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The Chronicle Volume 56, No. 4
he North Brothers Manufacturing Company
commenced business in 1880 as a general
brass and iron foundry, but by the early 1890s,
the company began to diversify its products. With the
acquisition of American Machine Company of Phila-
delphia in 1892 and Shepard Hardware Company of
Buffalo in 1893, the North Brothers' product line con-
sisted of household and kitchen implements, such as
ice cream freezers, ice shaves and chippers, fluting ma-
chines, and meat cutters.
In 1897 the company purchased the Forest City
Screwdriver and Drill Company of Portland, Maine,
including patent rights, machinery, fixtures, tools, and
stock. In conjunction with this sale was an agreement
that Zachry T. Furbish, the superintendent, inventor,
and person in charge of "research and development"
for Forest City, would enter into employment with
North Brothers. North Brothers would not only re-
ceive rights to existing patents, but would also receive
rights to any further inventions or improvements by
Furbish. This legal agreement was finalized about two
months after the sale of the company.
The products which were being manufactured by
the Forest City Screwdriver and Drill Company at the
Zachry T. Furbish and
The Forest City Screwdriver Co.
The Roots of "Yankee" Screwdrivers
by Clifford D. Fales
Figure 1. Receipt from W. H. Stevens to
North Brothers Manufacturing Com-
pany for $400, the final payment of the
total $9,000 for the purchase of the For-
est City Screwdriver and Drill Company.
Note that Zachry T. Furbish is desig-
nated as superintendent of the company.
Although listed on the letterhead as
"Manager," all indications are that
William H. Stevens was the owner/
proprietor of the firm.
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The Chronicle December 2003
Patent Background and Early Years
Zachry T. Furbish (1849-1906) was a major figure in
the early development of ratchet and spiral screwdriv-
ers. The little information that is known about his busi-
ness associations and the screwdrivers he produced
prior to 1895 comes from directory listings, patents,
and examples of screwdrivers which match his patents.
Based on these sources, it appears that Furbish had
been engaged in the development and manufacture of
ratchet screwdrivers for a number of years prior to his
associations with Forest City and North Brothers.
Between 1881 and 1885, in conjunction with two
other Augusta inventors, Charles H. Mallett and
Franklin L. Hamlen, he was granted four patents for
ratchet screwdrivers. It would also be reasonable to
believe that he worked with his father, Isaiah M. Fur-
bish, also of Augusta, who was granted a ratchet screw-
driver patent in 1883. His name appears in Augusta
Figure 2. Three sizes of unsigned ratchet screwdrivers assumed
to be products of Zachry T. Furbish in conjunction with Charles
H. Mallett. The design of this screwdriver follows very closely
the 1883 patent of Mallett and Furbish. The internal ratchet
mechanism in these models is modified from the mechanism shown
in the patent, but uses only two jam rollers instead of the four
shown in the patent.
. A
Figure 3. Page one of patent no. 275,235 of Mallett and Fur-
bish. This patent appears to be the basic design for the unsigned
drivers shown in Figure 2. Page two of this patent illustrates
three additional, alternate versions for the ratchet mechanism.
time of the sale, launched North Brothers into a new area
of manufacturing that marked the beginning of the
company's comprehensive and enduring catalog of screw-
An undated document, which originated within
Stanley Tools sometime after it purchased North
Brothers Manufacturing Company in 1946,
states that
North Brothers entered the tool manufacturing busi-
ness with the purchase of the DeForest Screw Driver
Company in 1897.
This information is obviously in
error. A legal document
and a receipt signed by Wil-
liam H. Stevens (Figure 1) clearly establishes that
North Brothers purchased the Forest City Screwdriver
and Drill Company, not DeForest Tool Company, in
that year. The same document indicates that North
Brothers' first tool product was a spiral screwdriver
(no. 30 spiral-ratchet), which it began marketing in
1898, followed soon after by a ratchet, model no. 10.
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The Chronicle Volume 56, No. 4
and Portland directory listings from 1871 to 1898, only
one of which indicates that he was producing screw-
drivers (Table I).
Although unmarked, the ratchet screwdrivers
shown in Figure 2 conform so closely to the Mallett &
Furbish 1883 patent (Figure 3) that these drivers can
reasonably be considered to be earlier Furbish prod-
ucts. This ratchet screwdriver was announced and il-
lustrated in Carpentry & Building in February of 1882
as being a new product manufactured by Mallett &
Company of Augusta.
Examples exist of another ratchet screwdriver--
some of which are marked: FURBISH & HAMLEN,
SCREWDRIVER--which may be attributed to Fur-
bish (Figure 4). While not an exact match, the physi-
cal characteristics of this screwdriver are very similar
to those of the patent no. 277,561 (15 May 1883) of
Isaiah M. Furbish, father of Zachry (Figure 5). Al-
Figure 4. Ratchet screwdriver signed: FURBISH & HAMLEN, AUGUSTA, ME. / M'F'R'S OF THE MAINE SCREWDRIVER.
