Alloy Artifacts  

Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing

[Illustration of Bridgeport Hardware Factory from 1923 Catalog]
Illustration of Bridgeport Hardware Factory from 1923 Catalog.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing was a maker of tools and hardware operating in Bridgeport, Connecticut from the late 19th century onward.

Company History

Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing was founded in 1895 as the Bridgeport Manufacturing Company by Willis F. Hobbs. Its initial location was on Knowlton Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Willis Hobbs had been involved previously in other business partnerships in Bridgeport, including the Wilmot & Hobbs Manufacturing Company and later a partnership with E.N. Sperry. Hobbs was an active inventor and received a number of patents for products manufactured by the company.

In 1900 the company built a new factory and moved to 461 Iranistan Avenue, but a fire in 1902 forced a temporary move to other quarters. In 1902 the company was reorganized as the Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing Corporation.

[1912 Advertisement for Bridgeport Hardware]
Fig. 1. 1912 Advertisement for Bridgeport hardware. [External Link]

Screwdrivers were an important early product for Bridgeport hardware.

Fig. 1 shows an ad for the Bridgeport No. 97 "Matchless" screwdriver, as published on page 746 of the October, 1912 issue of Hardware Dealers' Magazine.

The company was successful and grew steadily, and by 1915 had about 200 employees. The officers of the company at this time were Willis F. Hobbs as president, Harry B. Curtis as treasurer, and Arthur I. Platt as secretary.

[1915 Notice of Expansion for Bridgeport Hardware]
Fig. 2. 1915 Notice of Expansion for Bridgeport hardware. [External Link]

Fig. 2 shows a notice that Bridgeport Hardware would erect a new factory building, as published on page 23 of the August 28, 1915 issue of American Artisan and Hardware Record.

[1918 Advertisement for Bridgeport Hardware]
Fig. 3. 1918 Advertisement for Bridgeport Hardware. [External Link]

In addition to "Matchless", Bridgeport Hardware also used "Reliance" as a brand for screwdrivers.

The advertisement in Fig. 3 was published on page 273 of the February, 1918 issue of the Hardware Dealers' Magazine and shows a display stand for Bridgeport "Reliance" screwdrivers.

The text notes rubberoid handles and a nickel-plated ferrule.

The screwdriver display stand in the illustration has a "B" in an oval at the right, apparently an early logo for Bridgeport hardware. Later illustrations of this same Reliance display stand show the "BHM" logo.

Another brand for screwdrivers was "Hercules".

[1922 Advertisement for Bridgeport Hardware Pliers]
Fig. 4. 1922 Advertisement for Bridgeport Hardware Pliers. [External Link]

Fig. 4 shows a 1922 ad for Bridgeport pliers, as published on page 45 of the July, 1922 issue of Hardware World.

Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing made a wide variety of tools, with many of them produced as a contract manufacturer for other companies. The tools were frequently marked with the company's initials BHM, sometimes in the stylized BHM-Logo shown in our Logos Table.


Non-Skid Screwdrivers

By 1930 Bridgeport Hardware was offering "Non-Skid" screwdrivers based on patent 1,738,405, issued to B. Thal on December 3, 1929, with assignment to Bridgeport Hardware. The company filed a trademark registration for "Non-Skid" and received trademark #279,798 in 1931.

An ad for the "Non-Skid" screwdrivers can be found on page 161 of the March, 1930 issue of Popular Science. In this advertisement, Bridgeport Hardware claims to be the largest manufacturer of screwdrivers.

Contract Manufacturing

Bridgeport Hardware is known to have provided contract manufacturing for various companies. During the 1930s Bridgeport produced wrenches for Montgomery Ward, which were marked as "Ward's Master Quality" or just "Master Quality". These wrenches can be identified as Bridgeport Hardware production by the small BHM-Logo stamped one the face.

In the absence of specific markings, it is generally difficult to identify the maker of contract production. In this respect we were fortunate to learn that by around 1930 Bridgeport Hardware was a contract manufacturer for Snap-on Tools, and over the years provided screwdrivers, nut drivers, compound-action snips, and gear pullers. This information was discovered on page 858 of a transcript of a court case SNAP-ON TOOL CORPORATION vs. WINKENWEDER AND LADD, INC, during which a vice-president of Bridgeport Hardware was asked about products made for Snap-on.

