Barnes Tool Co.


The W. F. & John Barnes Company of Rockford, Illinois was established by the brothers William Fletcher and John Barnes in November 1869, organized as a formal partnership in 1872, and incorporated in 1884. The company operated in Rockford until 1964, when it was bought by Babcock-Wilcox. Between 1869 and 1937, Barnes specialized in the class of machine tool intended for use in the serious workshop - their professional-grade machines are man-sized and robustly constructed, as opposed to the plethora of boy or toy sized machines of the same period. (However, Barnes also had an amateur line of smaller machines.) The Seneca Falls Company was the other major competitor in this class of machine. In about 1890, Barnes started to specialize in drill presses, and this business really took off with the acquisition of the Thomas Farmer friction-plate drill press patent. In 1920, the Barnes company was taken over by John S. Barnes, a son of the founder John, who started veering the company more toward the more lucrative automobile machinery trade, especially assembly line tools. Within seventeen years, by 1937, their production of foot-powered woodworking tools had practically ceased. Today, Barnes is still remembered for their line of high quality foot-powered machinery, although they sold many more drill presses (first line-shaft driven, and later electrically driven) in the years after the foot-powered equipment was dropped. REFERENCE: Summer, 1996 edition of the Early American Industries Association (EAIA) Chronicle. Authors: Bob Horner/Steve Johnson Excellent reference for Barnes Tool Company Patents.  The Union Hill website also contains excellent information on the Barnes Company here: