Saturday, August 8, 2015

We used to make things in this country. #204: Tobin Arms Manufacturing Company, Woodstock, Ontario

Above, a large auger bit I picked up with the Tobin name on it, along with a Canadian patent number: 71423.  This patent relates to the screw thread on the end of the auger bit and was granted in 1900. The inventor, John William Caldwell, was originally from Coolamon, New South Wales and "a subject of the Queen of Great Britain", but "temporarily" living in Manhattan when he filed for a U.S. patent for the same screw type two years earlier, in 1898.  

By 1908 he was living in Toronto when he filed for a U.S. patent for an auger bit (996,612, awarded in 1911).  Clearly, he must at some point have been involved with the Tobin firm.  Its founder, Frank Major Tobin, hailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, but went south to Norwich, Connecticut to act as a sales agent for the W.H. Davenport Firearms Company, and subsequently the Hopkins & Allen Arms Company.  He incorporated the Tobin Arms Manufacturing Company in Norwich in 1903.  For some reason, he took his business back to Canada, incorporating in Woodstock, Ontario in 1909 and produced Canada's first shotguns. The company produced its Tobin Simplex guns in both 12- and 16-gauge.  In 1916, part of the company's factory was being used by the Arnold Thompson Tool Company which made such things as lathe attachments for chasing shell plugs.  The Tobin Arms Company may have failed this year, although it did not surrender its provincial charter until 1921.  Mr. Tobin lived on until 1939, becoming involved in the marketing of a collapsible boat and early experiments with milk cartons.

For more on the Tobin guns, visit the Tobin Simplex Model 70 Trap Grade.  I was surprised that a gun firm would also manufacture a wood auger, so I wrote to "Sharptail," the author of the Tobin webpage, and he was kind enough to reply:

A very interesting find. While I am afraid I will be of very little help, I can tell you that the Tobin logo with the capital letter T which extends the right hand horizontal component over the letters "obin" is exactly the same as the logo which appeared in Frank Tobin's advertising for his shotgun. I therefore believe that the auger bit is associated with the Tobin shotgun factory, or was at least commissioned by the Tobin plant. It does make sense that a company building shotguns would need to build a significant amount of their own tooling. They would have had the capability to manufacture the auger bit, no doubt. However it does not make sense to me that anyone would produce a tool for in-house use and go to the trouble of stamping it with a logo, patent no. etc. That would only be required if you were selling the tool, yet in all the research I have done I have never seen a reference to Frank M. Tobin selling anything other than firearms. Perhaps the Arnold Thompson Tool company continued to use the Tobin name and logo after their acquisition of the plant, I can only speculate.
In any case, a very interesting find and yet another Tobin mystery.

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