Bonney Research


Over the course of our intense research, and in consideration of comments to this blog and submitted by you, the community, this page will represent a living research review of Bonney. First, a little review and comment on existing Bonney history.

1. It is commonly thought that the "Bonney Vise & Tool Works" was founded by Charles S. Bonney in 1877. Our intention here is not to refute that, but offer some newly surfaced information that may or may not rewrite this piece of Bonney history.

1a. The recently discovered 1886 Bonney catalog contains some interesting information. First, on the cover, the catalog seems to "announce" the Bonney Vise & Tool Co. (Limited) as successors to C.S. Bonney & Son. This would suggest that Bonney was in fact founded as C.S. Bonney & Son and not Bonney Vise & Tool Co. as previously thought.

1b. Regarding the formation date of the company. While we haven't found anything that refutes the 1877 date, Charles S. Bonney is the grantee of at least 4 patents that predate 1877. C.S. Bonney's first 3 patents, the first being granted in 1868 as Patent 76984, have no assignees, and unknown manufactures. In 1877, C.S. Bonney patented an improved Hollow Auger, whose manufacturer is also unknown to DATAMP but whose assignee is Lloyd, Supplee & Walton of Philadelphia, PA. According to the website Yesteryears Tools, Lloyd, Supplee & Walton existed from 1867 to 1889. Yesteryear's Tools also notes that Lloyd, Supplee & Walton produced the Bonney patented Hollow Auger. This is the first patent granted to C.S. Bonney with an identified assignee. An example of the Hollow Auger can be seen here.

At this point, I'm willing to stick my neck out and say that our example of the Hollow Point Auger is an example of those produced by Lloyd, Supplee & Walton, partly because there is no evidence Bonney itself produced them and secondly, I believe the "S" on the end of Bonney stamped onto the tool indicates a possessive, hinting that it was made either "for" Bonney or with his license / blessing.

So it seems C.S. Bonney & Son was the name of the company started by C.S. Bonney sometime in 1876. On July 28th, 1885, C.S. Bonney sold his interest in the company to John B. Newkirk (See image 1 below - an excerpt from the 1886 Bonney Vise & Tool Co. catalog). In this catalog, the proprietors of the Bonney Vise & Tool Co. are listed as J. B. Newkirk, C. W. Ritchie, and I. R. Newkirk.

Bonney after "Bonney Vise & Tool Co." - Very shortly after his departure, C.S. Bonney started the Bonney Rapid Vise Co., also in Philadelphia.  This company produced 2 primary products; the rapid transit vise, and a unique pipe vise.  On October 1, 1888, Bonney moved the company to Clinton, Iowa, as evidenced by this article.  Here is the pipe vise patent, granted in February 1887, Patent #357306.

In the Report of the Secretary of the Iowa State Agricultural Society, for the Year 1887, the Bonney Rapid Vise Company is reported to have been created in Clinton, Iowa on October 1, 1887.

In the May 21, 1891 edition of Iron and Machinery World, there is an article describing the Bonney Rapid Transit Vise.  Within this article, production of the vise is handled by the Bonney Rapid Vise Company of Marion, Indiana, the general manager being Mr. C. S. Bonney.

The Company Name:

C.S. Bonney & Son - 1876 to 1881

Bonney Vise & Tool Co., Limited - 1881 to 1886?

In either 1886 or 1887, Bonney Vise & Tool Co. was renamed to Bonney Vise & Tool Works.

Bonney Vise & Tool Works - 1887 to 1921

Bonney Forge & Tool Works - 1921 to 1994

Now, this gets confusing when you look up the next patent in DATAMP where Bonney is identified as the manufacturer, and referred to as "Bonney Vise & Tool Works" again in 1915. Patent #1141602, granted to Joseph P. Baker and assigned to J. Edward Durham was Applied for on Aug. 06, 1913 and Granted on Jun. 01, 1915. Given the inconsistencies, I'm beginning to think the DATAMP database (which is where I'm getting the above patent assignment / manufacturer data) is flawed somewhat in terms of company names.

Catalogs and Numbering - Here I will place a mapping of catalog numbers to year of publication as I find them:

Bonney Catalog Number Map

1910 - Catalog #15

1912 (unconfirmed) - Catalog #16 (Announced August, 1913 - could be 1912?)

1913 (uncomfirmed) - Catalog #17 (#16 is likely 1912 making #17 1913)

1914 - Catalog #18

1915 - Cement Tools Catalog #19

1917 (uncomfirmed) - Catalog #20 (A Bonney Catalog is mentioned in a 1917 announcement in the Iron Tradesman)

1919 - Catalog #21

1925? - There is an announcement of Bonney catalog #25 in the 1925 edition of "the Automotive Manufacturer."  However, catalog #26 is marked "copyright 1925."

1925-1926 - Catalog #26

1932 - #32

1933 - #33

1934 - #134

1937 - #137 - Also, Catalog M (referenced in the February, 1937 edition of Popular Mechanics.)

