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NEW BRITAIN, CONNECTICUT      1923-1950-2000
By Tom Lamond ©
    An analysis of the hatchets and axes that Stanley R & L Co. sold indicates that they were not what one might describe as one of their more extensive tool lines especially when compared to a plethora of other tool lines that Stanley manufactured and distributed. There were many competitors both large and small that provided hatchets and axes. Generally speaking it may be said that between the 1850s and 1940s more axes were manufactured in North America than any other type of tool. It was toward the end of that time period that Stanley became involved in providing hatchets and small axes. It was another 30 years before they offered long-handled axes.
    Comparatively speaking, eventually Stanley did offer a significant number of hatchets, combination hatchet/hammers and even some long-handled axes. It is unclear as to where Stanley actually manufactured many of those hatchets and axes but many were probably made at the Atha Works that Stanley had acquired in 1913. That certainly applied to the Wood-chopper's Mauls that Stanley offered. Some long-handled axes offered in the later part of the 1900s may well have been made by the Collins Co. after it was acquired by the Mann Edge Tool Co.
    The preceding statement is, at this point, what can be called “an educated supposition” and is primarily based on statements made by the owner of the Mann Edge Tool Co. who had purchased the Collins Co. in 1966. In personal conversations he informed this author that the Mann Edge Tool Co. had purchased the Collins Co. equipment along with the axe division and all their proprietary brand names and markings. That acquisition also involved equipment that had been located in Collinsville, Connecticut. The other four manufacturing facilities owned by Collins at the time were located outside of the United States.
    Stanley Tools was the purchaser of those facilities. Apparently part of the agreement related to export competition but at this time the particulars are not completely clear.
     That may help to explain why Stanley axes did not appear until the early 1970s. It is believed that the Collins Co. (then owned by the Mann Edge Tool Co.) was quite possibly the actual maker of the Stanley long-handed axes.
    The introduction of the FOUR SQUARE line was apparently the first time that a hatchet or small axe was offered with the Stanley name. The FOUR SQUARE line initially included a Household Hand Axe that was offered starting around 1923 or 1924. It measured 18” long and had a 2 1/4 lb head. It was sold with a cardboard sheath and had a list price of $1.75. The same axe was also included in the No.861 Stanley Tool Cabinet. Apparently at that time the axe itself did not have a catalog number and it was more of a hatchet than an axe considering it's short handle and rather light head.
     In the “NEW STANLEY TOOLS” section of the 1933 Stanley Tools Catalog No.34, there were 11 hatchets and two small axes listed. Actually the axes were more like hatchets but they were referred to as axes. One hatchet was described as a “100 PLUS” Special Carpenter's Half Hatchet although it also includes a Stanley-Atha label. Of the remaining edge tools on the two pages involved, four models are designated as FOUR SQUARE hatchets.
    The original Household Hand Axe (w/18" handle) was replaced by the Camp Axe (w/14” handle) and a Hunter's Axe (w/19” handle).
     A review of the available catalog listings indicates there were actually 11 different Four Square hatchets/axes offered between 1923 and 1939. The earliest was referred to as a Household Hand Axe, which was introduced in 1923. Actually that "axe" was more like a hatchet but common usage quite frequently referred to such tools as axes. That style and size axe ceased to be offered individually around 1933 but was included in Stanley No.831 Tool Cabinet until 1939.
   Four additional FOUR SQUARE hatchet styles were introduced in 1933 and were offered until 1942. They were the No. 101 (Four Square Shingling Hatchet, 2 sizes), No. 121 (Four Square Half Hatchet, 2 sizes), the Four Square Claw Hatchet (1 size) and the No. 131 (Four Square Broad Hatchet, 4 sizes).
    Additional catalog inclusions indicate there were at least 19 different hatchets and/or axes that included the model number starting with the suffix 59-. At times some of those hatchets were designated by other model numbers. Most hatchets and axes in the 59- series were introduced between January 1971 and February 1972 with at least one, the 59-150 Drywall Hatchet, being introduced in 1989. A number were discontinued in 1976 while almost all the rest were discontinued in 1998. Interestingly three "new" hatchets were introduced in 2005. They are referred to as "Fat Max Antivibe" hatchets and can be classified as tradesmen's tools.
    Stanley also offered eight other hatchet styles between 1932 and at least 1958. Some had the same number as others offered over a period of time while some were also called by an alternative or different names. Some of those hatchets were referred to as Stanley Atha Hatchets including the "100 PLUS" Carpenter's Special Half Hatchet.
