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.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

History of Red Devil Tools, Smith & Hemenway Co., Landon P. Smith, Inc.


Red Devil, Inc. is the best known US manufacturer of glazing tools and putty knives, and they also made cement tools at one time. A summary of their history follows:
  • Frank (Francis) Ross Woodward (1845-1931), of Hill, New Hampshire, invented glass cutters and began making them in the 1870s, eventually as Woodward Glass Cutter Co. 
  • In March 1898, Landon P. Smith (1869-1946) and John Francis Hemenway (1856-1926) founded Smith & Hemenway Co. in New York City. Among other hardware products, they sold Woodward's glass cutters. John Francis Hemenway biography
  • Although it began as a sales and import firm, Smith & Hemenway soon began manufacturing their own tools using Red Devil as a company trademark. Google Books - 1921 article Their best selling products during this period were over 100 styles and sizes of pliers. Smith & Hemenway pliers   
  • In 1925 Landon P. Smith began a successful effort to take control of the company from Hemenway, accusing Hemenway of neglecting the business. The ownership and name changed in 1926 to Landon P. Smith, Inc., operating at 106 Coit St., Irvington New Jersey. At this time the pliers line was sold to Crescent Tool Co., and Smith's new firm merged with Woodward Glass Cutter Co., concentrating on making painting and glazing tools. Numerous advertisements from 1926 through the early 1940s confirm the name Landon P. Smith, Inc.
  • The 1929 purchase of Master Manufacturing Co. added a line of paint hooks and related products, and in 1932 Smith acquired Vosco Tool's wood scrapers line. Also in 1932, company leadership passed to Smith's son-in-law George Ludlow Lee (1901-1966). George Ludlow Lee photograph 
  • The name changed to Red Devil Tool Co. in 1945, according to the journal, "Factory Management and Maintenance". This contradicts Wikipedia - Red Devil, Inc. Company leadership passed to George Ludlow Lee, Jr. (1926-1999). 
  • Red Devil Tool Co. was located at 2400 Vauxhall Rd., Union, New Jersey in late the 20th century. Google Maps - former Red Devil facility, Union NJ, now demolished
  • In 1965 Red Devil registered the trademark "Dresden" for a line of masonry, plaster, and tile tools, and sold those for an unknown time. At least some of those tools were made in Japan. The Dresden trademark expired in 2006. Dresden trademark history Red Devil Tools Catalog 26 1965
  • Red Devil, Inc. is still a family-owned business, located in Pryor, Oklahoma. Red Devil, Inc. website
The chronology above disagrees with several published histories of the companies involved, including Red Devil Inc. and Wikipedia. My account uses 2 or more sources each from the time periods. The most significant disagreement is with Smith and Hemenway starting the firm in 1872 in Hill, NH. There is no evidence that they ever lived in Hill, and in 1872 Smith was 3 years old and Hemenway was 16 years old.

Here is a scanned copy of a small, early Smith & Hemenway catalog, when they were located in New York City, and much larger Green Book of Hardware Specialties & Red Devil Tools, Sixth Edition
Red Devil putty knife, rosewood handle, pewter bolster 


1921
Red Devil brochure 1939
Red Devil Dresden catalog 1969

Red Devil cement groover and edger

4 comments:

  1. I have a Red Devil Tile cutter NO 301 Patent NO 1994420 can anyone tell me what year it was made and how much it's worth. I have pictures but not sure how to post them here.

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  2. Email pictures to wvamark21@gmail.com

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  3. I have a 4 piece framed limited edition set of a (Bicentennial Tool Collection presented by Red Devil, Inc., Union, NJ)...Does anyone have information about this collection?

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    1. I could not find any pictures on the web, but other US companies made special products for 1976. It's possible these went to employees as an award too.

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