Alloy Artifacts  

Early Craftsman Tools and Their Makers


Table of Contents

Introduction

This is the first of several articles covering Craftsman brand tools. This installment will focus on the development of the Craftsman brand during the 1920s and 1930s, as well as covering some of the tools sold by Sears in the pre-Craftsman era, in order to provide background context.

Separate articles will cover the Craftsman "BE" and H-Circle Socket Tools from the 1930s and 1940s, and then the Craftsman Modern Era that began around 1945.

Company History

Sears, Roebuck & Company was founded in 1886 by Richard W. Sears and initially operated as the R.W. Sears Watch Company in Minneapolis. From its modest beginning as a merchandiser of watches, the company grew to become the largest mail-order company in the United States, and eventually became the largest retail company.

As a large and unique organization, Sears has been the subject of many publications and studies. The current owner of Sears maintains a website at www.searsarchives.com [External Link] with extensive historical and background information on the company, and the interested reader may want to review their page on Sears History [External Link].

For those readers primarily interested in tools, unfortunately most of the known references on Sears history have relatively little (or nothing) to say about tools, Craftsman or otherwise. If any of our readers have found a good reference covering tools at Sears, please let us know and we'll add the reference.

Tools Before Craftsman

Sears had a long history of selling tools, and the early years of the 20th century saw a rapid expansion of tools related to automotive service. Sears sold its first automotive socket set around 1912 or 1913, and related tools became increasingly popular.

For more information on this exciting period see the section on Tools of the Pre-Craftsman Era.

The Craftsman Brand

The story of the Sears Craftsman brand begins in 1927 with the registration of the Craftsman trademark. A brief summary of the brand can be found on the Sears Archive site in the section on Craftsman History [External Link].

The first Craftsman tools were for wood working and the building trades, which are outside of the scope of this site. But by 1930 the Craftsman brand included wrenches, and the selection of service tools expanded rapidly after that.

Information on the chronological introduction of Craftsman tools can be found in Appendix A, which provides extensive reviews of the tool listings in the Sears catalogs from the late 1920s to early 1940s. But since the detailed reviews are sometimes hard to follow for a specific tool type, we have summarized the listings by tool category in the table below.

Introduction Date for Craftsman Tools by Category
Category Sub-Category First Listed Discontinued Notes and Examples
Open-End Wrenches Forged-in Markings 1930 (Spr) 1931 Craftsman and "Chrome-Vanadium" forged into shank.
Craftsman C-1731 Open-End Wrench.
  Craftsman Vanadium Steel 1931 1933 Craftsman block logo.
"Craftsman Vanadium Steel" stamped on shank.
"Craftsman Vanadium Steel" C-1731 Open-End Wrench.
  Craftsman Vanadium 1933 (Fall)   Craftsman underline logo.
"Craftsman Vanadium" forged into depressed panel.
Tappet Wrenches Long Format 1935 (Spr)   Tappet wrenches in 10 inch length.
Adjustable Wrenches Broached Hole 1934 (Fall)   Adjustable wrenches with broached hanging holes.
Pliers Angle-Nose Gripping 1931 (Spr)   Slip-joint pliers with angled nose. Size 8 inches only.
  Button's Pattern 1930 (Fall) 1937 Pliers with three Button's cutting slots.
Sizes 6, 8, and 10 inches.
  Button's Pattern 8.5in 1938? 1942 Pliers with three Button's cutting slots in 8.5 inch size.
  Combination 1930 (Fall) 1935 (Fall) Slip-joint combination pliers with side-cutters.
Sizes 5.5 and 7 inches.
Craftsman 5797-5.5 Slip-Joint Combination Pliers.
  Diagonal Cutters, 5 Inch 1930 (Fall) 1938 Diagonal cutting pliers in size 5 inches.
Later discontinued.
  Diagonal Cutters, 6 Inch 1930 (Fall)   Diagonal cutting pliers in size 6 inches.
  Diagonal Cutters, 7 Inch 1935   Diagonal cutting pliers in size 7 inches.
  Electrician's, 6 Inch 1930 (Fall) 1938 Lighter duty lineman's pliers in size 6 (or 6.5) inches.
Later discontinued.
  Electrician's, 7 Inch 1930 (Fall) 1942 Lighter duty lineman's pliers in size 7 inches.
Later discontinued.
  Electrician's, 8 Inch 1930 (Fall) 1938 Lighter duty lineman's pliers in size 8 (or 8.5) inches.
Later discontinued.
  Lineman's, 6 Inch 1930 (Fall) 1935 (Fall) Heavy-duty (Klein Pattern) lineman's pliers.
Size 6 (or 6.5) inches. Later discontinued.
  Lineman's 1930 (Fall)   Heavy-duty (Klein Pattern) lineman's pliers.
Sizes 7 and 8.5 inches.
  Long Nose, 6 Inch 1930 (Fall)   Long nose (needlenose) pliers with side cutters.
Size 6 inches.
  Long Nose, 7 Inch 1930 (Fall) 1938 Long nose (needlenose) pliers with side cutters.
Size 7 inches. Later discontinued.
  Nested Diamonds Pattern 1938 1959+ Pliers with the "Nested Diamonds" gripping pattern illustrated,
but probably available earlier.
Box-End Wrenches Short Offset 1933 (Spr)   Offset heads in short length. Three models available.
  Standard Angled 1933 (Spr)   Angled heads in standard length. Six models available.
  Standard Offset 1933 (Fall)   Offset heads in standard length. Six models available.
  Short Angled 1934 (Fall) 1938 (Fall) Angled heads in short length. Three models available.
Raised panels with "Craftsman Vanadium" markings.
  Raised Panels 1934   Raised panels with "Craftsman Vanadium" markings.
Socket Sets "C-Series" Sets 1932 (Fall) 1936 Available in 1/2-drive and 9/32-drive.
  "C-Series" "Fit-Mor" 1933 (Fall) 1936 C-Series set in 3/8-drive.
  "C-Series" "Midget" 1933 (Fall) 1935 Craftsman C-Series "Midget" 9/32-Drive Set
  "BE" Series 1935 (Fall) 1947 Craftsman "BE" sets available in 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 drive sizes.
  "BE" Midget Set 1935 1947 Craftsman "BE" "Midget" 1/4-Drive Set
In metal clip with thumbscrews.
  "BE" Reversible Ratchets 1938 1947 Reversible ratchets in 1/2-drive first illustrated.
  "BE" Super Socket Set 1938 1942 Large set with amber plastic handles on drive tools.

