By Tom Lamond ©
Actual Establishment Claimed 1808-1902+
Formation of American F. & H. Co. 1902-1930+
Acquisition of Kelly Axe Mfg. Co. and Operation as Kelly Works 1930-1949+
Corporation Name Changed to True Temper 1949-1987+
    An overview of the American Fork & Hoe Company would be woefully incomplete without the inclusion of some of the history related to who the company credited with their beginnings. Considering that the American Fork & Hoe Co. was the result of a merger of a number of agricultural implement and/or tool manufacturing companies, an all-encompassing overview would be quite lengthy and prohibitive. With that in mind, this discussion of  the company’s history will concentrate more on the companies that ares believed to have been the predominant enterprises in the establishment of the A. F. & H. Co. and progress through the history of the A. F. & H. Co. itself. Also included is information related to the axe making aspects of the company. That is not to say the other original companies were not important, they certainly were and perhaps they will be the focus of subsequent discussions.
    When the American Fork & Hoe Co. was formed in 1902, they advertised that they traced their beginnings to The Old Stone Shop, which was located in Wallingford, Vermont. Associated with that shop was a man named Alexander Miller. Miller was the man who had the building constructed of marble, a natural stone that had been quarried near Wallingford. Miller’s shop was actually the second stone shop built on the site. It was constructed in 1807-8 to replace the earlier building owned by Miller’s father who had used it as a tannery and shoe making business. Ironically, the older shop and the replacement were both referred to as The Old Stone Shop.
    Unlike the first shop, the replacement building included a forge and the other necessities of a blacksmith shop because Alexander Miller’s occupation was that of a blacksmith. Marble was certainly the best material to construct such a shop, as fire was a constant threat especially when the building included a forge. The Alexander Miller shop, which was soon commonly known as the Old Stone Shop, was initially used to manufacture hoes, axes, nails, etc.  
    In 1816 Lyman Batcheller, along with his oldest son Isaac, established a manufactory in Arlington, Vermont where they made forged agricultural tools. In 1834 or 1835 Lyman Batcheller acquired the Old Stone Shop from Miller and relocated to Wallingford to continue his business. In 1847 the Old Stone Shop burned again, that time to the point where it had to be completely replaced for the third time despite the fact that it had been constructed of marble. The new shop also became known by the older name, The Old Stone Shop, but more importantly the year in which it was built marked the founding of the company named Batcheller & Sons. The business included Lyman Batcheller and his three oldest sons; Isaac Gale, Lyman Jr. and John. His youngest son, Justin, and his two daughters had no connection to the business at that time.
    The manufactory concentrated on the manufacture of agricultural forks of which there were a rather wide variety including those used to move hay and manure. Lyman died in 1858 but the business continued. It was around 1868 that the fourth son, Justin, along with his brother-in-law and partner, John Schreiber, closed their mercantile business and joined the family business.
      Early in the A. F. & H. Co.'s. existence they also offered other brands without any reference or combination with the name True Temper. It is generally known that the American Fork & Hoe Co. acquired the Kelly Axe & Tool Co. in 1930, extensively to add axes to their product line. Interestingly, Batcheller & Sons had at one time also manufactured axes but they abandoned that in preference to pitch forks and the like.
    In addition, it may be that A. F. & H. Co. already had axe making capability but preferred to become involved in that line of the business on a much larger scale. One of the companies associated with the formation of the American Axe & Tool Co. was the Geneva Tool Co. of Geneva, Ohio. That company is known to have made axes and other agricultural tools between 1845 and 1902 and the name actually continued on axes until the early 1930s. Eventually many axe and hatchet brands were used in combination with the TRUE TEMPER name including some brands originally belonging to the Kelly Axe Mfg. Co. of Charleston, W. VA. and the Welland Vale Mfg. Co. of Canada.
      As noted, the American Fork & Hoe Company purchased the Kelly Axe & Tool Co. in 1930. That company had previously been named the Kelly Axe Mfg. Co. The name was formally changed to the Kelly Axe & Tool Co. in 1904. The name “Kelly Axe & Tool” continued to be used by the A. F. & H. Co. with a slight change to the Kelly Axe & Tool “Works” and was used until the axe division was sold in 1987.
        Some time before the acquisition of the Kelly Axe & Tool  Co., possibly in the “teens”, the term TRUE TEMPER had been introduced by the A. F. & H. Co. and combined with many of the parent company’s products. That combination of names continued after the A. F. & H. Co. became a major axe supplier.      
     The A. F. & H. Co. continued to grow not only in productivity but in scope. They acquired the Turner, Day & Woolworth Handle Co. in 1951, the Jackson Mfg. Co. in 1981 and a number of other companies which resulted in considerable product diversification.
