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, September 22, 2015

History of Staatsburg Tool Corp.

Staatsburg No. 113 curbing tool
The business that became Staatsburg Tool Corp. was located in the New York village of the same name, on the Hudson River. It was owned and operated by 4 generations of the Bodenstein family. Their specialty was ice tools, but as the demand for those disappeared, they began making cement tools.

John H. Bodenstein (1823-1875), a native of Germany, made ice tools in Staatsburg from 1858 to 1875. After his death, sons John George Bodenstein (1850-1935) and Henry Bodenstein (c. 1852-1934) ran the business as J.G. Bodenstein & Brother through at least 1892. The partnership was dissolved in the 1890s, and John G. continued as J.G. Bodenstein & Co. In 1920 they were also using Staatsburg Ice Tool Works. By 1936, the name was Staatsburg Tool Corp.

John George Bodenstein Jr. (1884-1965) continued the business until his retirement in 1957, when his nephew George N. Bodenstein (1904-1985) took it over. According to an ad in "Hardware Age" in 1970, Staatsburg Tool Corp made cement and plaster tools and a scaling hammer. The company's buildings and all equipment were sold at auction 14 July, 1984. The last mailing address was in nearby Sharon, CT. The New York corporation was dissolved in 1995.

The factory was 2 buildings on River Rd. at Church St., in the center of town. The original plant dated to 1888, and was destroyed by fire in 1919. It was rebuilt in 1920. For a list of all the company's equipment in 1984, see here.

Employee Cecil Parker, Bodenstein Ice Tool factory, 1890-1900 

The Bodenstein family were prolific inventors, including ice harvesting and cutting devices and cooking vessels in their patents:
Henry Bodenstein, 11 patents (including 1 name misspelling)
Antoinette P. Bodenstein, 1 patent
John George Bodenstein, 5 patents (including misspellings)
John G. Bodenstein & Jr., 4 patents

Credit for the obituary is "The Rhinebeck Gazette" 18 March 1965. Credit for the photo is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

History of Woodrough & McParlin, Ohio Saw Works

Woodrough & McParlin No. 21 Cincinnati Pattern, by Disston 
Woodrough and McParlin made some of the best plastering trowels in the US. It is a testament to their quality that after Henry Disston & Sons purchased the company's line, Disston continued to make the Woodrough and McParlin trowels as one of their better products. They were a single-post design, with large handles, and the extra quality trowels had a higher polish and walnut handles.

The history is complicated, beginning with young men trained as smiths and saw makers in Birmingham, England, emigrating to America, practicing their trade, forming partnerships and businesses, separating and relocating, intermarrying, joining together again into a trust, and having the trust taken over by Disston.

Joseph Woodrough (1813-1889) is at the center of this story. He was born in Birmingham, emigrated in the early 1840s, and settled in West Cambridge, MA, where he met and married Agnes Moreman in 1845. He worked for West Cambridge saw maker Welch & Griffiths, of which Charles Griffiths was also from Birmingham. In 1845 Woodrough formed a partnership with another Birmingham native, William Clemson (1821-1890). It is likely that the 3 men knew each other in England, because all were christened at the same church.

Woodrough and Clemson set up shop making saws in West Cambridge and in 1852 moved to nearby Woburn. Clemson was gifted mechanically and designed equipment for the shop. In spring 1853 Woodrough withdrew from the firm and it became Henshaw and Clemson. West Cambridge was renamed Arlington in 1867.

Woodrough & McParlin plastering trowel, 1874
Joseph Woodrough moved to Hamilton, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati, where he entered a saw manufacturing partnership with Michael McParlin and Henry C. Dunn, as Woodrough, McParlin & Dunn. By 1856, the firm had moved to Cincinnati, first at 823 W. 7th St., then to 15 Walnut St. the next year. This was 1 block east of the Roebling Suspension Bridge then under construction, and one block in from the Ohio River, shown on this 1865 photo.  From 1865 through at least 1872 they were at 10-12 W. 2nd St. and using a second name, Ohio Saw Works. By 1875 they had settled at the southeast corner of West 6th St. and Hoadly St. (later named Baymiller), still close to the river and across from the Cincinnati Hamilton & Dayton RR station so that Woodrough could commute daily from Hamilton on the train.    

James R. Woodrough
Woodrough made hand saws, circular saws, meat cleavers, and plastering trowels. His oldest son Horace W. Woodrough (1847-?) joined him in 1868, and James Richards Woodrough (1848-1894) in 1869. James R. was a saw maker according to the 1870 Census, and he became the most active in the business. Younger sons Rufus Lee (R.L., 1858-1935) and Herbert H. Woodrough (1855-1916) entered the business later. R.L. was a traveling agent for his father's business and started a hardware company in Chicago in 1885.