Craftsman Vanadium

The early Craftsman wrenches were made of chrome vanadium steel, and the growth of the Craftsman brand coincided with the larger picture of the growing importance of alloy steel in tool making. In 1933 Sears captured this sentiment by making "Vanadium" a sub-brand in its "Craftsman Vanadium" wrench series.

The Craftsman Vanadium wrenches became highly successful and helped establish Craftsman as a serious brand for tools.

Manufacturer's Codes

By the mid 1930s the Craftsman brand had become quite successful. The generous warranty policy for Craftsman tools helped build confidence in the quality of the tools, but it also meant that the occasional warranty exchanges had to be handled efficiently. And as the number of vendors supplying tools to Sears increased, Sears would have needed a way to to identify which manufacturer had made a specific tool, in order to sort warranty returns for merchandise credit.

This need to handle warrant returns lead Sears to develop a system of manufacturer's codes to identify the maker of each tool, and this system appears to have started sometime around 1934 to 1936. But since the system was not documented outside of the Sears organization, this has meant that latter-day tool sleuths (that includes us) often have to do extensive research to attribute a certain code to the specific maker.

This is a rather specialized topic, so we have created a separate article with extensive discussion and documentation on Craftsman Manufacturer's Codes. In addition to background information on manufacturer's codes, this article includes a number of case studies in which we sift through various clues that lead (hopefully) to a positive identification of a maker.

For readers just interested in finding the maker for a particular code, you can check our Table of Manufacturer's Codes.

"BE" Series Socket Tools

In the fall of 1935 Sears introduced the Craftsman "BE" series of socket sets, and these tools went on to become highly successful. More information on these important tools can be found in our article on Craftsman "BE" and H-Circle Tools, which also serves as one of the case studies noted in the previous section.

Craftsman Catalogs

By 1939 the Craftsman line had become big enough to warrant its own catalog, apart from the Sears general catalog. (This catalog is available for Download [External Link] from the ITCL.)

Some editions of this catalog are undated, and it's possible that the first printing might have been in 1938. The back of the catalog has a table of tappet wrench sizes for various makes of automobile, and the latest model year mentioned is 1937.

Another Craftsman catalog came out in 1941, and in the postwar era Craftsman catalogs were published annually.

The War Years

The advent of WWII meant that most tool production was prioritized for the war effort, with only limited availability for civilian purposes. The war effort forced some changes in tool production, most noticeably in the absence of chrome-plated finishes. Most references to specific alloys were also dropped from tool markings, bringing an end to the "Craftsman Vanadium" era.

Toward the end of the war Sears began planning for its "Modern Era", which brings us neatly to our continuing article on Craftsman Maker "V".


Trademarks

Sears registered a huge number of trademarks over its long history, with more than 1,100 still entered (as of 2023) in the USPTO TESS system. The table below shows a small sample of the trademarks relevant to the Craftsman, Dunlap, and other tool brands.

Sears, Roebuck & Co.: Registered Trademarks
Text Mark or Logo Reg. No. First Use Date Filed Date Issued Notes
Craftsman logo 245,809 10/28/1927 04/30/1928 08/21/1928 "CRAFTSMAN" on an arc.
For carpenter's tools.
Serial 265,696. Published June 12, 1928.
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 306,083 10/28/192708/31/1932 09/05/1933 "CRAFTSMAN" in stylized text.
For mechanics' tools and equipment.
Serial 330,022. Published June 13, 1933.
CROSS COUNTRY logo 308,252 10/27/191402/06/1933 11/28/1933 "CROSS COUNTRY" in United States outline.
For lubricating oil and grease.
Serial 334,693. Published September 12, 1933.
Craftsman [logo] 318,415 01/01/193407/02/1934 10/23/1934 For lawn mowers and trimmers.
Serial 353,453. Published August 14, 1934.
Craftsman [logo] 319,128 01/01/193407/02/1934 11/13/1934 Underline logo.
Used for garden hose.
Serial 353,452. Published September 4, 1934.
KENMORE 333,253 03/01/193408/02/1935 03/10/1936 For sewing machines.
DUNLAP Oval Logo 369,614 01/23/193711/18/1938 08/01/1939 "Dunlap" in oval logo.
For mechanics' tools, e.g. wrenches, pliers, chisels.
Serial 412,927. Published May 23, 1939.
CRAFTSMAN Arc Logo 390,878 09/01/194004/28/1941 10/07/1941 Text on a curved arc.
For ball bearings.
Serial 444,018. Published July 29, 1941.
Craftsman [logo] 426,834 10/28/192703/22/1946 01/14/1947 Underline logo.
Craftsman [logo] 525,092 01/01/193412/16/1948 05/09/1950 Underline logo.
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 531,207 01/15/194612/16/1948 09/26/1950 "CRAFTSMAN" in stylized font.
For welding rods.
Renewed 09/26/1970.
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 534,259 10/28/192712/24/1948 12/05/1950 "CRAFTSMAN" in stylized font.
For tools.
Third renewal 02/15/2001.
Notes prior registrations 245809, 306083, 318415, 390878, 426834.
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 565,462 01/01/193512/16/1948 10/21/1952 Stylized block letters.
For Tool boxes, tool chests, other storage.
Serial 570,467. Published July 29, 1952.
ARC JOINT 898,688 01/01/195405/20/1969 09/15/1970 For tongue-and-groove pliers.
Serial 327,784. Published June 30, 1970.
First use of "Arc-Joint" actually in 1953 Craftsman catalog.
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 1,337,540     
Published 3-19-1985.
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 1,383,981  08/02/1985 02/25/1986
Serial 551,425. Published 12-3-1985.
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 1,397,384  08/16/1985 06/17/1986
Serial 553,768. Published 3-25-1986.
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 1,409,457     
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 1,416,396     
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 1,702,866     
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 1,702,867     
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 1,702,873     
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 1,842,690     
CRAFTSMAN [stylized] 1,702,867     

