its blistering heat beat against the bodies of the half naked workers, wore out or crippled many men before their time. The inexorable laws of manufacture demanded youth or vigor in exchange for the gold for which the employees slaved from sunrise to sunset. In the summer, the furnace heats would be started at three o’clock in the morning in order that the operators might quit early in the afternoon and secure some respite from the scorching heat of July and August. Men grew old quickly, too quickly. New men must take their place.

The Revere Copper Company was the salvation of many afamily. Old men predominated. Men of seventy and seventy-five years were common. The hard labor was done by the younger generation, and the popularity of the Revere family was unbounded because they amalgamated the interest of the community with their own, furnishing houses to their employees at rentals that barely sufficed to cover expenses, paying employees a good wage, and asking a fair day’s work in return.”

Thus comes to light almost ten years after the last fire was extinguished at the K.I.M. the severe hardships endured by the men who worked at the Iron Works. While the hazards encountered by the workmen were well known, they were not subject to public discussion in the passive Canton Journal. While the life shortening and injury prone operation of the K.I.M. was a fact of life, the Town of Canton had luck on its side in having an unusually fortunate transfer of skills and labor with the Revere Copper Company.’

1909 saw several major changes occur, The ever troubled Blue Hill Street Railway’s car barn burned at Canton Junction in February of 1909. On a brighter note, the properties formerly occupied by the Revere Copper Company and the Kinsley Iron and Machine Company were auctioned off in May of 1909. The Plymouth Rubber Company of Stoughton bought the majority of the property. The depressed sale price reflects the situation that existed. The entire real estate of the Revere Copper Company sold for $13,000. The K.I.M. property west of Washington Street and including the land under Forge Pond went for $10,000. The remainder of the K.I.M. property was bought in smaller parts.

It was with a note of hope that the townspeople viewed the property transfer of their two major heavy industries to new ownership. The opportunity for employment and the resulting payrolls would provide a much needed tonic for the Town’s overall economy.

Trade Names and Brands:

  • Folsom Locking Vise
Image Description: 

This article comes from Iron Age, 1893 describing the Folsom Vise.

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