The reversing mechanism is activated by pulling the handle back from the blade and rotating it slightly in the opposite direction from the
desired direction of action. There is no fixed position. This screwdriver follows closely the design of Isaiah M. Furbish, father of Zachry
T. Furbish, in patent no. 277,561 of 15 May 1883 (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Page one of patent no. 277,561 of 15 May 1885 granted
to I. M. Furbish. Note similarity to the Hamlin and Furbish
"Maine Screwdriver" in Figure 4.
Directory Listings for Zachry Furbish
1870-71 Augusta
1886-87 Augusta
Stevens & Furbish screwdriver
mnfrs. at Kennebec Dam
1890-91 Augusta
wife only listed
1892-93 Augusta
1894-95 Augusta
Furbish, Staples & Co. - lock
machinist, moved to Philadelphia
1. Greenhough's Directory, Augusta, Hallowell and Gardiner for 1871. (Bos-
ton: W. A. Greenhough, Jr., 1871), 40.
2. The Augusta, Hallowell and Gardiner Directory. (Boston: W. A.
Greenhough & Co., 1886), 85.
3. The Augusta, Hallowell and Gardiner Directory. (Boston: W. A.
Greenhough, Jr., 1890), 93.
4. The Augusta, Hallowell, Gardiner and Kennebec Directory. (Boston:
Littlefield Directory Publishing Co., 1892), 123.
5. The Augusta, Hallowell and Gardiner Directory. (Boston: Littlefield
Directory Publishing Co., 1894), 112.
6. Directory of Portland. (Portland, Maine: The Thurston Print, 1896), 366.
7. Directory of Portland. (Portland, Maine: The Thurston Print, 1898), 81.
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The Chronicle December 2003
Figure 6. Gravestone of Zachary T. Furbish 1848-1906, Lydia
A. (wife) 1854-1924, and George W. (son) 1873-1922, Mt. Pleas-
ant Cemetery, Augusta, Maine.
though the markings on this screwdriver and the simi-
larity to the above patent implies an association be-
tween his father and joint patentee Franklin Hamlen,
two later patents for ratchet screwdrivers granted to
the younger Furbish jointly with Hamlen, no. 307,187
(18 October 1884) and no. 315,137 (7 April 1885), give
a further indication that all three men, at least to some
extent, worked together.
Zachry or Zachary?
A certain amount of confusion has existed about the
spelling for the given name of Z. T. Furbish. The name
has been found both as Zachry and Zachary in sources
such as patent documents, legal documents, census
documents, and directory listings. The "Zachary" spell-
ing is used in U.S. Census records for the years 1850,
1860, and 1870. The same spelling is used in his early
U.S. patents for the years 1881 through 1885. These
documents are all in printed format; none have been
found in his own hand. Beginning with his 1895 patent,
the "Zachry" spelling is used, as it is on all his subse-
quent patents through the final one granted posthu-
mously in 1908. This spelling is also used in numerous
legal documents, the earliest of which is dated 1897,
assigning his patent ownership rights to North Broth-
ers, as well as in his employment contract with North
Brothers. At this time, no explanation has been found
for this change of spelling. Curiously, the inscription
on his gravestone reverts to "Zachary" (Figure 6).
Forest City Screwdriver and Drill Company
Known examples of products of this firm are con-
CO., PATENT APRIL 16, 1895. The company let-
terhead on which William H. Stevens carried out his
correspondence with North Brothers and other par-
ties reads Forest City Screwdriver and Drill Com-
pany (Figure 1). Forest City has long been a
nickname for Portland, Maine.
It is not known when the Forest City Screwdriver
and Drill Company began operations. An 1886 Augusta
directory shows a listing for "Stevens & Furbish screw-
driver mfrs." (Table I). This is a reference to William
H. Stevens, who would later be the proprietor of For-
est City Screwdriver and Drill Company. The 1894 Au-
gusta directory shows a listing for "Staples & Furbish,"
a reference to George A. Staples. In 1897, Furbish and
Stevens were expending considerable effort to recover
rights for a ratchet screwdriver previously assigned to
Staples. The acknowledgment of rights and efforts to
recover the rights indicate that even though listed in the
directory as "lock mfr," Furbish and Staples were involved
in the manufacture of screwdrivers prior to Furbish's as-
sociation with the Forest City in 1897. Notice of the avail-
ability of Forest City screwdrivers first appeared in
advertising and in trade journal announcements in 1896.
