Signode Steel Strapping Co., est. 1913

Museum Artifact: Signode No. 1 Rawhide Mallet, c. 1940s

Made By: Signode Steel Strapping Co., 2618 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL

Despite its century-long history and former Fortune 500 status, Signode has never quite become a household name—nor has the firm ever concerned itself much with the household. The company’s natural ecosystem, instead, has always been the warehouse; the docks; the receiving departments—any industrial landscape where they could wrap themselves around the cargo.

F.W. Planert & Sons, est. 1898

Museum Artifact: Planert Ice Skate Sharpening Jig, 1910s

Made By: F.W. Planert & Sons, Inc., 939 N. Robey Street (aka N Damen Ave.), Chicago, IL

Patented in 1910, this elegantly rustalgic ice skate clamping device, or “jig,” was used to keep a skate stabilized while its blade was hand sharpened—cuz that’s what the kiddos had to do back in the day. The manufacturer,

Chicago Screw Company, est. 1872

Museum Artifact: Computer for Heat-Treated Hexagon Head Cap Screws, 1957

Made for: The Chicago Screw Company, div. of Standard Screw Co., Bellwood, IL

Research is underway on this one and a full write-up will be coming soon.

Armstrong Brothers Tool Company, est. 1890

Museum Artifact: 8″ Steel Pipe Monkey Wrench, c. 1920s

Made By: Armstrong Bros. Tool Co., 317-357 N. Francisco Ave., Chicago, IL

Research is underway on this one and a full write-up will be coming soon.

Thor Power Tool Co. & Speedway MFG Co., est. 1886

Museum Artifact: Thor Speed Drill, type 201, c. 1956

Made By: Speedway Manufacturing Co. (division of Thor Power Tool Co.), 1834-1875 S. 52nd Ave. (Laramie Ave.)., Cicero, IL

Research is underway on this one and a full write-up will be coming soon.

Mall Tool Company, est. 1921

Museum Artifact: Mall Electric Drill model no. 380, 1940s

Made By: Mall Tool Company, 7740 S. South Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL

Research is underway on this one and a full write-up will be coming soon.

Twinplex Manufacturing Co., est. 1910

Museum Artifact: Twinplex Stropper / Razor Blade Sharpener, c. 1940s

Made By: Twinplex Manufacturing Company, 1800 W. Roscoe St., Chicago, IL

Research is underway on this one and a full write-up will be coming soon.

Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett & Co., est. 1855

Museum Artifact: OVB No. 2 Kerosene Lantern, c. 1920s

Made By: Hibbard Spencer Bartlett & Co., 211 E. North Water Street

“Hardware seems to those who sell it to be more human than any other kind of business.” That’s how journalist Fred C. Kelly sized up the stock and trade of Hibbard, Spencer & Bartlett in 1930, on the occasion of the wholesale company’s 75th anniversary.

Vaughan Novelty MFG Co., est. 1910

Museum Artifact: Fox Deluxe Beer Bottle Openers, 1940s

Made By: Vaughan Novelty MFG Co., 3211 W. Carroll Ave., Chicago, IL

The beer bottle and the bottle opener—a vital symbiotic relationship that’s been mildly inconveniencing mankind for generations. No one ever knows exactly where their bottle opener is at any given moment, nor where it came from in the first place. It used to be on your keychain,

A.L. Hansen MFG Company, est. 1920

Museum Artifact: Hansen Tacker / Stapler, c. 1940s

Made by: A. L. Hansen MFG Co., 5037 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL

The vintage Hansen Tacker pictured above looks and functions much like the manual staple guns of today—it’s spring-loaded, uses tough wire staples (also made by Hansen), and has an upturned squeeze-trigger handle for one-handed efficiency. It was used for the same sorts of handyman tasks,

Wm. E. Pratt MFG Co., est. 1893

Museum Artifact: “Little Giant” Ratcheting Screw Jack, c. 1917

Made By: William E. Pratt Manufacturing Co., 35 W. Lake St., & 190 N. State St., Chicago, IL , Foundry in Joliet, IL

On the great Venn diagram of Chicago industry, at the sliver-sized intersection of Model T Fords, decoy ducks, and the atomic bomb, you can find the unique domain of the Wm.

National Washboard Company, est. 1903

Museum Artifact: The Universal No. 134 Washboard, c. 1920s

Made By: National Washboard Co., 72 W. Adams Street, Chicago, IL

Long before “upcycling” and “repurposing” became part of the antiquing lexicon, it was the washboard that practically invented re-invention—evolving from a contrivance of laborious laundering practices into a peppy and versatile musical instrument.

The artifact in our own museum collection,

Chicago Specialty MFG Co.

Museum Artifact: 3-in-1 Closet Spud Wrench, c. 1960s

Made By: Chicago Specialty MFG Co., 2954 W. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, IL

Research is underway on this one and a full write-up will be coming soon.

S-K Hand Tools / Sherman-Klove Company, est. 1918

Museum Artifact: S-K Tools Socket Set, c. 1940s

Made By: S-K Hand Tools / Sherman-Klove Company, 3535 W. 47th St., Chicago, IL

Research is underway on this one and a full write-up will be coming soon.

American Automatic Devices Co., est. 1915

Museum Artifact: Ritz Stick Foot Measure, c. 1920s

Made by: American Automatic Devices Co. / King Bee MFG Co, 500-530 S. Throop St., Chicago, IL

When a stick of any kind becomes culturally relevant enough to have its own name, we tend to ascribe it a simple, self-descriptive one: match stick, hockey stick, joy stick. A rare exception is the Ritz Stick,

Turner Brass Works, est. 1871

Museum Artifact: Turner-White “Hot Blast” Blow Torch, c. 1905

Made By: Turner Brass Works, N. Franklin St & Michigan Street (now 225 W. Hubbard St.), Chicago, IL

“A pint torch for general light work, constructed with our improved automatic brass pump in the tank. The burner is of heavy bronze, strong and durable. For electricians, painters, etc., we guarantee it to give perfect satisfaction.”—description of the White No.

E.H. Sargent & Co., est. 1852

Museum Artifact: Sargent Metal Clamp, c. 1910s

Made By: E.H. Sargent and Company, 165 E. Superior St., Chicago, IL

Research is underway on this one and a full write-up will be coming soon.

Ingento No. 7 Paper Cutter by Burke & James Inc., c. 1920s

Burke & James, Inc., 240-258 E. Ontario St., Chicago, IL

The Ingento No. 7 was Burke & James’ custom-made guillotine / trimming board for 5×7″ photographic prints. The “Ingento” brand, like the “Rexo” and others, was used liberally across a lot of the Burke & James product lines, including some of the actual cameras themselves. As the advertisement below indicates, there were at least seven other Ingento paper cutters by 1919,