Alloy Artifacts  

H.D. Smith & Company

[1893 Illustration of the H.D. Smith Factory]
1893 Catalog Illustration of the H.D. Smith Factory.

Table of Contents


H.D. Smith & Company was an important early drop-forge merchant and later became well known for its line of "Perfect Handle" tools.

Company History

H.D. Smith & Company was established in 1850 by Henry D. Smith as a maker of carriage hardware. The company operated a foundry in Plantsville, Connecticut, and in addition to making its own drop-forgings, the company offered its services as a merchant drop-forger. In this latter role H.D. Smith claimed to be the first of many such businesses.

A review of the company's 1893 Catalogue reveals a bewildering variety of strange hardware for the carriage trade, but no tools. The last page of the catalog solicits inquiries for bicycle forgings or other custom forging work.

[1900 Notice of Reorganization of H.D. Smith]
Fig. 1. 1900 Notice of Reorganization of H.D. Smith.

Fig. 1 shows a notice of reorganization of H.D. Smith & Company, as published on page 20 of the February 10, 1900 issue of Hardware.

The new president was Webster R. Walkley, who previously had worked for Peck, Stow, & Wilcox, a major maker of hardware and tools.

After 1900 tool production became an important part of the company's business, probably as a result of the new management. Their best known product became a line of tools with riveted wooden handles sold under the "Perfect Handle" brand. The tools supplied with "Perfect" handles began with monkey wrenches and proceeded to include screwdrivers, hammers, pipe and nut wrenches, open-end wrenches, draw knives, and even a valve lifter.

[1919 Advertisement for H.D. Smith Tools]
Fig. 2. 1919 Advertisement for H.D. Smith Tools. [External Link]

The advertisement in Fig. 2 was published on page 132 of the January 2, 1919 issue of American Machinist and illustrates a number of the tools available from H.D. Smith.

The illustration shows (from top to bottom) a "Perfect Handle" screwdriver, a rubber covered screwdriver for electrical work, a cold chisel, "encased" joint pliers, a "Perfect Handle" pipe wrench, a "Perfect Handle" open-end wrench, and a "Perfect Handle" monkey wrench.

Note that the text at the bottom of the ad makes the claim that the company was the first drop-forger.

Later Events

In 1923 William S. Thomson, vice-president and general manager of H.D. Smith, left the company to establish the Tobrin Tool Company.

[1923 Notice for H.D. Smith]
Fig. 2B. 1923 Notice for H.D. Smith. [External Link]

Fig. 2B shows a notice of the resignation of William S. Thomson, as published on page 456 of the February 8, 1923 issue of Iron Trade.

Tobrin Tool was founded with the intent of manufacturing tools similar to those made by H.D. Smith. We're still gathering information about the company.

In 1929 Grover C. Lassen acquired control of the H.D. Smith Company, with the stated intent of continuing its tool business. Lassen was associated with several oil companies and had an interest in the hardware business.

[1931 Notice of Sale of H.D. Smith]
Fig. 2C. 1931 Notice of Sale of H.D. Smith. [External Link]

Fig. 2C shows a notice of the sale of the H.D. Smith Company at public auction, as reported on page 706f of the April 30, 1931 issue of American Machinist.

The text notes that Grover V. Lassen had purchased the buildings, land, and other property for $35,000, and that future plans were undecided.