Increasing competition in tool manufacturing led to most smaller saw makers forming a trust the year after the elder Woodrough's death. "The National Saw Company was incorporated in 1890, with a capital of $3,000,000. George N. Clemson was made its president; Louis Duhme, vice-president; R. W. Clemson, secretary; R. L. Woodrough, treasurer; and H. H. Woodrough, treasurer. The company owns and operates the establishments of the Wheeler, Madden & Clemson Manufacturing Company, and the Monhagen Steel Works at Middletown; Woodrough & McParlin at Cincinnati, Ohio; The Richardson Saw Works at Newark; Harvey W. Peace, Brooklyn, N. Y., and Woodrough & Clemson, Montvale, Mass." From Between the Ocean and the Lakes: The Story of Lake Erie, by Edward Harold Mott, 1899.

George N. Clemson and Richard W. Clemson were the sons of former partner William Clemson. Richard W. Clemson had married Joseph and Agnes Woodrough's daughter Leona in 1881. James R. Woodrough was manager of the Woodrough & McParlin factory.

This 1891 article alleges how The National Saw Co., as a trust, was colluding with Disston to set prices and divide territory and products.  

Five years later, the Cincinnati plant burned. It was located in an industrial area near the Ohio River. An unnamed newspaper of Newark, OH, Wednesday, 17 April, 1895, wrote Big Blaze in Cincinnati:
1899 advertisement
"The large 6-story building of the National Saw Company, occupying almost a square at Baymiller and Sixth Streets, was burned about midnight. The building belongs to the estate of Wesley U. Cameron and was valued at over $50,000. The National Saw Company loss on stock, machinery, etc. over $250,000. The company has $225,000. insurance on the warehouse that was destroyed. The 6-story warehouse is a total loss, but part of the adjoining buildings that belonged to the saw company and not to the Cameron estate, were saved. The company saved its books and accounts, but nothing else. The walls fell in, making the loss complete. The burned works are the old plant of Woodrough & McParlin, of which James R. Woodrough is manager. The works belonged to the trust known as the National Saw Company."

Woodrough & McParlin plant as rebuilt, owned  by Disston, 1904
The factory was rebuilt at the same location, and National Saw Co. continued to make the Woodrough & McParlin plastering trowels. Disston's relationship National Saw grew closer. The 7 May 1896 obituary of Hamilton Disston said he had just attended a meeting of National Saw Co. in Newark, NJ. Eventually Disston took over National Saw, and continued to make some of its products under the original names, including the Cincinnati pattern plastering trowels. The Google Street View shows this corner today.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

History of H.A. Lothrop Manufacturing Co.

H.A. Lothrop, of Sharon, Massachusetts, was one of the first American brick trowel manufacturers. As early as 1864, their trowels had patterns and handles that other manufacturers would use 50, 75, and 100 years later. Their tools are in the 1864 New York City hardware catalog of Blevin, Mead & Co.

Because others have researched Horace A. Lothrop's life, I won't repeat it here. Mr. Lothrop (1828-1898) had factories for trowels and cutlery, operating as H.A. Lothrop Manufacturing Co. In 1876 the trowel factory had 14 employees and the cutlery factory had 25. After his death, the company name changed in 1899 to H.A. Lothrop Co. His sister was married to Oliver Ames Jr., of shovel manufacturer Oliver Ames & Sons of nearby Easton, MA.

The complete Bliven, Mead & Co.'s "Illustrated Catalogue and Price List of American, German, English and French Hardware" is located here.

H.A. Lothrop advertisement, 1893

Lothrop's XX brick trowel, handle unknown  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Trowels and Masonry Tools in Canada

Historically, Canadians have bought tools made in the UK, US, and continental Europe. Some masonry tools were made in Canada. Henry Disston and Sons had a plant at 2 to 20 Fraser Ave., Toronto, and according to this 1913 article it made brick and plastering trowels. The Google Maps image below shows the building in 2015.
Here is the complete Disston Canada Hardware Catalog H-65.  The back cover shows their facility at 125 McDonald Blvd., Acton, Ontario.

This 1898 book (a digitized microfilm copy) features trowels by Boker, Brades, and W. Rose, and stone tools by Warren:
Illustrated Catalogue of General Hardware by Rice Lewis & Son, Ltd., Toronto, 1898 (selection)

Other Canadian hardware catalogs and magazines are on

Illustrated Catalogue of General Hardware by Rice Lewis & Son, Ltd., Toronto, 1898
General Catalogue No. 24 by H.S. Howland. Sons, Toronto, 1924
Canadian hardware trade journals (over 100 results)

Canadian pattern brick trowel by WHS Tyzack