  Three hatchet patterns were completely discontinued in 1942, a situation that occurred in a number of product lines that can be attributed to cutbacks resulting from war production and material shortages.  
    Later Stanley Tools offered hatchets bearing other names, sometimes with numbers similar to earlier offerings. The intention may have been to be more competitive with other manufacturers that used similar pattern names. The overall result is a broad assortment of hatchets with a somewhat confusing array of numbers and names.
   Generally speaking most of the Stanley hatchets were supplied with wood handles but in the late 1950s the STEELMASTER hammer was introduced. Those hammers had tubular steel handles covered with neoprene rubber grips. Shortly thereafter the STEELMASTER Camp Axe (SH 1 1/4) and the Half Hatchet (SH 1 1/2) were introduced. They also had tubular steel handles and neoprene grips.
   In 2005 Stanley introduced what they call  "Fat Max Anti-vibe" Hatchets. They are actually tradesmen's hatchets, which include hammer polls. Combine the possibilities with the ongoing changes in designs and markings that included stampings as well as labels and decals and it soon becomes obvious that the challenge of generating a "complete" list of tools that fall into the category referred to as hatchets is, at least for now, a continuing exercise.
   At this point the exact number of hatchet and hatchet-sized hand axes that Stanley offered is not exactly known. Based on the variety of weights and model numbers known between 1923 and 2009 the number is estimated to be approximately 50.
   The specific years during which Stanley provided specialty hatchets for the Bell System has yet to be determined. It is believed that these hatchets were available from sometime in the 1940s until at least sometime in the 1960s. At this point no catalog reference is known extant but it is surmised they may have been provided through special orders. Also unresolved is whether Stanley provided such hatchets to other utility companies or other concerns in addition to the Bell System. Numerous examples have been observed that include a square opening cut through the hatchet blade. Such hatchets are referred to as hatchet-wrenches because the square opening accommodated the square bolt heads used to secure different apparatus to utility poles.
  The hatchet-wrench was not the only axe that Stanley provided to the Bell System. Long handle single-bit axes have also been observed with both the Stanley marking and the words Bell System in what appear to be factory applied markings.
     In addition to hatchets and house axes, Stanley also offered a limited variety of long-handled axes. The introduction of long-
handled axes bearing the STANLEY name was quite late in the company's history when compared to other lines of tools, including hatchets and trade men's hatchet/hammer combinations. The maximum number of long-handled axes that were included in this group appear to have been offered between 1971 and 1976. After that some offerings were deleted from company catalogs.  
   It should be noted that the original long-handled axe numbering system appears to have left room for additions but instead of expanding the line it was reduced. By the late 1970s the line included only five offerings. The Jersey, Cruiser and Western patterns were deleted in January of 1976. By 1989 Stanley was offering one camp axe (which was actually a hatchet) and three long-handled axes. No long-handled axes were offered after June 1998.
Decals such as these were applied to some heads, some handles and in some cases, both.
     Conjecture suggests that Stanley may have introduced the long-handled axe line because they had obtained the capability to actually manufacture that type of axe themselves. When the line was introduced into the US the era of axes was in decline. Many of the well-known axe manufacturers had combined with other manufacturers or just ceased to do business. The demand for long-handled axes had diminished so severely that a few of the early axe manufacturers switched to manufacturing other forged tools. Some of those companies were sold and their assets, especially the patents and proprietary brand names, were acquired by companies that chose to continue the use of some brands but they were manufactured overseas.
   It is not clear at this time if Stanley continued to market axes bearing their name in other countries, especially countries in Central and South America. Perhaps in time that question will also be resolved.
Representation of a diagram as it appeared in
the 1971-2 Stanley Tools Cat. No. 34.
   A stamped marking that appears on a number of Stanley axes includes the commonly recognized notched rectangle with the name STANLEY on the inside. To either side of the notched rectangle the stamping included the capital letter "M". To date this mark raises the question as to what the letters "M" refer to before and after the notch. At this point, suggestions are that the letters may mean Mexican Made of perhaps Mann Made.
   In 1966 the Mann Edge Tool Co. purchased the Collins Co. along with all the manufacturing equipment located in Collinsville, Conn. At that same time STANLEY TOOLS, a division of the STANLEY TOOL WORKS, purchased the three Collins manufacturing facilities located in Central and South America. It is believed that part of the overall agreement was that the Mann E. T. Co. would not market axes bearing the name COLLINS CO. south of the US / Mexican border.