On 26 March 1897, William H. Stevens and Zachry
T. Furbish executed a contract transferring the assets
of the Forest City Screwdriver and Drill Company to
North Brothers Manufacturing Company for $9,000.
The effective date of the sale was 24 February 1897.
Included were rights to "certain improvements in
screw drivers, drills and braces for which letters patent
number 537,681 has [sic] been issued," "certain other
improvements for which applications for letters patent
are now are now pending," "certain other improve-
ments for which applications are to be applied for,"
"machinery, fixtures, stock, etc.," and "books and pa-
pers appertaining to the said business and the good-
will thereof."
On 10 April 1897, Zachry Furbish signed
an employment agreement with North Brothers as
"Designer, Constructor and General Machinist" at a
salary of $25 per week. He also agreed that any fur-
ther inventions and/or improvements would become
the property of North Brothers.
The Chronicle Volume 56, No. 4
In a series of legal transactions beginning in March
1897 (after the sale had in fact been finalized) and ex-
tending through November 1897, Furbish and Stevens
attempted to clarify original rights and assignment of
rights to all previous inventions, improvements, pat-
ents, and applications for patents. Rights had been as-
signed by Furbish, sometimes in fractional interests,
to Stevens and to former associates George A. Staples
and George W. Smart as early as 1893. This flurry of
legal activity in 1897 appears to have been an effort to
cover all legal contingencies to protect the interests of
North Brothers.
The origin of the
initial connection be-
tween Furbish of
Portland and Augusta,
Maine, and North
Brothers of Philadel-
phia has not been
established. Ralph
G. North, a principal
in the Philadelphia
foundry, and not pre-
viously involved in
the manufacture of
tools, had purchased a
summer residence in
Castine, Maine, in
1896. Castine is an
historic community
located on a peninsula in East Penobscot Bay. How these
two parties might have become acquainted and made
the contact which began their productive nine-year as-
sociation remains open to speculation. One might con-
tinue this speculation to wonder if Ralph North was in
contact with other screwdriver makers in Maine.
George A. Gay of Augusta was well-established as a
maker of ratchet screwdrivers and would have been
closer to Castine than was Furbish in Portland. F. A.
Howard of Belfast, who would have been even closer,
was also well-established and producing high-quality
spiral screwdrivers. In fact, Howard was the manufac-
turer of the first patented spiral screwdriver in the U.S.
His product was based on the 1868 and 1874 patents
of Isaac Allard. He also produced the first reversible
spiral screwdriver patented by his associate, J. W. Jones.
Both of these makers were well-established, were pro-
ducing significant quantities of their respective prod-
ucts, and would certainly have been known by anyone
discussing the manufacture of tools in Maine in the
late 1890s.
An interesting sidelight, which establishes some-
thing of a personal connection between Stevens of Forest
City and Ralph North of North Brothers, is contained in
a letter of 13 April 1897 after the sale of the company
had been finalized. In this letter dealing with matters
relating to the sale, Stevens also writes to North Broth-
ers, "Please say to Mr. North that they are looking for
the ice to go out of Sebago Lake, the last of this week
or first of next. If I am able I will go then. If he will
come on, we'll be pleased to entertain him. All he need
Figure 8 (left). Announcement of avail-
ability of the Forest City spiral-ratchet
screwdriver and drill attachment ap-
pearing in The Iron Age (30 January
Figure 7. Spiral-Ratchet screwdriver marked: "FOREST CITY SCREWDRIVER CO. / PATENTED
APRIL 16, 1895." Length overall: 12 inches, closed; 17 inches extended. Two shifter buttons set in various
combinations produce a number of different actions, including continuous clockwise motion when pushing
and withdrawing the handle.
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The Chronicle December 2003
bring is himself & clothing to keep
warm & dry. I will furnish all the fish-
ing tackle, etc, etc."
Furbish was an inventor from
"down east" Maine who brought his
innovative spiral and ratchet screw-
driver concepts to North Brothers
Manufacturing Company of Philadel-
phia. Although not documented in any
definite way, it would seem that after the
North Brothers purchased Forest City,
the YANKEE name was adopted as a
marketing device in recognition of the
screwdriver's origin and development in
Maine. No evidence has been found that
Forest City used the YANKEE name.
Application for the YANKEE
trademark was filed with the U.S.
Patent Office on 24 October 1924 and
registered as trademark no. 196,680
on 24 March 1925.
name had been used by the company
prior to this date, as early as 1902, in
the first North Brothers catalog to in-
clude tools, and in 1905 in the title and
citation when Furbish was awarded the
John Scott Award by the Franklin In-
stitute of Philadelphia.
