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Hummel, Charles F. / "English Tools in America: The Evidence of the Dominys" from Winterthur Portfolio
(Winter 1965)

English tools in America: the evidence of the Dominys,   pp. 27-36 PDF (3.2 MB)

Page 29

Samuel Caruthers, In Third Street, Continues to keep a gen-
eral assortment of hard ware, particularly adapted to carpenters
and joiners, also smiths, coopers, shoemakers, &c. A set of clock-
maker's files to be sold together, . . . seven and a half steel plate
pit saws, very well finished and the utmost care is taken to keep
the very best saws of all denominations, of various makers; also
there is, and is intended to be continued the making of all sorts of
carpenters and joiners planes, with the usual care and fidelity ....
N. B. Wanted beach [beech] wood, in bolts, also in scant-
ling; ash wood, ditto, both for plane making and wood saw
There is every indication that Carruthers made only the wooden parts
of a tool. This procedure corresponded to that of English toolmakers.
Although some complete planes are shown in English trade catalogues of
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they are exceptions. Most tools
are illustrated without wooden handles or other parts. These elements
would have been made and the parts assembled by craftsmen outside the
tool factory.
At least fifty-seven types of planes were advertised by Thomas Napier,
a "Plane Maker from Edinburgh," in the Pennsylvania Mercury for April
28, 1786. Napier boasted that he could make "any kind of planes . . . to
drawing or pattern, to the greatest exactness; the charge according to the
work in them." By 1788 there were at least nine plane makers at work in
Philadelphia, a sufficient number to warrant them a place in the "Grand
Federal Procession" of July 4. William Martin bore their standard with
"a smoothing plane on the top; device, a pair of spring dividers, three
planes, a brace, a square, and gauge. Motto: Truth." 6 The advertising
section of Paxton's Philadelphia Directory for 1819 indicates the produc-
tion of planes for woodworkers continued to be a specialty in Philadelphia.
William Grinnell placed a notice about his "American Plane" manufactory
in back of 7 Filbert Street, and F. F. Kneass called attention to his "Plane
Manufactory and Tool Store" at 10 South Eighth Street. In 1831 a Phila-
delphian claimed that "all the various edged tools for mechanics" were
extensively made in his city.'
Although toolmakers worked in America, English tools were more
common. There is evidence that craftsmen favored the imported tool for
both economy and efficiency. A South Carolina craftsman, apparently a
turner, stated his opinion of American tools in the South Carolina Gazette
of July 1, 1732:
Taken out of Mr. Stone's Iouse in Dorchester, about the
Ist of September last, a parcel of Turning Tools, 2 Hand-saws,
and Hammers, etc. The Turning Tools were made in this country,
and are very clumsy, and may be known bY that: the shanks of
them is near 16 or 18 inches long, one of the Hand-saws is branded
upon the handle R. Whoever can give any account of them, so
Pennsylvania Packet, July  10, 1788.
'JAMES MEASE, Picture of Philadelphia, (Philadelphia: Robert De Silver, 1831), 1, 74. Mease
also states in this passage that British publications (unidentified) had reported a "capital im-
provement" in the manufacture of durable screw augers at Philadelphia.

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