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The Barney and Berry Hatchet

Everett Hosmer Barney was born in Saxonville, Massachusetts, on December 7th of 1835 to Jairus Barney and Harriet Hosmer Barney. Educated locally, it would seem that Everett was very studious and motivated, as at the age of 16 he left home and move to Boston in order to start a career as an inventor and machinist. His first reported job was with the firm of Hinkly and Drewer, who were manufacturers of locomotive parts. Per historical records, Everett took an interest in fabrication of metal parts, and was placed in a position with Hinkly and Drewer overseeing the manufacturing of boilers and boiler plate. In 1861, the American Civil War drew manufacturer attention towards the needs of war, and much like Elisha Root of the Collins company, Everett was lured to a position that would use him metal working skills to produce arms. Though Root would work for the Colt company, Barney would leave the Boston area to work as a foreman with Jame’s Warner, a smaller manufacturer of pistols who was producing in Springfield, Massachusetts.


Everett Hosmer Barney

    At the end of the War, with production needs decreased and government contracts ending, Warner closed the factory that employed Barney. In the same fashion of motivation he had left home with, rather than become unemployed, Everett took the initiative to follow his heart along one of his passions, that being ice skating. In 1864, as a side job, Everett had begun crafting ice skates with an associate, John Berry, and when Warner’s pistol factory closed in 1865, the friends purchased the facility and began crafting skates full time. Shortly thereafter, in 1866, Barney acquired his first patent for a design of strap on ice skates, begin a road to wealth based on his inventions. Sales of skates were high, and Barney & Berry skates soon became popular throughout New England, however, John Berry decided to withdraw from the firm in 1870, selling his interest in the company to a third party. Barney continued to modify and patent changes to his skates, but also used his inventive mind in other directions, patenting firearm designs as well as a rotating stamp designed aimed at financial institutions. The stamp was designed to be used for bank notes and checks, and was soon adopted by virtually all banking institutions, skyrocketing Barney’s wealth immensely. With an increased financial standing, Barney purchased Berry’s original interest in the company in 1872, cementing his ownership of the company. By the 1880s, Everett Barney was a well-known, eccentric millionaire in the Springfield area.


   Everett Barney’s home life as a younger man holds quite a bit of mystery, despite being a man who was in the public eye later in life, and despite a well written life history compiled at Barney’s request in 1912 by William Frederick Adams. At the age of 27, Barney would father George Murray Barney, his one and only son. George would have quite a life as the son of an excentric millionaire, and was well known in Springfield as well as Boston. Adam’s history of the Barney family shows the intense admiration and love that Everett had for both his wife, Eliza J. Barney (Knowles) and his son George. However, in an odd fashion, no where in the text is Eliza noted as George’s mother. Even in the genealogical portion of the recollection, where mothers for every other person noted are listed, George’s heritage is simply noted by his father. A marriage date for Everett to Eliza, who was born in Belfast, Maine, is also curiously absent. These odd omissions are more easily understood after noting marriage records for Everett Hosmer Barney to Margaret F. Murray, a 19 year old Irish immigrant, on June 22nd of 1865. This would explain George’s middle name, but would also insinuate that young George was married outside of wedlock. To increase the mysterious nature of the Margaret F. Murray, Margaret was also listed as dying on June 27th of 1865, leading to the thought that the marriage was forced due to the impending death of George’s mother, or for other nefarious reasons. On the page of listed deaths cataloged by the state of Massachusetts, Margaret’s is the only listing that leaves “cause of death” blank. Whatever the case, by 1870 Eliza J. Knowles of Belfast, Maine, was listed as the wife of Everett H. Barney, and she would be noted as the mother than raised George until tuberculosis caused the young man an early death on May 25th of 1889. Many articles note the severe toll George’s death took on his father, and signs of the loss would inundate the legacy of Everett Barney for the rest of his years.


   In 1884, Barney and a fellow Springfield resident, Orick H. Greenleaf, donated over 200 acres, the majority being from Barney, for the formation of what is still known to this day as “Forest Park”. Within Forest Park Barney would assist with funding a zoo, a public hockey and ice skating rink, and eventually, a grand mausoleum that would be the final resting place for his son, his wife, and himself. After George’s death in 1889, Everett would push his philanthropy extensively, becoming known as a benefactor to many charitable causes. He would also continue to invest in the development of new inventions, as well as in the expansion of Barney and Berry, which was, by that time, a major manufacturer of both ice skates and roller skates. In 1905, Eliza would pass away, which seems to have sealed Everetts fate toward a declination of sanity.


   Over the next few years, despite the success of the Barney and Berry business, as well as a large amount of investing in real estate in Florida, Barney’s eccentricity would notably increase, as would oddities in his behavior. His business partner’s began noting the continuity of his speech was off, and he often started his discussions in the middle of a thought, as if he believed he had already told vital information that no one was aware of. This progressed into talk of his ancestors as if they were present in his life at that time, and he often referred to discussions he had supposedly had with his great grandfather who had died more than 100 years prior. He was also noted as going into rants about how the big cats at the Forest Park Zoo were eating the visitors, which brought some negative attention to both himself and Springfield. In 1913, after numerous mental evaluations and the involvement of the courts, Everett H. Barney was labeled clinically insane. Through the assistance of the city of Springfield, as well as the local post master who had been deemed the overseer of he and his estate as he had no living relatives, Barney moved to Osprey, near Sarasota, Florida, where he owned an estate. He was cared for by a caretaker and staff until his death on March 31st, 1916.


    After his death, Everett H. Barney was buried at the mausoleum at Forest Park, Springfield, along side his wife and son. His will left his entire fortune, as well as the business of Barney and Berry, to the city of Springfield, Massachusetts. Barney and Berry continued production of its skates under a receivership ruled by the city until early 1919. In January of that year, the city council of Springfield decided to sell 719 shares of Barney and Berry to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company of New Haven, Connecticut. Along with the transfer of stock, the running of Barney and Berry was turned over to the Winchester company, taking the care of the business off of the hands of the city of Springfield. This was around the same time that Winchester purchased the Eagle Pocket Knife Company and the Mack Axe Company, and was indicative of their attempts at diversification. The Barney and Berry Company would be run as a subsidiary of the Winchester company, and it would focus on selling “sporting goods”, spreading from simply ice and roller skates to include head lamps, flashlights, fishing tackle, small tools, and cutlery.


     In 1922, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company would merge with the E.C. Simmons Hardware Company, taking the Barney and Berry name with it. This placed the skates made by Barney and Berry, along with company name, under the umbrella of the Winchester-Simmons Company. The name would be used on a number of products, including small hatchets, as an inclusive connection to the number of lines sold in that company’s catalog. In 1923, Winchester ceased production at the original Barney and Berry factory in Springfield, choosing to use the location as a distribution warehouse for its stores. Production of Barney and Berry products was moved to New Haven, Connecticut. In 1929, as the Great Depression struck the United States, Winchester and E. C. Simmons would separate, going their own way to weather the oncoming economic storm. Winchester would be purchased by the Western Cartridge Company in 1931, and, in 1935, the two companies would merge to form the Western-Winchester Company, which would eventually become Olin Industries. Olin would modernize the Barney and Berry trademarks for use on flashlights in 1949, but there seems to have been no interest in the name otherwise after that point. The Barney and Berry name would continue to dilute from that point forward, to be lost in obscurity soon thereafter as the Olin company saw a decline as time progressed.

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