Products of Forest City
Correspondence and invoices from the
Forest City Screwdriver Company in-
dicate the company produced a spiral-
ratchet screwdriver (Figures 2, 7, 8,
9, 10 and 14), a ratchet screwdriver
(Figures 15 and 16) manufactured in
Figure 9. Detail from Chandler & Farquhar catalog page (presumed 1896) describ-
ing possible motions which may be obtained from the Forest City spiral-ratchet model.
The second shifter is not visible in this view.
T. W
Figure 10 (below). Illustration of spiral-ratchet model with prices, with and without
drilling device, from Hammacher-Schlemmer & Co. catalog of 1896.
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The Chronicle Volume 56, No. 4
Figure 11 (left). Chuck and bit retainer found on most Forest City
Screwdriver and Drill Company spiral-ratchet models. The bit re-
tainer is a pivoting lever that engages the notch in the bit. It is rela-
tively weak and subject to breakage.
Figure 12 (right). Chuck from later model of Forest City Screw-
driver and Drill Company spiral-ratchet model. The spring-loaded
collar engages an internal mechanism that engages the notch in the
five different sizes and an automatic drill. Correspon-
dence and invoices also refer to a "Little Giant" driver.
I am of the opinion that the Little Giant driver is the
same as the ratchet driver above. To date, an example of
the automatic drill has not been identified or observed.
A unique feature of the spiral-ratchet driver is the
incorporation of two shifter buttons located 180 de-
grees apart on the barrel. Each shifter button has two
positions. The two shifters may be set in various com-
binations to produce several different motions of the shaft.
This feature was not carried over to any of the North
Brothers' products.
An undated catalog (presumed 1896) of Chandler
& Farquhar, Boston (Figure 9) includes an entry for
the Forest City spiral-ratchet model.
The accompa-
nying description details eight different combinations
of the two shifter buttons for eight different motions.
The variety of motions described are as follows:
(1) clockwise motion when pushed to drive a screw
(clutch releases for return); (2) counterclockwise mo-
tion when pushed to remove a screw (clutch releases
for return); (3) continuous clockwise motion for drill-
ing when pushing or pulling; (4) alternating clockwise
and counterclockwise motion for automatic drilling;
(5) spindle locked in closed position; (6) spindle locked
in extended position; (7) clockwise motion using ratchet
only to drive a screw; and (8) counterclockwise mo-
tion using ratchet only to remove a screw.
The eight motions described are produced with
only four settings of the two shifters. Motions 1 and 6,
2 and 8, 3 and 7, and 4 and 5 utilize the same settings
of the shifters for each pair of numbers shown. Motion
6 (spindle locked in extended position) cannot be gen-
erated on any examples I have observed.
Furbish did not include the ability to produce this
variety of motions in the 1895 patent, notwithstand-
ing the fact that all Forest City spiral-ratchet screw-
drivers are marked with the 1895 date. Most
spiral-ratchet models observed do include the feature
and the two shifters. An exception is described below
and shown in Figure 14. On the examples observed
with two shifters, the plain shifter (the terminology of
Furbish in the patent is "shipper") and the marked
shifter are reversed from those described in the Chan-
dler & Farquhar catalog page. While it is not yet known
how early Furbish or Forest City was producing this
tool, it was certainly in production in 1896 and 1897,
prior to the November 1897 patent.
It is likely that the bit retainer in the earliest mod-
els (Figures 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10) was problematic and
subject to failure. It seems somewhat less substantial
than what would be needed for the task and the strains
to which it would be subjected. Several examples have
been observed with the bit retainer missing. It would
be this bit retainer and chuck which gained Forest City
some "negative press" in the Charles A. Strelinger &
Company catalog of 1897. At a time when spiral-ratchet
screwdrivers were first appearing on the scene, this
catalog, which did not carry a listing for the Forest
City model, contained an evaluation of the eighteen
different makes of this tool, which they had carried and/
or evaluated. It included a statement:
Without going into details too much, and perhaps
for the reason of demonstrating how thoroughly all
the various tools in this catalogue have been con-
sidered, we may explain why two or three well
known Spiral Drivers are not shown here. The For-
est City Spiral Screw Driver is altogether the most
ingenious and complete tool in this line that we have
ever seen. It has more motions than any other, and
many improvements, but the mechanism is rather
complex. The chuck for holding the bits is insuffi-
cient, and we do not believe that it has either the
strength or wearing qualities of the others.
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The Chronicle December 2003
Figure 13. "Drill Accessory" offered with Forest City spiral-ratchet screwdriver. The twist drill, rather than a straight fluted reciprocat-
ing bit, would have been offered because of the tool's ability to produce a continuous right-hand motion on both the push and pull strokes.
