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Maximillian T. Christopher: The Chemical Axe Connection

Who was Maximillian T. Christopher? That question has been on my mind for a number of weeks now, and over the past few days I’ve had the opportunity to dive into the question. His name is most frequently noted as associated with the incorporation of the Louisville Axe and Tool Company in 1908, a company with some confusing connections. However, a deeper dive reveals a significant impact that Christopher’s career had on a number of companies and a surprising number of lines of axes. Maximillian T. Christopher was born in France, to French parents, in 1860. In 1882 he immigrated to the United States, and though it’s unknown where he spent his first few years, by 1884 he had settled in Pittsburgh and was working as a clerk for a local manufacturer. The following year he had moved to the position of a bookkeeper for the Pittsburgh Plate Company, had married, and his wife had given birth to his first son. This was technically Christopher’s first year in association with the axe industry, as his wife, Claudia, was the daughter of William J. Sager. Sager had moved to the Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, area around 1876 and was likely working at the Joseph Graff and Company axe factory when Maximillian and Claudia first met. The Christopher family would remain in Pittsburgh for the next few years, despite the Sagers moving on, and M.T. would remain with the Pittsburgh Plate Company until 1888, though as a Superintendent. After the formation of the Warren Axe and Tool Company of Warren, Pennsylvania, Christopher would become a notable salesperson for the company. In 1894 he was well publicized after a great show of salesmanship at the Pennsylvania State Fair. During his display, he showed the public impressive acts such as using the company’s “Chemically Treated Axes” to chop “nails and spikes” in half without chipping the blade. This would be before the patenting of Sager’s “Chemical Treatment” for metals, but after the advertising of similar axes sold by the Standard Axe and Tool Company of Ridgeway, Pennsylvania. His job for Warren brought him great acclaim from the locals, though it was a traveling position that put him on the road often. In the spring of 1895, it was noted that after a 2 week sales run to Boston, New York and Philadelphia, Christopher had made more sales for the company than all the other salesmen combined in the year of 1894. In April of 1895, Christopher would begin a sales trip that would take him to the west. He would visit Louisville, Kentucky, and from there, head north and west, ending up in Duluth, Minnesota, prior to returning to his home in Warren. It is likely that he made a stop in Alexandria, Indiana, as by October of the same year, he had left the employ of the Warren Axe and Tool Company and had started the role of a Salesman for the Kelly Axe Manufacturing Company of Alexandria, Indiana. Coincidentally, this would be around the same time that the “Flint Edge” line would come to be for the Kelly company, another noted “Chemically Treated” axe. Christopher, his wife, and his two sons, Audrey and Walter, would be well known in the Alexandria area, and would be noted on the United States Federal Census of 1900 as living on the same street as W.C. Kelly and his family. Audrey and Walter would play on the high school football team in 1901 and 1902, and Claudia would be part of the elite women’s circle in town.

In 1904, prior to the Kelly Axe Manufacturing Company leaving the area in July, Christopher was noted as living in Findlay, Ohio, and working as a salesman for the Findlay Axe and Tool Company. During the same year, he would patent a design for a device that was totally unrelated to axe manufacturing, a brick cleaning device. This machine, noted in patent 782,324, would lead to the creation of the “Christopher Brick Cleaning Machine Company”, based out of Jersey City, New Jersey. The Christopher family would soon thereafter move to New Jersey, finding a home in East Orange, just a few miles outside of New York City. Along with running the Christopher Brick Machine Company, M. T. Christopher would help establish the Findlay Axe and Tool Company’s New York office for east coast sales and exportation. This office was noted as being located at 35 Warren Street in New York. By 1906, Christopher was also noted as being involved with the CAC Axe Company of Holbrook and Boston, Massachusetts. Unsurprisingly, the CAC Axe Company’s New York Office was located at 97 Warren Street in New York. Soon after Christopher’s involvement with this new axe company, they were noting their own “chemically treated” axes as well, and, like other models, it was noted as being thin bladed and “Black”. It’s interesting to note that William J. Sager and his wife, Sara, were listed on the 1905 New Jersey Census as living with the Christopher family in East Orange, though they still kept a home in Warren at the time as well.

At the beginning of 1908, the Louisville Axe and Tool Company was created from the American Tool Company and was based in Highland Park, which was located just south of Louisville proper. M.T. Christopher was labeled as one of the two Vice Presidents, and William J. Sager was noted as the General Manager. Despite the company advertising that Sager was personally overseeing production, his address in the Louisville directory was only ever listed as the factory in Highland Park, and Christopher was not listed in the directory at the time at all. Despite the distant management, the company leaned on the association to Sager and Christopher, and would produce a “Sager Axe” that was produced under a “Improved Chemical Process”. They would also Trademark a written form of W.J. Sager’s name, as well as the name of W.K. Thompson. William Kelly Thompson was the son of Robert C. and Zerilda Thompson. Zerilda’s maiden name was Kelly, and she was W. C. Kelly’s oldest sister. Robert C. Thompson had been the company manager while Christopher was working with Kelly, and had lived in Alexandria along with him. William K. Thompson had been a salesman for the Kelly company at the time, working alongside M. T. Christopher, and was no doubt an associate, if not a friend.

Christopher would eventually have a falling out with the Louisville Axe Company after a lawsuit against the other Vice President, B.F. Fitch. However, he would continue to work with the CAC Axe Factory, and eventually he would transition to managing the GW Bradley Axe and Tool Co’s new factory in Jersey City, New Jersey around 1917 and the Hoff Axe and Tool Company of Turner Falls, New York around 1919. Little has been found about his life after 1920, and Claudia was listed as a Widow in the 1930 Federal Census. During his life, Maximillian T. Christopher touch a large number of axe companies. It's likely that he was the direct connection of a number of these companies between the “Chemical Axe” work of William J. Sager and the “Chemically Treated” Axe lines of many of these companies.

Included are a number of pictures of articles and advertisements noting M. T. Christopher, as well as the football and fraternity pictures from the Alexandria High School of Alexandria, Indiana.

Hoff Axe and Tool Company

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