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, 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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

History of Peugeot & Compagnie, Pont-de-Roide

Peugeot & Cie. was a major French tool manufacturer in Pont-de-Roide and Bourguignon, in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region, near Switzerland. The company's founders were descendants of the Peugeot family of industrialists, and children of James Jackson (1771-1829), an Englishman who emigrated to France in 1814 to make steel. In 1838 William Jackson married Louise Peugeot, and Georges Léonard Peugeot married Anna Jackson, establishing a union of families and business.

In 1842, 4 sons of Jean-Frédéric Peugeot joined with 4 Jackson brothers, establishing themselves at Pont-de-Roide to make tools and other articles. Their enterprise changed names several times over the following decades:

1846 Peugeot Aînés et Jackson Frères (Peugeot Elders & Jackson Brothers)
1866 Peugeot Jackson et Cie. (Peugeot Jackson & Co.)
1889 Peugeot Aînés et Cie. followed by Peugeot Frères et Cie. (Peugeot Brothers & Co.)
1907 Peugeot et Cie.

In 1933 Peugeot & Cie. merged with Les Fils de Peugeot Frères, but production continued at Pont-de-Roide until 1936. There 1932 catalog is on the Internet Archive.

Peugeot & Cie. works at Pont-de-Roide 
Peugeot’s products included a variety of trowels for masonry and brick, masonry hammers, a full line of saws from back saws to large circular and band saws for mills, wood chisels, planes, and coffee mills. Their coffee mills are actively collected, and most internet resources are about their coffee mills.

Pont-de-Roide is at the confluence of 3 small rivers, the Doub, Roide, and Ranceuse. The availability of water power to operate trip hammers and grindstones made it an attractive industrial site. By 1932, the Peugeot & Cie. catalog shows large, modernized plants with their own hydroelectric plants.  

Peugeot & Cie. masonry trowels
Peugeot & Cie. brick trowels

Thursday, July 6, 2017

History of Vet-O-Vitz Masonry Systems

Vet-O-Vitz brochure 
Vet-O-Vitz Masonry Systems, Inc., of  2786 Center Rd., Brunswick, Ohio, was a manufacturer of 3 electrically powered machines for masonry. These were the Vet-O-Vitz Mortar Spreader, Wall Grouter, and Floor Grouter. A scanned copy of a 4-page Vet-O-Vitz Mortar Spreader brochure which pictures all 3 machines is on the Internet Archive.

William Vetovitz (born in 1928) was the company owner and a bricklayer. He received US Patent 3148432 for the mortar spreader on 15 Sept. 1964. He received US Patent 3799714 on 26 Mar. 1974 for a version called a mortar applicator. The 4-page brochure is not dated, but appears to be from the 1970s. This 1975 book mentions the Mortar Spreader. By that year, Vet-O-Vitz Masonry Systems was making prefabricated brick panels for buildings and retaining walls. One of his best-known projects was for the Vontz Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The company was in business as recently as 2013, but is now out of business.

Monday, July 3, 2017

History of Coulaux & Compagnie

Coulaux & Compagnie was a French manufacturer of tools and armaments, with manufacturing in Klingenthal, Molsheim, Mutzig, and Gresswiller. The operation at Klingenthal is famous for its swords. The Molsheim plant made tools, including a full line of brick trowels and finishing trowels. The arms manufacturing dates to 1729, and the business closed in 1962. More information (Français) (English), and here (German).

Their 1932 catalog is on the Internet Archive:
Coulaux & Cie. Truelles et Platoirs, Transplantoirs, Couteaux, Binettes  (Trowels & Finishing Trowels, Garden Trowels, Knives, Hoes)

A larger 1931 catalog is also on the Internet Archive:
Coulaux & Cie. Petit Outillage 1931 (Small Tools)