H.D. Smith: Issued and Licensed Patents
Patent No.InventorFiledIssuedNotes and Examples
D33,079 W.S. Ward07/19/190008/14/1900 Carpenter's Nippers
D33,468 A. Shepard10/05/190010/30/1900 Handle Design for Wrench
H.D. Smith 8 Inch Monkey Wrench
666,029 A. Shepard07/05/190001/15/1901 Adjustable Wrench
H.D. Smith 8 Inch Monkey Wrench
D34,136 W.S. Ward01/30/190102/26/1901 Wrench Handle Design
H.D. Smith 8 Inch Monkey Wrench
855,079 W.S. Ward09/26/190505/28/1907 Forged Steel Hammer
D45,919 W.S. Thomson11/01/191306/09/1914 Design for Offset Pliers
H.D. Smith Offset Pliers
1,122,335 W.S. Thomson11/01/191312/29/1914 Pipe Wrench
H.D. Smith 14 Inch Pipe Wrench
1,123,423 W.S. Thomson11/17/191101/05/1915 Adjustable Wrench
1,159,621 W.S. Thomson02/04/191511/09/1915 Pliers with Encased Joint
1,216,886 W.S. Thomson11/01/191302/20/1917 Offset Pliers
H.D. Smith Offset Pliers
1,410,521 W.S. Thomson 05/05/1921 03/21/1922 Screwdriver
H.D. Smith 660-6 Screwdriver


H.D. Smith used a logo with an "S" inside a circle and claimed it as a trademark in their 1893 catalog. We haven't found the official registration yet, but it appears to be trademark #521, issued on November 7, 1871.

[1893 Notice of Trademark for H.D. Smith]
Fig. 3. 1893 Notice of Trademark for H.D. Smith & Company.

Fig. 3 shows the entry for H.D. Smith trademark #521, as published on page 89 of an 1893 Digest of Trade-marks.

H.D. Smith: Registered Trademarks
Text Mark or Logo Reg. No. First Use Date Filed Date Issued Notes
S 521    11/07/1871 For carriage hardware.
"S" in a circle.
S 45,334  04/27/1905 08/15/1905 For drop-forged irons for vehicles.
"S" in a circle.
Serial 3,299. Published 06/20/1905.
Renewed 08/15/1925.
SIX-SIXTY 162,894 04/24/192205/22/1922 12/26/1922 For screwdrivers.
Serial 164,277. Published 09/26/1922.
4 182,060 10/01/192207/17/1923 04/01/1924 For screwdrivers.
"4" in a black dot?
Serial 183,345. Published 01/15/1924.

References and Resources

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

Catalog Resources

Currently we don't have any catalogs for H.D. Smith, but the company's 1893 Catalogue is available via Google Books.

Industrial Distributors

Tools from H.D. Smith were widely available from industrial distributors.

Selected Tools

[1920 Catalog Listing of H.D. Smith Perfect Handle Tools]
Fig. 4. 1920 Catalog Listing of H.D. Smith "Perfect Handle" Tools.

The "Perfect Handle" line of tools were probably H.D. Smith's best known products. Beginning with a monkey wrench around 1901, the line expanded to include several types of wrenches, screwdrivers, a hammer, a draw knife, and even a valve lifter!

The handle design for the "Perfect Handle" tools is described in design patents D33,468, issued to A. Shepard on October 30, 1900, and D34,136, issued to W.S. Ward on February 26, 1901.

Particular tools in the "Perfect Handle" line might bear other patents describing the function and construction of the tool.

Fig. 4 shows a catalog listing of "Perfect Handle" tools, as published on page 55 of the 1920 catalog No. 4 from the Tool Specialty Company of Kansas City, Missouri.

H.D. Smith [No. 615] "Perfect Handle" 8 Inch Monkey Wrench

[H.D. Smith Perfect Handle 8 Inch Monkey Wrench]
Fig. 6. H.D. Smith "Perfect Handle" 8 Inch Monkey Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Marking Detail, ca. Early 1900s to 1920s.

Fig. 6 shows an H.D. Smith 8 inch monkey wrench, stamped on the shank with "The H.D. Smith & Co." and "Perfect Handle" in circular arcs, with patent dates and "Made in U.S.A." in the center. (The markings are partially obscured by the moving jaw.)

The overall length is 8.6 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The patent dates are marked "Pat'd Oct. 30-1900 Jan. 15-1901 Feb. 26-1901", with the first date corresponding to design patent #D33,468, issued to Amos Shepard on October 30, 1900. This patent shows a "Perfect Handle" design for the body and handle of a wrench very similar to the present item.