The court testimony provided not only the types of tools made, but also that fact that the screwdrivers were made to Snap-on's design and specification, whereas the nut drivers and snips were standard tools made by Bridgeport.

BHM sometimes made use of a somewhat unusual nickel-molybdenum alloy steel, so this may help to identify an otherwise unknown tool.

Later Operations

In the early 1960s Bridgeport Hardware was acquired by Crescent Niagara, a holding company that had previously acquired Crescent Tool, Billings & Spencer, and the tool operations of Barcalo Manufacturing. Production of Bridgeport tools continued under the management of Crescent Niagara, and a 1967 Crescent catalog included a number of items from the Bridgeport Hardware line.


Patents

Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing: Issued and Licensed Patents
Patent No.InventorFiledIssuedNotes and Examples
672,673 W.F. Hobbs07/02/190004/23/1901 Pliers
708,841 E.N. Sperry06/03/190209/09/1902 Nail Puller
809,803 W.F. Hobbs06/05/190501/09/1906 Nail Puller
809,804 W.F. Hobbs01/06/190501/09/1906 Punch Pliers
1,071,618 W.F. Hobbs09/25/191208/26/1913 Method of Attaching Handle
1,112,798 W.F. Hobbs12/13/191310/06/1914 Handle Fastening (for Iroquois)
1,330,542 H.W. Kulp04/21/191902/10/1920 Valve-Spring Lifter
BHM No. 24 Valve Spring Lifter
Licensed patent.
1,608,176 W.F. Hobbs et al05/11/192511/23/1926 Valve Spring Compressor
1,614,300 W.F. Hobbs et al08/28/192601/11/1927 Valve Spring Compressor
BHM No. 24 Valve Spring Lifter
1,614,301 W.F. Hobbs09/24/192601/11/1927 Valve Spring Compressor
1,738,405 B. Thal03/28/192912/03/1929 Screwdriver with Non-Skid Tip
1,755,822 W.F. Hobbs02/03/192804/22/1930 Screwdriver and Method of Making
1,770,899 J.A. Anderson05/14/192807/22/1930 Valve Spring Compressor
1,809,450 A.I. Platt08/16/192806/09/1931 Wrench Kit Holder
1,888,222 H.B. Curtis et al12/26/193111/22/1932 Screwdriver
D97,325 H.B. Curtis09/21/193510/29/1935 Design for Wrench
Nickel-Molybdenum Wrench
2,123,393 J.F. Windsor01/21/193707/12/1938 Screwdriver Handle

Trademarks

The name "Bridgeport" in a stylized font was registered as a trademark in 1959, with the first use given as January of 1933. However, advertisements show Bridgeport using this style (and noting it as a trademark) in 1930 or earlier, suggesting that there may be an earlier trademark registration.

Bridgeport used a bewildering number of unregistered brands for its products, including "Hercules", "Hy-Bar", "Jumbo", "Matchless", "Nox Tox", "Red Bull", "Red Crown", "Reliance", "Sure Grip", "Tomahawk", and many other names.

Bridgeport used a "B" in an oval logo in some early advertisements, and later used a logo composed of the letters "BHM", as seen in the BHM-Logo.

Bridgeport Hardware Mfg.: Registered Trademarks
Text Mark or Logo Reg. No. First Use Date Filed Date Issued Notes
Radio-Lectric 197,009 03/26/192406/10/1924 04/07/1925 Screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, punches.
Serial 198,340. Published 01/13/1925.
[Screwdriver Handle] 252,720 04/01/192810/01/1928 02/12/1929 Screwdrivers.
Image of screwdriver handle with orange-colored end.
Serial 273,182. Published 11/27/1928.
Non-Skid 279,798 11/23/192903/13/1930 01/20/1931 Screwdrivers and screwdriver bits.
Serial 297,238. Published 01/20/1931.
HY-BAR 328,368 04/03/193505/27/1935 09/24/1935 Wrenches.
Serial 365,437. Published 07/16/1935.
Non-Skid 548,010 11/23/192911/25/1950 09/11/1951 Screwdrivers and screwdriver bits.
Serial 606,932. Published 05/29/1951.
Bridgeport 674,925 01/01/193302/01/1957 03/03/1959 Hand tools.
"Bridgeport" stylized.
Serial 23,610. Published 06/25/1957.
First use date on application said "as early as the year 1928".
Renewed 03/26/1999 by Cooper Industries.

