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.

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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

History of Heller Majestic Trowels

Heller Brothers Majestic trowel etching
Majestic trowels were first made by Irvin Otto Gierman (28 Oct. 1919 - 8 Aug. 1958), a World War II veteran and welder in Chicago, Illinois. Gierman was unable to find a satisfactory trowel for his personal use, so he decided to attempt manufacturing his own. Upon seeing his work, a large Chicago wholesaler gave him an order for 600 dozen. At its peak, Majestic Trowel made 15,000 dozen annually with a workforce of 20 in Franklin Park, Illinois, near Chicago.

Heller Brothers Majestic No. 310-6 6 inch pointing trowel
On 15 Oct., 1949, Heller Brothers Company of Newcomerstown, Ohio, purchased Majestic and moved all its equipment to Newcomerstown. Heller Brothers put Gierman in charge of trowel manufacturing. Trowels fit with Heller's product line of forged tools, including a brick hammer, many other types of hammers, blacksmith's and farrier's tools, and files of all types.

Heller Brothers Co. sold to Simonds Saw and Steel Co. in 1955, and the name changed to Heller Tool Co.  According to advertisements visible on "snippet view" on Google Books, Heller Majestic brick and plaster trowels were made through at least 1957. They were etched, not stamped, with the name and logo. The etching was light and tended to wear away quickly. This makes Heller Majestic trowels difficult to find and identify today.
Heller Brothers 1.5 pound brick hammer