Alloy Artifacts

Exploring Ingenuity in Iron ...

Alloy Artifacts Home
Alloy Artifacts Web Search

Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing


Table of Contents

Introduction

Company History

Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing was founded in 1895 by Willis F. Hobbs as the Bridgeport Manufacturing Company, with an initial location on Knowlton Street in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Willis Hobbs had been involved previously in other business partnerships in Bridgeport, including the Wilmot & Hobbs Manufacturing Company and later a partnership with E.N. Sperry. Hobbs was an active inventor and received a number of patents for products produced by the company.

In 1900 the company built a new factory and moved to 461 Iranistan Avenue, but a fire in 1902 forced a temporary move to other quarters. In 1902 the company was reorganized as the Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing Corporation.

The company was successful and grew steadily, and by 1915 had about 200 employees. The officers of the company at this time were Willis F. Hobbs as president, Harry B. Curtis as treasuer, and Arthur I. Platt as secretary.

Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing made a wide variety of tools, with many of them produced as a contract manufacturer for other companies. The tools were frequently marked with the company's initials BHM, sometimes in the stylized BHM-Logo shown in our Logos Table.

BHM sometimes made use of a somewhat unusual nickel-molybdenum alloy steel, so this may help to identify an otherwise unknown tool.

In the early 1960s Bridgeport Hardware was acquired by Crescent Niagara, a holding company that had previously acquired Crescent Tool, Billings & Spencer, and the tool operations of Barcalo Manufacturing. Production of Bridgeport tools continued under the management of Crescent Niagara, and a 1967 Crescent catalog included a number of items from the Bridgeport Hardware line.


Patents

Table 1. Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing: Issued and Licensed Patents
Patent No.InventorFiledIssuedDescriptionExamples
672,673 W.F. Hobbs07/02/190004/23/1901Pliers  
708,841 E.N. Sperry06/03/190209/09/1902Nail Puller  
809,803 W.F. Hobbs06/05/190501/09/1906Nail Puller  
809,804 W.F. Hobbs01/06/190501/09/1906Punch Pliers  
1,112,798 W.F. Hobbs12/13/191310/06/1914Handle Fastening (for Iroquois)  
1,608,176 W.F. Hobbs et al05/11/192511/23/1926Valve Spring Compressor  
1,614,300 W.F. Hobbs et al08/28/192601/11/1927Valve Spring Compressor BHM No. 24 Valve Spring Lifter
1,755,822 W.F. Hobbs02/03/192804/22/1930Screwdriver and Method of Making  
1,770,899 J.A. Anderson05/14/192807/22/1930Valve Spring Compressor  
1,809,450 A.I. Platt08/16/192806/09/1931Wrench Kit Holder  
1,888,222 H.B. Curtis et al12/26/193111/22/1932Screwdriver  
D97,325 H.B. Curtis09/21/193510/29/1935Design for Wrench Nickel-Molybdenum Wrench
2,123,393 J.F. Windsor01/21/193707/12/1938Screwdriver Handle  

Trademarks

The name "Bridgeport" was registered as a trademark with the first use given as 1928.

Bridgeport used a number of unregistered brands for its products, including "Matchless", "Hy-Bar", and other names.


Selected Tools


BHM 7 Inch Slip-Joint Universal Pliers

[BHM Slip-Joint Universal Pliers]
Fig. 1. BHM Slip-Joint Universal Pliers, with Insets for Handle Pattern and Detail.

Fig. 1 shows a pair of BHM 7 inch universal (combination) pliers, marked with the BHM Logo forged into the gripping pattern, and with "Bridgeport Line" forged into the underside (see lower inset).


BHM "Matchless" No. 133 7 Inch Universal Pliers

The next two figures show examples of the "Matchless" No. 133 universal pliers.

[BHM Matchless No. 133 7 Inch Universal Pliers]
Fig. 2A. BHM Matchless No. 133 7 Inch Universal Pliers, with Insets for Side View and Marking Detail, ca. 1920s.

Fig. 2A shows a pair of BHM "Matchless" No. 133 7 inch universal (combination) pliers, stamped "Matchless" and "No. 133" inside an oval near the pivot. The handles have the BHM Logo forged into the gripping pattern, with "Made in U.S.A." (not shown) forged into the underside of one handle, and with "B'port Hdwe. Mfg. Co." forged into the other (see lower inset).

