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.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Johnson Level and Hyde Tools

I would like to compliment Johnson Level and Hyde Tools for doing what almost no tool companies do, put copies of their old catalogs on their websites. It shows they care more about their heritage than just using it in advertising slogans. I have used both Johnson and Hyde tools for decades. Please take a look at these old catalogs:

Johnson Select Catalogs Through History

Hyde Tools Historical Catalogs

Monday, February 2, 2015

History of Trow & Holden Co.

Trow & Holden cutter's hand hammer No. 237
Trow & Holden Co. is an iconic American maker of excellent quality tools for working stone, operating in Barre, Vermont, since 1890 (or 1889). Their tools were used to create the Lincoln Memorial, among many other notable monuments, sculptures, and buildings. They have a large number of videos on their YouTube channel, demonstrating their hand and pneumatic tools. One measure of their tool's high quality is that the pneumatic tools have serial numbers, and No. 1 still exists. It belongs to Barre sculptor Giuliano Cecchinelli, seen here on Facebook.

Trow & Holden was founded by Clark Holden (1834-1909), a native of Barre, the heart of Vermont's granite industry. At age 21 he bought the general store where he was employed. In 1865 he and a partner, Frank A. Stafford, bought a Barre agricultural fork manufacturer and ran it as the Stafford-Holden Co. and the Stafford & Holden Manufacturing Co. In 1885 Clark Holden withdrew from the business to serve as postmaster of Barre for 5 years. In 1889 he formed a partnership with John Trow, a banker, to make granite tools under the name Trow & Holden.

Trow & Holden's factory, 1906
In 1905, Clark Holden sold the business to his son, William Merrill Holden (1873-1941). The firm had outgrown its facility, and William Holden bought the Stafford & Holden Manufacturing Co.’s buildings on South Main St. in Barre. The site included a dam on Stevens Branch for powering the forges and grinding wheels. In 1911, the business incorporated as Trow-Holden Co. This aerial photograph is in a 1942 book.

The company passed to William’s son Max Albee Holden (1899-1973), who married Eula Mary Akley. Max Holden brought his wife’s brother Gordon E. Akley (1920-1992) into the business. When Max retired around 1969, Gordon Akley bought the rest of the shares.

Today, Gordon Akley’s son Norman Akley and his wife Lauren LaMorte own Trow & Holden.
According to a 2012 article, all of Trow & Holden’s products are made with CNC machines, but the plant has its original line shafts. The old water-powered drop forges and other antique equipment is stored on site, seen in a 2008 photo on Flickr, in 2014 on Facebook, and a 2008 video tour on YouTube.

Trow & Holden 1-3/4 pound cutter's hand hammer
Trow & Holden Co. 1926 catalog
Family biographies in 1914 book
Trow & Holden plant on Google Streetview
Barre Granite Association, The Sculptor monument
Rock of Ages granite quarry tour, Barre

Trow & Holden hand bush hammer No. 3L