LEWISTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA                    1892-2003
MILL HALL, PENNSYLVANIA                        1903-1926
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MANN AXE & TOOL CO., LTD. (Canadian)
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By Tom Lamond ©
    The Mann Edge Tool Co. was formed just about the same time that Joseph R. Mann formed what was known as Joseph R. Mann & Co.  Joseph had had considerable experience in the manufacturer of axes and when the American Axe & Tool Co. was formed he signed on, along with a number of other men from the Mann family as a whole.
    Both businesses were located in Lewistown starting in 1892. It could be that Mann Edge Tool Co. was the actual company chartered by the State of Pennsylvania and the actual principals were those that comprised Joseph R. Mann & Co.  
    By the late 1890s the name of Joseph R. Mann & Co. was not commonly used in regard to those who actually marketed axes through wholesale concerns or those considered as axe users. However, the name of the Mann Edge Tool Co. was becoming well known and was rapidly growing in recognition.
    By 1903 many considerations were impacting on the company. The International Axe & Tool Company (the International Axe Trust) had been formed; M. E. T. Co. was experiencing worker discontent regarding wages (even though they were still higher paid than other axe makers); shipping costs were increasing and Joseph R. Mann was considering building another M.E.T. Co. plant further west.
    The Axe Trust apparently was not accomplishing what it had intended.* Wage disputes led to a major strike in 1901 and many workers had gone to Beaver Falls or Glassport to work for the A. A. & T. Co.
    After reconsidering building a plant in Western Pennsylvania another location was chosen. As the head of the M.E.T. Co., Joseph R. Mann decided to build in Mill Hall. The properties that had originally been Robert Mann & Co. (the Upper Plant) and Thomas Mann & Co. (Lower Plant) were acquired in 1903. The A. A. & T. Co. had decided to abandon the sites but before they did, they removed everything they wanted to be used elsewhere. The sale was then made and a new plant was constructed on the site of the old Upper Plant. The Lower Plant property was leased to others. Business continued to boom and Robert Mann's sons were made managers of the Mill Hall operation.
    By September of 1909 Joseph and his brother, Alfred C., had reached a point where the board made a concerted effort to remove them from the company. The meeting was not conducted properly and the termination action was forestalled but the reprieve was only temporary.
  In January 1910 the plant was subjected to yet another major fire. That led to a meeting of the  reorganized board and in addition to deciding to rebuild they terminated Joseph and Alfred C. Apparently Robert Jr. who had previously been dismissed was reinstated in the company as general sales manager but that was only for a short time. He died on a company business trip in New Orleans in August of 1910. A relatively new board member named John Stephens Jr. of Birmingham, Alabama was appointed as the new head of the company.
   Sometime during 1910 Joseph relocated to West Weymouth, Massachusetts where he resided until his death in 1929. By 1920 none of the other Manns were left in the company.  
   Ironically in 1926 another devastating fire hit the Mill Hall plant. It destroyed just about everything and the company directors decided that it would consolidate all manufacturing at the Lewistown facilities. The effects of the depression and the fire dictated that it was not practical to rebuild.
   John Stephens Jr. presided over the company until 1939. During that time there was a major strike and business suffered due to a variety of pressures. Harold R. Manbeck took over the company in 1939 and business rebounded somewhat during WWII, but in 1948 Manbeck was replaced by John T. Rogers. Rogers remained in charge until 1964 when John Waddell acquired the company.
   Two years later, in 1966, the Mann Edge Tool Company bought that portion of Collins & Co. that was located in the United States. The other plants owned by Collins initially were acquired by the Stanley Tool Co. with an agreement between all parties that there would be no competition between Collins in Lewistown, and Stanley's Mexican factories. In 1968 Mann established the O. A. Norland Co. that became known for their line of camping and outdoormen's axes. Norland continued until 1986. Sometime after 1964 the company also established their own handle company that continued until 2003.
   In their later years M. E. T. Co. made a variety of forged tools. They provided speciality brands of axes and forgings for private labels such as Sears and made tools for other manufacturers such as the the F. R. Plumb Co. During their later years M. E. T. Co. was under the direction of John "Herb" Waddell Jr. In 2003 M. E. T. Co., their constituent company, Collins, and the handle mill were sold to Truper Herramientas, a major manufacturer headquartered in Mexico.    
A booklet on the “Mann Dynasty of Axe Makers”  is now available. Please refer to the Home Page for details. The booklet has more information than on this website.
NOTE: There were a number of axe makers and axe manufacturers that were named Mann. For the most part they collectively made up what can be described as the Mann Dynasty of Axe Makers. Research reveals that there were some other non-related individuals that were also named Mann who made axes but they were fundamentally blacksmiths and are not considered part of the Mann Dynasty of Axe Makers.
    This article deals primarily with the Mann Edge Tool Company while many of the other Mann axe manufacturers are addressed in a booklet entitled Mann Dynasty of Axe Makers by Thomas C. Lamond; Published 2012.

    An extensive review of company histories, catalog references, company communications and other written materials over a period of many years of research, strongly indicates that the Mann Edge Tool Company was one of the major manufacturers and supplies of axes not only in America and in various other countries. It appears that the preponderance of etched axes were made by Mann not only under their own name but they also actually made axes and hatchets for other “axe makers”. In many cases Mann actually did the etchings on axes and hatchets sold under the name of those other companies.