The overall length is 7.1 inches, and the finish is plain steel, with pitting due to rust.

The pliers earn their "universal" name by incorporating both flat and rounded gripping surfaces, a wire-cutting slot, a slip-joint adjustment, and a screwdriver tip on one handle.

[BHM Matchless No. 133 7 Inch Universal Pliers]
Fig. 2. BHM Matchless No. 133 7 Inch Universal Pliers, with Insets for Side View and Marking Detail, ca. 1920s.

Fig. 2B shows a similar pair of BHM "Matchless" No. 133 7 inch universal (combination) pliers, stamped with "Matchless" and the model number in an oval (see lower inset), but difficult to read due to rust and pitting. The handles have the BHM Logo forged into the gripping pattern, with "Made in U.S.A." (not shown) forged into the underside on one handle, and with "B'port Hdwe. Mfg. Co." forged into the other (see center inset).

The overall length is 7.0 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.


BHM 9 Inch Auto Wrench

[BHM 9 Inch Auto Wrench]
Fig. 3. BHM 9 Inch Auto Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 3 shows a Bridgeport 9 inch auto wrench, a common item for automobile tool kits. The wrench is marked with "B.H.M. Corp." and "Bridgeport, U.S.A." forged into the shank, with "Forged Steel" on the reverse.

The overall length is 9.0 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.

"Nickel Molybdenum" Open-End Wrench

[BHM Nickel Molybdenum 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 4. BHM Nickel Molybdenum 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 4 shows a BHM 3/4x7/8 open-end wrench with a distinctive X-Center design, consisting of a central "X" with elongated darts on either side. The wrench is marked "U.S.A. Nickel Molybdenum" with "Patent No. 97325" on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.5 inches.

The patent notice is a reference to design patent #D97,325, filed in 1935 with assignment to Bridgeport Hardware.


"Nickel Molybdenum" Box-End Wrench

[BHM Nickel Molybdenum 3/8x7/16 Box-End Wrench]
Fig. 5. BHM Nickel Molybdenum 3/8x7/16 Box-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 5 shows a BHM 3/8x7/16 box-end wrench with the X-Center design, marked "U.S.A. Nickel Molybdenum" with "Patent No. 97325" on the reverse.

BHM is effectively using "Nickel Molybdenum" as an informal brand on this wrench. The patented design of this wrench allows BHM to be clearly identified as the maker, but other wrenches may be found occasionally with only the "Nickel Molybdenum" marking.


"Nickel Molybdenum" Combination Wrench

The distinctive cross-and-darts design was also used for combination wrenches, although these are less commonly found.

[BHM Nickel-Molybdenum 3/8 Combination Wrench]
Fig. 6. BHM Nickel Molybdenum 3/8 Combination Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 6 shows a BHM 3/8 combination wrench with the X-Center design, marked "U.S.A. Nickel Molybdenum" with "Patent No. 97325" on the reverse.

The overall length is 4.6 inches, and the finish is chrome plating with polished faces.


BHM "Master Quality" 27C Open-End Wrench

Bridgeport produced a line of open-end wrenches under the "Master Quality" mark, an unregistered brand used primarily by Montgomery Ward for its top-quality tools, but sometimes used by others as well. Some of the Bridgeport production includes the full "Wards Master Quality" name, but frequently only "Master Quality" was marked.

[BHM 27C 9/16x11/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 7. BHM 27C 9/16x11/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 7 at the left shows a BHM 27C 9/16x11/16 open-end wrench, stamped with the model and BHM Logo on the face. The shank has a distinctive depressed panel design, with "Molybdenum Alloy U.S.A." forged into the front and "Master Quality" on the reverse.

The overall length is 6.7 inches, and the finish is plain steel.


BHM "Master Quality" 28S Open-End Wrench

[BHM 28S 5/8x25/32 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 8. BHM 28S 5/8x25/32 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 8 at the left shows a BHM 28S 5/8x25/32 open-end wrench, stamped with the model and BHM Logo on the face. The shank has a distinctive depressed panel design, with "Molybdenum Alloy U.S.A." forged into the front and "Master Quality" on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.8 inches, and the finish is plain steel.


BHM "Master Quality" 731A Open-End Wrench

[BHM 731A 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 9. BHM 731A 3/4x7/8 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 9 at the left shows a BHM 731A 3/4x7/8 open-end wrench, stamped with the model and BHM Logo on the face. The shank has a distinctive depressed panel design, with "Molybdenum Alloy U.S.A." forged into the front and "Master Quality" on the reverse.

