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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

History of Fayette R. Plumb Inc.

Fayette R. Plumb was one of the major American tool makers of the late 19th and 20th centuries, and their products included a variety of hammers for brick and stone. Their factory was within walking distance of Henry Disston and Sons, another firm whose market dominance was a result of high product quality, management skill, and a dedicated work force. This chronology of Fayette R. Plumb,  Inc. owes much to Yesteryears Tools.

Plumb brick hammers sold in 1924
1856 – Jonathan Yerkes (1830-1897) relocated his Moreland, Pennsylvania works to the former borough of Frankford, PA, annexed by Philadelphia in 1854.

1867 – After completing his formal education, Fayette Rumsey Plumb (1848–1905) took a job with the hardware firm Lloyd, Supplee & Walton in Philadelphia, intending to learn the hardware business. This link is a photograph of a painting of Mr. Plumb.

1869 – Plumb formed a partnership with Jonathan Yerkes. Yerkes and Plumb began building a new works in Bridesburg, another former borough just south of Frankford, adjacent to the Pennsylvania Railroad.

1887 – A complete takeover by Plumb began with Yerkes's retirement in April, 1886. Jonathan Yerkes initially sold his stake in the company to his brother Edward A. Yerkes. Shortly thereafter Edward A. sold out to Plumb but the Yerkes & Plumb name was maintained on products for some time. Other Plumb brands included Y & P with an anchor and Anchor Brand, possibly used until the 1930s.

1899 – Incorporated as Fayette R. Plumb, Inc., with Mr. Plumb as president. A manufacturing directory published the same year gives Plumb's address as East Tucker St. and Trenton Ave.

1901 – Fayette Rumsey Plumb, Jr. (1877-1966) was treasurer.

1905 – The elder Mr. Plumb died suddenly while on a trip.

1906 – Fayette R. Plumb's products in a hardware whole catalog.

1910 – The company began construction of a plant in St. Louis, Missouri. The project was overseen by Calvin Perry Bascom, who then became general manager of the St. Louis facility.

Plumb's Philadelphia plant (before 1918)

1918 – Company officers and management were:
Fayette R. Plumb Jr., President
Joseph H. Plumb, Treasurer
John M. Williams, Secretary
Frank L. Campbell, Assistant Sales Manager
S. Herbert Logan, Statistician
William D. Plumb, Factory Manager
William J. Walsh, Plant Superintendent
J.A. Mellon, Comptroller

1919 – History of Plumb's production during World War I.

1920 – Fayette R. Plumb, Jr. was president, his brother William Dodman Plumb (1888-1944) was works and employment manager. The 1920 Sanborn fire insurance map shows Plumb's works on James St. between Buckius St. and Wakeling St. To see the map click this link and then scroll down Content to the sheet Philadelphia-19161929-Vol11_sheet1020. To go directly to a copy I made of the same map, click here.

1920 Sanborn map, Fayette R. Plumb
1929 – Plumb's mailing address was 4830 James St., Philadelphia. Bing Maps

1944 – William D. Plumb died.

1945 – After World War II, Fayette Rumsey Plumb II (1920-1911) entered the family business, eventually becoming vice president in charge of manufacturing. His father was William D. Plumb.

1953 – Fayette R. Plumb Jr. stepped down as president after 48 years, and was replaced by his son D. Rumsey Plumb.

1960 – Their mailing address was 4837 James, Philadelphia 37, PA.

1966 – Fayette R. Plumb Jr. died.

1971 – Plumb Company was acquired by the Ames Co. of Parkersburg, West Virginia. Ames was owned by industrialist and philanthropist Bernard Patrick McDonough Jr. (1903-1985), and labels and advertisements identified it as a McDonough Company.

1980 – The Plumb division of Ames was sold to Cooper Industries, Inc. of Houston, Texas (the date is according to a Cooper catalog). Cooper placed Plumb in its Cooper Group operating division with other hand tool brands including Crescent, Lufkin, Nicholson, Weller, and Wiss. The Cooper Group's address was PO Box 728, Apex, NC 27502.
Plumb Cooper 24 oz. brick hammer
1981–  A new Plumb factory opened at 3012 Mason St., Monroe, NC.

1982 – Fayette R. Plumb II retired as Vice President in Charge of Manufacturing; the Philadelphia factory was closed. A supermarket was built on the site north of James St., and  the building was converted to The Baptist Worship Center in 2007. One surviving Plumb building is on the south side of James St. Google Street View in September 2014 shows the rear wall of Plumb’s handle and coal storage building (below).

2010 – Cooper Hand Tools division was spun off into Apex Tool Group, a joint venture of Danaher Corp. and Cooper Industries. Apex Tool Group had over 30 brands including Plumb. “Apex is a company that Danaher and Cooper formed in 2010 by merging their individual hardware making assets. Danaher and Cooper each hold 50% of Apex Tool.” Plumb tools are being made outside the United States, primarily in China.

October 2012 – Danaher Corporation and Cooper Industries sold Apex Tool Group to Bain Capital.

Plumb's hammer brands in 1940 included these, starting with the most expensive:
Yerkes & Plumb knapping hammer
Plumb Chrome
Plumb Au-to-graf
Plumb Favorite
Plumb Leader

Plumb's other brands, marks, and labels included these:
James West & Co. (early, second quality)
Vulcan Tool Co. (early, second quality)
Q. C. Mfg. Co. (third quality line)
Quaker City Mfg. Co. (for hardware wholesalers)
Philadelphia Tool Co. (Plumb’s bought the company)
Private label production for major hardware wholesalers

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