Thursday, February 14, 2013

Eagle Square Manufacturing Co. - a history

 The University of Vermont holds in its collection the records for the Eagle Square Company of Shaftsbury, VT.  It is now digitized and available to researchers.

Its first paragraph clearly states that Silas Hawes was not the inventor of carpenter squares. Good. We need to lay that myth to rest.

When I became curious about what tools were used for the layout of buildings in the British Colonies and the early United States, information about them seemed non-existent.  It was hard even to find what library might be a place for me to go to research, if I had been free to go traveling for a week. I found a few cabinet maker's tool boxes: the Bennington Museum owns one. But it was not easy to find lists of  tools a master carpenter would have owned. It still isn't.

Information about the history of carpenter squares was part of what I wanted to know about. I still do. They were widely manufactured here, and  40 early squares are stored in the vaults of the Bennington Museum. But there is no repository of information about their use or popularity, just local stories like the one that says Hawes invented the squares.

So I am posting what resources I find here.

7/6/17: update. I have been reading Joseph Moxon's 1683 book which includes descriptions of tools and how to use them, carpenter squares among them. For more information read:


Jay Cougar White Cloud said...

Hi Jane,

Are you just looking for the history of American framing squares, or of the history in general? Furniture scale or architectural size squares?



Jane said...

American framing squares, Jay.
I'm just trying to put our local history - all those factories making squares as well as the Eagle Square Co. - into context.
I want those 150 year old+ squares in the Bennington Museum to be more than dust collectors. So far,I have found no knowledgeable local historian or carpenter.
On the other hand, understanding about other kinds of squares probably is part of it.
Your discussion with Will on his blog is excellent.

Anonymous said...

So I was working in a lake house built in 1830. And I discovered a carpentars metal square.It has so much information on it.Dont know what to do with it. It states"The Eagle Square Company"

Jane said...

What a great find! Thanks for posting here.
What do you want do with it?

The scales running down the center of your square are used to transfer dimensions from a drawing at one scale to the work - a beam length, a mortise, a window sash, etc. at full scale. I could show you how this is done quite quickly - writing about it not so easy! The scales were also used to transfer a dimension directly from one part to another - for example making sure dovetails are spaced accurately.

There is much I do not know. I probably need a hands on demonstration to really understand how to use the old squares. I have not yet come across a good source.

I was about to suggest talking to a museum - Sturbridge? Williamsburg? But I do not know if they are actually knowledgeable about tools created at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Jane said...

If you came to Bennington, Vermont, you could make an appointment with the Bennington Museum to compare your square to the ones they own.

What is a 'lake house'?

premierpicker said...

Found a 2 part welded framing square stamped 1814 on the back .the double digit numbers are backwards for instance 17 inches is written 71 inches. the indicator lines are 1/4 inch apart but not marked.awesome primitive carpenters square wish they had pictures of the squares in Bennington online to compare to .

Jane said...

Sounds like a great find! It would be so great to see it!

I tried to photograph the squares in the Bennington Museum archives. The light was never right for an image that was legible. A skilled professional photographer with a studio would probably needed to make prints that could be read on-line.

If you can send me a good image I will go into the archives (I would need to make an appointment with the archivist.) and see what I can find.
You may have a scale made by someone else who also manufactured carpenter squares. They are such a useful tool I cannot believe N. Bennington and Shaftsbury, Vermont, were the only place in the States where they were made.

Kenneth B. Adams said...

I have a 24" X 14" steel square that is marked in the corner on one side "HAWES $4.00" and on the opposite side it is stamped "1829". It has machine engraved graduations but the numerals are hand-stamped. The square is thick at the corner but both blades taper down towards the ends and are quite thin. Do you have any information on the mfg. date of this square? Thanks Ken Adams

Jane said...

Thanks for posting.

In the 3+ years since I wrote the first post, I have not found anyone who knows more.
Your square seems to fit the general criteria for one made in Shaftsbury, VT. The engravings and tapers you mention are right for the early squares made here.

You could come the Bennington Museum, ask to compare your shape and scale with the ones here. Unfortunately the man who collected them for the Museum died about 10 years ago in a fire that destroyed his records. Sad and tragic in many ways.

I plan to go to the Early American Industries Association (EAIA. org) annual meeting this spring. Maybe some one will be there with knowledge about squares!