Tool Identification

Identifying Craftsman tools themselves is never a problem, as the tools will be clearly marked with the Craftsman brand. But identifying the maker of a tool is often challenging and usually depends on finding and decoding a manufacturer's code.

The interested reader will find an extensive discussion of manufacturer's codes in the article on Craftsman Manufacturer's Codes, and the table of codes previously incuded in this section has been moved to the Table of Manufacturer's Codes.


References and Resources

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

Catalog Coverage

Product information was obtained from a number of Sears Roebuck general catalogs in the earlier years, and from Craftsman tool catalogs for the years after 1938. Detailed notes on the catalog listings can be found in the section on Catalog Reviews.

Sears General and Craftsman Catalog Resources
Catalog Edition Year Notes
N/A Automobile Supplies 1913 Lists Aristocrat No. 1 socket set by Bay State.
N/A Justice Tires 1916 Lists Aristocrat No. 1 socket set by Mossberg.
N/A Justice Tires 1922 Lists Aristocrat No. 1 set, 27 hex + 3 square sockets by Mossberg.
Aristocrat No. 1 illustration shows "W.&M." forged ratchet.
Lists "Universal" set, 27 hex + 11 square sockets (Mossberg No. 14).
Lists "Thirty" set, 27 hex + 3 square sockets, metal box (Ray No. 31).
No. 159 Fall-Winter 1929 General catalog.
No. 160 Spring-Summer 1930 General catalog.
First Craftsman open-end wrenches.
No. 161 Fall-Winter 1930 General catalog.
First Craftsman pliers and adjustable wrenches.
No. 162 Spring-Summer 1931 General catalog.
No. 163 Fall-Winter 1931 General catalog.
No. 164 Spring-Summer 1932 General catalog.
No. 165 Fall-Winter 1932 General catalog.
First Craftsman C-Series socket sets.
No. 166 Spring-Summer 1933 General catalog.
First Craftsman box-end wrenches.
No. 167 Fall-Winter 1933 General catalog.
Lists Cross Country tools.
No. 168 Spring-Summer 1934 General catalog.
Lists Cross Country tools.
No. 169 Fall-Winter 1934 General catalog.
No. 170 Spring-Summer 1935 General catalog.
No. 171 Fall-Winter 1935 General catalog.
First Craftsman "BE" socket sets.
No. 172 Spring-Summer 1936 General catalog.
No. 174 Spring-Summer 1937 General catalog.
No. 177 Fall-Winter 1938 General catalog.
Craftsman "BE" 1/2-drive reversible ratchets available.
No. 179 Fall-Winter 1939 General catalog.
Pliers with "Nested Diamond" gripping pattern.
Button's pliers only in 8.5 inch size.
N/A Craftsman Tools 1939 No copyright, dated 6-39 on last page. 52 pages.
First catalog of Craftsman hand tools.
Cover shows streamlined auto, train, and airplane.
Available for Download [External Link] from ITCL.
Pliers show "Nested Diamonds" gripping pattern.
No. 182 Spring-Summer 1941 General catalog.
"Craftsman Vanadium" still illustrated.
N/A Craftsman Mechanics Tools 1941 Copyright 1941, dated March 25, 1941. 50 pages.
Available for Download [External Link] from ITCL.
Notes use of "special alloy steel".
Previous catalogs noted "chrome vanadium".
N/A Craftsman Mechanics Tools 1942 Copyright 1942, dated April 1, 1942. 50 pages.
Available for Download [External Link] from ITCL.
Notes use of "special alloy steel".
Previous catalogs noted "chrome vanadium".

Tools of the Pre-Craftsman Era

Sears had been selling tools and hardware for several decades prior to the introduction of the Craftsman brand in 1927. This section will show examples of the kinds of tools offered in this early period, using a mix of catalog illustrations and actual photographs when the tools are available.


Fulton and the "Fulton Tool Company"

Fulton was a familiar brand of tools in the early 20th century by virtue of numerous listings for Fulton tools in the Sears Roebuck catalogs. In the pre-Craftsman days, Fulton appeared to be the most popular brand offered by the Sears for tools such as saws, axes, planes, chisels, hammers, pliers, and many other items. References to Fulton tools appear in Sears catalogs at least as early as 1908, with illustrations showing either "Fulton" or "Fulton Tool Co." on the tools.

Based on the wide variety of Fulton products offered, many of Sears' customers probably assumed that the Fulton Tool Company must be a major manufacturer, and that was our starting assumption as well. However, after an extensive and fruitless search for a Fulton business entity that could account for such a range of products, we eventually concluded that Fulton was not an independent manufacturer after all, but rather an unregistered internal brand used by Sears as a conduit for private branding.

