Saturday, November 7, 2015

Vanished Tool Brands: The Parker Line, Worcester, Massachusetts

Above, a hacksaw I recently unearthed in my travels. Below, photos from the web of other tools so marked:

Below, a later product, or at least a product based on a 1942 patent assigned to the Parker Wire Goods Company.  The screwdriver is missing the metal tabs that acted as a screwholder:

Arthur Henry Parker founded the Parker Wire Goods firm in 1901. Eventually, they branched into hand tools, making some of them for the Sears Craftsman brand.  The company became the Parker Manufacturing Company in 1943.  During World War II, the company was the largest producer of the M3A1 combination tool. By 1965, the company was reputed to be the world's largest manufacturer of hacksaw and coping saw frames, and the largest manufacturer in New England of saber saw blades and jig saw blades.  It was also a pioneer in adopting a guaranteed annual wage plan, which it had begun in 1939.

I've no idea why the tools were marked "The Parker Line" but use of the Parker name ceased in 1966.  According to one contributor to The Garage Gazette, the company almost folded in the mid-1980's when Sears suddenly decided to cancel its annual order. (Shades of what happened to Emerson Electric at the hands of Sears as well!)  In 1989, the company was bought by the Stanley Works and seems for a while to have been known as Parker-Stanley.  

Parker Metal Products was a related firm, founded in 1922, which at its height employed 500 people.  It became Parker International Products in 2000 when it changed ownership.   It offered hammers, screwdrivers and screwdriver sets, faucet aerators, sprays and spritzers, tub and sinks stoppers, key locks, bicycle locks, safety hasps, surface savers, hooks, value packs, hangers, fasteners, home hardware, nails/tacks/brads, screws, builder’s hardware, displays, garden carts, utility carts, peg hooks, auto hardware, trophy rods, and specialty nails. The realities of the marketplace dictated that many of its products ended up being made elsewhere, primarily in China.  It wasn't enough to survive.  In 2007 it was sold to The Faucet-Queens., Inc, putting 33 people out of work. As the old owner said, "“China made a big difference,” Mr. Levy said. “We tried to be identified as a U.S. manufacturer, but we couldn’t fight China." Parker's wire forming and nail business, which had been devastated by a flood at the 84 Prescott Street factory in 2005, was not included in the sale.

For more history, see my previous post on Ackermann, Steffan & Company.

The factory at 149 Washington Street in Worcester was built in 1930 and changed hands several times after that, its manufacturing capabilities reducing each time.  Today, it's vacant.  Below, from Google Streetview:

A reader sends in the card of countersink bits by Parker below. Too original to use! (See comments)


Joanne said...

Hi! In 1898, my great grandfather and his two brothers were moulders at 149 Washington St. In Worcester. I’ve scoured the 1898 City Directory trying to find the name of the company but have had no luck. Do you know what company occupied that space prior to the 1901 founding of Parker?

Great Granddaughter of Jospeh Zolnowski

Unknown said...

I,today,purchased a 'The Parker Line No.55'coping saw. Do you have any idea what the wood handle is made of? Or what era it was built?

Mister G said...

Hopefully soemone wo really knows the product line a=can answer what the years (decades?) of production. Many times the wood handles were maple, with a mahogany stain.

Joanne, the current building at that address was built in 1931, I cannot find any pre-Parker info...

Unknown said...

What is the pliers

Mister G said...

I think the pliers are actually cutters.

Anonymous said...

In a mixed tool box at an auction just got a “Parker No.4 Countersink Bits for Wood Screws” set including the automatic adjustable 3 position stop. All still stapled to their original cardboard store display packaging. Packaging shows “Parker Manufacturing Co.” Would appear to be early 60’s at the latest.

Jerry Madore said...

Hey, this is great! The Countersink Bits for wood screws packaging had changed by the 70's to the house brand 'Trojan Tools' & were possibly also sold under the Sears Craftsman brand. I was the Purchasing Manager @ Parker until 1985 & when starting @ Parker in 1976 approximately 80% of Parker's sales were to Sears & Roebuck. Give me a little time & I'll remember which company in Maine produced the coping saw handles along with the ferrules & threaded inserts. The handles were produced in Maine, at the moment the name of the handle manufacturer doesn't come to mind but their sales representative was Merrill Mirsky.
If the pliers mentioned in the earlier comment were similar to the brand name 'Vise Grip' with a different toggle release, then they were Parker's version of same. Parker, for many years, had John Ewing as their Director of Engineering who was a genius in the area of reverse engineering. John had created many patents & assigned them to Parker. Some of his innovations were the Hydraulic Pop Riveting tool, electric Stapler & swivel head Pop Riveter.

Joanne, Sorry I can't shed any light on who occupied that location prior to 1901 before Parker & Priest started their business. I bet my old boss Carl Werme, who started @ Parker before WWII would have known. Unfortunately, we lost Carl over 10 years ago. Possibly you could try touching base with someone who may have lived in the Washington, Millbury or Vernon Streets area. As I recall up to three generations of Parker Polish/Lithuanian employees lived within walking distance of Parker.

Mister G said...

Thanks, Jerry, for the information, history comes to life. Maine used to have a large woodturning industry making spools for the thread industry. Birch was the usual wood used.