Monday, February 11, 2013

We used to make things in this country. #40: Dudley Locks

When I was in high school in the Sixties, students were required to purchase combination locks for their lockers directly from the school, and these were always Dudley locks.  Back then, they were made in Canada.

I hadn't given this much thought until a few days I turned up my old  high school lock with its original combination tag:

Curiously, it indicates that the lock was made by the Dudley Lock Division of United-Carr Canada Limited of Toronto.  (Yorkville Avenue, no less, Toronto's Greenwich Village or Haight-Ashbury of the period.)

A google search only turns up the fact that Dudley is now a brand of Master Lock in the U.S., where Dudley's trademark is actually "School standard since 1922."  Master Lock itself was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1921 and has an interesting history on its own website.


The history of Dudley itself remains a mystery, other than it was clearly an American firm to begin with.  Pictures on the Vintage Combination Locks site show Dudley locks marked "Triple Metals Corp, Waukegan, Illinois" as well as marked Chicago and Crystal Lake Illinois and Vero Beach, California.  According to Antique Padlocks, there was a Gray and Dudley Company out of Nashville, Tennessee that made locks in the 19th Century, but I don't think there's a relationship. 

There's a lot more information available about United-Carr.  That company began as the Carr Fastener Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1912.  Fred S. Carr was a carriage-maker who came up with a unique fastener for attaching canvas to carriages.  He marketed these as "Dot" fasteners and they quickly became standard on horse-drawn and, later, horseless carriages. The company went on to develop many different kinds of "snap" and other garment fasteners, manufacturing them as well as conventional buttons.  They made uniform buttons for the Canadian forces in World War I, and also produced the socket-and-stud fastener marketed as the "Lift-the-Dot" that was adopted by the U.S. Army in 1916.  

In 1929, they merged with the U.S. Fastener of South Boston to become United-Carr.  Shortly afterwards they developed the "tee-nut" for Fisher body, permitting sheet metal to be easily secured to the steel frames that were replacing wood in the auto industry.  Teenuts are still around.
Popular Mechanics
During World War II, the plant was retooled for military aircraft products, including a cowl fastener known as the "Airloc" used on B29 bombers and the Boots self-locking nut.  

Flight, Jan 8, 1943
Life, February 8, 1943
After the war, they branched into electronic controls, switches and connectors as well as fasteners, especially for the automotive industry. In the 1960's, a merger with the United Shoe Machinery Corporation was agreed to in principle, but fell through apparently because USMC executives got cold feet.  The company was eventually acquired by the aerospace giant TRW Corporation in 1969, eventually becoming part of TRW's Automotive Group Fastener Division.  In 2002, TRW was itself acquired by Northrop Grumman.

So, what about Dudley?  Obviously at some point they were acquired by United-Carr, which had a subsidiary in Canada. 

Oakville Images
My guess is that the United-Carr fastener business was spun off, probably during its ownership by TRW.  (Today they are credited as a legacy firm by Johnson and Hoffman Fasteners .)  I imagine that Dudley got sold to Master Lock sometime around then.

As for Dudley, they're apparently now made in China.  For a rant about this, see R.I.P. Dudley Lock Canada.


Clayton Healey said...

That's my Dad, Robert M. Healey, President of United-Carr Canada at the time.

Clayton Healey said...

...on the right.

Unknown said...

Does anyone have information about United Carr selling ceramic buttons for the Blythewood Sanitorium out of Stamford, CT in the 1930's?