Since some of our readers may be surprised by this conclusion, we'll outline the evidence gathered to date. The most important factor is the lack of advertising or product coverage for Fulton apart from the Sears catalogs. An independent company would normally not want to rely too heavily on one retailer, so given the wide range of products offered, there should be numerous advertisements and announcements for Fulton products in magazines and trade publications. Many such publications are now searchable online as part of the "Google Books" effort, but an extensive search turned up no apparent "Fulton Tool" entity that could account for the known range of products.

In fact, the only catalog (other than Sears) known to list Fulton tools is a publication from the United Hardware and Tool Manufacturing Company, which shows an extensive selection of Fulton tools such as wood planes. When we first found this catalog, we attributed Fulton as the "house brand" for United Hardware, but more recent information has identified United Hardware as a manufacturer's agent for the export market. In light of this new information, the listings for Fulton tools in the United Hardware catalog can be interpreted as an effort by Sears to develop export markets for its tool items.

Other evidence is summarized in the list below and will be expanded upon when time permits.

In the figures below we'll show some examples of Fulton tools of probable pre-Craftsman origin, and where possible will identify the manufacturer. Examples of the continuing use of the Fulton brand in the post-Craftsman era can be found in a section on Later Fulton Tools.


Early Fulton 100 5/8x11/16 S-Shaped Open-End Wrench

[Fulton 3/8x7/16 S-Shaped Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 1. Fulton 100 3/8x7/16 S-Shaped Open-End Wrench, ca. Early 1900s to 1920s.

Fig. 1 shows an early Fulton 100 3/8x7/16 S-shaped open-end wrench, stamped with "Fulton Tool Co." on the shank, and with a forged-in model number "100" at the left.

The overall length is 6.4 inches, and the finish is plain steel.


Early Fulton 102 5/8x11/16 S-Shaped Open-End Wrench

[Fulton 102 5/8x11/16 S-Shaped Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 2. Fulton 102 5/8x11/16 S-Shaped Open-End Wrench, ca. Early 1900s to 1920s.

Fig. 2 shows an early Fulton 102 5/8x11/16 S-shaped open-end wrench, stamped with "Fulton Tool Co." on the shank, and with a forged-in model number "102" at the left.

The overall length is 8.4 inches, and the finish is plain steel.


Fulton "CI" 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench

Currently many of the known examples of Fulton open-end wrenches are marked with an "CI" code, a code also found on many Craftsman wrenches. This strongly suggests that the maker of the Fulton open-end wrenches also produced Craftsman-branded tools. The next several figures show examples of Fulton open-end or "S" wrenches with the "CI" code.

[Fulton CI 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 3. Fulton "CI" 19/32x11/16 Open-End Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Back Side Detail.

Fig. 3 shows a Fulton 19/32x11/16 open-end wrench, marked with "Fulton" forged into the shank, with "Forged in U.S.A." and a "CI" code on the back side.

The overall length is 6.4 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.


Fulton "CI" 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench

[Fulton CI 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 4. Fulton "CI" 5/8x3/4 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Back Side Detail.

Fig. 4 shows a Fulton 5/8x3/4 open-end wrench, with the Fulton name forged into a small depressed panel, and with "Forged in U.S.A." on the back side.

The overall length is 7.6 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The inset shows a forged-in "CI" code on the back side, a mark frequently seen on both Fulton and Craftsman tools. An example of the "CI" mark on a Craftsman tool can be seen on the Craftsman Vanadium 1033C Wrench.


Fulton "CI" 25/32x7/8 Open-End Wrench

[Fulton CI 25/32x7/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 5. Fulton "CI" 25/32x7/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Back Side.

Fig. 5 shows a Fulton 25/32x7/8 open-end wrench with depressed oval panels, marked with "Fulton" forged into the front panel, with "Forged in U.S.A." forged into the back panel.

The shank is also marked with the fractional sizes forged into the front, with a "CI" code forged into the back side.

The overall length is 8.3 inches.


Fulton 3/8x7/16 S-Shaped Wrench

[Fulton 3/8x7/16 S-Shaped Wrench]
Fig. 6. Fulton 3/8x7/16 S-Shaped Wrench, with Inset for Back Side, ca. 1920s to 1930s.

Fig. 6 shows a Fulton 3/8x7/16 S-shaped wrench, marked with the Fulton name forged into a depressed panel on the shank, with "Forged in U.S.A." forged into the back side panel.

The shank is also marked with the fractional sizes forged into the front, with a "CI" manufacturer's code forged into the back side.

The overall length is 6.0 inches, and the finish is black paint.


Fulton 5/8x11/16 S-Shaped Wrench

[Fulton 5/8x11/16 S-Shaped Wrench]
Fig. 7. Fulton 5/8x11/16 S-Shaped Wrench, with Inset for Back Side, ca. 1920s to 1930s.

Fig. 7 shows a Fulton 5/8x11/16 S-shaped wrench, marked with the Fulton name forged into a depressed panel on the shank, with "Forged in U.S.A." forged into the back side panel.

The shank is also marked with the fractional sizes forged into the front, with a "CI" manufacturer's code forged into the back side.

The overall length is 8.1 inches, and the finish is black paint.


Fulton 3/4x13/16 S-Shaped Wrench

[Fulton 3/4x13/16 S-Shaped Wrench]
Fig. 8. Fulton 3/4x13/16 S-Shaped Wrench, with Inset for Back Side, ca. 1920s to 1930s.

Fig. 8 shows a Fulton 3/4x13/16 S-shaped wrench, marked with the Fulton name forged into a depressed panel on the shank, with "Forged in U.S.A." forged into the back side panel.

The shank is also marked with the fractional sizes forged into the front, with a "CI" manufacturer's code forged into the back side.

The overall length is 9.1 inches, and the finish is black paint.


Fulton 25/32x7/8 S-Shaped Wrench

[Fulton 25/32x7/8 S-Shaped Wrench]
Fig. 9. Fulton 25/32x7/8 S-Shaped Wrench, with Insets for Back Side Detail.