References and Resources

Photographs and observations of particular tools are based on items in the Alloy Artifacts collection.

Biographical information on Willis F. Hobbs, the founder of Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing, can be found in the History of Bridgeport and Vicinity, Volume II, published by the S.J. Clarke Publishing Company in 1917. The section on Willis F. Hobbs begins on page 238, and the article provides an interesting account of the founding and early operations of the company.


Catalog Coverage

Product information was obtained from Bridgeport Hardware catalogs summarized in the table below.

Bridgeport Hardware Mfg.: Catalog Resources
Catalog Year Format Notes
No. 22 1923 Full No copyright. Dated 1923. 86 pages.
Lists screwdrivers on pages 22-51.
Lists "Hy-Power" No. 320 side-cutting pliers like Bernard model.
Lists "Matchless" No. 130 combination pliers like Kraeuter No. 305 model.
Lists "Fay-Oh-Rite" locking valve lifter.
No. 25 1930 Full No copyright. 80 pages.
Lists nail pullers on pages 4-6, box and crate openers on pages 7-16.
Lists "Matchless" screwdrivers on pages 18-20.
Lists "Reliance" screwdrivers on page 27.
Lists valve lifters on pages 44-47.
Lists "Radio-Lectric" hex-drive socket wrenches on page 78.

Industrial Distributors

Bridgeport Hardware tools were widely available from industrial distributors. However, in many cases it may be difficult to identify listings as Bridgeport Hardware products, as the company name was frequently omitted.

We'll add references as time permits.


Selected Tools


BHM "Matchless" No. 130/133 7 Inch Universal Pliers

Bridgeport Hardware's "Matchless" universal combination pliers were one of their most popular models, as the pliers offered both flat and curved gripping surfaces, wire cutters, and a screwdriver tip on one of the handles.

[Catalog Listing of BHM Matchless Universal Pliers]
Fig. 5. Catalog Listing of BHM "Matchless" Universal Pliers.

Fig. 5 shows a catalog listing of Bridgeport "Matchless" universal pliers, as published on page 58 of the 1923 catalog No. 22 from Bridgeport Hardware.

Two models were available, No. 130 with a nickel plated finish, and No. 133 with a blue steel finish.

The next two figures show examples of the "Matchless" No. 133 universal pliers.

[BHM Matchless No. 133 7 Inch Universal Pliers]
Fig. 6A. BHM Matchless No. 133 7 Inch Universal Pliers, with Insets for Side View and Marking Detail, ca. 1920s.

Fig. 6A shows a pair of BHM "Matchless" No. 133 7 inch universal (combination) pliers, stamped "Matchless" and "No. 133" inside an oval near the pivot.

The overall length is 7.1 inches, and the finish is plain steel, with pitting due to rust.

The handles have the BHM Logo forged into the gripping pattern, with "Made in U.S.A." (not shown) forged into the underside of one handle, and with "B'port Hdwe. Mfg. Co." forged into the other (see lower inset).

The pliers earn their "universal" name by incorporating both flat and rounded gripping surfaces, a wire-cutting slot, a slip-joint adjustment, and a screwdriver tip on one handle.

Bridgeport's "Matchless" pliers were very similar to Kraeuter's No. 305 "Victor" pliers, which had been in production since the early 1900s.

[BHM Matchless No. 130 7 Inch Universal Pliers]
Fig. 6B. BHM Matchless No. 130 7 Inch Universal Pliers, with Insets for Side View and Marking Detail, ca. 1920s.

Fig. 6B shows a similar pair of BHM "Matchless" No. 130 7 inch universal (combination) pliers, stamped with "Matchless" and the model number in an oval (see lower inset), but difficult to read due to rust and pitting.

The overall length is 7.0 inches, and the finish is nickel plating. (The nickel finish would indicate model No. 130.)

The handles have the BHM Logo forged into the gripping pattern, with "Made in U.S.A." (not shown) forged into the underside on one handle, and with "B'port Hdwe. Mfg. Co." forged into the other (see center inset).


BHM ["Matchless" No. 133] 7 Inch Slip-Joint Universal Pliers

[BHM Slip-Joint Universal Pliers]
Fig. 6C. BHM Slip-Joint Universal Pliers, with Insets for Handle Pattern and Detail.

