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Duro and Indestro Tool Identification

[Logo from Duro-Chrome Catalog] [Logo from Indestro Catalog]

This page will look at the tools produced by Duro Metal Products and Indestro Manufacturing, two companies that were prominent in the hand tool business during the middle three-quarters of the 20th century. The main focus will be on tool identification, but we'll also look briefly at the company history, examine the trademark and patent activities, and of course show lots of examples of their tools.

Table of Contents


Introduction

Company History

For even a brief look at the history of these companies, we first need to clarify the relationship between Duro Metal Products and Indestro Manufacturing. A casual observer might at first think that Duro and Indestro were unrelated businesses, but on closer examination Duro and Indestro look and behave more like a single company, with a dual organization set up to promote the branding of their products.

For example, both companies listed their headquarters at the same address, 2649 N. Kildare Ave. in Chicago, and both companies' catalogs show the same two illustrations of their factory buildings. Numerous items in the Duro catalogs were actually products branded Indestro, and Indestro products often listed patents granted to Duro Metal Products. The Indestro catalogs show most of the same products as the Duro catalogs, but with different model numbers assigned to the Indestro pieces.

From these considerations, for our present purpose Duro and Indestro can be treated as a single company with two major product brands. In fact, it appears that the main reason for Indestro may have been to allow production of inexpensive or economy lines of tools, without diluting the high-end reputation of the Duro products.

With the above in mind, Duro Metal Products was founded in 1916 by Norris F. McNaught and William H. Odlum, both of whom would play an active role in product development for many years. The Indestro Manufacturing operation was formed around 1922 or so, and the companies produced tools primarily for the automotive service market. Their early products included such items as hex-drive socket sets, socket wrenches (the early variety, with sockets permanently attached to a bar), and specialty tools. Indestro also produced a variety of other products, including bottle-cappers and kitchen utensils such as egg-beaters. Examples of their early production can be seen in the Duro 634 Socket Wrench and Indestro Socket Wrench.


Sure Seal Bottle Capper Company

[Sure Seal Bottle Capper Logo]
Fig. 1. Early Sure Seal Bottle Capper Logo, ca. 1920s.

A recently discovered early logo provides another view of the origin of the Indestro operations. Fig. 1 shows the detail from an early Indestro wrench set, marked "Sure Seal Bottle Capper Co." and "Chicago" around the outside, with "Mfrs. Indestro Products" in the center. This suggests that the Sure Seal Bottle Capper Company was the earlier entity using the Indestro mark, and that bottle-cappers were an important early product. Several patents for bottle-cappers were issued to Harold G. Rice before and after 1920, and some of the later patents were assigned to Indestro.

Additional research has confirmed that the Sure Seal entity was the originator of the Indestro mark. A trademark search found that the Sure Seal Bottle Capper Company filed an application on September 10, 1921 for an "Indestro All Steel Capper" mark in a graphic design, and the trademark was issued as #156,066 on June 13, 1922. The trademark application noted that the Sure Seal company was a copartnership of Harold G. Rice, Louis M. Rice, and Landor Penne, and that the trademark was used on bottle-capping machines. The first use date was listed as January 20, 1921.

Fig. 2 below shows the graphic design included in the trademark application.

[Indestro All Steel Capper Trademark]
Fig. 2. Indestro All Steel Capper Logo, 1922.

With the information from the trademark application, it's reasonable to infer that the Sure Seal Bottle Capper Company was acquired by Duro Metal Products to form its Indestro Manufacturing division.

By the late 1920s and '30s the companies were very actively developing and marketing products for the growing automotive service market. Many patents were granted to Duro Metal Products during this period, covering both new product designs and better ways of producing existing items. By the time the 1939 Duro-Chrome catalog (#39M) was issued, the companies were offering a broad line of tools with both high-end and economy selections.

Duro Metal Products also manufactured a well-regarded line of woodworking machines and other power tools, and produced a separate catalog of such equipment.