Figure 14. Variation of the Forest City spiral-ratchet driver with single shifter and customary clockwise, counter-clockwise, and fixed
functions. Length overall 12 inches (closed); 17 inches (extended). Compare ratchet mechanism to ratchet model, Figure 16. Note similar-
ity in appearance to early production of North Brothers model no. 30.
different chuck and bit retainer. The latter chuck
progresses a step closer to the familiar North Broth-
ers' chuck. The collar of the chuck, which is spring
loaded, is pulled back to release the bit, and when re-
leased locks the bit into the chuck with an internal
mechanism which engages the
notch in the bit. This is a sig-
nificant improvement over the
previous (original) bit retainer.
This improved chuck has been
observed on only one example.
Since all the known advertising
material illustrates the original
chuck (Figure 11) and is dated
1896, it must be concluded that
this "improvement" would have
been manufactured only for a
very short time prior to the
sale of the company in Febru-
ary of 1897. There is no provi-
sion for a bit retainer and
Figure 15. Announcement
of availability of the For-
est City ratchet screwdriver
appearing in The Iron
Age, 22 October 1896
Figure 16. Ratchet screwdriver marked: "FOREST CITY SCREWDRIVER CO. / PATENTED APRIL 16, 1895." Length over-
all: 10
inches; length of blade: 6 inches. The ratchet mechanism on this tool is very similar to the familiar North Brothers model no. 10
with the added knurled sleeve to adjust the shifter.
It appears, that just before sale of the company to
North Brothers, Furbish did indeed overcome this
shortcoming. A variation in the collection of Carl
Stoutenberg (Figure 12), while alike in all other as-
pects to the earlier model (Figure 11), incorporates a
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The Chronicle Volume 56, No. 4
Figure 17 (left). The date of this Furbish patent appears on all Forest City Screwdriver and Drill Company screwdriver products, both
ratchet and spiral-ratchet, and on many models of North Brothers. Although only Furbish's name appears on the patent, it did go
through a series of legal assignments to other individuals and eventual assignment to North Brothers. The first page of the patent
appears on the cover of this issue.
Figure 18 (right). The first page of illustrations from the 1897 Furbish patent details the ratchet mechanism only. Four additional pages
of illustrations show more of the mechanism and its application to several different types of screwdrivers.
release in either the 1895 or 1897 patents of Furbish;
however he did provide two versions of a chuck, slid-
ing and screwed, for an interchangeable bit in a follow-
ing patent, no. 597,766 of 25 January 1898. This patent
was for another form of spiral screwdriver, apparently
never produced.
A single-twist drill bit (Figures 7, 10, and 13) was
offered as an accessory for the spiral-ratchet model.
This was labeled in the 1896 Hammacher-Schlemmer
catalog as a "drilling device" and could be ordered as
an accessory with the tool.
It consists of a
twist drill, which is permanently mounted in a brass
shank configured similar to the screwdriver bit, to fit
the chuck and bit retainer. The twist drill accessory
was also offered in an 1896 product announcement for
the spiral-ratchet driver in Iron Age.
Another Forest City spiral-ratchet model incor-
porates a mechanism different than that described
above. This example (Figure 14) uses only a single
shifter. It thus does not have the range of motions de-
scribed above for the model with two shifter buttons,
but has only the more customary clockwise, counter-
clockwise, and fixed functions. Furthermore, the
ratchet mechanism appears to be identical to that used
in the ratchet driver (Figures 15 and 16), with the ad-
ditional provision for the spiral shaft.
This Forest City spiral-ratchet model with the sim-
plified ratchet mechanism appears to be the basis for
the first model of the North Brothers' basic no. 30 spi-
ral-ratchet driver first produced in 1898.
No listings in catalogs or sales literature have been
found for the ratchet model. An 1896 product an-
nouncement in The Iron Age (Figure 15)
is the only con-
temporary notice of this product found thus far.
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The Chronicle December 2003
Although only two sizes (5- and 6-inch blades) have
been observed, the Iron Age announcement and Forest
City's records indicate the ratchet driver was made in
a variety of sizes, 3-, 4-, 5-, 6- and 8-inches.
The mechanism of this Forest City ratchet model
(Figure 13 and 14) appears to be the basis for the first
model of the North Brothers' no. 10 ratchet driver, also
first produced in 1898. While the internal mechanism
apparently remained the same, the sliding, knurled ring
which activates the shifter was eliminated, and the ball-
shaped handle was modified into the more traditional
round, elongated handle which readers will be familiar
with on North Brothers' products.
Overview of Furbish Patents
Zachry Furbish was an extremely brilliant, creative
and productive inventor and machinist. In the space of
seventeen years, he was granted at least thirty-four
Table II
U. S. Patents Granted To Zachry T. Furbish (And Isaiah M. Furbish, Father)
27 September 1881
Mallett, Charles H. & Furbish, Zachary T., Augusta, Me.
