The following interview recently took place in
London between the editor of the Hardwareman and Charles
Churchill, the pioneer importer of American machinery and tools
"In what year did you start your business here of importing
American tools and machinery?" asked the Hardwareman
representative, sailing on another tack.
"Then you have no less than thirty years'
experience of this trade?" "Exactly."
"And I presume that the changes you have
witnessed in the trade since you first undertook to present
American tools to the English market have been something
startling that is, contrasting then and now?"
"Oh, yes. I do not think I can more graphically
illustrate it than by showing you my first catalogue issued when
I was at Laurence Poultney Lane, and our latest published
Now, as the first catalogue was a small
four-page list, and the last catalogue consisted of two
substantial and handsomely printed and bound books which the
firm have now to issue to show the goods they handle, the
Hardwareman man was fain to confess that the change between "now
and then" was startling enough. Mr. Churchill was then good
enough to show him the separate catalogues issued in yearly
succession by the firm. They were Interesting not only as an
indication and proof of the continuous progress and development
of the business, but as a record of the introduction of various
well-known American specialties to the English trade."
"I notice, Mr. Churchill," the Hardwareman man went on, "that
the catalogues issued during the past five or six years have
dropped hardware novelties and specialties for tools and
"That is so," was the answer. "Before all, we
are in business to sell machinery and tools, and we found that
to properly develop our business it was necessary to restrict
ourselves to these lines and let the specialties go; hence the
gradual disappearance of these miscellaneous hardware lines from
"I suppose you have in stock, at the present
time, tools that you were handling when you first started,
thirty years ago?"
"Yes, that is true with regard to two lines -
the Morse twist drills and the Cushman chucks."
"And the prejudice that you had to meet in those
early days was something appalling?"
"It was. It was impossible to convince many
people in those days that a twist drill was any good at all. Now
all that is altered, and the Morse twist drills have a name that
is distinctly enviable."
"What, in a word, is 'the secret of the success
of American tools in this country?"
"Well, I think it's summed up in 'superior
quality at the same price.'"
"Let us have a specific example—the Disston's
"Yes. I have no objection to the example."
"No. The reputation of Disston's saws is, I
know, worldwide and unassailable."
"And with every reason, I believe. In the matter
of quality of steel, temper, and finish, a Disston saw is
unequalled. A Disston saw will stand tests that no
self-respecting English manufacturer would put a saw of his to.
The blade of a real Disston saw, for instance, can be bent round
until its end is thrust into the crutch of the handle, and when
released will spring back into place instantly."
"Can you tell me something of the manufacture of
Disston's saws? You have visited the Keystone Works at
Philadelphia on many occasions?"
"Did you know Mr. Henry Disston, the founder of
"No, I cannot recall that I ever met him. It is
curious, though, that Henry Disston, the founder of the American
saw trade, was an Englishman. He went to Philadelphia and
commenced manufacturing of saws. As the business grew, the works
Disston set himself to make saws specially suited
to the needs of the country. He was always ready to accept
suggestions from practical users of saws as to improvements. All
such hints were duly tested, and whenever they were found good
they were adopted. That policy was followed by his sons, and the
foundation of the success of Henry Disston & Sons has
undoubtedly been their eagerness to improve and their
determination to exactly fit the requirements of saw users."
"Can you tell me some facts about the Keystone
Works? They are the largest saw works in the world?"
"Yes. Two years ago they were turning out nearly
two million saws a year, and at the present time they have
doubtless passed that total. At that time the ground enclosed
for the works was no less than thirty-eight acres, and two
thousand hands were employed. These are some facts as then
Lumber consumed for saw handles, 1,325,000
feet yearly; lumber consumed for shipping goods, 900,000 feet
yearly; grindstones consumed, 950 tons yearly; steel consumed in
file factory, 824 tons yearly; sheet steel produced, 4,500 tons
yearly; bar steel produced, 7,000 tons yearly; hand saws
manufactured, 2,500 dozen weekly; circular saws manufactured,
50,000 yearly: cross-cut, mill, Mulay, and drag saws, 200,000
yearly; hack and butcher saws, 6,000 dozen yearly; compass,
key-hole, and web saws, 43,000 dozen yearly."