       The Turner, Day & Woolworth Handle Co. insured a more reliable supply of handles. The Jackson Mfg. Co. made wheelbarrows and broadened the contractor and agricultural line. At some time, possibly around the beginning of WW II, the A. F. & Ho. Co. acquired the rights or ownership to axe brands previously registered to the Union Fork & Hoe Co. That increased the number of wholesalers they supplied with axes.
     The axe division of the A. F. & H. Co. was located in Charleston, West Virginia, the same place of the Kelly Axe & Tool Co. The subtle change in name and continued use of the location benefited the American Fork & Hoe Co. in regard to being accepted by the public. It has been written that many customers didn’t even realize the change, accept for the notations used in conjunction with some markings and labels.
     The A. F. & H. Co. used the TRUE TEMPER name in conjunction with the name Kelly for a number of years and in 1949 the company formally became known as the True Temper Corp. It was then that the company headquarters were moved to Cleveland, Ohio. By then the True Temper name had become much more widely known than the American Fork & Hoe Co. name, especially because they adopted the name True Temper Canada for their Canadian division, the Welland Vale Mfg. Co.  The Canadian manufacturing facilities  were closed in 1965.
        Some axes with Kelly markings were also made in Australia and marked accordingly. One such marking included the imprint “Kelly, World's Finest, Dandenong.”  Today a suburb by the name of Dandenong is located approximately 20 miles southeast of Melbourne. It is believed that the brand was actually associated with the Dandenong Range where a significant amount of the wood was obtained and used for construction in and around Melbourne. The actual fabrication of the Australian made Kelly axes was done by Cyclone Forgings Pty, Ltd. but at this time not much else is known about that Australian/True Temper arrangements.
      Other axes have also been observed with the name Dandenong along with Kelly Worlds Finest, Made In Canada. Those axes were made primarily for export to Australia prior to True Temper entering into the contract with Cyclone Forgings Pty, Ltd. Arrangements to have goods made within certain countries either under contract with domestic companies or by subsidiaries of a parent company were advantageous as the cost on import duties was significant as a result of many International Trade Agreements.
      Axes marked Kelly above the words Made in England are also known but at this time nothing much is known about that enterprise. Quite possibly it was relatively short lived in regard to axe making. Other TRUE Temper goods continued to be manufactured in England for a much longer period of time.  
       In 1960 the Ludlum Corporation acquired the True Temper Co. and reorganized the makeup of the product lines. Apparently specific product divisions were utilized with axe production being one of those divisions. In 1987, four years after the Charleston plant was closed, Ludlum Corp. sold the assets of the Kelly Axe Division to BARCO Industries of Reading, Pennsylvania. In doing so, BARCO acquired the patents, trademarks and patents along with the rights to continue to produce axes under a variety of brand names previously associated with the Kelly Axe & Tool Works and True Temper.
    Various sources state that there were 17 companies that initially merged to form the American Fork & Hoe Co. while other sources indicate that there were initially 12 plants that contributed to the overall output of the product line of the company.  The number of A. F & H. Co. brands originally involved 16 names but that fluctuated over the years with some of the brands being used with the name True Temper and others used to mark the second and third quality tools. Over the years other manufacturing facilities were acquired that significantly broadened the overall offerings and diversity of the company. That, along with the use of name True Temper in conjunction with many brands, tends to be quite confusing. The later additions of sporting goods, such as fishing equipment and golf equipment and even bicycles, compounds the company’s diversity and complexity.
    One such company that was added to the tool line was the Kelly Axe & Tool Co., also known as the Kelly Axe Mfg. Co. That was in 1930. After the A. F. & H. Co. acquired Kelly the number of brands became impossible to keep track of. At one time there appears to have been dozens of axe brand names used in conjunction with the True Temper marking. Not only were brands that had previously been acquired by the Kelly Axe Mfg. Co. from the American Axe & Tool Co. offered, but so too were brands that the Kelly Axe & Tool Co. had made broadly recognizable. As Kelly A. & T.  had done previously, the A. F. & H. Co. manufactured axes under the brand names of numerous distributors with the overall end result reaching the point where elaborate records would be the only source of telling what the overall extent of the axe brand offerings actually were. This may have been the reason why the operators of the axe division had managed the axe making division as a separate entity from the rest of the company. It also applied to the A. F. & H. Co even after they formally changed their name to True Temper. It also applied to the Ludlum Corp., after they had purchased True Temper as a whole. That again made it easier to sell off the axe making division when the decision to do so was finally reached in 1987. Actually the Charleston plant had been closed down four years prior to selling the division of to BARCO Industries of Reading, Pennsylvania.  