Fig. 9 shows a Fulton 25/32x7/8 S-shaped wrench, marked with the Fulton name forged into a small depressed panel, with "Forged in U.S.A." and a "CI" manufacturer's code forged into the back side.

The overall length is 10.0 inches, and the finish is black paint.


Fulton "Tool Steel" 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench

[Fulton Tool Steel 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench]
Fig. 10. Fulton "Tool Steel" 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Back Side Detail, ca. Mid to Late 1920s.

Fig. 10 shows a Fulton 8 inch adjustable wrench, stamped with "Fulton" on both sides of the shank. The shank is also marked with "8" and "Tool Steel" forged into the front, with "8" and "Drop Forged" forged into the back side.

The overall length is 8.1 inches, and the maximum opening is 1.0 inches. The head thickness was measured at 0.61 inches.

The finish is plain steel.

The markings and construction of this wrench identify the maker as the Diamond Calk Horseshoe Company. Diamond was active as a contract maker of adjustable wrenches from the 1920s onward, and their production of this era was marked with "Tool Steel" and "Drop Forged". An example of a similar wrench can be seen as the Diamond 8 Inch Adjustable Wrench.


Fulton "AD" 10 Inch Monkey Wrench

[Fulton AD 10 Inch Monkey Wrench]
Fig. 11. Fulton "AD" 10 Inch Monkey Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Back Side Detail, ca. 1920s to 1930s.

Fig. 11 shows a Fulton 10 inch monkey wrench with wooden handle inserts, stamped with "Fulton" and "AD" on the lower jaw.

The upper (fixed) jaw is stamped with the B&C trademark logo on the front, with "Bemis & Call Co." and "Springfield, Mass. Made in U.S.A." on the back side.

The overall length is 10.3 inches, and the maximum opening approximately 2 inches. The finish is plain steel.

The markings on this wrench clearly identify Bemis & Call (B&C) as the manufacturer for the Sears Fulton brand. Bemis & Call was a well-known maker of adjustable wrenches, with operations extending back to the mid 19th century. Additional information on the company can be found in our article on the Bemis & Call Company.

The meaning of the "AD" marking is not known.


Early Socket Sets

Sears was probably supplying socket sets for automotive service by 1912 or even earlier. By this time the automobile market was growing rapidly and the socket sets produced by Bay State, Mossberg, and others were regarded as effective (even essential) tools for automotive maintenance.

[1913 Listing for Sears Aristocrat No. 1 Socket Set]
Fig. 12. 1913 Listing for Sears Aristocrat No. 1 "Auto Kit" Socket Set.

The scan in Fig. 12 shows our earliest Sears catalog reference for socket sets, a listing for an "Aristocrat No. 1 Auto Kit" from a 1913 "Automobile Supplies" catalog.

This set is easily identifiable as a Bay State No. 1 Autokit by the distinctive ratchet design. We are fortunate to have examples of both a Sears branded Sears Roebuck Autokit No. 1 and of an original Bay State No. 1 Autokit for your viewing pleasure.


Sears Roebuck Autokit No. 1 Socket Set

With the thousands of artifacts at Alloy Artifacts it's always difficult to pick a favorite, but this next set would certainly be high on the list. It offers both an interesting and innovative design with historical importance as our earliest documented example of a socket set sold by Sears Roebuck.

[Sears Roebuck Autokit No. 1 Socket Set]
Fig. 13. Sears Roebuck Autokit No. 1 Socket Set, ca. 1910-1914.

Fig. 13 shows an early Sears Autokit No. 1 pressed-steel socket set in its wooden box, consisting of a rotating head ratchet, two extension bars, a screwdriver bit, a universal, a spherical end-piece, 27 hex sockets from 5/16 to 1-9/32, three square sockets (including a union), and a spark-plug (deep) socket.

The set is labelled with a placard inside the top lid printed with the text "Sears, Roebuck Autokit No. 1" in block letters. The "Autokit" name and distinctive rotating head ratchet immediately identifies the set as a Bay State No. 1 Autokit, produced by the Tudor Manufacturing Company from early 1909 onwards.

The 27 hex sockets include all sizes from 5/16 to 1 inch by 32nds, plus the four larger sizes 1-1/32, 1-3/32, 1-5/32, and 1-9/32. The sockets are arranged from smallest to largest beginning left to right with the fourth socket in the bottom row, continuing left to right in the middle row, then continuing right to left in the top row.

The three square sockets at the left of the bottom row include a 1/2-drive union, followed by 13/32 and 21/32 pressed-steel sockets. The 29/32 spark-plug socket at the far right is a replacement for the missing original socket.

Currently our earliest catalog reference for this set is from a 1913 Sears "Automobile Supplies" catalog, where an illustration and description of the set appears on page 99 under the heading "Aristocrat No. 1 Auto Kit".


Socket Sets by Frank Mossberg Company

By 1917 the Frank Mossberg Company had become the prime supplier of socket sets for Sears. A 1917 Justice Tires catalog lists several sets recognizable as Mossberg production, as well as ratchets, tools, and individual sockets. ("Justice" was a Sears trademark for automobile tires before they adopted the "Allstate" brand.) We also have Justice Tires catalogs from 1918, 1919, 1922, and 1924.

The 1917 catalog has a listing and illustration for the "Aristocrat No. 1 Socket Wrench Set", which includes a No. 350 ratchet, extension, universal, 27 hex sockets, and three square sockets. This set appears to match the specifications of the Mossberg Auto-Clé No. 1 set, but with the Auto-Clé cylindrical ratchet replaced by the standard No. 350 model.

A second smaller set called the "Aristocrat Junior Socket Wrench Set" is easily identifiable as a Mossberg No. 6 Socket Set by means of the distinctive folding Tee handle.

