Please note

Because of the lack of published trowel and masonry tool histories, the information here is based on other sources that may be less reliable and certainly are incomplete. These include eBay and tools that I purchase myself that are the starting points for my research. I will write what I know as I learn it. If what you read here interests you, please check back often and look for revisions and corrections. Scanned catalogs are either mine or by Rose Antique Tools and used with permission, and are on Google Docs as pdf files. A few are links to other websites. Your photos and information are welcome. Please click on any picture to enlarge it. Comments are welcome, but any with links will be deleted as possible spam.

Monday, March 12, 2018

History of Wheelbarrows Used in Masonry Work

Chattanooga contractor's wheelbarrow 1922
Wheelbarrows, or barrows as they were once called, carts, buggies, sleds, and rollers have been used to carry brick, stone, mortar, and concrete for centuries. They were used to move material around construction sites, stone quarries, brickyards, and onto and off wagons, railroad cars, and ships.

While I am not aware of any wheelbarrow collectors, there is an active market for old wheelbarrow manufacturer's catalogs on US eBay. Some US manufacturers include these companies:
Brick or tile barrows 1902

Buckeye Products Co., Cincinnati, Ohio

Bull Frog, made by Toledo Wheelbarrow Co., Toledo, Ohio

Chattanooga Wheelbarrow Co., Chattanooga, Tennessee

General Wheelbarrow, made by Dico Co., Des Moines, Iowa

Jackson Manufacturing Co., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Lansing Wheelbarrow Co., Lansing, Michigan

Scobie & Parker Co., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Sterling Wheelbarrow Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Western Iron Works, Sims & Morris, San Francisco, California

Western Wheelbarrow and Manufacturing Co., Kansas City, Missouri

Wood Shovel & Tool Co., Piqua, Ohio

Stone barrow from S.D. Kimbark's Illustrated Catalogue, 1876
Sims & Morris wheelbarrow, 1888
Georgia concrete buggy

Friday, December 8, 2017

Determining the Age of a Marshalltown Brick Trowel

The earliest Marshalltown advertisement found is for a plasterer's trowel in 1899:

Marshalltown Evening Times Republican, 13 Oct 1899
Marshalltown introduced their brick trowel in 1908, as this press release in The Iron Age announced:

Their advertisements for Marshalltown's brick trowels show "THE MARSHALLTOWN" stamped in a curve on the blade. This design appeared in ads from 1908 to 1910.

Hardware Dealers Magazine, Vol. 33, 1910

In 1911, the design changed to what appears to be an etching with larger letters, "MARSHALLTOWN" in a straight line. The company used this at least through 1921. After 1921, US copyright law makes finding advertisements much more difficult. 
The Bricklayer, Mason and Plasterer, Oct. 1911

Marshalltown's Catalog No. 27 from 1927 shows an etching with large "M" and 2 rings on wood handles. This etching also appears in Catalog No. 45 (date unknown). Trowels from this time also include the product number below U.S.A., but this information is not on the catalog images.  


No. 19W

The etching above was replaced with a "MARSHALLTOWN" stamp, also with 2 rings on wood handles. Another version includes "USA":



It appears that product number was added next, and earlier ones have 2 rings on wood handles:


By 1974, pictures show the same stamp, and with plain wood handles:


Catalog pictures are not always a good indicator of when tools changed. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers sometimes used old printer's blocks or plates to save the cost of preparing new ones.
Printer's block for Marshalltown brick trowel

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Unknown Tool Made by W.H. Anderson of Detroit

Unknown tool by W.H. Anderson
We are asking for your help identifying this tool made by W.H. Anderson of Detroit, Michigan, who made tools for stone and concrete, as well as having a large retail and industrial hardware business. These pictures were sent to me by a reader, and one of these tools also sold on eBay in 2016. Another one was on a Facebook group about the same time.

It may be a type of brick axe or scutch.

You comments and emails are welcomed.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Union Tool Company of Union, New York

Union Tool Co. identification
Union Tool Company of Union, New York, manufactured a line of cast iron concrete tools in the early 20th century. Their tools sell occasionally on eBay and other outlets, but I have been unable to locate any other documentation about the business. Union is a town in Broome County, west of Binghamton. The only similar business there was Union Forging Co., which operated in Union and Endicott from 1883 to 1995.

Part of the difficulty in researching this company is that Union was a very popular name for tool manufacturers. In addition to other variations of the name, "Union Tool Company" was used by businesses in these cities and possibly more:

Augusta, Maine
Boston, Massachusetts
Goshen, Massachusetts
Torrances, California
Orange, Massachusetts
Providence, Rhode Island
Rochester, New York
St. Louis, Missouri

Union Tool Co. was also a brand name of American Fork and Hoe Co. So far as I can determine, none of these other companies made concrete tools.

Union Tool Co. No. 38 curb tool 
Union Tool Co. No. 29 narrow groover

Sunday, September 3, 2017

History of Sturgis Cement Worker's Tools

Sturgis cement tool advertisement, date unknown
Sturgis cement worker's tools were a secondary brand sold by the large hardware wholesaler Baker, Hamilton & Pacific Co. of San Francisco. The firm was the result of a 1918 merger between Pacific Hardware & Steel Co. and Baker & Hamilton Co. Their first quality tool brand was Stiletto, but I can't find a record of Stiletto cement tools.

A Google Books "snippet view" from page 571 of their Catalog No. 8 stated, "The jointer and edger illustrated below are not intended for skilled mechanics' use. They are inferior in construction to the regular line of tools...." Despite that, the tools advertised appear to be as well made as any other steel concrete tools, and the Safetred Step Tool is cast bronze, as is the bottom of the jointer pictured here.

Sturgis cement tools are quite rare. The steel tools were probably marked with a paper label which would have washed off. The adjustable jointer has "STURGIS" stamped into the edge of the bronze.

Sturgis adjustable finishing jointer, bronze