Monday, September 2, 2013

Vanished Tool Makers: Easco

Last weekend, I picked up an assorted box of sockets at a flea market.  Only a few were worth rescuing, including this metric, American-made one marked "Easco," a brand I had never heard of.

Easco began in 1900 as the Moore Drop Forging Company in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Beginning in 1938, they were awarded a contract to make tools for Sears.  In the 1940's, they produced the Craftsman "V" series tools.  In 1967, they were acquired by the Eastern Stainless Steel Corporation, a manufacturer of stainless and specialty steels.  They were restructured as the Easco Corporation in 1969, offering a line of tools under their own name.  In 1985, Easco was acquired by Steven and Mitchell Rales, "raiders in short pants," who took the company public in 1987.  In 1990, they folded it into their Danaher Corporation, named for a fishing stream off the Flathead River in Montana. It became Danaher's largest tool division, and was selected by Sears as the sole manufacturer of Craftsman tools.  Danaher, of course, went on to gobble up Delta and Armstrong Brothers, and then combined with Cooper Tools to form the the immense Apex Tool Group.  In February 2013, Apex was sold to Bain Capital, a private equity firm once run by presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  Under the new ownership, the former Easco plant in Gastonia, North Carolina will be closed, with the loss of over 200 jobs.

Below, a photo of a set of Easco wrenches advertised for sale on Kijiji:

As for Sears, I believe that all of their Craftsman hand and power tools are now made off-shore.  According to  Bernie Marcus & Arthur Blank with Bob Andelman, Built from Scratch ("How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew The Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion") (Times Business/Random House, 1999), for 40 years Craftsman power tools were made by the Emerson Tool Company, but Sears dropped them abruptly in favour of overseas production in 1997.  This would have meant the closure of Emerson's plant in Tennessee, except that Home Depot stepped in and signed a contract to continue production for their own store.  In return, Emerson offered them the use of the Ridgid brand name.  For the full story, visit this link.

Sadly, last time I checked, Ridgid power tools sold in Home Depot are now also made in China.


lbgradwell said...

Back in the 1980s, certain Easco tools were carried by Canadian Tire...

Unknown said...

Springfield massachusetts to be correct. V series forgings, In the early 90's craftsman tools were made by western forge colorado springs.(I worked there) owned by emerson electric.also many ridgid tools as well as

Mister G said...

Thanks for the note, I'll correct that. I recall well-made tools made by Emerson Electric when I was a Sears service technician.