More Information About New Jersey Toolmakers
By Alexander Farnham (2002)
I have been interested in early tools and how they were used for more than fifty years, and have been writing and illustrating articles about them since 1959 when I started contributing articles to the Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association. After many years of attending auctions I started work on the first of my three tool collector handbooks in the late 1960s. It was published in 1970 and was followed by the other two in 1972 and 1975. These resulted in my writing articles for various antique publications including Maine Antique Digest where they have appeared since 1976. The first writing I did for M.A.D. were reports of antique tools sold at auctions in the Delaware Valley and New England. After CRAFTS of New Jersey was founded, these articles were also published in The Tool Shed starting with the fifth issue, November 1978. For a number of years thereafter I continued writing about tool sales for both publications, but when I started covering other forms of antiques for M.A.D. I contributed fewer articles to The Tool Shed.
Auger stamped "DAVID WILLET MENDHAM"
In 1994 when Herb Kean became Assistant Editor of The Tool Shed he suggested that I do a series on recently discovered New Jersey toolmakers not included in my two books published in 1984 and 1992. Having spent at least sixteen years collecting and researching tools manufactured in this state, I agreed with Herb's idea. With information supplied to me by fellow CRAFTS' members along with many hours of research on my part, I was able to come up with articles for several issues of The Tool Shed. After awhile however, I had to discontinue the series for lack of newly discovered toolmakers and too little time to do the needed research. The New Jersey tools illustrated and discussed here have only been brought to my attention within the last few years. Though two of their manufacturers are included in my books I consider the examples of their products shown here to be extremely rare.
While appraising tools at the Clinton Historical Museum I was shown a 39" auger, which was stamped DAVID WILLET MENDHAM. Though I have in my collection a number of Willet tools this was the only one of his that I know of which was marked with his location. Wilma Sagurton, who has done considerable research on both David Willet and the town of Mendham, has told me that he rarely included Mendham when signing his tools. As far as I can determine the majority of the tools he made were simply stamped D. WILLET. One reason that he marked his full name and place of business on the 39" auger may have been the availability of a greater amount of space for that purpose. The dealer who sold me the auger later phoned me to say that he found a large hoe marked ROCKAWAY, N.J. I thought that it was probably a product of William McKinnon, whose father began making axes in Rockaway in 1845. When I saw the hoe at the dealer's shop, however, I discovered that it was marked J. J. PEER instead of Wm. McKINNON like the one illustrated in my book Early Tools of New Jersey.
These two hoes were somewhat similar in appearance except that the one made by Peer had a longer shank, which was slightly twisted towards the left side. Its manufacture was much finer and it appeared to predate the McKinnon hoe considerably. Since the marks stamped into McKinnon products changed periodically, it is difficult to determine exactly in which year they were made, but the design of the lettering would indicate that their hoe was forged around 1900. The lettering stamped into the Peer hoe is like that used in the mid-1800s. Although I have attempted to gain information about J. J. Peer, so far he remains a complete mystery. Another toolmaker about whom nothing is known, other than that he worked in New Milford, N. J., is an axe maker who stamped his products R. A. BERRY / CAST STEEL. The example of his work shown here, a chisel edged hewing broad axe, appears to date from early to mid-1800s. Though I've contacted the New Milford Historical Society, they haven't sent me any information about Berry.
Hewing axe stamped "R.A. BERRY / CAST STEEL"
There is somewhat more known about the manufacturers of the two New Jersey saws included in this article. They were made by Christopher and William C. Richardson, who established their saw works at 15 Railroad Avenue, Newark, in 1859. The trademark by which they are best known is a Maltese cross with an "R" in the center. On each of the arms is one of the four letters, which spell the word BEST. They started using this trademark in April 1878. Two trademarks they used prior to that date are shown here, the most unusual being the one on a ripsaw found by Ken Vliet hidden in a barn on his family's farm. It shows a beaver encircled by C & W. C. RICHARDSON / NEWARK, N. J. The other trademark is on a crosscut saw and pictures an eagle in the center with PAT DEC 31 1867 above it and RxB just below. Circling around the top is RICHARDSON BROTHERS and at the bottom NEWARK, N. J. These trademarks are possibly among the earliest to be found on any New Jersey saws.
|Beaver logo found on Richardson saw||Eagle logo found on saw shown to right||Richardson Bros. saw|
Due to access to several books in Trip Kahn's fine library I was able to do considerable research on a family who made some of the most beautiful tools ever produced in New Jersey. Lebbeus Dod (1739-1816) and his three sons Stephen (1770- 1855), Abner (1772-1847), and Daniel (1778-1823) were all mathematical instrument makers besides possessing a number of other skills such as clock-making, gun smithing, and iron turning. At various times they all worked in Mendham and signed the instruments they made there to that effect. The brass protracting parallel rule illustrated here is the product of Lebbeus's second son, Abner, and is part of Trip Kahn's collection of eighteenth and early nineteenth century objects. This multi-purpose drafting instrument has scales divided every inch and half-inch, with transversal interpolation grids. S-shaped hinges provide parallel rule motion to a second rule, which carries the semi-circular protractor, divided every degree and mounted with index arm. This is a typically American form of this instrument usually associated with Lebbeus and his sons.
Although in my book, Search for Early New Jersey Toolmakers, a 12" divider made by L. A. Sayre & Co. is pictured the only information I have been able to learn is that they were in business in Newark during the latter part of the 1800s. Since the publication of my book I have obtained the lathing hatchet pictured here, which was produced by this company. No doubt there are in existence other tools manufactured by them, but I have yet to discover them.
It is my hope that through this article I will get readers to come forward with further information about the six toolmakers covered here.