A somewhat later Justice Tire catalog from 1922 lists several socket sets identifiable as Mossberg production, plus a set that appears to be a Packer Auto Specialty "Ray" socket set.

The 1922 illustration for the "Aristocrat No. 1 Socket Wrench Set" has been updated with a different forged-body ratchet, but the description has the same specifications as before, matching the contents of the Auto-Clé No. 1 except for a different ratchet. The sockets in the illustration are clearly marked with the Mossberg M-Diamond logo.

A second set is called the "Universal Socket Wrench Set", and the illustration shows a large wooden box holding the sockets and drive tools, with a lift-out tray to hold open-end wrenches, pliers and other tools. The distinctive appearance clearly identifies this as the Mossberg No. 14 socket set, the largest and most complete set of sockets and tools offered by Mossberg.

In addition to the familiar pressed-steel socket sets, the early Sears catalogs also offered other types of socket tools, such as the socket sets of malleable iron made by the Chicago Manufacturing and Distributing Company.


1917 Listing for Aristocrat No. 1 Socket Set

[Listing for Aristocrat No. 1 Socket Set]
Fig. 14. Listing for Aristocrat No. 1 Socket Set, 1917.

The scan in Fig. 14 shows a listing for the "Aristocrat No. 1" socket set, as published on page 39 of the 1917 Justice Tires catalog.

This socket set can be identified as production by Mossberg by the illustration and contents. In later catalogs the illustration for this set shows the sockets spilled in front of the box, with the Mossberg M-Diamond logo visible on the sockets.

The set is functionally identical to the Auto-Clé No. 1 Set, but differs by the substitution of a standard Mossberg No. 350 Ratchet for the tubular ratchet normally included in the Auto-Clé set.


1917 Listing for Aristocrat Jr. Socket Set

[1917 Catalog Listing for Aristocrat Jr. Socket Set]
Fig. 15. 1917 Catalog Listing for Aristocrat Jr. Socket Set.

The scan in Fig. 15 shows a listing for the smaller "Aristocrat Jr." socket set, also appearing on page 39 of the 1917 Justice Tires catalog.

This set can be easily identified as a Mossberg No. 6 Socket Set by the distinctive folding Tee-handle. The set is functionally identical to the examples shown in our Mossberg article, but is illustrated in a fiberboard case instead of the wooden box or leather cases used for earlier sets.

The catalog page with the Aristocrat socket sets also included other socket-related tools. Tools available separately included the Mossberg No. 330 Tee-handle, No. 350 ratchet, No. 355 ratchet, and individual hex and square sockets. These items were not identified as the Mossberg brand in the text, but the illustrations for the sockets clearly show the M-Diamond logo.


1917 Listing for Mossberg Hex and Square Sockets

One of the more significant listings in the 1917 Justice Tires catalog is a table offering individual Mossberg hex and square pressed-steel sockets, as this next example shows.

1917 Catalog Listing for Mossberg Pressed-Steel Sockets]
Fig. 16. 1917 Catalog Listing for Mossberg Pressed-Steel Sockets

The scan in Fig. 16 shows a table offering individual Mossberg hex and square pressed-steel sockets, as published on page 39 of the 1917 Justice Tires catalog.

Note that each socket size and type is listed with its own catalog number, and that all sizes carry the same 15 cent price.

Although the text doesn't mention the name Mossberg, the illustration clearly shows the Mossberg M-Diamond trademark on the sockets.

This catalog listing goes a long way in explaining why old pressed-steel socket sets of any brand frequently include Mossberg replacement sockets.


1922 Listing for Aristocrat No. 1 Socket Set

Sears continued to offer Mossberg socket sets at least into the mid 1920s. This next figure shows a 1922 listing for the Aristocrat No. 1 set.

[1922 Catalog Listing for Aristocrat No. 1 Socket Set]
Fig. 17. 1922 Catalog Listing for Aristocrat No. 1 Socket Set.

The scan in Fig. 17 shows a slightly later listing for the "Aristocrat No. 1" socket set, as published on page 41 of the 1922 Justice Tires catalog.

The illustration is a little different from the earlier example, as a number of the sockets are displayed lying in front of the box, and a careful look shows that several sockets are marked with the Mossberg M-Diamond logo.

As with earlier listings, the catalog description notes the inclusion of 27 hex sockets, and the set as described is functionally identical to the Auto-Clé No. 1 Set.

One notable difference though is that the illustration shows a forged-body ratchet in the set, instead of the pressed-steel ratchet shown in earlier Sears catalogs, or the tubular ratchet normally included in the Auto-Clé set. Some of our readers may recognize this as the infamous W.&M. Co. Mystery Ratchet.


1919 Listing for Chicago Manufacturing Socket Set

1919 Listing for Chicago Manufacturing Socket Set]
Fig. 18. 1919 Listing for Chicago Manufacturing Socket Set.

The scan in Fig. 18 shows a listing for a "Socket Wrench Set" found on page 13 of the 1919 Justice Tires Sales catalog.

The illustration shows a set of seven sockets in a box, with a ratchet handle, universal, and extension displayed in front.

The distinctive design of the tools allows the maker to be identified as the Chicago Manufacturing and Distributing Company, and the illustrated set is very similar to the Chicago Manufacturing No. 60 Socket Set.

Note in particular that the illustration shows the "A1" model number on the ratchet handle and the "A25" model on the extension. The socket sizes in the catalog listing differ somewhat from the sizes in the No. 60 set, but this may be confusion arising from differences in actual and nominal sizes.

The Chicago Manufacturing and Distributing Company was notable for making sockets and drive tools of malleable iron, a less common construction method at a time when pressed-steel sockets were the dominant technology. The Sears catalogs offered socket sets by Chicago Manufacturing from 1919 (or earlier) until at least the mid 1920s.