Screw Driver
3 April 1883
Mallett, Charles H. & Furbish, Zachary T., Augusta, Me.
Screw Driver
15 May 1883
Furbish, Isaiah M. (Father of Z. T. Furbish), Augusta, Me.
Screw Driver
13 May 1884
Furbish, Isaiah M. (Father of Z. T. Furbish), Augusta, Me.
Hand Drill
28 October 1884
Hamlen, Franklin L. & Furbish, Zachary T., Augusta, Me.
Screw Driver
7 April 1885
Furbish, Zachary T. & Hamlen, Franklin L., Augusta, Me.
Screw Driver
16 April 1895
Furbish, Zachry T., Augusta, Me.
Ratchet For Screw Drivers Or
2 November 1897
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Ratchet Mechanism
25 January 1898
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Ratchet Tool
3 January 1899
Furbish, Zachry T., William H. Stevens, Portland, Me.
Mechanical Movement
5 September 1899
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
9 October 1900
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Ratchet Mechanism
9 October 1900
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Apparatus For Making
Ribbed Sleeves Or Wheels
9 October 1900
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Tool Handle Fastening
22 January 1901
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
22 January 1901
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Ratchet Mechanism
22 January 1901
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Reducing Chuck
22 January 1901
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Magazine Screw Driver & Tool
22 January 1901
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Supplementary Chuck
22 January 1901
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Ratchet Tool
18 June 1901
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
29 October 1901
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Ball Chuck
29 October 1901
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Magazine Spring Drill
11 February 1902
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
27 May 1902
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Means For Securing Handles
Or Rests To Tools
3 February 1903
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
3 February 1903
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
19 January 1904
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Reversible Screw Driver
19 January 1904
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Ratchet Tool
6 June 1905
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Push Screwdriver or Drill
6 June 1905
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Push Drill
6 June 1905
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Ratchet Tool
6 March 1906
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Ratchet Tool
6 March 1906
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Push Drill
1 May 1906
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa.
Shifter Lock For Pawl And
Ratchet Tools
3 November 1908
Furbish, Zachry T., North Bros. Mfg. Co., Phila., Pa
Locking Mechanism For
Ratchet Screw Drivers
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The Chronicle Volume 56, No. 4
U.S. patents (Table II). Between the years of 1897 and
1908, all but one of his patents were assigned to North
Brothers. While most of his patents are for screwdriver
mechanisms (spiral-ratchet and ratchet) and drills, a
small number relate to manufacturing processes for
these products. Three are totally unrelated to screw-
drivers and drills-- a parallel jaw pliers, a machinist cali-
per, and a hand-powered forge blower based, not
surprisingly, on the Archimedean screw principle. A few
are for screwdrivers which in all likelihood were never
Furbish's patent of 16 April 1895 (no. 537,681; Fig-
ure 17 and cover) is significant in that the ratchet
mechanism introduced in it shows a marked departure
from his previous designs. Although the Forest City
screwdrivers, both spiral-ratchet and ratchet, bear the
1895 date, the reality is that the ratchet mechanism
utilized on both models more closely follows the 1897
patent described below. Similarly, many of the tools
manufactured by North Brothers for many years, which
carry both 1895 and 1897 patent dates, i.e. nos. 20, 30,
, 130, 31, 131, 35, 135, again also closely follow the
patent of the latter date.
While the printed patent for 1895 does not show
that it was assigned to North Brothers (as do all but
one of his subsequent patents), a series of later legal
assignments, including the final one executed on 26
March 1897, accomplished this.
Patent no. 593,157, granted to Furbish on 2 No-
vember 1897 (Figure 18), seems to be even more sig-
nificant in his career and in the development of spiral
and ratchet screwdrivers. It was his first patent granted
after his move to Philadelphia and his employment by
North Brothers. A very broad, inclusive patent, the
patent's illustrations show the mechanism and its ap-
plication to a variety of models on five pages; the de-
scriptive text requires another five pages. The
illustrations clearly show what readers would recog-
nize immediately as North Brothers' models nos. 10, 30,
130, 31, 131 and 50. Also shown is the mechanism with
the double shifters for the complex range of motions as
utilized in the earlier Forest City spiral-ratchet driver (Fig-
ures 1, 7, 8, 9, and 10). This patent is another example of
the actual product having predated its issuance.
Product Sales Through Jobbers
Accounting invoices show that Forest City had product
inventory placed in the hands of several jobbers, distribu-
tors, and wholesalers at the time of the sale of the com-
pany. The proceeds from the sale of these products were
being remitted to North Brothers after the sale took place.