   That suggests the possibility that the Mann Edge Tool Co. entered into an agreement where they would manufacture long-handled axes for Stanley and that the axes would bear the name Stanley along with the two capitol "M" letters. Perhaps they stood for MANN MADE. The answers to these questions are currently being explored.
   Observations and catalog references indicate that most "M STANLEY M" axes that bore the No. 53-313 handle mark were made in the Michigan pattern, as they appeared and were so noted in Stanley catalogs. Recently another example has been observed that also includes the "M STANLEY M" stamping and the No. 53-313 3 1/2 LB on the handle but it is a Cedar Pattern axe not a Michigan pattern axe. Such a pattern has not been seen or reported as appearing in any Stanley catalogs.
    Adding to the confusion is the observance of a Stanley label on a machete along with the wording "Made By Stanley Tools in Columbia, S. A." This observance adds validity to the fact that Stanley was manufacturing in facilities in South America. At this point, there is no evidence to show that Stanley manufactured axes or other edge tools in Central America but a recent observation of a label on a machete includes a label indication that the machete was made by Stanley in Columbia, S. A.  The time frame for the machete is believed to be the last quarter of the twentieth century.
   When Stanley acquired the Atha Co. in 1913 one of the groups of tools that Atha had been manufacturing included Wood Chopper's Mauls, also referred to as "splitting mauls". Those tools included two styles of splitting mauls; one called a "Straight Splitting Maul” and the other was called the "Oregon Pattern". Over a period of years both patterns were offered in four different weights ranging from 6 pounds to 12 pounds. By 1991 only two weights were offered in the Oregon Pattern, . Although many people may not consider wood splitting mauls as true axes, such tools do fall into a category involving splitting axes and they were depicted together with regular axes in some catalogs. Stanley also carried on the wood splitting wedges that Atha had been making earlier. The wedges were made from a softer metal than the mauls thus reducing the tendency of the maul polls from chipping.
    Splitting mauls are made to accommodate sledge hammer handles so they do not usually have an eye that is smaller along one end than the other. The handles are secured into the heads with a wedge very much like a hammer head is secured to a handle.
Stanley Tools Cat. No.34; 24 volumes between 1922 and 1983.
Stanley Tools For Industry, Cat. No.139; 1939
Stanley Tools For Industry, Cat. No.50; 1940
Stanley Full Line Cat.; 1989
Representations of markings used on some long-
handled Stanley axe heads. There were two similar marks with the difference being in the style of the letter "M". It has been determined that the meaning of the letters M and M is either MADE in MEXICO or MEXICAN MADE.
Facsimile of a paper label indicating STANLEY made edge tools in South America, probably in the
1980s -1990s.
  Facsimile of the first Four Square hatchet advertisement that was offered individually from 1924 thru 1932 and continued as part of  the No. 861 Four Square Tool Cabinet until 1939. The appearance in the 1924 catalog strongly suggests that production and possibly distribution started in 1923.
Representation of splitting mauls similar to how they appeared in the 1933 Stanley Tools Cat. No. 34.  
Facsimile (partial) of the listing for axes as it appeared in the 1971-2 Stanley Tool Catalog No. 34.
The EDP No. and the FLC No. have been excluded
Many long-handled Stanley axes observed that still included their original handles had the handles identified with the markings printed in black indicating the model number and the weight.
The markings were stamped on opposite sides of the hatchet-wrench head.
Copy of pages from the "New Tools" section of the 1933 Stanley Tools Catalog No.34.
Markings and labels used on various other STANLEY hatchets and hand axes. Some were applied to the handles.
Facsimile of label used on some STANLEY hatchet boxes.
Representations of marks used on
Four Square hatchets, Atha Hatchets and Stanley long handled axes.
Decals and paper labels were applied to some handles.
This marking was sometimes applied with red squares painted on a yellow background.
Sometimes these markings were applied individually, sometimes together.
Markings used on opposite sides of some hatchets and hand axes.
Various labels like those above were used on both long and short handled axes but not on hammer-hatchets.
Decals were used on a number of striking tool handles made in the ATHA plant after the plant was purchased by Stanley.
Paper labels bearing the ATHA logo were applied to heads and handles after Stanley purchased the plant.
Various labels like those above were used on both long and short handled axes but not on hammer- hatchets.
Facsimile of advertisement for Stanley Chopper’s Maul.
Special Thanks and Appreciation to:
Jacob, Walter (Personal Communications)
Nilsson, Norm (Personal Communications)
Smith, Roger K. (Personal Communications)