Thursday, May 10, 2012

Vanished Tool Makers: Henry Cheney Hammer Company., Little Falls, New York (Updated)

Above, several old ball pein hammers I picked up in my travels.  Usually hammers don't carry manufacturer's markings, so I was surprised to find a stamping on the hammer head.  On the first hammer, I couldn't quite make out the name, but the rest said, "Tool steel, Guaranteed, Little Falls N.Y. USA. A quick google search found only one hammer manufacturer out of Little Falls, New York:  Henry Cheney.  I subsequently found the second hammer, with a much clearer stamping. Information on this company is scarce.  The Davistown Museum site has an entry on Henry Cheney but their information is inconsistent with other web sources.  He seems to have been born in Oswego in 1821, and may have made hammers before moving to Little Falls at some point between 1845 and 1855 or so.  Some sources say he bought the S.H. Farnham factory, others the Ingham Mill.  In any event, hammers were the company's primary product, although axes were also apparently manufactured at one point.  Curiously, most of the company's production went to the overseas market, including Australia.  The firm is reported to have been sold in 1954, when production apparently ended. 

Thanks to Jeffrey Cheney (no relation to Henry!) for the following additional information:

"From what I've been able to determine, when Henry first moved to Little Falls, in 1856, he started making hammers in a mill owned by William Ingham. Later, in 1874 he purchased an axe factory, also in Little Falls, which at one time had belonged to Stephen Farnham. Mr. Farnham sold this factory in 1873 to Henry H. & Levi Walrath. They conveyed in 1874 to Barney Van Vechten and he in the same year to Henry Cheney. 

After Henry's death in 1878, William Ingham's son, Schuyler R. Ingham became the president of the Henry Cheney Hammer Company. William Ingham's nephew, George D. Waterman became the secretary. 

In 1881 James H. Ives purchased the axe factory from the Cheney estate and sold it to Ira F. Trask and George W. Trask. The Trasks continued to produce axes until 1892 when they sold the machinery to the American Axe & Tool Company, a.k.a. the Hard Edge Tool Trust. 

So Henry made hammers in Ingham's mill and axes in Farnham's mill. 

The end of the company is still a mystery, but my guess is that the last president of the company, Elmer Mulford, either retired or died (he would have been 63 years old). Whoever was left had no interest in running the company so they sold the assets. I'd love to know where they ended up. The only lead I have at this point is a German tool company named Picard that sells a hammer very similar to the Cheney Nailer."

Since I first posted this information, a new website has appeared: Henry Cheney Hammer Company.  It provides a very comprehensive history of the company and lots of old ads! 

1 comment:

Wheelwright said...

Did Cheney sell hammers to Billings and Spencer, and Fairmont and Cleve. I know Pierce Arrow Automobile Co. used Cheney Hammer in their auto toolkit, but also Fairmont, and Billings. Ford, Cadillac, Pierce Arrow all had similar tools. I can’t understand how different tool companies where suppling duplicate tool designs to multiple Automobile Companies.