Late Pre-Craftsman Socket Sets

By the late 1920s Sears was offering socket sets under a number of brands, including Duro-Bilt, Hinsdale, Merit, and others. These sets were built around 1/2-drive tools and cold-broached machined sockets, the dominant technology in the 1920s and 1930s, and were very similar to the sets eventually offered under the Craftsman brand.

We have several examples of pre-Craftsman socket sets, from Duro Metal Products, Hinsdale, and other makers, and are currently preparing them for display.


Early Duro Metal Products "Double Guarantee" 1/2-Drive Socket Set

Duro Metal Products Double Guarantee 1/2-Drive Socket Set]
Fig. 19. Duro Metal Products "Double Guarantee" 1/2-Drive Socket Set, ca. 1929-1931.

Fig. 19 shows an early Duro Metal Products 1/2-drive socket set with a Sears Roebuck "Double Guarantee" paper label on the lid. The set consists of a No. 672 ratchet, a No. 660 L-T convertible handle, an extension, a drive plug, and 15 hex sockets ranging from 5/16 up to 1 inch.

The No. 672 ratchet is stamped "Duro Metal Products Co." and "Chicago" on the handle and has a "Patent Pending" notation, known to be a reference to patent #1,798,481. (This ratchet is a familiar tool and further information can be found in the section for the Duro 672 Ratchet.)

The No. 660 L-T handle also has a patent pending marking, in this case a reference to patent #1,744,413. The pending status for the ratchet and L-T handle places the manufacturing date for the set in the range 1929-1931.

The socket sizes from the front left are 5/16, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 19/32, 5/8, and 21/32, and from the back left are 11/16, 3/4, 13/16, 7/8, 15/16, 31/32, and 1 inch. The sockets are all stamped with the fractional size, and most are marked with a stylized "D" referred to as the Duro D-Trapezoid logo, although the "D" marking has been omitted on at least one socket.

The metal box has dimensions 10.9 inches wide by 4.3 inches deep by 1.6 inches high.

This set is very similar to "Merit Tool Ratchet Wrench Set" listed in the 1929 Sears catalog. The Sears set includes the same drive tools with 14 hex sockets and a screwdriver socket, and the listing even mentions the green metal box. Assuming that this is the set described in the Sears catalog, the photograph includes one extra socket (possibly the 31/32) and is missing a screwdriver socket. The 1929 Sears price was just $1.98 postpaid.

This set is also displayed as the Duro Metal Products "Double Guarantee" Socket Set in our article on Duro/Indestro, which has additional photographs of the tools and sockets in the set.


Duro Metal Products No. 660 1/2-Drive L-T Convertible Handle

Duro Metal Products No. 660 1/2-Drive L-T Convertible Handle]
Fig. 20. Duro Metal Products No. 660 1/2-Drive L-T Convertible Handle, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1929-1931.

Fig. 20 shows the Duro Metal Products No. 660 L-T convertible handle from the "Double Guarantee" set, configured as a Tee-handle for the photograph. The sheath is stamped "Duro Metal Products Co." and "Chicago U.S.A.", with a "Pat. Pend." notation at the right.

The overall length is 10.6 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

The pending status refers to patent #1,744,413, filed by E.H. Peterson et al in 1929 and issued in 1930.

The L-T convertible handle consists of a 5/8-diameter Ell-shaped bar with 1/2 square drive studs on each end, together with a sheet metal sheath to form a hand grip. The sheath can be placed either over the short end of the bar to form a Tee-handle, as in the photograph here, or placed on the long end of the bar as a grip and extender. The sheath can be completely removed from the bar if not needed.


Duro Metal Products Large Sockets from "Double Guarantee" Socket Set

Duro Metal Products Large Sockets from Double Guarantee Socket Set]
Fig. 21. Duro Metal Products Large Sockets from "Double Guarantee" Socket Set, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1929-1931.

Fig. 21 shows the three largest sockets from the Duro Metal Products "Double Guarantee" 1/2-drive socket set, with sizes (from the left) 15/16, 31/32, and 1 inch. The sockets are stamped with the Duro D-Trapezoid logo on each side of the fractional size, except that the 1 inch socket has only one "D" logo.

The finish is nickel plating.

These larger sockets have a distinctive design with a reduced diameter at the 1/2-square drive end, a pattern mirroring the reduced diameter at the service end for the smaller sockets. The sockets have a band of cross-hatched knurling at the service end, with the knurling coarse enough to assist with turning a nut by hand.


Duro-Bilt "36-Piece" 1/2-Drive Socket Set

The 1930 and 1931 Sears catalogs offer a number of "DuroBilt" brand socket sets, and the tools in the illustrations closely resemble the sets from Duro Metal Products and Indestro Manufacturing. (See our article on Duro and Indestro for more information on these important companies.) Although these Duro-Bilt sets are now seldom found, we have acquired two examples of the sets and can confirm that Duro Metal Products was the manufacturer.

Our first Duro-Bilt set is listed in the Sears catalog as the "36-Piece Wrench Set" and consists of drive tools and sockets in a hinged metal case. (The catalog listing is on page 483, for any readers with this Sears catalog.) A check of the contents with the catalog listing showed that our set is nearly complete, with only a few pieces missing.

Duro-Bilt 36-Piece 1/2-Drive Socket Set]
Fig. 22. Duro-Bilt "36-Piece" 1/2-Drive Socket Set, ca. 1930-1931.

Fig. 22 shows the Duro-Bilt 36-piece 1/2-drive socket set as acquired, but with two missing tools filled in from our general inventory. The set consists of a No. 672 ratchet, a drive plug, an Ell-handle, a speeder, an extension, a universal joint, 18 hex sockets, eight square sockets, and several miscellaneous attachments.