During the 1930s, Duro/Indestro was a supplier to at least three major retailers, Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, and Western Auto. The tools supplied included socket sets, drive tools, and wrenches, and were sold both under existing Duro or Indestro brands, as well as private brands produced for the particular retailer. The paragraphs below will show some examples of these supplier arrangements.

The 1931 Sears Spring and Summer catalog listed several "Durobilt" brand socket sets, which are easily recognized as Duro production. The sets included a 45-piece carbon-steel socket set in a tool chest for $4.35, a carbon-steel 36-piece Wrench Set for $2.89, and the latest "Super Durobilt" 40-piece alloy-steel set for $5.98. The latter set is particularly interesting, as it mentions the use of "Chrome Nickel Steel", and was also available with 12-point sockets for a slightly higher $6.75 price. In 1931 Sears had not yet extended its Craftsman brand to include socket sets, so sockets and drive tools were offered only under other brand names. (Other socket sets were sold under the Hinsdale, Merit, and Bobcat brands.)

For Montgomery Ward, Duro/Indestro produced sockets and wrenches for the company's "Riverside" line, and some examples of these tools will be shown in a later Riverside section. A 1935 Montogmery Ward catalog shows a 35-piece chrome-vanadium steel socket set in a toolbox for $8.45; the set can be recognized as Duro production by the socket design and the pressed-flange construction of the ratchet. Also offered are Chrome-Vanadium box-end wrenches and an older 36-piece carbon-steel socket set for just $2.69.

Duro/Indestro supplied products to Western Auto at least as early as 1931 and possibly earlier, as an Indestro CV Socket Set was acquired with a Western Auto receipt dated in 1931. Later in the 1930s, Duro/Indestro was a major producer for Western Auto's "Chrome X Quality" line, and continued to supply products for the later Westcraft and Wizard tool lines. Some examples are shown in the Wizard section.

Duro and Indestro continued to prosper during the 1940s and '50s, but by the 1960s appeared to be losing ground to other competitors. Sometime during the '60s the Indestro operations were formally merged into Duro Metal Products, and the tools began appearing with dual brands "Duro-Indestro". The tool lines were "harmonized", which unfortunately meant that some of the special higher-end features of the Duro-Chrome tools were dropped. The company continued operating through the 1970s and 1980s, and was finally closed in 1990.


Trademarks

Many of the tools produced by Duro and Indestro were marked with one of their well-known registered trademarks, and these of course are easy to identify. However, the companies also used quite a number of informal and unregistered marks for their tools, and these will be described (to the extent they are known) in the sections below. First though, let's review the registered trademarks, using information obtained from the USPTO database.

Table 1A. Duro Metal Products and Indestro Manufacturing: Registered Trademarks
Text Mark First Use Company Date Filed Date Issued Registration Examples/Notes
Indestro All Steel Capper 01/20/1921 Sure Seal Bottle Capper Co. 09/10/1921 06/13/1922 156,066 Indestro Logo
Indestro 06/13/1922 Indestro Manufacturing 11/15/1951 11/24/1954 582,680  
Duro-Bilt 10/12/1929 Duro Metal Products 10/28/1929 03/11/1930 268,130 Durobilt Socket Set
Duro Chrome 01/13/1931 Duro Metal Products 01/24/1931 07/28/1931 285,395  
Tools of Progress 01/07/1934 Duro Metal Products 12/09/1935 05/19/1936 335,056 Tools of Progress Logo
Duro 01/07/1934 Duro Metal Products 12/09/1935 05/04/1937 345,576  
"Spin-Flex" 05/01/1935 Duro Metal Products 05/18/1936 09/15/1936 338,643  
[Dart-like Wrench Design] 12/30/1936 Indestro Manufacturing 01/18/1937 05/25/1937 346,439 Streamlined Wrenches
Tools [Triangle Logo] 1939 Indestro Manufacturing 11/15/1951 04/13/1954 588,070 Inverted Triangle Logo
Select Steel Tools 03/21/1961 Indestro Manufacturing 05/26/1961 06/26/1962 733,592 Text in outline box

Streamlined Wrench Design Trademark

In 1937 Indestro filed an application for an important trademark, the "streamlined" design for its wrenches, and listed 1936 as the date of first use. The registration was issued as number 0346439 later that year.

