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, February 27, 2017

Drywall Corner Tools

US Patent 2616285
Some corner tools were designed for specifically for drywall, instead of both drywall and plaster. One example that I came across on US eBay received US Patent 2616285 on 4 Nov 1952.

The inventor was Samuel Tilden Shields (28 Sep 1894 - 3 Mar. 1964), born in Cleveland to John J. Shields and Harriet Van Gorder. Samuel Shields was a salesman, a contractor in Cleveland in the 1920s, and in sales again by 1942. He also received US Patent 2787820 in 1957 with Alfred Knudsen. This was for a window buck, a steel jamb for poured concrete walls.

Shields drywall corner tool 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

History of W.S. Godwin Co.

W.S. Godwin edger and groover
W.S. Godwin manufactured road contractor's tools, equipment, and supplies from about 1897 to after 1950, with a break in the late teens. The businesses were named for William Selby Godwin (1875-1944), a mechanical engineer and inventor from Philadelphia, PA. Their line included a variety of cement tools designed for street and sidewalk work.

W.S. Godwin & Company was making cement worker's tools in Philadelphia in 1898. Godwin also sold asphalt tools and machinery beginning in 1899 from New York City. While in Philadelphia, he invented a brick and block molding machine, and filed for a US patent in 27 Jan. 1903.

He closed the Philadelphia business and moved to New York City to manufacture the molding machine with a partner, as  American Block Press Company of Brooklyn, NY. In a 1904 professional directory, he was listed as general manager of that business. Godwin recommended the machine for asphalt paving bricks. The most famous American street still paved with asphalt bricks is Monument Avenue in Richmond, VA, paved from 1907 to 1910.

American Block Press Co. either failed or was renamed, because Godwin sold paving machinery from New York as W.S. Godwin for about 10 more years. By 1918, he had left New York, and was chief engineer for the International Steel Tie Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. Godwin continued to work on inventions for concrete paving.

By 1920, Godwin had moved to Baltimore, and as W.S. Godwin Company, was making steel paving guards at 2111 Garrison Ave. In 1924 W.S. Godwin was located at W. Race and McComas Sts., Baltimore. Today, 222 W. Race St. in Baltimore houses Schuster Concrete, commercial and industrial construction. W.S. Godwin's steel paving guards catalog is on

Unlike his fellow business owners, William S. Godwin did not put down roots anywhere, and lived in hotels or apartments. He married late, in 1912, to Christine Keller of Brooklyn, and they had 1 child.

William S. Godwin had at least 9 patents relating to paving streets and around railroad and streetcar tracks. All are in his name as the inventor, but the last 3 are not signed by him and are after his death in 1944.

Molding-machine, publication date 28 Feb. 1905
Paving-guard, publication date Dec 9, 1919
Paved railway, publication date Aug 25, 1925
Paved or similar railway structure, publication date May 6, 1930
Curb guard and facing, publication date May 22, 1934
Shield and dowel assembly, publication date Dec 23, 1941
Dowel supporting assembly [for concrete road joints], publication date Jan 25, 1949
Road joint, publication date Apr 14, 1953
Dowel apparatus for paving joints, publication date Oct 30, 1956

William S. Godwin also wrote a poem which was printed in asphalt paving publications in 1901 and 1908, Asphaltina's Soliloquy.

W.S. Godwin groover

W.S. Godwin bronze indent roller

Saturday, December 17, 2016

History of Klein-Logan Co.

Klein-Logan Co. was a Pittsburgh, PA, manufacturer of tools for railroads, paving, blacksmithing, and masonry. The following is from the company's 1944 catalog.



On July 1st 1868, John C. Klein and Frederick C. Klein, brothers engaged in the manufacture of coal picks, hand shovels, pokers and other small iron items since 1856, took as a third partner Edward P. Logan and continued business under the firm name of Klein, Logan & Co. Because the business was located in Birmingham, at that time a suburb but now that part of Pittsburgh lying along the south bank of the Monongahela River, the Birmingham Tool Works was selected as a descriptive sub-title.


Pittsburgh was not only a railroad center but also the outlet of the product of the western Pennsylvania coal fields, and picks soon became a major item of the new company's products. John C. Klein, the older of the brothers, had an active, inventive mind which he directed to the then most difficult problem in the manufacture of picks— the eye. In 1874 he was granted a patent on a machine for the forging of pick eyes which, while crude and complicated if judged by modern presses, was a definite step forward.