The distributors were: John H. Graham & Company,
New York; H. W. Peabody & Company, New York; Voigt
Starr & Company, Paris; and Allerton-Clarke Company,
New York. These invoices cover a time period from the
time of the sale of the company on 24 February 1897
to 19 August 1897.
In contracts of 3 January 1893 and 1 March 1898,
North Brothers appointed John H. Graham to be gen-
eral selling agent. It is unclear why the 1893 contract
between North Brothers and John H. Graham is in-
cluded with the Forest City documents since it is well
before the time of the relationship of North Brothers
with Forest City and before North Brothers was sell-
ing tools. North Brothers must have been using Gra-
ham as a general selling agent for the products it was
manufacturing and selling at that time, i.e. household
products. The fact that it carries penciled-in notations,
which indicate that it was used as a model for creation
of the 1898 contract, may be the reason for its inclu-
sion with Forest City correspondence.
The John Scott Award
In 1905 Zachry T. Furbish was awarded the John Scott
Award for his "Ratchet or `Yankee' Tools."
awards, which began in the year 1832, were established
by John Scott, an Edinburgh, Scotland, druggist, and
were originally administered by the Committee on Sci-
ence and the Arts of the Franklin Institute of Phila-
delphia. The purpose was to recognize and honor "the
most deserving" men and women whose inventions
have contributed in some outstanding way to the "com-
fort, welfare and happiness of mankind." The goal has
been restated in more recent years "to increase the rec-
ognition and appreciation of ground breaking achieve-
ments in science and technology."
The awards, now
known as The Franklin Institute Awards Program, are
among the oldest comprehensive science award pro-
grams in the world and are administered by the City
Trusts of the City of Philadelphia.
Furbish's award is in the form of a typewritten ci-
tation signed by the president and secretary of the
Franklin Institute and the chairman of the Committee
on Science and the Arts and bears the official seal of
the Franklin Institute. Although the citation and medal
are dated 1904, the award is designated for 1905. The
award is accompanied by a bronze medal (Figure 19)
housed in a case which resembles a book, bound in black
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The Chronicle December 2003
Figure 19. Obverse and reverse of medal awarded to Z. T. Furbish in 1905 by the Franklin Institute recognizing his invention of
Moroccan leather and lined in purple velvet. The ob-
verse of the medal bears the text, AWARDED BY
THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA and a graphic de-
vice assumed to be the logo of the Franklin Institute.
The reverse bears the text, THE JOHN SCOTT
for his
on the recommendation of the
This award to Zachry Furbish in 1905 offers in-
sight as to what had been accomplished by North
Brothers and Zachry Furbish in the space of eight
years. Since entering into the manufacture of ratchet
and spiral-ratchet screwdrivers with the purchase of
Forest City Screwdriver and Drill Company in 1897,
North Brothers Manufacturing Company and Zachry
Furbish had by 1905, achieved sufficient recognition
for Furbish to be honored with this prestigious award.
Moreover, the use of the term, YANKEE, in the title
and body of the award suggests that the name had
gained a comfortable familiarity by 1905. Even though
the designation in this award was for the ratchet screw-
driver mechanism, and although the term is now asso-
ciated more closely with spiral-ratchet screwdrivers,
the YANKEE name has continued that comfortable
familiarity for a period of time now approaching one
hundred years.
The sad chapter in this story is that of the alcoholism
and death of Zachry Furbish. According to recorded
recollections in Furbish family correspondence, Fur-
bish either became an alcoholic or "lost his mind"
around 1906. Selden G. North and Ralph North pro-
posed sending him on an extended vacation to Europe
accompanied by two nurses in the hope of rehabilitat-
ing him.
For whatever reason, this did not happen.
He did enter Augusta State Hospital for the Insane
more than once beginning in 1906. He died at Danvers
State Hospital, Danvers, Massachusetts (also a hospi-
tal for the insane), on 24 October 1906 at age fifty-six.
A family member who looked up the records relating
to his hospitalization in 1934 related that recorded in
the records was a statement: "this man was one of the
most brilliant minds that ever entered the hospital, but
he would not stop drinking."
An indication of the high regard in which Zachry
Furbish was held by Ralph North, and perhaps also an
indication of his own self-confidence, is contained in
one of the letters of William H. Stevens of Forest City
to Ralph North of North Brothers on 9 April 1897
shortly after Furbish moved to Philadelphia to begin
his work with North Brothers: "...You say you think he
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The Chronicle Volume 56, No. 4
means business I dont [sic] know why he shouldnt [sic]
He has always said he wanted to go & would fix you
up--so you could make lots of money--In other words
he has called me a big fool many times in disposing of
the Factory--wishing you great success."
