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Grand Rapids Hand Screw Co.

Company History

The early history is confused, with conflicting dates, and slightly different descriptions of events. "Organized in 1880 as a partnership of Wheeler and DeLisle." (PM History) "The company was organized in 1887 by J.J. Wheeler, A.A. DeLisle, Fred Denny, and W.B. Bennett, and commenced business with $5, 000 capital ... It was located at the corner of Grandville Avenue and the P[ere] M[arquette] Railroad, and employed six men." (Goss' History of Grand Rapids) "On Jan 7th, 1889, [it] was incorporated ... and employed about 12 men." (PM History) " ... in 1889, it moved to the corner of Alabama and First Streets ..." (Goss) "In 1890 was moved to the Gessler and Fritz Building at First and Alabama Streets, occupying a portion of the second floor. (PM History) " ... in 1891, it was located at the corner of Pearl and South Front Streets, and afterwards at 55 and 57 South Front Street ..." (Goss) "In 1893, ... occupied the buildings at 53-55 South Front Street, and employed about 40 men." (PM History) " ... in 1900, it located at the corner of South Ionia and Bartlett Streets ... [in 1901 ? it ] employs one hundred men. Its annual output is about $225,000." (Goss) "July 1900, new building double size, now 60 x 120 ft, 3 stories." (PM Manufacturers) From 1893 to 1900, also operated GR Fixture Co. making show cases. In 1907, GR Fixture Company became the Wilmarth Showcase Co. (PM Manufacturers) In 1905, bought Benedict Furniture Clamp Co. (PM Manufacturers)

"In December 1909, The John Widdicomb Co. purchased that portion of the business known as the Grand Rapids Hand Screw Co. and moved it to what is known as the John Widdicomb Co. - Kent Plant at North Front and Webster Streets, giving it a department of its own ..." (PM History) "After 1916, [name became] Grand Rapids School Equipment Co." Date of closing given as 1930-35. (PM Manufacturers) (The three sources provide other details of officers, and of other products.)


The Public Museum of Grand Rapids has a collection of 29 catalogs, covering the period 1891 to 1915.

"[In] 1891, had a wide market to every section of country (Maine to California as well as Ohio and Indiana)." (PM Manufacturers) The catalog of 1891 lists their products under the headings: Hand Screws, Case and Glue Clamps, Cabinet Makers' and Carvers' Benches, Factory Trucks, and Saw Tables. An Ad in the Michigan Artisan, May 1891, adds Bench Screws, and Cabinet Makers' Clamps to the list.

Catalogs Offered in 1914 included:

Catalogs Offered in 1914
#1014 Manual Training Equipment
#1114 Domestic Science Equipment
#1214 Laboratory Equipment
#1421 Factory Furnishings
#514 Clearview Show Cases
#1113 Bakorost Fireless Cook Stoves

By 1914, there were separate catalogs for different lines. #1421 "illustrates and describes our line of factory furnishings for all wood working purposes, such as Case Clamps, Cabinetmakers' Clamps, Hand Screws, Benches, Factory Trucks, and accessories." They carried the lines of other makers, in order to provide their customers with one stop shopping. For example, 6 models of the Jorgensen Patented Clamp are illustrated. Other clamps illustrated in catalog 1421 of 1914 include steel spindle hand screws, horse clamps (the merger of a 90 inch long bar clamp and a saw horse), steel bar clamps in 18 sizes, vise clamps in 10 sizes, and cabinetmakers' glue and case clamps in 5 sizes each. (The difference is small but vital: the glue clamp spindle ends in a steel spud, which penetrates the surface of the work, the case clamp spindle ends in an iron button faced with leather, which does not mar the surface of the work.)

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