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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

History of The Cleveland Formgrader Co.

Jasper G. Tullis during World War I
The Cleveland Formgrader Co. manufactured machinery and hand tools designed especially for road construction. These included edgers, finishing bridges, floats, formgraders, form tampers, rooters, scratch templates, strike-offs, straightedges, subgrade scrapers, and trailgraders. The formgrader, introduced about 1920 by Edward G. Carr of Chicago, IL, was a tractor equipped to prepare road grades for concrete forms.

The Cleveland Formgrader Co. was incorporated in 1930 in Cleveland, Ohio by Thomas W. Dieckman, Jasper G. Tullis, Elroy F. Schumacher, and Henry M. Toole. Jasper Garrett Tullis (1890-1964) was company vice president and head designer, with at least 4 US Patents, all assigned to the company:

US Patent 1929660 Method of making a road tool
US Patent 1952398 Road tool
US Patent 2155571 Road tool
US Patent 2425656 Conveyor mounting for trucks

Another 4 patents by others were assigned to the company:

The Cleveland Formgrader Co. 9½ inch edger
US Patent 2112349 Adjustable connection for tool heads and operating handles
US Patent 2928654 Stake puller machine
US Patent 3063676 Airport form pin puller
US Patent 3251281 Machine for forming and finishing concrete surfaces

Jasper G. Tullis was born in Kansas and worked there as a residential carpenter and as a gas engineer in California. His World War I photograph suggests that he worked in construction in the US Army. He moved to Cleveland after the war, and the 1920 US Census gives his occupation as gas and steam engineer in the machinery industry. His work with Cleveland Formgrader shows that Mr. Tullis had a talent for mechanical engineering. Later in life he moved to suburban Avon, OH, where he operated a small machine shop.        

Mr. Tullis's stepson Maurice E. Robinson (1922-2012) was a mechanical engineer for Cleveland Formgrader, and held one of the above patents.

During the 1930s, Cleveland Formgrader's plant was at 11517 Fruitland Ct., a mixed small industrial and residential area with a rail spur. By 1940, they were in a larger brick building at 6723 Denison Ave., also with railroad service. In 1955 they had moved from Cleveland to Mills Rd., Avon, OH. The company may have closed in the early 1960s. One of their machines is at the Historical Construction Equipment Association.

Cleveland Formgrader
Western Construction, Vol. 32, 1957

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

History of W. Rose, Part Two

In William Rose and the Early History of W. Rose & Brothers, we covered the business from its beginning to when the Rose family sold it in 1894 to O.B. Goodwin. Octavius Barrell Goodwin was born 23 Jul. 1839 in Maine, and his family was well-off enough to send him to Dartmouth College, where he graduated in 1862. He entered the petroleum business in Oil City, PA. We do not yet know what led him to enter tool manufacturing, but he remained active in the oil industry, as did his son.
W. Rose West Phila. in White, Van Glahn & Co. 1902 catalog  
Under Goodwin's ownership, the business retained an agent, the noted Wiebusch & Hilger, Ltd. of New York City. W. Rose began advertising in national trade publications, which proliferated at the turn of the century. Between 1909 and 1916, the firm dropped West Philadelphia as the location from their stamp, so it read, "W ROSE". The business incorporated in 1943, and this is apparently when the name changed from William Rose & Brothers to W. Rose, Inc. The earliest reference I found in print was 1946.

W. Rose advertisement in The Bricklayer, Mason and Plasterer, 1916 
O.B. Goodwin died 14 Jan. 1908 in Philadelphia, and his son became president of W. Rose & Brothers. George Kendrick Goodwin was born 9 Sept. 1881 in Oil City, PA, and received a mechanical engineering degree from Lehigh University in 1904. After just 10 years as president, the business made this announcement in trade publications in 1918:

"Wm. Rose and Bros., makers of the well-known W. Rose trowels and other tools, announce that George K. Goodwin has retired from the firm. The business will be continued by Joseph G. Thatford, at its present location, Sharon Hill, Pa., under the same name."