1938 - #138

1939 - #139

1941 - #41

1946 -

  • Catalog #46R - Tools for Refrigeration Service
  • Catalog WT 46 - Branch Pipe Outlets with Bonney Weldolet Fittings.
  • Catalog #46J - General Tools

**NOTE** We are still sorting out the C- and D- series catalogs issued in the years following WWII

1957 - #57

I also found a reference to "Hercules" Bonney on page 452 of the 1922 Engineering Directory. Unsure of the meaning but Hercules was stamped on later oversize ratchets contained in 3/4" and 1" drive sets.

Here is a link laying out the history of the Bonney Trademark, showing it currently owned by Snap-On Tools.

***NOTE*** Image 2 below announcing Bonney Vise & Tool Works being "Succeeded by Newkirk, Ritchie, & Bells" sometime in 1887. This snippet is from the January - December, 1887, Volumes 13 & 14 of the Mechanical Engineer periodical. This announcement appears on page 63.

***NOTE*** Image 3 below was found in the 1890 edition of Philadelphia Securities - A Manual For Investors. It appears Bonney was still owned and manufactured under Newkirk, Ritchie & Bills, at least through 1890, possibly 1892. Note: see the Bonney timeline for clarification of the Bills/Bells.

July 12, 1902 edition of The Iron Age announces the 1902 Bonney catalog.  Unfortunately, no catalog number was given.

Just tracked down the following text from the December 15th, 1917 Edition of the Allentown Leader (gossip section):

"GUESTS OF COL. FRANKLIN. Lieutenant Colonel C. P. Franklin, executive officer of the Ambulance Camp, had as a visitor Thursday his father-in-law, Henry G. Bonney of Philadelphia, the founder of the Bonney Vise and Tool Works. With him was his son, Lieut. Kenneth C. Bonney,, who enlisted in the Coast Artillery and won a commission. He had been sent to France and England on special missions and is now going across again for active service."

The above "blurb" is interesting in that it notes Henry Bonney (C. S. Bonney's son) as the "founder" of Bonney Vise and Tool Works, backing up the C. S. Bonney & Son theory.

This article from The Denison Review, Denison, IA 7/17/1912 describes a family reunion at the Bonney residence.  It identifies Mr. Bonney's children, 3 sons and 2 daughters.  It also notes a grandaughter who married into the Vehslage family.  Mssrs Bonney and Vehslage started the Bonney - Vehslage company in Newark, NJ which remains in operation today.

9/8/2015 There is evidence of a Trademark (or patent, but more likely trademark) number 105,480 for a "Combination Tool" in the Official Gazette of the Patent Office - 1935 being renewed July 27, 1935. We cannot find any other information on this number. Link to USPTO Gazette.  UPDATE - Here is the link to the Trademark for "Tomahawk," a "combination hammer, hatchet, pincers, wire-cutter, belt-punch, tack claw, screw-driver and wire-splicing clamp."

Machinery Volume 20 of 1915, discusses the release of a new Bonney catalog, Number 18. This should help us identify years with future catalog finds.

Update: we have found catalogs for 1914, 1915 and 1919. Working on getting them scanned. Link to Machinery Volume 20 of 1915 "Blurb"

Here is an article from the September 17, 1908 edition of The Iron Age that describes a new invention (patent undiscovered) by C. S. Bonney for an "Automatic Reversible Tapper."

In the 1937 (Volume 11) edition of Aeronautical Industry, Bonney Forge is listed as a manufacturer of "Flying Suits." 

1956 edition of Fleet Owner lists Bonney Forge and Tool Works in Alliance, Ohio.

9/25/1959 edition of the Princeton Alumni Weekly places Bonney still owned by Miller Manufacturing, operating out of Allentown and Alliance, OH.  The article states that pipe fittings & custom forgings are handled out of the Allentown plant while traditional mechanics tools are manufactured in Alliance, OH.

Miller Manufacturing began construction on the new plant in Alliance, OH in March of 1955, which was slated to be complete in October that same year.  By 1956, when listing Bonney under hand tools, publications list the address as Alliance, OH.

Miller Manufacturing sells Bonney Forge and Tool Works to Kelsey-Hayes on March 31, 1964

1940 - Bonney announces their "new line" of adjustable wrenches available in 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 inch models.


Charles Sherpard Bonney's Patents

  1. Thill Coupling / Bonnet: #76984
  2. Farm Gate: #82075A
  3. Improvement in Gates: #99822
  4. Hollow Auger: #105896
  5. Improvement in Hollow Augers (reissue of 105896): RE7689E
  6. Improvement in Sash Holders: #107157A
  7. Improvement in Clamps: #135882A
  8. Improvement in Saw-Filing Vises: #135883A
  9. Pipe Vise: #357306
  10. Pipe Wrench & Cutter: #721660A
  11. Pliers: #726794
  12. Wrench: #728842A
  13. Tool Holder: #973254