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City of Oroville
Thank You for your
Danny Ray Thomas
First of all let me provide you with a brief history of my association with tools so as to establish at least some credibility to my views on this subject.
My wife, Laila and I started in the Tool business on November 19, 1952 as a Snap-On Tools Dealer in Vallejo, CA and later as a Snap-On Field Supervisor and Salt Lake City Branch Manager. In 1961 we joined Cornwell Quality Tools as Western Division Sales Manager and stayed with them until early1966. We returned to Northern California and established our home in Oroville in 1973.   Bud worked as Field Supervisor for C.T.S. Company for a short time until promoted to Sales Manager over the MAC Dealer Division of CTS.   In 1976, I resigned that position and became an independant dealer for MAC Tool in that area.   In 1978 we sold the business and retired in January of 1979. Over this span of about 25 years we were privileged to work with some wonderful people associated with the tool business and we are blessed with many lasting friendships from those years. I must admit however that after over 20 years of retirement, I find great comfort and joy in this occupation.
Over almost 50 years, we have learned a bit and developed some necessary interpretations on the history of tools, which I will attempt to outline hoping that it will be of some value to the reader. I will not attempt to cover every historical aspect of Tool History. First of all, I do not have the expertise to do so and such and attempt would probably be quite lengthy and maybe a bit boring, so I will cover just a few major events that occurred through several thousand years.
We know that the first tool used by Man was a sharp stone. When early man found he could dig, crush, kill and skin an animal with this stone, he had in fact used the first tool. As time progressed, man became innovative and tied the rock to a stick, thus developing his first tool.
History tells us that iron was discovered and formed during the middle ages, but it was used primarily at that time for swords, and other instruments of war. We also learned that the Egyptians and Romans, during their rein as World Powers, started making iron tools such as the Tong, Rasp and Shear.
The first real change in tools (wrenches), as we know them today, came in the late 1700 with the development of the Steam Engine. This brought about the Industrial Revolution with it's requirement for tools to make and service these machines.
The development of the railroads seems to have brought about the first real market for Wrenches. The Monkey Wrench being the dominant tool. It's interesting to note that from 1830 to 1850 nearly all wrenches that were patented were Monkey Wrenches.
During the 1800's farm implements were also coming on the scene, which created another market for tools.
From my observations the greatest single event to effect the tools business was a meeting that had nothing to do with tools, occurring in 1913. The Automobile Manufactures of America organized and met to discuss the new automobile and to determine what was needed to increase the market for their use. This led to an all surfaced road from New York to San Francisco and ultimately to our national highway system.
As we know, automobile sales picked up dramatically, leading to a massive market for tools. Even before this time, before cars could even be assembled, we had to have Mines, Mills, Factories, Forge & Die shops and so on, all requiring tools. Now with the car sold, the happy new owner leaves New York heading for San Francisco. He doesn't get far until he has a flat tire (Tire Shops). Soon it's Fuel (Fueling Stations). Now its Lunch time (roadside cafe) The Radiator springs a leak (Radiator Shop). Night time, they need a place to stay (Tourist Court). Soon the Engine needs work (Auto Repair Shops). --- All of these businesses being developed required tools, which required the tool manufacture to not only meet the demand, but make improvements in his product to meet the resultant competition.
By the early 1900's, the Socket Wrench and Ratchet were being developed along with other experimental innovations. The next most significant development in tools came in the late 1920's to early 1930's. The improved detachable socket, which revolutionized the socket business and remains today as a major part of all mechanics tool boxes. In 1933 the combination Wrench was developed. Box on one end and open on the other, this wrench is still the industry standard.
From the 1930's on, there were great improvement in the quality of steel and the heat treating process, enabling manufacturers to produce tools that were stronger, lighter, and thinner. Thus permitting the mechanic to work in even tighter quarters. We used to joke that in the 30's and 40's you could put a cow inside the engine compartment, along side the old in-line 4 or 6 cylinder engine. Today a mouse would have a hard time finding room for a nest. The mechanic truly needed the modern tool to work on modern automobiles.
At this point in time we have gone well past the threshold of the marriage between the mechanical and electronic industries and many of us in my generation stand in complete awe of those little boxes with unbelievable capabilities, that surround us. One thing is certain however, despite changes in form and substance there will always be a need for a tool to do the job.
As stated earlier, there were many things happening in our industrial world that created a need for tools, and tool manufacturers have done a remarkable job in producing high quality tools to fill those needs. In closing, let me say that in my opinion, tools are the most important industry in the world, as we know it. An extremely important part of our development from early man using the stone, has been our ability to make and use tools. If all the tools were to disappear from the earth tonight and we could make no more, I believe we would revert back to the stone age in considerably less time than anyone would imagine.