Joseph G. Thatford was born 17 June 1868 in Philadelphia, and died Nov. 10, 1954 in Delaware County, PA. He began working for W. Rose at about age 20, and by the 1910 U.S. Census he was their plant manager. According to his obituary, he worked for W. Rose for 65 years. Thatford has a US Patent for a manufacturing process for plasterer's trowels. It is not known if Thatford was also part owner of W. Rose. Despite the implications of the 1918 announcement, the Goodwin family retained ownership. George Goodwin's obituary said he retired as president of W. Rose in March 1966.

George Goodwin married Emily H. Stocking (1875–1940), born in Urumiah, Ajerbigan, Persia. It seems probable that their meeting had a connection with the petroleum business. George and Emily had 2 daughters. One of those, Gertrude Murdoch Goodwin, was born 17 Mar. 1909, and received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University in 1931. She distinguished herself enough at college and in her career that the Gertrude Goodwin Papers are held by the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

Gertrude Goodwin went to work as a mechanical engineer at W. Rose soon after graduating. In 1967 she became president of W. Rose, and ran the business until her retirement in 1989. She never married, and lived in what had been her parent's home at 300 N. Sharon Ave., in Sharon Hill, within walking distance of the W. Rose plant. She died 15 Dec. 1997.

When Ms. Goodwin retired, all of the W. Rose stock was sold to employee Edward B. King, whose 3 sons also worked for W. Rose. Edward King (29 Dec. 1925 -  22 Nov. 2011) retired at age 67 in 1992, after 52 years at W. Rose. Glenn King became president, Larry J. King was production manager, and Edward J. King was in charge of maintenance.

In 2001, Kraft Tool Co. purchased W. Rose, Inc. from the King family, and they have continued the tradition of craftsmanship that began with the first William Rose.

W. Rose 1917 advertisement
Through the ownership and management changes that W. Rose has seen in more than 2 centuries, there are a number of qualities that have remained constant and which set W. Rose apart. First, the quality of their tools has remained high. Second, Rose has always had management that valued stability in all aspects of the business. Third, their employees are dedicated and some have worked for the company for decades. It is near-certain that there is an unbroken chain of employees going back to William Rose and Sons. Next, W. Rose has always been privately held, and not subjected to the variations of the stock market or the whims of a conglomerate, holding company, or venture capitalists. Next, they have never over-diversified their product line. Last, W. Rose is the only US tool manufacturer I am aware of that has been run by 2 women at different times. Having one woman as manager or owner is very rare, and having 2 is completely unique.

More material will be added to this article. If you have family photos or other material, please contact me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

William Rose and the Early History of W. Rose & Brothers

William Rose sword, War of 1812
The history of the company we know as W. Rose began with Peter Rose (1720–1766), who married Mary Gardiner (1727–1796). The family lived in Blockley Township on the western edge of Philadelphia County, both incorporated into the City of Philadelphia in 1854. Peter and Mary owned at least 2 tracts of land, which were in the name of Mary Rose in 1777. Peter was a joiner (carpenter or woodworker) and farmer, and the family had a mill on Mill Creek. The creek is also not on today's maps because it was forced underground as a storm and sanitary sewer beginning in 1869, and the land leveled for building. The Rose's land on Mill Creek began at today's Clark Park on Chester Ave., and ran north between today's S. 43rd St. and S. 46th St., with a corner crossing Market St.

William Rose, born 13 Jan. 1754 in Blockley Township, was only 12 when his father died. William trained as a cutler and may have taken over his father's mill at some time. The W. Rose history on the Kraft Tools website gives 1798 as the date William started the business. In addition to William's first military contract in 1781, his skill as a cutler, his sons' skills, the size of his shop at his death, and the family's owning their water rights all point to the business beginning much earlier. Since trades were passed from father to son, it's possible there were other cutlers in his family. Preliminary research shows several cutlers from the 1600s in Hallamshire named Rose, a William Rose who was a cutler in Dublin in the 1580s, and another Peter Rose who was a noted early medical instrument maker in New York City.