The second date corresponds to patent #666,029, issued to Amos Shepard on January 15, 1901. The patent describes the construction of the monkey wrench.

The third date corresponds to design patent #D34,136, issued to W.S. Ward on February 26, 1901. This patent is a refinement of the "Perfect Handle" design for a monkey wrench handle.

H.D. Smith [No. 643] "Perfect Handle" 14 Inch Pipe Wrench

[H.D. Smith Perfect Handle 14 Inch Pipe Wrench]
Fig. 7. H.D. Smith "Perfect Handle" 14 Inch Pipe Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1914 to 1920s.

Fig. 7 shows an H.D. Smith 14 inch pipe wrench, marked with "Perfect Handle" and "Patented" forged into the shank, with "The H.D. Smith & Co." and "14 In." forged into the reverse.

The overall length is 13.4 inches closed and 15.4 inches fully opened. The finish is plain steel.

The patent notice refers to patent #1,122,335, filed by W.S. Thomson in 1913 and issued in 1914. The patent illustration shows a pipe wrench closely resembling the present example.

H.D. Smith [No. 650] "Perfect Handle" Valve Spring Lifter

[H.D. Smith Perfect Handle Valve Spring Lifter]
Fig. 8. H.D. Smith "Perfect Handle" Valve Spring Lifter, with Inset for Reverse Detail, ca. 1910s to 1920s.

Fig. 8 shows an H.D. Smith valve spring lifter of a unique design, employing a hook and chain to provide the fulcrum for the lever. The lever is marked with "The H.D. Smith Co." and "Made in Plantsville, Conn, U.S.A." forged into the shank, with "Perfect Handle" and "Patented" forged into the reverse. The forged hook is also marked, with the same company information on one side and "Drop Forged" on the reverse (not shown).

The overall length of the lever is 12.7 inches, and the maximum length of the chain and hook is 17.5 inches. The finish is plain steel.

Although not marked with a model number, this tool is listed as No. 650 in a 1916 J.M. Waterston tool catalog.

The operation of this tool may not be immediately apparent due to its unusual design. The point of the large hook is first placed in a suitable depression on the top of the engine block, with the chain hanging over the side near the valves. With the small "S" hook removed from the end, the chain is then passed through one of the holes in the lever arm, and the "S" hook is inserted below to set the fulcrum at a suitable point. The valve spring can then be lifted using the lever handle.

H.D. Smith 660-6 "Perfect Handle" Screwdriver

[H.D. Smith 660-6 Perfect Handle Screwdriver]
Fig. 9A. H.D. Smith 660-6 "Perfect Handle" Screwdriver, with Insets for Reverse and Side View, ca. 1921-1922.

Fig. 9A shows an H.D. Smith 660-6 flat-tipped screwdriver, marked with the S-Circle logo forged into one side, with "Improved" and "660" plus "Pat Ap'l'd For" forged into the reverse.

The overall length is 11.6 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The patent applied notice refers to patent 1,410,521, filed by W.S. Thomson in 1921 and issued on March 21, 1922.

H.D. Smith Offset Combination Pliers

[H.D. Smith Offset Combination Pliers]
Fig. 9B. H.D. Smith Offset Combination Pliers, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1917-1930.

Fig. 9B shows a pair of H.D. Smith offset combination pliers, stamped on the reverse with "The H.D. Smith & Co." and "Plantsville, Conn.", plus two patent dates and a small "Made in U.S.A." at the bottom.

The overall length is 6.9 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The first patent date "Pat. June 9, 1914" refers to design patent #D45,919, filed by W.S. Thomson in 1913. The second date "Pat. Feb. 20, 1917" refers to patent #1,216,886, also filed by W.S. Thomson in 1913, but not issued until 1917.

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