The overall length is 8.8 inches, and the finish is plain steel.


Ward's "Master Quality" 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench

The next two figures show examples of BHM production for the Montgomery Ward "Master Quality" line.

[Ward's Master Quality 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 10A. Ward's "Master Quality" 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 10A shows a Ward's "Master Quality" 15/16x1 open-end wrench of the same distinctive design as the previous examples, but not marked with the BHM logo. The panelled shank is marked with "Molybdenum Alloy U.S.A." forged into the front, with "Wards Master Quality" forged into the reverse.

The overall length is 9.8 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

[Ward's Master Quality 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 10B. Ward's Master Quality 15/16x1 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 10B shows another example of the Ward's Master Quality 15/16x1 open-end wrench, with somewhat clearer markings and again not marked with the BHM logo. The wrench is marked with "Ward's Master Quality" forged into the one side, with "Molybdenum Alloy U.S.A." forged into the reverse.

The overall length is 9.8 inches. The finish is nickel plating, with losses due to rust and pitting.


Bridgeport Hy-Bar 5/16x13/32 Angled Open-End Wrench

In later years (probably during the 1950s) Bridgeport introduced the Hy-Bar line of open-end wrenches, a distinctive design with the heads angled in the vertical plane for clearance.

[Brigeport Hy-Bar 5/16x13/32 Angled Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 11. Brigeport Hy-Bar 5/16x13/32 Angled Open-End Wrench.

Fig. 11 shows a Bridgeport Hy-Bar 5/16x13/32 open-end wrench with angled heads, stamped "Hy-Bar" and "Bridgeport" on the face, and with "Forged Steel U.S.A." and the fractional sizes forged into the shank. The reverse shank has the approximate metric sizes "8 m/m" and "10 m/m" in forged raised letters.

The overall length is 3.6 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.


Bridgeport Hy-Bar 5/8x3/4 Angled Open-End Wrench

[Brigeport Hy-Bar 5/8x3/4 Angled Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 12. Brigeport Hy-Bar 5/8x3/4 Angled Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Side View.

Fig. 12 shows a Bridgeport Hy-Bar 5/8x3/4 open-end wrench with angled heads, stamped "Hy-Bar" and "Bridgeport" on the face, and with "Forged Steel U.S.A." and the fractional size forged into the shank. The reverse shank has the approximate metric sizes "16 m/m" and "19 m/m" in forged raised letters.

The overall length is 7.5 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.


BHM No. 24 "Bull Pup" Valve Spring Lifter

[BHM No. 24 Bull Pup Valve Spring Lifter]
Fig. 13. BHM No. 24 "Bull Pup" Valve Spring Lifter, with Insets for Side View and Marking Detail, ca. Late 1920s to 1930s.

Fig. 13 shows a BHM No. 24 "Bull Pup" valve spring lifter, stamped on the lower jaw with "Made by Bridgeport Hdwe. Mfg. Corp." and "Bridgeport, Conn. U.S.A.", with the BHM Logo to the right. The upper jaw is stamped with a "Pat. Jan. 11, 1927" patent date, with "Licensed under Kulp Pat. No. 1,330,542" on the upper handle.

The overall length is 7.4 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The patent date refers to patent #1,614,300, filed by W.F. Hobbs in 1926.


References and Resources

Photographs and observations of particular tools are based on items in the Alloy Artifacts collection.

Biographical information on Willis F. Hobbs, the founder of Bridgeport Hardware Manufacturing, can be found in the History of Bridgeport and Vicinity, Volume II, published by the S.J. Clarke Publishing Company in 1917. The section on Willis F. Hobbs begins on page 238, and the article provides an interesting account of the founding and early operations of the company.


Catalog Resources

Product information was obtained from Bridgeport Hardware catalog No. 22 of 1923.


Patent and Trademark Information

Patent information was obtained from the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) web site at uspto.gov. Patent documents were obtained from sites offering free downloads, notably freepatentsonline.com.


Feedback

If any readers have additional information about Bridgeport Hardware, please let us know via the "Contact Us" link on the home page. Your comments and suggestions are welcome as well.


Alloy Artifacts Home Text and Photographs Copyright © 2005-2009 Alloy Artifacts Site Index