In 1781 William received an advance from Deputy Commissary General Samuel Hodgdon of 980 pounds of iron and 12 pounds of steel to produce bayonets. He made just 200 bayonets, but produced bar iron from his own furnace for Hodgdon through the end of the war in 1783. From this beginning, William and his sons, especially Joseph, made cavalry sabers for local militias, sabers and officer's swords for the Philadelphia Arsenal, cutlasses for sailors, ramrods, and bayonets. They were best known for making blades, but could also make the entire sword. An example is a US government contract dated 9 Dec.1807 for 2,000 cavalry sabers at $5.125 each. By the War of 1812 they could make a brass-mounted artillery sergeant's sword for $4.125.

American Revolution bayonet by William Rose
Some of the Rose's most noted work was the blades for 72 presentation swords ordered by Congress for naval heroes during the War of 1812. Examples of these and others made by William and his sons are in the collections of major American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Winterthur.

By 1807, the business was called William Rose & Sons. The 4 sons who became cutlers were:

1807 W. Rose & Sons sword
William Rose (23 Feb. 1783 - 29 Jan. 1854) remained in the business, as did 4 of his sons.

Benjamin Franklin Rose (10 Oct. 1785 - 26 Sep. 1828), after getting his start with his father and brothers, moved to Philadelphia by 1819 and became a surgeon's instrument maker.

John Rose (6 May 1788 - 10 Jan. 1828) is listed as a cutler in Blockley in 1819.

Joseph Rose (20 Dec. 1788 - 27 Sep. 1819) remained a cutler in the business until his unexplained death. His brothers Benjamin and John were administrators of his estate, which is how we know their occupations.

The Book of English Trades, 1827
When William died 19 Mar. 1810 in Somerset, PA, his will described him as a cutler. The inventory of his estate includes his tools, equipment, raw material, and work in progress. From this, we know that the Rose works was producing brick and plastering trowels, sickles, several types of swords, gun barrels, and bayonets in 1810. There were enough men working to justify having 4 wooden tilt hammers, 4 wrought iron tilt hammers, 9 small grindstones and 2 large grindstones. These facts all suggest a business that was well established earlier than 1798. At some time after 1810 the business was named William Rose & Brothers.

Reading the 4-page inventory of Joseph's estate from 9 years later, one gets a sense of the tragic loss of a talented and versatile young artisan. Our consolation is that it also provides us with a valuable window into his life and the business in 1819. The papers refer to a mill and a "new mill". Fortunately there is a map from 30 years later that shows "J. Rose Mills" with 2 buildings and just north of it, "Roseville". The mill was powered with a race from Mayland's Dam, a pond about 2 blocks long, in the center of the Rose property shown in on the 1777 map. We know from other sources that Mill Creek was swift and had carved a deep and narrow valley to the Schuylkill, ideal for water power. Mayland's Pond would have been deep, with the mill situated in a ravine, indicated on the 1849 map.

By 1849 the city street grid had jumped the Schuylkill River and was platted to today's 41st St., with portions of 43rd St. going from Market St. south to J. Rose Mills. This allows us to plot the location of Rose's Mill. It corresponds exactly with the location of the worst of Philadelphia's infamous Mill Creek sewer collapses, the block bounded by Walnut and Sansom, S. 43rd to S. 44th Streets. The north side of Walnut collapsed in the 1930s, and the south side of Sansom in either or both 1955 and 1971. All houses in this block were demolished. The mill's tailrace matches with 43rd St. south of Walnut, where the street has caved into the sewer several times since 1930.

