OldTools Archive

Recent Search Bios FAQ

262172 Don McConnell <dgmcconnell@c...> 2017‑04‑16 Re: Mystery maker?
John et al,

After checking the DAT, I agree that the mark on the slick is most
likely POWELL & Co. Cleveland. However, the information in the 
DAT doesn’t appear to be of much help in narrowing down likely
dates of production. So, I decided to see if it wasn’t possible to 
find additional information toward that end. The good news is that
more information is available today. The bad news is that there is
so much of it that I’m having a lot of difficultly summarizing it in a
brief and meaningful manner. But have decided to try.

The story of the Powell tool companies in Cleveland begins with
Albert Powell. He was born about 1802, possibly in New York, 
spent some of his early adulthood in Vermont (three of his older
children were born there), possibly spent a little time in Indiana,
before settling in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Specifically on “Whiskey
Island,” or in Ohio City, just West of the Cuyahoga River. That 
would have been at least as early as 1840, based on the age and
birth places of his younger children in the 1850 census.

The earliest mention of his tool making activities that I’ve found is
in the 1845 directory for Cleveland and Ohio City. The Ohio City
alphabetical listing is for an Albert Powel, edge tool maker, living
on Detroit Street. The business listing is for “A. Powel & Co.,
Detroit Street, near the Furnace.” Thomas Wall is also listed as
an edge tool maker, and of these two firms, the directory states:

   “Number of men employed by the above, 29; estimated value 
   of manufactured articles $30,000; capital invested $12,00."

While we don’t know how many men each firm employed, it would
seem that these firms were already beyond the one or two person
stage in 1845. The next listing I’ve found is from 1853, when an
advertisement also appeared. Here is a link to that ad, as well
as three other items related to this firm:

https://goo.gl/photos/coXEKpWk
QACQRqNJ9

In any event, I think this establishes 1845 as the earliest known
date that the Powell & Co. mark could have been used. Listings
for both Albert and Powell & Co., as edge tool makers, continue 
through 1857, when John H. Powell, Albert’s son, is also listed 
as a principal in the company. Though that seems to be at an 
end by 1859, and John is listed as a seaman by 1863. During
this time, the business continued to be listed as located on
Detroit Ave., near Center or Division Streets.

From 1859 through 1866, the listings typically only mention the
firm’s name as Albert (or A.) Powell, still mentioning edge tools,
sometimes hardware, and plaster. Most of the time still located
at 36 Detroit Ave. The DAT does not indicate any reports of any
A. or Albert Powell marks, which may suggest that they 
continued using the Powell & Co. mark through this period.

In 1867, we find the first use of the Powell Tool & Plaster Co.
name for the firm, also described as making axes and edge tools. 
Though the firm is also simply referred to as the Powell Tool 
Company beginning in 1870.  This was a transition period for the 
firm as Albert’s health was failing, possibly beginning as early as 
1867, and the firm had clearly come under different ownership by 
1871. In that year, Henry Harvey is listed as the president of the
firm, and Frank W. Hubby was listed as the treasurer and 
secretary. My sense is that the Powell Tool Company mark 
likely began to be used at some point during this period.

Peter M. Hitchcock took over as president of the Powell Tool &
Plaster Co. by 1878, while Hubby stayed on as secretary and
treasurer. During this period, there are sometimes listings of
the company’s forge being on Elm street, while other parts of
the company continued to be located on Detroit, or on West
River at the corner of Detroit.

This changed in 1884, when the location of the firm is given
as 31 Elm Street, and the name shortened to Powell Tool
Company. The location change was occasioned by the 
building of new yards for the Cleveland Ship-Building Co.
at that time, which also uprooted four other companies. 
The consolidated works of the Powell Tool Co. can be seen 
in the photo at the above link.

Beginning in 1889, the company became one of the members 
of the American Axe and Tool Company conglomerate. This 
is first evidenced in the Cleveland Directory listings 1890, 
when the Powell Tool Company listing directs the reader to 
the American Axe & Tool Co. listing. The conglomerate
obviously continued using the same facilities on Elm Street
(now Avenue), which is listed as Factory no. 3. That 
continued to be the case until at least 1895. Then, there is
a gap in the directories I’ve been able to access, but the
firm had closed the facility by 1905. 

As Kirk has already indicated, though, the conglomerate
continued using the Powell Tool Co. mark, and brands,
for a few years after this. If I recall correctly, the American
Axe & Tool Co. conglomerate was bought out by Kelly in
1921.

Sorry for the length of this post, but I hope it has been of
some interest.

Don McConnell
Eureka Springs, AR

Recent Search Bios FAQ