Fig. 6C shows a pair of BHM 7 inch universal (combination) pliers, marked with the BHM Logo forged into the gripping pattern, and with "Bridgeport Line" forged into the underside (see lower inset).

These pliers are the same model as the "Matchless" No. 133 shown in Fig. 6A above, but are not marked with the model number. In addition, the underside of the handles has a more generic marking rather than the company name. These changes suggest that the pliers were made as contract production.


Bridgeport Hardware Screwdrivers

Screwdrivers were important products for Bridgeport Hardware, and the company offered an extensive selection of screwdrivers in its catalogs.

[Catalog Listing for Bridgeport Reliance No. 7 Screwdrivers]
Fig. 7. Catalog Listing for Bridgeport Reliance No. 7 Screwdrivers.

Fig. 7 shows a catalog listing for Bridgeport Reliance No. 7 screwdrivers, as published on page 34 of the 1923 catalog No. 22 from Bridgeport Hardware.

The description notes the tempered steel blade and hardwood handle, with riveted construction and a nickel plated finish.

The screwdrivers were available in blade lengths of 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, and 12 inches.

The lower part of the illustration shows a distinctive display stand for the screwdrivers, with the company's BHM logo visible on both sides. The display stand was stocked with four each of the 4, 5, and 6 inch screwdrivers.

This illustration frequently appears in distributor catalog listings for the Reliance screwdrivers.

We have some examples of Bridgeport Hardware screwdrivers and are preparing them for display.


BHM 9 Inch Auto Wrench

[BHM 9 Inch Auto Wrench]
Fig. 9. BHM 9 Inch Auto Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 9 shows a Bridgeport 9 inch auto wrench, a common item for automobile tool kits.

The overall length is 9.0 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.

The wrench is marked with "B.H.M. Corp." and "Bridgeport, U.S.A." forged into the shank, with "Forged Steel" on the reverse.


BHM No. 24 "Bull Pup" Valve Spring Lifter

[BHM No. 24 Bull Pup Valve Spring Lifter]
Fig. 10. BHM No. 24 "Bull Pup" Valve Spring Lifter, with Insets for Side View and Marking Detail, ca. 1927 to 1930s.

Fig. 10 shows a BHM No. 24 "Bull Pup" valve spring lifter, stamped on the lower jaw with "Made by Bridgeport Hdwe. Mfg. Corp." and "Bridgeport, Conn. U.S.A.", with the BHM Logo to the right.

The overall length is 7.4 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The upper jaw is stamped with a "Pat. Jan. 11, 1927" patent date, with "Licensed under Kulp" and "Pat. No. 1,330,542" on the upper handle. The Kulp patent #1,330,542 was filed by H.W. Kulp in 1919 and issued in 1920.

The patent date refers to patent #1,614,300, filed by W.F. Hobbs in 1926 and issued in 1927.


"Nickel Molybdenum" Open-End Wrench

[BHM Nickel Molybdenum 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 11. BHM Nickel Molybdenum 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1935 to 1940s.

Fig. 11 shows a BHM 3/4x7/8 open-end wrench with a distinctive X-Center design, consisting of a central "X" with elongated darts on either side.

The overall length is 7.5 inches.

The wrench is marked "U.S.A. Nickel Molybdenum" with "Patent No. 97325" on the reverse.

The patent notice is a reference to design patent #D97,325, filed (and issued) in 1935 with assignment to Bridgeport Hardware.


"Nickel Molybdenum" Box-End Wrench

[BHM Nickel Molybdenum 3/8x7/16 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 12. BHM Nickel Molybdenum 3/8x7/16 Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse, ca. 1935 to 1940s.

Fig. 12 shows a BHM 3/8x7/16 box-end wrench with the X-Center design, marked "U.S.A. Nickel Molybdenum" with "Patent No. 97325" on the reverse.

The overall length is 4.5 inches.

The patent notice is a reference to design patent #D97,325, filed (and issued) in 1935 with assignment to Bridgeport Hardware.

BHM is effectively using "Nickel Molybdenum" as an informal brand on this wrench. The patented design of this wrench allows BHM to be clearly identified as the maker, but other wrenches may be found occasionally with only the "Nickel Molybdenum" marking.


"Nickel Molybdenum" Combination Wrench

The distinctive cross-and-darts design was also used for combination wrenches, although these are less commonly found.

[BHM Nickel-Molybdenum 3/8 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 13. BHM Nickel Molybdenum 3/8 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1935 to 1940s.