Although soon involved in law suits with local competitors in connection with the eye machine the new firm prospered. John C. Klein, the president, was in charge of operation; F. C. Klein, vice president, in charge of sales; and Edward P. Logan, treasurer, looked after finances. Progress, if slow, was uneventful except for a fire in 1884 which destroyed the plant. Rebuilding and resumption of operations was made possible by a fortunate banking connection, Mr. Logan having been elected a director and vice president of the Iron & Glass Dollar Savings Bank, founded in 1871 to serve the community of Birmingham. At that time it was customary for business men to serve as senior bank officers, giving some time each day to advising and supervising the whole time officers. Mr. Logan served more than fifty years as vice president, president and chairman of the board of the bank. This connection continued after Mr. Logan's death in 1930, a member of the firm replacing him on the board of the bank and the president of the bank serving on the board of the present company.

A Landmark

Sledges, wedges, crow bars, railroad track tools, mining tools and blacksmith anvil tools were early added to the list of products while shovels were dropped shortly after the introduction of natural gas. In 1876 the firm showed its complete line at the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, the sledges and hammers displayed being polished over all instead of on the faces only, the usual commercial practice. The highest award was given when it was shown that the mirror-like finish was not a plating but only highly polished iron and steel. Several of these tools remain today in as perfect condition as when shown 68 years ago.


In 1891, J. C. Klein having retired from active business and wishing to be able to transfer his interest to his children, the firm was incorporated as The Klein-Logan Company. Up to this time a son of F. C. Klein had traveled for the company, covering the entire United States and selling to hardware wholesalers in the larger cities. The appearance of distributors in smaller cities made this no longer practicable and arrangements were made with Surpless, Dunn & Co. of New York, manufacturers' agents handling many non-competitive lines, to sell in the east and middle west. Later Louis Williams & Co. of Nashville took over sales in the south and much later the E. R. Palmtag Co. of San Francisco looked after the territory west of the Rocky Mountains. Dayton, Price & Co. of New York, handled most of the exports, especially in the Far East.

The Future

Throughout the years the company has remained in the hands of the original families, management and more than 99% of the stock being controlled by direct descendants of the founders. The youngest son of John C. Klein, the only son and a grandson of Edward P. Logan now manage the business; another grandson and namesake expects to rejoin when he returns from over-seas service. A granddaughter of F. C. Klein is assistant treasurer, one grandson is shipper and three others hold key positions in production. The policy established by the partners of concentrating on the making of a few tools of the highest quality is the policy of the present management. Although the outside of the building, as shown by the photograph, remains unchanged, constant changes are taking place inside. The tools themselves have changed little in appearance; better methods of manufacture to produce tools of higher quality is and will be our constant aim.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Granite City Tool Co.

Granite City Tool Company is a major tool and machinery supplier to the stone trade. I have scanned Granite Tool's Catalog No. 12, from about 1952, and uploaded it to

Granite City took over making Dallett pneumatic tools in the 1940s. I have also scanned a Dallett Company catalog from the early 1930s, also at

The Google Street View below shows Granite Tool's Barre, Vermont buildings, surrounded by old stone sheds.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

History of Charles H. Besly & Co.

Charles H. Besly & Co. was a manufacturer of foundry molding tools at the turn of the 19th century, with a factory in Beloit, Wisconsin and store in Chicago, Illinois. The company made and sold metal-working tools and machinery, eventually specializing in taps, dies, and grinders.

The following obituary appeared in The Iron Trade Review, 28 Jan., 1909:


Charles Howard Besly, whose death on December 31 last [1908] was noted in The Iron Trade Review of January 7, was founder of the firm of Charles H. Besly & Co., Chicago. He was born in Milwaukee, on June 16, 1852, and had been a resident of Chicago since 1863. He was educated in the high schools of that city and started his business career with Marshall Field & Co. In 1873, he became manager of the Bergen Tool Co., Batavia, Ill., and traveled extensively.  He also was a broker of machinists’ supplies and opened a small store on Lake street, near Clark, Chicago, in 1873. In 1881, the firm of Charles H. Besly & Co. was established at 175 Lake street, being composed of Charles H. Besly and David J. Kennedy. In 1886, Mr. Kennedy retired from the business and the business has since been conducted by Charles H. Besly. In 1891, the business was moved to 10 and 12 North Canal street, where it continued to grow until 1903, when it moved to its own building at 15-21 South Clinton street, where the business is now conducted. In 1886 the Beloit factory was established in a small way for the manufacture of die stocks. This business grew and later its specialties were developed, including Besly disc grinders, Helmet temper taps, etc. At the present time, it occupies its own buildings at Beloit, Wis. The business was left in a strong physical and financial condition. Charles H. Besly & Co., Chicago and Beloit, will be continued as heretofore, under the direction of Edward F. Welles, his nephew, who has been associated with the company for the past 22 years and since 1896 as general manager.

The 1897 Besly Catalogue D is on Google Books, although erroneously labeled as 1908.
Besly advertisement 1914 

Besly molder's square trowel