The Superior Works: Inner Sanctum

A seemingly infinite number of saw manufacturers appeared on the American tool manufacturing scene during the latter half of the 19th century. Technology had advanced enough where anyone who was savvy in steel and had (or thought he had) a business acumen could start-up a saw works to supply the explosion of carpenters and tradesmen building America from coast to coast.

One such manufacturer, a partnership, Wheeler, Madden&Clemson, decided to set-up operations in Middleton, NY where the firm produced a wide range of fine products from ca. 1860 to 1890. However, they needed to distinguish themselves from the rest of the saw-pack if they were to keep the loan officers at bay. Their brilliant idea was to make a shapely handle with a distinctive 'notch' cutout above the closed portion of the handle. This notch was designed so that the worker could flip the saw around, with the teeth pointing away from his body, and cut backwards with it. His thumb fits into the notch with his hand closing over the handle's cheeks. Several other manufactures, like Disston and Simonds, made similar handles to satisfy the blossoming demand for backward sawing.

Pictured here is one such Wheeler, Madden&Clemson saw. However, it would be impossible for you to grip this saw, unless you come equipped with hands the size of GI Joe (Kung-Fu grip optional). This saw is a salesman's sample of the company's patented product, and has a blade that measures just nine inches long. The handle is finely detailed, the teeth are sharpened to a rip profile and are set, and the back is skewed. In other words, this saw is ready for cutting, and were you of the mind, you could rig GI Joe to saw Barbie in half in a pretend magic show.

The advertising trade card shows the exact saw touted by the company. This card dates from the late 1880's to early 1890's and is very rare, as is most of tool ephemera from that era. Unlike the purveyors of medical quackery, sewing machines, stoves, pump organs, etc., all of whom relied heavily upon the Victorian advertising via trade cards, tool companies rarely employed such things to spread the word about their products.

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pal, March 15, 1998