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 15, 2015

Sears Roebuck & Co. Masonry Tools

Throughout the 20th century, Sears Roebuck & Co. was the largest mail order company and probably the most recognizable retailer in the United States. Tools that Sears sold have benefited from that popularity. Sears contracted with manufacturers to make most items with Sears brand names, and this private label manufacturing continues today. Unfortunately for tool collectors and historians, Sears has not revealed who those makers were. A considerable amount of time and effort has been spent by those collectors and historians to determine who the manufacturers were, and this research is ongoing at websites like Alloy Artifacts.

Sears Roebuck was founded by Richard W. Sears (1863-1914) in 1886 in Minneapolis, MN, and moved to Chicago IL in 1887, where Alvah C. Roebuck joined the business. Initially they sold watches and jewelry by mail, and quickly expanded to include many other household items. In 1893 the business became Sears, Roebuck and Co. By 1895 the firm was producing a 532-page catalog with "shoes, women's garments and millinery, wagons, fishing tackle, stoves, furniture, china, musical instruments, saddles, firearms, buggies, bicycles, baby carriages and glassware, in addition to watches and jewelry” (source of quote). Chicago clothing manufacturer Julius Rosenwald bought into the company in 1895, becoming vice president, and then Roebuck resigned because of poor health. Growing rapidly, the firm moved to a new 6-story building in 1896, and continued to build and lease other buildings in Chicago. In 1905 construction started on a 41-acre plant and office building on Chicago's West Side. When it opened in 1906, the 9 story, 3 million square foot mail order plant was the largest business building in the world.

Sears tool brands include Fulton Tool Company, Craftsman, Dunlap, and Sears. Their masonry tools sold in the past included a brick trowel, pointing trowel, finishing trowel, concrete edger, concrete groover, brick hammer, and other common masonry tools. Here are the pages with masonry tools from 6 Sears catalogs from 1957 to 1972, with the cover pages to identify the year.  

Sears did not register Fulton Tool Company as a trademark, but no single maker has been found for the wide variety of tools that Sears sold with the Fulton name. Fulton tools began appearing in 1908 catalogs, and included hand saws, crosscut saws, axes, planes, chisels, hammers, pliers, and more. The only references I have found for Fulton as a tool maker are an Ohio manufacturer of mining tools and a file and rasp maker in Brooklyn, NY.

The famous Sears Craftsman brand dates to the 1927 registration of the Craftsman trademark, and a history of the brand is on the Sears Archive at Craftsman History. Craftsman masonry tools include a forged brick trowel, brick hammer, brick jointer, and brick chisel.

Craftsman 6553 11 inch brick trowel
The Dunlap brand was primarily a line of economy tools that sold from 1938 to at least 1960. It may have been named after Tom Dunlap, the manager of the Sears hardware division from the 1930s through the 1950s. Sears filed a trademark application for Dunlap in 1938 and the trademark was issued in 1939. Dunlap tools first appeared in the in the 1938-1939 Fall and Winter Sears catalogs. The Dunlap name replaced some tools that had previously sold as Fulton or Merit (wrenches). Dunlap masonry tools sold on eBay and elsewhere include a variety of masonry tools.
Dunlap cast iron edger & groover

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