    As was common practice for a considerable length of time that wholesalers as well as retailers procured axes and hatchets from more than one manufacturer at a time. The purpose of such a practice was to insure continued supplies in the event of a catastrophe or manufacturing shut down while at the same time influencing the maintenance of lower wholesale prices. The was a time that purchases by wholesalers were in such large quantities that the discounts allowed to the wholesalers placed them in a position where they could sell to smaller suppliers at a lower price than the manufacturers themselves.
Information used in this article has been obtained from a variety of sources including but not limited to:
Archives of the Mann Edge Tool Co. maintained by John Waddell (Past owner, president and CEO Of the Mann Edge Tool Co.)
Discussions and Correspondence with John Waddell (Past owner, president and CEO Of the Mann Edge Tool Co.)
The labels and markings observed in the field, in catalogs and advertisements and/or that have been redrawn based on those observations. All the graphics have all been drawn by the author unless otherwise noted.
Photograph of an early axe label used by the Mann Edge Tool Co.
NOTE: Many of the central designs used on labels were also used on company envelopes in emblem form representing the focus of the design. The practice was ad still is a method of advertising.
    Images of deer and/or similar animals with antlers were a favorite subject for axe etchings. Many wholesalers, as well as some organizations, included such animals mostly the head and shoulders but sometimes the whole body. Many etchings also included “TRIED and TRUE” a common slogan used by Mann along with the Double X (XX) mark.
    Many of the etchings that were applied to axes made by the Mann Edge Tool Co. were approximately the same size. Some had borders, others did not. Many were rather complex while others were quite simple.
   The Eagle along with a bird representing a Phoenix were very popular. The Eagle was meant to represent freedom, authority and power and possibly supremacy. This was especially after the US had engaged in armed conflicts.
    The Phoenix represented rejuvenation or a re-rising. Many hardware concerns and manufacturers of goods requiring fire were destroyed by fires and the use of the Phoenix is believed to suggest that the company or item had something to do with the return from the ashes of such calamities.
    One of the earliest symbols used by the Mann Edge Tool Co. was applied to axes marketed by the E. C. Simmons Hdw. Co. Mann also used the mark on some of the axes they sold under their own name.
BLUE BRAND used by the E.C Simmons Hdw. Co and F.O.E. mark used by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles. The eagle design is the same but reversed.
The design themes used for etchings as well as labels varied considerably. Some reflected something that had a significant meaning to the company using the design, others referred to the area in which the company was located. A number also represented a patriotic aspect of something significant that had occurred recently in regard to the introduction of the etching or markings on the label.  
Some etched designs were  based on early brands used by one of the Manns in the past. The same designs ere adapted for use on labels and some were just stamped names in the form of words. In the case of the INDIAN CHIEF brand that brand was one of the earliest and continued until the company closed it’s doors. The final applications were used on fire axes.
Many brands along with the designs used to represent them were used in both etched and printed forms. In many cases the designs were practically the same while in others they were only similar. Many of the etching designs had color added to them after the head was etched,and cleaned. Those with a variety of colors were obtained by painting while some were enhanced with bronzing powder initially applied in solution form very much like a paint. Bronzing or “filler” was sometimes done by using a wiping on method with the access removed before the solution dried. Full color painted etched areas were rare because they required so much work.
    Many axes made by the Mann Edge Tool Co. were stamped. Sometimes this was in conjunction with the use of an etching  or a paper label. In some cases the name and location wee stamped on the side of the head opposite that bearing an etching of label. Those Shown are a sampling of some stampings.
The Mann Edge Tool Co. provided axes with labels for scores of individual companies both wholesale and retail and on occasion even large individual companies that provided axes to their workers. Along with those they also applied labels to axes they sold under their own name. Sometimes the overall designs were quite similar with only the distributor and/or the location modified. Not only did the themes and designs vary but so to did the information that was included. Labels often had no reference to the maker or distributor, perhaps for the purpose of avoiding any indication that there was a warrantee. Most of the labels were square or rectangular but some were round, rotated diamonds or shield shaped. There were others also. Those shown are just a sampling of what was most likely were hundreds. It should be noted that some companies provided their own design suggestions or desires. The labels were actually produced by companies that specialized in that type of commodity.
    Some labels were identified with companies that actually did not exist or existed on paper only. They are referred to as “alias” companies and providing axes with their names on the labels served a couple of purposes. One to avoid warranties. Another was to provide axes to smaller companies, frequently retailers, so they could sell axes competitively with other sellers that were located close by.
    The BUCKHORN AXE labels has been observed as shown and with variations of lettering. It also appears in the Mann label books verifying that it was made by Mann but it bore another name. The U. S. Axe Co. was actually an alias company.
There is considerably more information available related to the Mann Edge Tool Co. A significant amount related to the Mann E. T. Co. as well as the other axe making Manns has been published in a limited edition booklet entitled The Mann Dynasty of Axe Makes.
    The Mann Edge Tool Co. changed the stationery they used on a number of occasions. The letterheads shown are only three but they represent one of the earliest, one from the 1920s -30s era and one of the last used just before the company closed down and was purchased by a diversified manufacturer in Mexico.