Monday, July 27, 2015

Vanished Tool Makers: Keuffel & Esser Company, New York

Above, a tape measure and plumb bob made by the firm.  Below, a mystery tool.  It has a knife edge along the handle, and tapered and notched end, ostensibly for removing something.

William J.D. Keuffel and Herman Esser were German immigrants who founded their company in 1867. The initial products were drafting tools, making it the first American company to specialize in the production of such instruments.  In 1880, they build a four storey factory in Hoboken, New Jersey.  In 1882, they were successful enough to commission an 8-storey brick building in Manhattan, occuping it until 1961.  (It was designated a New York City landmark in 2005).   The company added slide rules to their offerings in the 1920's, ultimately dominating the engineering market in that department.  With the rise of electronics, sales of all products dwindled during the 1960's and 1970's, and the company filed for bankruptcy in 1982.  The AZON Corporation acquired the K&E trademarks, leasing them to several firms before the name was finally dropped in 1997.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The major K&E product I had was a slide rule.
In 68 or 69, I was hired by a Toronto company, Plastiglide, to assist with their price increases. One of my room mates, a PhD candidate in physics had the job first, but couldn't complete it because his thesis was looming. Although an arts student, I knew how to use a slide rule, so he recommended me. As I recall, it was a straight percentage addition depending on the base compound used. Nylon was one percentage, as I recall, and I unfortunately don't remember what the other compounds were, although my professional associations have been with plastics ever since.