Special acknowledgment is made to Carl Stoutenberg,
formerly of Stanley Tools, for making possible access
to the Forest City­North Brothers correspondence
documents, the Franklin Institute medal, and examples
of Forest City products. Additional information and/
or examples for study have been contributed by Joe
Ward, Maine Historical Society, Bill Miclean, William
T. Wilkins, David B. Furbish, Rita Furbish, Thelma
(Furbish) Brown, and David Punzelt.
EAIA member Cliff Fales is retired after a thirty-year
career as a public school instrumental music teacher.
He also has had an active part-time career in orches-
tral string instrument repair. After primarily collect-
ing rules for twenty years, Cliff has in recent years
concentrated on research on spiral screwdrivers. He
has previously written articles in The Chronicle on
Wheeler, Madden, and Clemson saws, the Decatur Cof-
fin Comapany, and the H. Mueller Manufacturing Com-
pany spiral screwdrivers. He also prepared the
1988-1993 index to The Chronicle. He has also written
articles for the Midwest Tool Collectors Association's
publication, The Gristmill. He is a member of the
M-WTCA and the Rocky Mountain Tool Collectors.
Responses, comments, or further information from
readers are welcomed by the author. All rights reserved.
©2003, Clifford D. Fales.
1. Joseph W. Ward, North Brothers' Manufacturing Com-
pany Product Guide (Baraboo, Wisconsin: published by
the author, 2000), 17.
2. "North Brothers--A History" (Internal Document,
Stanley Tools, undated, presumed 1946).
3. Contract, William H. Stevens, Zachry T. Furbish and
North Brothers Manufacturing Co., 26 March 1897.
The primary source documents for this article are cor-
respondence from Stevens to North Brothers. These
documents were retained by North Brothers after its
acquisition of Forest City in 1897. They were subse-
quently passed to Stanley Tools at the time of the ac-
quisition of North Brothers by Stanley Tools in 1946.
The content of the majority of these documents relates
to the sale of the company and aspects of the acquisition
and clarification of patent rights and assignment of the
rights from previous owners to North Brothers. This is a
one-sided correspondence. North Brothers retained the
correspondence written to Ralph G. North by W. H.
Stevens of Forest City, but North Brothers correspon-
dence to Stevens is not present. There are also documents
relating to wholesalers to whom Forest City was supply-
ing products and to final settlement of accounts for prod-
ucts in its inventory at the time of the sale of Forest City.
Information has also been provided by Rita Fur-
bish (great, great-granddaughter of a brother of Furbish)
and David B. Furbish. Information regarding the Ralph
North home in Castine, Maine, has been graciously shared
by David Punzelt, present owner of the home.
4. "Double Action Clutch Screw Driver," Carpentry &
Building (February 1882): 36.
5. Contract, Stevens, Furbish and North Brothers, 26
March 1897.
6. Contract, Zachry T. Furbish and North Brothers, 10
March 1897.
7. Contract, George A. Staples and William H. Stevens,
16 March 1897. Contract, George A. Staples and Wil-
liam H. Stevens, 25 March 1897. Contract, Zachry T.
Furbish and William H. Stevens, 26 March 1897. Con-
tract, William H. Stevens and North Brothers, 26
March 1897. Contract, George W. Smart to Furbish,
19 November 1897. Contract, Furbish to North Broth-
ers, 1 December 1897. Contract, Furbish to North
Brothers, 28 June 1897.
8. William H. Stevens, Letter to North Brothers, 13 April
9. U. S. Patent Office, Notice of Trade-Mark registration,
no. 196680, Washington, D.C., 24 March 1925.
10. "Forest City Screwdriver" Catalog, Chandler & Farquhar
(Boston, c. 1896), unnumbered.
11. "Spiral Screwdrivers," Catalog, Chas. A. Strelinger & Co.,
(Detroit, 1897), 713.
12. "Forest City," Catalog, Hammacher-Schlemmer & Com-
pany (New York, 1896), 155.
13. "The Forest City Screw Driver and Drill Combination,"
The Iron Age (30 January 1896): 340.
14. "Ratchet Screw Driver," The Iron Age (22 October 1896): 800.
15. The Franklin Institute, Citation for John Scott Award,
(7 September 1904).
16. More information regarding the John Scott Award and
a listing of recipients from 1832 to the present may be
found on the Internet at <www.garfield.library.
17. This information on the Scott award came from the
Franklin Institute Web page <sln.fi.edu/tfi/info/re-
18. Mary Gray Tinkham (niece to sister of Furbish), Let-
ter to Furbish family members (11 January 1967).
19. Ibid.
20. William H. Stevens, Letter to North Brothers Manu-
facturing Company (9 April 1897).
Additional Sources
Mary Gray Tinkham, Letter to Furbish family mem-
bers, 24 May 1976
Thelma Brown (great granddaughter of Furbish), Let-
ter to the author (5 January 2002) .