The No. 672 ratchet is stamped "Duro Metal Products Co." and "Chicago" on the handle and has a "Patent Pending" notation, known to be a reference to patent #1,798,481. (This ratchet is a familiar tool and further information can be found in the section for the Duro 672 Ratchet.) The ratchet's patent status, together with the known catalog reference, places the manufacturing date for the set around 1930-1931.

Duro-Bilt Decal from 1/2-Drive Duro-Bilt Socket Set]
Fig. 23. Duro-Bilt Decal from 1/2-Drive Duro-Bilt Socket Set.

Fig. 23 shows the Duro-Bilt decal on the inside lid of the socket set. The decal is printed with "DuroBilt" and "Special Analysis Steel" in the center of the diamond, with "Unconditionally Guaranteed" and "Heat Treated Hardened" along the borders.

The decal matches the one shown in the Sears catalog, making the identification of the set quite certain.

This set is also displayed as the Duro-Bilt 1/2-Drive Socket Set in our article on Duro/Indestro, which has further information on the tools and sockets in the set.

This set was quite a significant find, as it is one of the earliest known examples of 1/2-drive socket tools sold by Sears Roebuck. The 1930-1931 origin of this set means that it predates the Craftsman C-Series Socket Sets by a year or two.


Duro-Bilt "20-Piece" 1/2-Drive Socket Set

The 1930 and 1931 Sears catalogs offered a Duro-Bilt "20-Piece Socket Wrench Set" with a note that it was especially suited for Model "A" Ford owners. We were fortunate to acquire an example of this set, as presented in the next figure.

Duro-Bilt 20-Piece 1/2-Drive Socket Set]
Fig. 24. Duro-Bilt "20-Piece" 1/2-Drive Socket Set, 1930.

Fig. 24 shows a Duro-Bilt 20-piece 1/2-drive socket set, consisting of a No. 660 L-T convertible handle, 15 hex sockets, three square sockets, and a screwdriver socket.

The set is marked with a Duro-Bilt decal on the inside lid, badly chipped but still mostly readable. The decal is printed with "DuroBilt" and "Special Analysis Steel" in the center of the diamond, with "Unconditionally Guaranteed" and "Heat Treated Hardened" along the borders. Readers can refer to the DuroBilt Decal shown with another set for a more readable example.

The No. 660 L-T handle in the set is basically identical to the Duro No. 660 L-T Handle shown in a previous figure.

The hex socket sizes are, from the left in front, 11/32, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 19/32, and 5/8, and from the left in back are 21/32, 11/16, 3/4, 25/32, 13/16, 7/8, and 15/16. The large hex socket at the back left corner has size 1-1/8.

The three square sockets in the main compartment have sizes, from the left, 3/8, 7/16, and 1/2.

All of the sockets are stamped with the fractional size, but only three of the original sockets are marked with the Duro D-Trapezoid logo. The finish is nickel plating.

The nickel finish of these tools provides a 1930 estimate for the production year, based on the nickel finish noted in 1930 Sears catalog, but with cadmium plating noted in the following year.

This set is also displayed as the Duro-Bilt "20-Piece" 1/2-Drive Socket Set in our article on Duro/Indestro, which has further information on the tools and sockets in the set.


Hinsdale 1/2-Drive Chrome-Nickel "Mechanics" Socket Set

This next figure shows an example of a Hinsdale socket set believed to have been the first alloy-steel socket set offered by Sears, based on the listing in the 1930 Sears (Spring-Summer) catalog.

[Hinsdale 1/2-Drive Chrome-Nickel Mechanics Socket Set]
Fig. 25. Hinsdale 1/2-Drive Chrome-Nickel "Mechanics" Socket Set, ca. Late 1920s to Early 1930s.

Fig. 25 shows a Hinsdale 1/2-drive chrome-nickel "Mechanics" socket set in its hip roof toolbox with fold-out covers. This extensive collection consists of long and short speeders, a ratchet and drive plug, a TL-1 handle, an extension, a universal, a screwdriver bit, 21 hex sockets, and 10 square sockets.

The hex socket sizes are, clockwise from the second row, 5/16, 11/32, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 17/32, 9/16, 19/32, 5/8, 21/32, 11/16, 3/4, 25/32, 13/16, 7/8, 15/16, 31/32, 1 Inch, 1-1/16, 1-1/8, and 1-1/4.

The square socket sizes are, from the left in the back row, 5/16, 11/32, 3/8, 7/16, 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 11/16, 3/4, and 7/8. The sockets are marked "Nickel Chrome" with the fractional size and Round-H-Circle logo.

As promised by the "Cadmium Plated Rust Proof" sticker on the cover, all of the tools and sockets have a cadmium finish.

[Hip Roof Toolbox for Hinsdale Mechanics Socket Set]
Fig. 26. Hip Roof Toolbox for Hinsdale "Mechanics" Socket Set, ca. Late 1920s to Early 1930s.

Fig. 26 shows the hip roof toolbox for the Hinsdale "Mechanics" socket set.

The overall dimensions are 19.7 inches long by 6.3 inches deep by 5.1 inches high.

Our set was acquired in good condition, but is missing six drain plug sockets and a valve grinder attachment, based on the Sears catalog listing noted below.

This set has been identified as the Hinsdale "46-Piece Mechanic's Socket Wrench Set" listed on page 858 of the 1930 Sears Roebuck (Spring-Summer) Catalog. The catalog listing notes the hip roof toolbox and the inventory of tools matches well, including the 21 hex and 10 square sockets of alloy steel. The same set was listed again in the 1931 Sears (Spring-Summer) catalog. Based on a review of the Sears catalogs, this Hinsdale set appears to have been the first alloy-steel socket set offered by Sears.

This set is listed in our article on Hinsdale as the Hinsdale "Mechanics" Socket Set, with additional photographs and information.


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