This trademark is notable in that it doesn't depend on any specific wording, but only on the design itself, so that any wrench made with this distinctive design could still be regarded as marked by Indestro. This would have allowed the company to make tools with the specific "Indestro" branding omitted from the forging, so that the finished tools could be marked with private brands as needed.

[Indestro Chicago Open-End Wrenches with Streamlined Design]
Fig. 3. Indestro Chicago Double-Open Wrenches Showing Streamlined Design.

Fig. 3 at the left shows the streamlined design as it appears on several Indestro double-open wrenches, each marked "Indestro Chicago U.S.A." with "Drop Forged Select Steel" on the reverse. (The reverse is shown later with the discussion of the Select Steel mark.)

In these examples the streamlined design takes the form of depressed panels with pointed darts at the end, and the width of the panels follows the natural shape of the shank. The streamlined design also appears as raised panels with darts on other wrench models.


Patents

Duro Metal Products devoted substantial resources to research and development activities, as evidenced by the numerous patents issued to the company. Most of the patents obtained were assigned to the Duro Metal entity, but a few listed Indestro Manufacturing as the assignee. In some cases the company licensed patents from outside the company.

Table 1B below lists some of the known patents issued to Duro or Indestro, or patents used by the companies and assumed to have been licensed. The list may not be complete, but will be expanded if new patents are found.

Table 1B. Duro Metal Products Issued and Licensed Patents
Patent No.InventorFiledIssuedDescriptionExamples
1,376,583 H.G. Rice 11/29/1920 05/03/1921 Bottle Capper  
RE15,222 H.G. Rice 09/10/1921 11/08/1921 Bottle Capper  
1,744,413 E.H. Peterson et al 07/05/1929 01/21/1930 T-Wrench handle Duro Convertible L-T Handle
1,749,300 Peterson & Odlum 08/29/1927 03/04/1930Reciprocating Valve Grinder  
1,751,657 Peterson & McNaught 05/06/1929 03/25/1930Reciprocating Valve Grinder  
1,788,535 McNaught & Peterson 10/11/1928 01/13/1931Socket wrench kit Indestro 1351 Socket Set
1,798,481 McNaught & Peterson 10/08/1928 03/31/1931Lever action ratchet handle Duro 672 Ratchet
1,798,482 McNaught & Peterson 10/08/1928 03/31/1931Lever action ratchet handle  
1,857,211 W.H. Odlum et al 02/27/1931 05/10/1932Wheel Puller  
1,858,372 Peterson & McNaught 11/09/1931 05/17/1932Valve Spring Compressor  
1,868,839 McNaught & Peterson 07/03/1930 07/26/1932Ratchet Lever  
1,868,840 McNaught & Peterson 07/03/1930 07/26/1932Ratchet Lever (Non-Reversible)  
1,902,878 McNaught & Peterson 06/16/1932 03/28/1933Pressed-Flange Ratchet Construction Duro-Chrome 678D Ratchet,
Indestro Super 3201 Ratchet
1,932,796 McNaught 05/18/1931 10/31/1933Grease Ram  
1,912,725 H.G. Rice 04/22/1929 06/06/1933Socket Wrench Set And Holder  
1,968,215 E.H. Peterson 01/08/1934 07/31/1934Commutator Cleaning Tool  
1,978,590 McNaught & Peterson 01/12/1934 10/30/1934Spring-Loaded Universal Joint Mechanism  
2,027,922 N.F. McNaught 05/29/1935 01/14/1936Hot-Broach Method of Making Sockets  
2,064,351 McNaught & Peterson 01/23/1936 12/22/1936Socket Wrench Kit  
2,065,340 McNaught & Peterson 10/05/1935 12/22/1936Socket Wrench Kit  
2,065,341 McNaught & Peterson 01/23/1936 12/22/1936Socket Wrench Kit  
D103,579 N.F. McNaught 01/18/1937 03/16/1937Drain Plug Multi-Wrench Indestro No. 410 Drain Plug Wrench
D111,026 W.R. Hosford 04/07/1938 08/23/1938Screwdriver Socket Holder  
D119,441 W.A. Sandy 01/20/1940 03/12/1940Battery Pliers With Box-End Wrench Handles Duro-Chrome 2114 Pliers
2,256,624 W.H. Odlum 12/14/1940 09/23/1941Universal Joint  
2,363,350 W.P. Nail 02/11/1944 11/21/1944Battery Terminal Multi-Tool Duro-Chrome 648 Battery Tool
D143,931 W.H. Odlum 07/20/1945 02/19/1946Design for Tool Handle  
2,395,681 W.H. Odlum et al 11/08/1944 02/26/1946Dual-Pawl Ratchet Mechanism Duro-Chrome 699 Ratchet
2,686,582 Odlum & Hosford 03/22/1952 08/17/1954Ratchet Wrench Reversible Drive Mechanism Indestro Super 2775 Ratchet,
Wizard H2833 Ratchet
2,836,273 Odlum & Hosford 06/10/1953 05/27/1958Reversible Ratchet Mechanism [Slide Shift]  
2,841,289 W.H. Odlum et al 09/14/1954 07/01/1958Wall Rack For Tools  

