Sunday, August 16, 2015

On the Level: Mayes Brothers Tool Manufacturing Company, Port Austin, Michigan

Popular Mechanics, May 1932
August Mayes was a stone mason and brick layer who, in 1874, began making his own levels.  When others began to ask him for his levels, he got his son involved in making them.  In 1917, John and two other brothers founded the Mayes Brothers Tool Manufacturing Company in Port Austin, Michigan on the southern shore of Lake Huron. In 1957, the company moved over 700 miles south to Johnson City, Tennessee.  Daniel Mayes, the President of the firm at the time, complained that "a political climate damaging to industry" in Michigan was the reason for the move, although it also appears that Johnson City, the "Little Chicago of the South," offered the company a municipally-built plant which, presumably, Port Austin wasn't prepared to match.  In any event, ten years later in 1967 the firm was sold to Great Neck Tools of Mineola, New York.  The brand continues today as the second largest manufacturer of wooden levels in the U.S.  Oh, and they also used to make coping saws:


Anonymous said...

According to the 1900 Census, August would have been 14 in 1874. Kinda young for somebody making their own levels. Adverts from the 1930s say they were established in 1896, which makes more sense as August would have been 36 and the three brothers would have been infants.

ljs said...

I don't know how old my great grandfather was in 1874, but I do know my grandfather John Mayes was born in 1889 and passed in 1942