A trade journal of some years ago
"The cutting of metal, previous to
the birth of the Star saw largely fell to the lot of
the blacksmith. His wasteful methods resulted in a
loss of metal during the manufacture of one saw that
would more than outweigh the finished product.
the time of the birth of the Star Saw, metal sawing
was confined to saws with unset teeth and of a
degree of hardness that permitted re-sharpening by
filing the teeth. (Such a saw was known as the Stubb's saw, which tapered from a thick tooth edge
to a thin back, depending on the taper for its
clearance.) The cost of re-sharpening was
twenty-five cents. After cutting one piece of one
inch iron re-sharpening was necessary." One
re-sharpening reportedly wore out a cast steel file.
The journal quotes George N. Clemson
"In 1884 we built a sawing machine
for testing hack saws, in which we discovered that
the blades we produced would cut twelve pieces of
one-inch iron before re-sharpening was necessary. During the year 1886 we experimented with fifty-two
kinds of hack saws.
These tests involved changing
dimensions, shapes of teeth, styles of set, and
variable heat treatments. When we got through with
our experiments we found we had produced a blade
that would cut 387 pieces of one-inch by one-inch
iron. And today (this was years before his death)
Star Saws are even much more efficient. We sell the
public for five cents what formerly cost them about
While he was making such progress
with hack saws, his importance to Wheeler, Madden &
Clemson also was increasing.
In 1885 Amelia Wright Clemson died
at her Beattie avenue home. Surviving besides her
husband and three sons were two daughters, Maria A.,
wife of William W. Taylor of Middletown, and Lillian
L., wife of Jesse W. Bird of Boston, and also three
sisters and a brother.
In the same year, Edward M. Madden
died. "After the death of the Hon. E. M. Madden,"
the Argus noted in 1890, "his interest in the
company was purchased by Mr. (William) Clemson, who
in 1886 transferred it to his sons." That transfer
was a step in William Clemson's retirement from
active operation of the saw kingdom he had founded.
On February 3, 1886, George N. Clemson and Elizabeth
Dow, daughter of Isaiah C. and Almira Boucheau Dow,
of Corning, N. Y., were married at nearby Elmira.
The Thompson & Breed directory of
Middletown for 1888 lists: "Wheeler, Madden &
Clemson Mfg. Co., saws, files and sheet steel. George N. Clemson, Pres., C. I. Humphrey, Treas., R.
W. Clemson, Secy., Railroad Ave., Cottage and
George N. is listed separately as
the president and also as "manufacturer - butcher,
bracket, and hack saws, Ogden corner of School." His
home address is given as 94 East Main Street. The
shop at Ogden and School streets was just a few
steps from the back of the Beattie avenue house. Richard W. is listed as the secretary of Wheeler,
Madden & Clemson and as living at 94 East Main
William Clemson is listed merely as
the householder at 11 Beattie Avenue. Across the
street from him at No. 12, lived Thomas H. Desmond,
who was and had been, for years, the superintendent
of Wheeler, Madden & Clemson's rolling mill, the
Monhagen Steel Works at Montgomery Street and
Railroad Avenue. He was the father of Thomas C.
Desmond, who has been the State Senator from this
district for the last twenty five years.
The 1889 directory listings are
about the same. The address of the hack saw business
is still given as Ogden Street, corner of School
William Clemson died January 12,
1890. The directory for 1890 omits his name and
reveals some of the other important happenings in
the family and the industry. The name "Clemson
Bros." appears for the first time, as manufacturers
of butcher, bracket, and hack saws at a new address,
Cottage Street and Railroad Avenue.
The Wheeler, Madden & Clemson
Company listing names George N. Clemson as President
and Richard W. Clemson as Secretary and Treasurer. The former treasurer, Charles I. Humphrey, is listed
only as a householder at 7 Orchard Street.
had changed his home address to 147 East Main
Street, according to the directory, which did not
show, of course, that on June 30, 1890, a son,
Richard Dow Clemson, was born to him and Mrs.
Clemson. In fact, the directories of those days did
not show whether a man had a wife unless he died and
left one. Then she could get her name into the book
and be designated as the widow of so-and-so, or just
simply as a widow.
The name Wheeler, Madden & Clemson
Manufacturing Company vanishes from the Breed
Publishing Company's directories of Middletown for
In them appears a new advertisement:
"National Saw Company, George N. Clemson, Pres., R.
W. Clemson, Secy., manufacturers of saws, files and
sheet metal. Main office 96 Reade St., New York
city. Factory, Middletown, N. Y." Clemson Bros.
appears, of course, as doing business at Cottage
Street and Railroad Avenue. An advertisement of the
First National Bank lists George N. Clemson as one
of its directors.
In the 1892 directory the only
notable new items for this history are that George
N. Clemson is a vice-president of the newly
organized Orange County Trust & Safe Deposit
Company, and that he has changed his home address to
75 Highland Ave. But more of the story of what has
been occurring appears in the 1893 directory which
is prefaced by a brief, interesting history of