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.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Determining the Age of W. Rose Tools

W. Rose has always stamped their forged tools with variations of the business name, and sometimes an abbreviation of West Philadelphia. However, determining when W. Rose made a particular tool is difficult because of the rarity of catalogs and lack of early advertising with pictures. The only scanned catalog available is 1929. The earliest advertising with a picture or a picture in a hardware catalog is 1897. Advertising of the period shows that between 1909 and 1916 the firm dropped West Philadelphia as the location from their stamp, so it read just, "W. ROSE".
Before 1916

Before 1916
Another difference is that earlier tools use a
Before 1916 (presentation trowel)
serif style lettering, changing to a sans serif on or before 1916.  On most trowels and leather tools, the lettering is right-side up when the tool is held in the right hand, but a few are reversed. These variations and their approximate dates are:
1902 advertisement (serif style lettering is not accurate)  

Serif style letters, read with handle on the right or the left

Serif style letters, read with handle on the right

1916 advertisement
Serif style letters, read with handle on the right
Before 1916

    W. ROSE
Serif style letters, read with handle on the right
Before 1916

  W. ROSE=
Serif style letters, read with handle on the right
Before 1916
1924 presentation trowel (engraved with date) 

Sans serif letters

Sans serif letters

Sans serif letters

In recent decades Rose brick trowel handles were stamped:
U.S.A. version
                  W. ROSE

The catalog number and length follow W. ROSE.

Advertising pictures of tools are were not always accurate and up-to-date. They were expensive to create and to duplicate. Early ones were woodcuts, giving them the name of "cuts". Cuts had to be supplied to every magazine and catalog printer. Woodcuts were followed by wood engravings, electrotyping, and photoengraving. There was a tendency to use old cuts to save money even if the logo or lettering had changed.
1959, stamped handle

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Stone Jack

L.J. Kelly stone jacks
The stone jack was used to push and lift heavy loads in stone quarries, stone cutting sheds, construction sites, foundries, machine shops, and mills. They were designed to be used in a vertical, horizontal, or angled position, and to lift from the top or with a "foot lift" on the back.

The name suggests that they were originally used to lift and push blocks of stone. As industrialization progressed and the size of machinery and boilers increased, stone jacks were used to transfer these from rail car to wagon and into buildings. Stone jacks also found use in in textile mills.

Mechanically, some stone jacks are ratchets, and others use a similar design, a crank-operated rack and pinion with reduction gears. The rack and pinion are enclosed with a wood housing reinforced with iron bands. These are the only jacks made in the late 19th and 20th centuries that are part wood.

Stone jack pushing a crated boiler
E.R. Klemm of Chicago, Illinois was a leading U.S. manufacturer of stone jacks in the early 20th century. A native of Magdelburg, Germany, and a prolific inventor, Emil Richard Klemm (1859-1928) patented a steel stone jack housing that he manufactured. Klemm's business merged with Chicago hardware house J.H. Channon Corp. in 1936. Pages from 2 catalogs showing Klemm's stone jacks are on They are also in the 1937 Brunner & Lay catalog.

Another manufacturer of the day was L.J. Kelly of Albany, New York, who advertised his cast iron iron and steel jacks in "Granite" and other stone trade magazines.

Stone jacks made by E.R. Klemm of Chicago, IL, 1917

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

The Fairbanks Co., Rome, Georgia

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

Jackson Manufacturing Co., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Kilbourne & Jacobs Manufacturing Co., Columbus, Ohio

Lansing Wheelbarrow Co., Lansing, Michigan

McWhinnie Wheelbarrows, Poughkeepsie, New York

Nason Manufacturing Co., New York City, New York

Sidney Steel Scraper Co., Sidney, Ohio

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.