The next generation at William Rose & Brothers were all sons of the younger William. William Rose Jr. (24 Mar. 1810 - 28 Sep. 1883) was in charge of shipping and sales. Joseph Rose (29 Sep. 1823 - 5 Jun. 1881) specialized in plastering trowels. Rudolph Frailey Rose (17 Mar. 1825 - 11 Jan. 1886) was in charge of tempering, and in the 1863 Pennsylvania census his occupation was cutler. John Wesley Rose (26 May 1828 - 28 May 1886) was responsible for grinding.
McElroy's Philadelphia Directory 1839
The first Philadelphia city directory entry for William Rose is 1839, with the address as "Washington (W P)", meaning Washington Street or Road, West Philadelphia. This could refer to the closest main road to the mill, today's Market St., or the 1849 map could have been out of date. By 1844, we are certain that the business had moved east to a more advantageous commercial location, near the first bridge over the Schuylkill River. The earliest known advertisement for the firm was 1844, see below. The 1853 city directory specified Washington St. near Bridgewater St., which are today's Market St. and S. 30th St. This central location offered surrounding industry, a coal dealer, nearby river transportation, and the railroad.
O'Brien's Philadelphia Wholesale Business Directory, 1844
By 1862, Market St. proved much more valuable for the railroad than for a cutler's works. The business moved again to the corner of S. 36th St. and Filbert St., previously Green St., where they remained until 1889. That area has been redeveloped and no old buildings remain.

Philadelphia and Its Manufactures, by E.T. Freedley, 1867
In 1886 the only surviving partner was J. Wesley Rose, and Sarah J. Rose (1843-1921) took over management from 1887 through 1894. Sarah J. Rose was married to William's son John Frailey Rose (1841-1920), who was a physician in Oxford, Chester County, PA. At the time of the 1890 city directory, the business had moved to Sharon Hill, and 1889 corresponds with a 1918 article in Hardware World. In 1894 the Rose heirs sold the business to Octavius Barrell Goodwin. This will be covered in another article.

W. Rose West Phila. round knife
Products made during the Rose family's ownership included swords, brick trowels, brick jointers, brick hammers, scutches, plastering and finishing trowels, foundry molder's tools, saddler's round knives, and probably others. The business did little advertising during this period, but were listed with other trowel makers in hardware compendiums. The 1844 and 1867 advertisements are the only ones I have located from before 1894.     

Older W. Rose tools have the abbreviation "WEST PHILA." stamped after the name. This term was in use before the area was incorporated into Philadelphia. After the 1854 Philadelphia city-county consolidation, the entire area west of the Schuylkill was called West Philadelphia, a name which continues to today. By 1916, Rose had dropped location from their stamp. On some tools the location is in smaller letters, and on others it is the same size as the name. This article is continued at History of W. Rose, Part Two.

W. Rose West Phila. presentation trowel, rosewood handle
Two versions of the early stamp on brick trowels
Rose sword references and photographs:
The American Sword 1775-1945, by Harold L. Peterson, Four Big Black Swords
Damon Mills, American War of 1812 Philadelphia Made Officer's Sword by Joseph Rose
Delaware Historical Society, Regulation 1813-21 Foot Officer's saber stamped I. Rose
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Congressional Presentation Sword and Scabbard of Peleg K. Dunham 
Winterthur Museum, The Tale of the Sword: A Celebration of Patriotism and Valor

Saturday, June 11, 2016

History of Joseph Tyzack & Son, Ltd.

Meersbrook Works, 1940 catalogue
Joseph Tyzack & Son, Ltd., with its distinctive three-leg logo, was one of the most recognized Sheffield Tool manufacturers. Its good reputation has ensured the survival of its name to today, after many corporate mergers. As an independent firm, its product line was as broad as any tool and cutlery manufacturer, worldwide. I have been fortunate to recently purchase and scan a complete 1940 J. Tyzack & Son catalogue. The links are on the right side of this page. Following are key dates in the company's history:

1837 – Joseph Tyzack (1813-1891) started in business. After Thomas Tyzack (1842-1923) joined his father, it was renamed Joseph Tyzack & Son. "Thomas married and had three daughters, Cassandra, Minnie and Rose, and two sons, George and Clement. Clement (1877-1918) took over from his father and was succeeded by joint managing directors, Minnie (1879-1970) and Rose (born 1882).” (WK Fine Tools)

1876 – Thomas Tyzack built Meersbrook Works, Valley Road, Heeley, later part of Sheffield. Parts of Meersbrook Works survives today.

1942 – Joseph Tyzack & Son joined Isaac Nash of Wollaston Mills, Stourbridge, Worcestershire to form Nash Tyzack Industries Ltd.