Manufacturing Dates

Duro and Indestro tools were generally not marked with a date code or other specific indication of the manufacturing date. When estimates of manufacturing dates are needed, they must be based on factors such as marking style, design, patents, trademarks, or other characteristics.

In order to assist with estimating manufacturing dates, we hope to develop some guidelines based on tool markings and other characteristics. For now, the following list of events and observations may be helpful in determining the manufacturing date for some tools.

  • Duro-Bilt Trademark. The Duro-Bilt trademark was first used in 1929.
  • Duro-Chrome Trademark. The Duro-Chrome trademark was first used in 1931.
  • "Chromium-Vanadium" Marking. During the early to mid 1930s Western Auto Supply used "Chromium-Vanadium" (with the full element names) as a brand for alloy steel tools. Suppliers to Western Auto (which included Duro and Indestro) accordingly used this marking on tools intended for sale to Western Auto. The approximate period of use was 1931 to 1936. However, Indestro sockets continued to be marked "Chromium Vanadium" even after the product line was called "Super Quality".
  • "Handy-Hex" Marking. During the 1930s Duro used the "Handy-Hex" marking as an alternate brand for its box-end wrenches, typically when the wrenches were sold as contract production.
  • Streamlined Design Trademark. The "Streamlined" design, a dart-like depressed or raised panel, was first used in 1937.
  • Specific Alloy Marking. During the 1930s Duro and Indestro tools were generally marked for the specific alloy steel composition, usually as "Chrome Vanadium" or "Chrome Vanadium Steel". A review of tools made during 1942-1945 wartime years indicates that specific alloy markings were seldom if ever used during this period. A further review of Indestro Super tools (made in 1945 and later) shows that the alloy composition was no longer being marked by this time. Thus the use of a specific alloy marking strongly indicates production in 1941 or earlier.
  • X-Circle Marking. During the 1942-1945 wartime years Duro/Indestro did extensive production for government contracts, and the tools made for these contracts were frequently marked with a symbol resembling an "X" in a circle, referred to as the X-Circle mark in the text. (See the section on X-Circle for more information.) The use of the X-Circle mark indicates production in 1942-1945.
  • "G" Code. A small number of Duro-Chrome tools have been found with a "G" code stamped near the brand or model number, typically with a plain finish. This "G" code is believed to indicate production in 1945 under government restrictions, similar to the use by Snap-on of "G" as its date code for 1945.
  • "Indestro Super" Brand. The Indestro Super brand was first used around 1945, as a successor to the "Super-Quality" brand previously used for alloy-steel tools.

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