Fig. 13 shows a BHM 3/8 combination wrench with the X-Center design, marked "U.S.A. Nickel Molybdenum" with "Patent No. 97325" on the reverse.

The overall length is 4.6 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.

The patent notice is a reference to design patent #D97,325, filed (and issued) in 1935 with assignment to Bridgeport Hardware.


BHM "Master Quality" 27C Open-End Wrench

Bridgeport produced a line of open-end wrenches under the "Master Quality" mark, an unregistered brand used by Montgomery Ward for its top-quality tools. Some of the Bridgeport production includes the full "Wards Master Quality" name, but frequently only "Master Quality" was marked.

[BHM 27C 9/16x11/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 14. BHM 27C 9/16x11/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 14 at the left shows a BHM 27C 9/16x11/16 open-end wrench, stamped with the model and BHM Logo on the face.

The overall length is 6.7 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The shank has a distinctive depressed panel design, with "Molybdenum Alloy U.S.A." forged into the front and "Master Quality" on the reverse.


BHM "Master Quality" 28S Open-End Wrench

[BHM 28S 5/8x25/32 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 15. BHM 28S 5/8x25/32 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 15 at the left shows a BHM 28S 5/8x25/32 open-end wrench, stamped with the model and BHM Logo on the face.

The overall length is 7.8 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The shank has a distinctive depressed panel design, with "Molybdenum Alloy U.S.A." forged into the front and "Master Quality" on the reverse.


BHM "Master Quality" 731A Open-End Wrench

[BHM 731A 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 16. BHM 731A 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 16 at the left shows a BHM 731A 3/4x7/8 open-end wrench, stamped with the model and BHM Logo on the face.

The overall length is 8.8 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The shank has a distinctive depressed panel design, with "Molybdenum Alloy U.S.A." forged into the front and "Master Quality" on the reverse.


Ward's "Master Quality" 15/16x1 Open-End Wrenches

The next two figures show examples of BHM production for the Montgomery Ward "Master Quality" line.

[Ward's Master Quality 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 17. Ward's "Master Quality" 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 17 shows a Ward's "Master Quality" 15/16x1 open-end wrench of the same distinctive design as the previous examples, but not marked with the BHM logo.

The overall length is 9.8 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The paneled shank is marked with "Molybdenum Alloy U.S.A." forged into the front, with "Wards Master Quality" forged into the reverse.

[Ward's Master Quality 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 18. Ward's Master Quality 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 18 shows another example of the Ward's Master Quality 15/16x1 open-end wrench, with somewhat clearer markings and again not marked with the BHM logo.

The overall length is 9.8 inches. The finish is nickel plating, with losses due to rust and pitting.

The wrench is marked with "Ward's Master Quality" forged into the one side, with "Molybdenum Alloy U.S.A." forged into the reverse.


The Hy-Bar Line

In 1935 Bridgeport Hardware introduced the Hy-Bar line of open-end wrenches, a distinctive design with the heads angled in the vertical plane for clearance.

The company registered "HY-BAR" as trademark #328,368 in 1935, with the first use date given as April 3 of 1935.


Bridgeport Hy-Bar 5/16x13/32 Angled Open-End Wrench

[Brigeport Hy-Bar 5/16x13/32 Angled Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 19. Brigeport Hy-Bar 5/16x13/32 Angled Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 19 shows a Bridgeport Hy-Bar 5/16x13/32 open-end wrench with angled heads, stamped "Hy-Bar" and "Bridgeport" on the face, and with "Forged Steel U.S.A." and the fractional sizes forged into the shank.

The approximate metric sizes "8 m/m" and "10 m/m" are forged into the reverse shank (not shown).

The overall length is 3.6 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.


Bridgeport Hy-Bar 5/8x3/4 Angled Open-End Wrench

[Brigeport Hy-Bar 5/8x3/4 Angled Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 20. Brigeport Hy-Bar 5/8x3/4 Angled Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Side View.

Fig. 20 shows a Bridgeport Hy-Bar 5/8x3/4 open-end wrench with angled heads, stamped "Hy-Bar" and "Bridgeport" on the face, and with "Forged Steel U.S.A." and the fractional size forged into the shank.

The approximate metric sizes "16 m/m" and "19 m/m" are forged into the reverse shank (not shown).

The overall length is 7.5 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.


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