   Most of the early tools associated with the name TRUE TEMPER can be described as hand tools with wood handles. They were non-motorized and rarely included simple mechanisms. Over 60% of the TRUE TEMPER product line was associated with agriculture, gardening and other forms of outdoor work. Examples of such tools are spades, shovels, forks, hoes, rakes, striking tools (axes, picks, mauls), forged bars and etc.
Logos used by the American Fork & Hoe Co. on agricultural implements and advertising.
Comparison between an etching used on axes by the Kelly Axe Mfg. Co (upper) and the Kelly Axe & Tools Works (lower).
Example of one of the earlier brand labels adapted for use by a distributor.
Examples of Batcheller labels used on agricultural goods.
The four identifiers above are examples of two paper labels and two stampings used on opposite sides of the same axe.  
Logo adopted by the Ames Co. after Ames acquired True Temper.
      The sale of the True Temper Corp. included the rights to the Kelly name along with their patents, labels and patterns when it was sold  to BARCO, so anything that had to do with axe brands was removed from the purview of True Temper and was not  part of the transfer of ownership when the Huffy Corporation acquired True Temper in 1990. The True Temper name continued in connection with shovels and other gardening tools and was then passed on to the Ames Corporation when they purchased True Temper in the late 1990s.
Two examples of the American Fork & Hoe Company’s Kelly Axe & Tool Works brands as they were used as paper labels and stampings.
Paper label facsimile.
Paper label facsimile.
Two examples of True Temper stampings used in the second half of the 1900s.
    By that time an additional plant had been constructed on the opposite side of the railroad but the Old Stone Shop continued as a polishing shop. In 1882 the company was incorporated under the name Batcheller & Sons Co. The Batcheller & Sons Co. continued to flourish until 1902 when it joined with 16 other companies to form the American Fork & Hoe Co. (List included below.)    Judging from the frequent association of the Batcheller & Sons company name with that of the American Fork & Hoe Co., it may be that Batcheller & Sons was the company that initiated the merger process. That merger actually took place in 1902. The seventeen manufacturing concerns involved produced a variety of quality farm and garden tools. The resulting product line was an offering of at least 16 different brand names that had previously been associated with the individual manufacturers. Later those brand names were combined with the name TRUE TEMPER. Later still, the name Kelly Axe & Tool and many axe brand names were also used together with the name TRUE TEMPER.  
       The Geneva plant was originally the home of the Geneva Tool Company.  In addition to marketing axes they made and sold scythes and similar tools. Their involvement with axes on a relatively small scale may have been influential when the American Fork & Hoe Co. decided to acquire the Kelly Axe & Tool Co.  (See: article on the Geneva Tool Co.)
NOTE: The forks referred to in this article were usually for agriculture and include pitch forks, planting and harvesting forks and manure forks. They were not eating utensils.
     Jackson and Memphis were two other early agricultural implement brands, possibly used prior to 1919. The Jackson brand was used again when the Jackson wheelbarrow company was purchased in 1981. Other brands were also acquired when their parent companies were purchased by the A. F. & H. Co. Most were associated with implements while some applied to axes.
      There was also a plant in Willoughby, Ohio where machinery and new products were developed.  
FACTORY LABELS (ca 1919 with some additions)
Examples of True Temper DANDENONG;
Upper: Australian made
Lower: Canadian made.
Examples of markings used after the American Fork & Hoe Co. bought the Kelly Axe Mfg. Co. Within a year or so the American Fork & Hoe Co. adopted the name KELLY AXE & TOOL WORKS and   stamped the names of numerous brands near the poll of the axe directly above MADE BY KELLY AXE & TOOL WORKS,
The use of “CO.” as part of such markings was not permitted as a result of a legal decision.
Samples of stampings used on some True Temper axes and hatchets. Some stamps represent the same brand but vary in design. Some stamps were filled with an accent color while most were finished in the same way the axe head was. The FSS mark represented goods made for Forest Service Supply. The Black Prince brand was made and marketed in Canada after the A. F & H. Co. acquired the Welland Vale Co.
Facsimiles of labels used on some Kelly / True Temper axes and hatchets during the second half of the 1900s.
List of many of the company brands used by the American Fork & Hoe Co. on Kelly Ave & Tool Works and/or True Temper axes and hatchets. Additional brands were also used along with numerous brands used on axes and hatchets manufactured for major distributors.
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Information used in this article has been obtained from a variety of sources including but not limited to:
The American Fork & Hoe Co. Catalog N, 1919.
The American Fork & Hoe Co. True Temper Catalog No. 1, 1938.
Thorpe, Walter, History of Wallingford, Vermont, 1911.
Various resources available on the Internet.
The labels and markings were observed in the field, in catalogs and advertisements and/or redrawn based on those observations. All the graphics have all been drawn by the author.