Every now and then I manage to turn up one of those neat screwdrivers which have a simple spring mechanism for holding the fastener on the end of the screwdriver to aid in starting it in some awkward location. A clever idea. There are various imitations, but the best ones are marked "Upson Bros., Inc."
Below, a sample of their flat-head offerings:
And, not to be forgotten, Phillips:
The story starts in 1927 when a patent for a screw driver was granted to Rudolph J. Velepec of Rochester for a screw driver with a mechanism for holding screws onto the end of the driver.
Mr. Velepec assigned his patent to the Haines Manufacturing Corporation of Rochester which had been incorporated in 1920 "to manufacture, buy and deal in automobile accessories, etc." The directors included Millard C. Upson and Merrell A. Upson. At some point in the next decade, they must have gone off on their own and formed Upson Brothers, Incorporated with headquarters on Exchange Street in Rochester. Over the following years they were assigned patents for such things as an "anti-rattling device" for sliding car windows (Patent 2047047 in 1936) and a "tire valve manipulating instrument" (Des. 126,572 granted in 1941). Of importance to the present story, Mr. Velepec patented improvements to his screw driver in 1931, and assigned the patent to the Upson Brothers Inc. Although the idea had first received a patent in 1927, the product itself does not appear to have entered the wider consumer market until 1948 when an ad appeared in Popular Science:
Although they were already using the name, the following year, Upson Bros. filed for the "Hold-E-Zee" trademark (which was granted in 1950).
Also, in 1949, they added screwdrivers for "recessed head screws" (by which they meant both Phillips and Reed and Prince) to their product line:
|Popular Science, October 1949|
In that year, in a strange reversal of fortunes, an apparently new company out of Meadesville, Pennsylvania, Hold-E-Zee Ltd., filed to trademark "Upson." (Hold-E-Zee is still listed as a manufacturer of hand and edge tools and, as late as 1997, a design patent for a hand-held nut driver was being assigned to them.) Putting the pieces together, it seems likely that Hold-E-Zee was always, or is now, owned by Channellock (also out of Meadville) since until around 2004 the Channelock catalogue offered screwdrivers under the Hold-E-Zee name. (As an aside, the Channellock website has an interesting video on how their pliers are manufactured.)
Stanley also used to offer screwdrivers with locking tips but seems to have discontinued this product line. Since US patent protection expires after 20 years, perhaps they simply appropriated Velepec's design.