June 1951 letter confirming merger
1951 – Nash Tyzack Industries combined with William Hunt and Sons, The Brades, Ltd. to become Brades and Nash Tyzack Industries of Stourbridge.

1960 – Brades and Nash Tyzack Industries was acquired by Spear and Jackson, which kept its name.

1962 – Brades and Nash Tyzack Industries merged with C.T. Skelton and Co. of Sheffield to form Brades, Skelton and Tyzack, also called the BST Group.

1967 – Brades, Skelton and Tyzack became part of Spearwell Tools of Wednesbury, Staffordshire, with the following amalgamated firms: Brades and Nash Tyzack Industries Ltd., Edward Elwell Ltd., Edward and William Lucas Ltd., Isaac Nash & Sons Ltd., C.T. Skelton & Co. Ltd., Spear & Jackson Ltd., Thomas Staniforth & Co. Ltd.
J. Tyzack  & Son Centenary double hang finishing trowel
J. Tyzack & Son Canadian pattern brick trowel
J. Tyzack tuck iron

J. Tyzack & Son stainless steel pointing trowel
J. Tyzack & Son 4½ inch brick bolster

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Harmon S. Palmer, Concrete Block Machine Inventor

Harmon S. Palmer 1905
Harmon Sylvanus Palmer is the American inventor credited with the concrete block machine. Palmer patented a concrete block mold in 1887, his first block machine in 1899, a concrete block wall with rectangular voids in 1901, another machine in 1903, and other patents followed. However, Palmer lost his technological advantage by being overly controlling with his inventions. He failed to realize that there were many possible designs for block machines and many entrepreneurs ready to make them, some of which predated his patents. He also restricted his customer's sales territories, a tactic that concrete trade publications editorialized against. Another self-inflicted problem was that his blocks were too large and heavy for one man to carry and lay. Palmer blocks were 24 or 32 inches long, 9 inches high, and 4 to 16 inches wide.

An exponential annual increase in cement demand and production after 1890 ensured a ready market for block machines. In response to many competing machines flooding the market, Palmer aggressively protected his patents, suing anyone infringing on them. Many Harmon S. Palmer Hollow Building Block Co. advertisements threatened competing manufacturers, their customers, and even the owners of buildings built with other block machines. It appears that he moved to Washington DC to better prosecute his legal claims. When he won a key lawsuit, he was unprepared to meet anticipated demand and contracted with another machine manufacturer in 1906. Later the same year, he lost on appeal because other designs existed before his. He never regained his initial lead with block machines.

Harmon S. Palmer was born 9 Mar. 1843 in Michigan, and died 1 Mar. 1931 in Washington DC. He and his wife Nellie E. had sons Floyd and Clyde. The sons lived with their parents, didn't marry, and worked for the business. In 1910 Palmer lived at 1450 Girard St., originally named  Binney St. While that house is gone, across the street a stately double house is built with his blocks.
Harmon S. Palmer advertisement, 1904
US cement production 1890-1908 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Early Twentieth Century Concrete Block Molds and Machines

Simple block mold
This site usually includes hand tools and not machinery. However, early concrete block molds and single-block machines were important in popularizing the use of concrete a century ago, and they were also hand-powered and portable. Advertisements for molds and machines to make building blocks, fence posts, silo staves, and other objects were common in trade publications of the day. Some manufacturers of molds and small machines include:

Anchor Concrete Machinery Co., Columbus, OH and Adrian, MI
Ashland Steel Range & Manufacturing Co., Ashland, OH
Australia Concrete Machinery and Engineering Co., Ltd., London, UK
Hercules by Century Cement Machine Co., Rochester, NY
Diamond Block Machine Co., Bristol, VA, sold by Montgomery Ward
W.E. Dunn Manufacturing Co., Chicago, IL
Panama by J. B. Foote Foundry, Fredericktown, OH
Francis Machinery Co., St. Louis, MO
Knox, Triumph, and Wizard, made in Ohio for Sears, Roebuck & Co.
London Concrete Machinery Co., London, Ontario
Multiplex Concrete Machinery Co., Elmore, OH
Miracle Pressed Stone Co., Minneapolis, MN
United Cement Machinery Co., Plain City and Columbus, OH

