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The Bronson & Townsend Company

A Brief History of the Bronson & Townsend Company


Around 1810, a group of investors, including Alvin Bronson, formed a company by the name of Bronson, Townsend, and Company. This company was involved in shipping and trade across the Great Lakes, and played a minor part in the conflicts surrounding the War of 1812. The company dissolved in 1822 and is of no relation to the Bronson & Townsend Company of later years.


Walter Whittlesey Bronson was born on February 18th, 1848, in Washington, Connecticut to William Clark and Lucy Ann (Whittlesey) Bronson. Young Walter was raised in Washington, and in 1865 he attended the Connecticut Literary Institute, in Suffield, training in standard business and literature. As a young man, he worked on his family farm, and during the colder months taught winter school locally. In his early 20s he left the farm and took a position as a clerk at a General Store there in Washington, learning the basics of the hardware trade. In 1872, Walter left Washington and moved to New Haven where he accepted a position as a clerk at the hardware the store of Robert Barnes Bradley, where he slowly worked his way up the ranks. Bradley’s business expanded while employing Bronson, and as it did, the ownership took on partners, resulting in the Bradley, Dann, & Carrington Company, dealers of hardware.


In 1898, Bradley, Dann, & Carrington suffered poor sales and decided to dissolve the company. Rather than allow that to happen, W.W. Bronson, along with friend and business associates John W. Townsend, and G.H. Bishop, purchased the holdings and assets of the company in December. Together, the 3 partners formed the Bronson & Townsend Company with a capital stock of $24,000. Initially Bronson would sit as President, Bishop as Vice President, and Townsend as Secretary and Treasurer of the company. The changes made in the business protocol by the new management caused a quick upturn in business, and by 1902, the company had grown profitable enough to buy out a local competitor, the Buckingham Hardware Company, also of New Haven. During the same year, it is noted that G.W. Bishop had left the company, and his place had been filled by another investor, William A. Watts, who would take over the Vice President role for the time being. Walter W. Bronson continued as President at that point, John W. Townsend continued his original role as well, W. Irving Welton was noted as head Clerk, Alice T. Conway was the company stenographer, and W. H. Mead was noted as a salesman for the company.

Early in the 1900s, the Bronson and Townson Company was noted as being a wholesale dealer of a number of hardware-based items. These goods included grindstones, cordage, hinges, wooden ware, lumber, and, of course, axes. Advertisements from the media of the time note offerings of multiple types of axes, including hewing axes, broad axes, standard “chopping” patterns, and ice axes. These axes showed a number of Bronson and Townsend stamps. The first, and most simplistic marking is one of an arched string of text noting “The Bronson & Townsend Co.” over a straight string of “Hand Forged”. A second marking that has been noted is “B & T Co” with a small anchor next to the lettering. The anchor is similar to the anchor noted on certain James H. Mann and Co. axe heads, though is likely simply related to a specific line sold by Bronson& Townsend. This mark has been found on multiple axes noted with markings of the Kelly Axe Manufacturing Company, including the “Hand Forged” stamp of the 1905 to 1915 era. The consistent use for “Hand Forged” may be an indication that both markings were applied to Kelly made axes, though this is debatable. As Connecticut, like many other New England states, had a strong history of maritime industries, it’s likely that the mark was a nod to a line marketed with that history in mind, with an associated nautical based paper label. The 3rd marking is for what was likely the Bronson and Townsend Company’s top of the line axe offering, the “Paragon” axe. The Paragon etch is quite like a number of Kelly based etches in its square nature, flourishing, and ornate embellishments, and though it does not include “Hand Forged”, it does not “Hand Finished” and “Ground”.




One uncited source on an internet forum notes “Bradley” as a manufacturer of Bronson and Townsend marketed axes, though I have been unable to find any references that would lead me to believe this is accurate. G.W. Bradley was based out of Connecticut, so the proximity could have been a factor. However, I believe that the thought that G.W. Bradley was a supplier for the company is based on the company’s history including Robert Barnes Bradley, rather than a true relationship with Gershom Wakeman Bradley. The Bronson & Townson Hardware Company was a major player in the nation’s hardware wholesale, and was a long-standing member of the National Hardware Association. This association quite often listed the company alongside names like E.C. Simmons and Company, Marshall-Wells, and the George Worthington Company, indicating a business scale like those listed. This would indicate business supply needs like those other companies, and the need for a larger scale supplier, such as the Collins Company, Fayette R. Plumb Inc., or the Kelly Companies. That said, the Bronson & Townson Company would have worked with a plan of supplying through the lowest priced supplier, and so that supplier could change over time. Along with that fact, the company sold products not supplied by Kelly, such as Ice Axes, so numerous suppliers may have been involved at any given time.



(Axe above refurbished by BerensAxeHouse, Quincy, Illinois)


In 1904, John W. Townsend retired from office, leaving the company with the choice of changing names, but they chose not to. W.W. Bronson retired soon there after as well, leaving William A. Watts as President for some time. By the 1920s, Lewis H. Bronson had brought the Bronson name back to the head of the company. He would be followed by Walter W. Bronson II in the 1950s. In 1959, as the industry changed from manual tools to motorized ones, the company minimized its holdings to concentrate on power tools. Along with the minimization was a move from New Haven to Hamden, where they constructed a smaller, more efficient facility. The company continued in Hamden until at least 1993, offering supply and services to Chainsaws and other small tools. At that time, Clinton W. Chandler was noted as President, signaling a move of the Bronson’s away from that office.






Sources


Beers (J.H.) & Co., Chicago, Publishers. “Commemorative biographical record of New Haven County, Connecticut, containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and of many of the early settled families”. 1902 Hardware: Volume 18, Jan. 10th, 1899. Pg. 52

Hardware Age 1959-04-23: Vol 183 Iss 9 pg 153

Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) · Sun, Nov 18, 1928 · Page 2

Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) · 19 Sep 1937, Sun · Page 31

Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) · 26 Apr 1953, Sun · Page 115

Iron Age. 1902-09-11: Vol 70 pg. 44

Iron Age 1904-02-18: Vol 73 Iss 7 pg. 57

Iron Age. August 13th, 1911. Pg. 448

Manufacturers' Record 1898-12-16: Vol 34 Iss 21 pg. 363

Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) · 10 Dec 1898, Sat · Page 2

Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) · 9 Mar 1899, Thu · Page 8

Morning Journal-Courier (New Haven, Connecticut) · 4 Dec 1901, Wed · Page 2

New Britain Herald (New Britain, Connecticut) · Mon, Jul 7, 1924 · Page 12

Price and Lee Company, Inc. Price & Lee's New Haven (New Haven County, Conn.) city directory, including West Haven, East Haven, and Woodbridge. 1840

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Unknown member
Aug 12, 2023

Always very interesting! Thank you!

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