Friday, March 31, 2017

Ford Trimotor

John J. Floherty, Board the Airliner, Doubleday, Doran & Co. 1934
Board the Airliner is a children's book from 1934 glorifying the fabulous new airliners. Although the Trimotor has ceased production the year before, eclipsed by the Boeing 247 and Douglas DC2, clearly it was still considered to be worth some "art shots".

Toronto, 1953

The New World Family Encyclopedia.  Standard International Library, 1953.

This was the Toronto I was born into.  What a different place today!

Vanished Tool Makers: Armstrong Bros. Tool Co., Chicago, Illinois

Below, Armstrong Bros. tools in my shop.  First, a 1/2" tool holder:

Below, a thread-cutting tool and a boring bar holder:

My lovely No. 2 planer jack:

My 3/8" drive ratchet:


Lathe wrenches:

Open-end wrenches, including Whitworth ones:

A spud wrench:

With first names evocative of the Beatles roughly a century later, four Armstrong brothers, Hugh, John, James & George, founded the Armstrong Brothers Tool Company in Chicago in 1890.  Starting off with parts and tools for bicycles, in 1895 they came up with a tool holder for lathe cutting bits, a remarkable innovation that we still use today.  

Profits from that invention funded the construction of a factory at the corner of Francisco Avenue and Carroll Avenue in 1900:

Iron & Machinery World, July 1905

and then expanded to another new factory five years later.  

317N Francisco Avenue, Chicago

Drop forged wrenches were added to the product line in 1909.  The "arm and hammer" or "strong arm" trademark was first used in the October 1899 issue of Locomotive Engineering, but not officially registered until 1914.

In the 1930's, the Armstrong catalogue carried the following quote from Thomas Carlisle:

In 1948, the company moved to new headquarters at, appropriately enough, 5200 West Armstrong Avenue.  In 1974, the company opened a second plant in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It wasn't until 1983 that Armstrong offered a ratchet for its sockets. In 1994, the company was absorbed the the Danaher Corporation, which is now part of the ginormous Apex Tool Group.  Armstrong became its Industrial Hand Tools division.

In 2015, the Armstrong company celebrated 125 years of production.  This year, Apex has announced that it will be ceasing production of both the Armstrong and Allen brands by March 31st, 2017 and laying off 170 workers at their Sumter, South Carolina plant. (Ironically, earlier the APEX Tool Group was named the Manufacturer of the Year by the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce.) The company intends to rationalize its product line and focus on their GearWrench brand. The original West Armstrong Avenue headquarters was demolished, and from Google Earth is now just a large truck trailer parking lot. As near as I can determine, the building that replaced the former headquarters on N. Francisco Avenue is unoccupied and for sale, in the middle of a run-down neighbourhood.  Below, from Google Streetview:

According to Wikipedia the company laid off 170 workers at the Sumter South Carolina plant and retired the name. The timeline of the tool company, dies with the company but there is discussion of the end of the company here. Sad.

Below, ads from over the years:


1922.  Source: Antique Machinery


Popular Mechanics, October 1943

Popular Mechanics, January 1952

1959.  Source:  Factory Whistle


Goodbye, Armstrong.  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Misspent youth, Ontario, 1959

Track of a crawler tractor, 1955

Oxford Junior Encyclopaedia.  Volume VIII.  Engineering.  Oxford University Press, 1955.

Grousers!  New word!

One of my vices is vises: Western Auto "Wizard"

Image snagged from eBay.  A nice little 3-1/2" vise, Model  4H4836 Wizard.  The seller opined that this might have been made for the company by the Columbian Vise & Manufacturing Company of Cleveland.

"Wizard" was Western Auto's major brand.

The company died something of a slow death.  Surprisingly, its corporate descendants still find it necessary to deny any responsibility for warranty claims on old Wizard-brand tools!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

de Havilland Otter

Produced from 1952 to 1967, about 450 were built and many remain in service today. More here.