The primary source today of information about these molds and machines is from Concrete Machinery, catalogs issued in the early 1900s by Sears, Roebuck & Co. of Chicago. I have scanned one of these, and there are 3 more with a lower resolution on Sears sold the 3 machines listed above, all shipped from an undisclosed location in central Ohio. In addition to the machines, they sold many accessories and additional molds for making decorative and structural blocks. The catalogs are well-illustrated and a fascinating look at building technology over 100 years ago. The back cover shows houses, silos, and commercial buildings built with machines sold by Sears. I have located several of those buildings on Google Street View. A 1920 English trade journal article describes using the Australia Concrete Machine.

Concrete block mold, cast iron, USA 
Sears Concrete Machinery, high resolution
Sears Block Machine Instructions,
Sears Concrete Machinery 1915,
Sears Concrete Machinery 1925,
Sears Concrete Machinery 1928,
Concrete Block Machines in US in 1909
1905 Francis Machinery on YouTube
1906 Sears Roebuck Machine on YouTube

The molds and machines are very rare today. This 2013 article describes how Justin Grow of Portland, Oregon borrowed a block machine from a local museum and made his own rock-faced blocks for a restoration project. As of this date there is a rock-faced block mold for sale on US eBay with a $399.00 starting bid.

For more information about early manufactured concrete block and many pictures of its uses, see Straub Cinder Building Blocks on

Concrete block machines in Britain, 1921

Century Cement Machine Co., 1907

W.E. Dunn Manufacturing Co.
Sears Concrete Machinery 
Sears Concrete Machinery

One of 2 houses built by C.W. Ward, Savona, NY

Concrete block house near Eureka, IL
For more information about larger equipment in the United States, see the Historical Construction Equipment Association, of  Bowling Green, Ohio.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

History of FIBCO, F.I. Blake Co.

FIBCO finishing trowel, 11.5" x 4.5"
The F.I. Blake Company, of Worcester in central Massachusetts, was one of the United States's least known finishing trowel manufacturers. Their primary products were inside and outside calipers, dividers, drawing compasses, scribers, screw gauges, putty knives, and wall scrapers.

Frederick I. Blake founded the company with his name between 1910 and 1918. He was born in early 1868 in Maine, and worked as a machinist and superintendent of a machine shop. This experience apparently led him to begin manufacturing machinist's small tools, sharing a building at 24 Washington Square, Worcester in 1918.

After Blake's death 18 July 1930, his daughter Ruth took over the business and ran it until at least 1962. This makes her one of a very few women known to have managed a tool manufacturer.

Ruth Alice Blake was born 7 Apr 1892 in Worcester, and married John H. Beck. In May 1935 Ruth Beck began using the brand name FIBCO, and she applied for a trademark 29 Nov. 1945. By 1941, the operation had moved to 31 Shrewsbury St., Worcester, where they remained. Ms. Beck was manufacturing finishing trowels for concrete and plaster by 1958. It's unknown when the F.I. Blake Co. went out of business, but it appears to be in the early 1960s. The center of Wooster has been extensively redeveloped, and no old buildings remain at either of F.I. Blake Co.'s addresses. Frank Blake and Ruth and John Beck were living at 9 Winslow St. in 1920, and the Becks were still there in 1940.
Popular Mechanics 1953
FIBCO Multiple Gage Plate

The Descendants of John Tyzack (1747-1796), With Their Sheffield Companies

Two of the sons of John Tyzack (1747-1796) were tool and cutlery makers, and they and their descendants founded 5 tool and cutlery companies in and around Sheffield and one in London. With my wife's assistance and information from and other internet sources, we have created this family tree to show Sheffield's most prominent tool making family. The companies are:

Joseph Tyzack & Son, Ltd.
Needham, Veall & Tyzack, Ltd. (cutlery only)
S. Tyzack & Son (Shoreditch, London)
Tyzack & Holmes Ltd. (measuring tools)
W.A. Tyzack & Co., Ltd.
W. Tyzack, Sons & Turner, Ltd.     
The pdf copy is here