C. Drew & Co.
Kingston, Massachusetts

The photograph is courtesy of Andrew Pollock, Kingston Public Library.


Christopher Prince Drew was a famous maker of caulking tools, caulking mallets, shingle rips and cat's paws in Kingston, MA.  Christopher Drew is also known for the high quality of his caulking mallets, the best of which were made from live oak. He also used black mesquite, but caulkers noted that it was particularly slippery to handle and preferred the live oak. Drew caulking mallets were either made with malleable iron or cast steel ferrules; the more durable cast steel caulking irons were marked with a triple O after the company mark, hence the name "triple ought" for the best quality caulking irons (Ed Shaw, personal communication). His company used the mark "C DREW & CO" and "C DREW & CO KINGSTON MASS".  In 1970, the company was sold to the Kingston Tool Company owned by Robert W. MacWilliams of Ashburnham.  The factory burned to the ground shortly after the sale.

Illlustrations from: C. Drew & Company. Catalog No. 34: C. Drew & Co. established 1837: factory at Kingston, Mass. Plymouth county. Two of these illustrations are also reproduced in Larson's September 2001 article in the Chronicle about the C. Drew company (see excerpt below).

Reed calking ironscalking irons
Drew caulking ironsMore caulking irons

Emily Drew's 1937 speech A century of C. Drew & Company.The Davistown Museum has in its library a copy of this speech. Below are excerpts:
Just a few words about the background of the business.  First, as to the family, Six generations of shipbuilders in the Drew family are known to have existed before 1800.  Two of these generations were in England, beginning with Edward Drew (Sir Edward Drew) who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth with other Devonshire builders, owners and commanders of the 'mosquito fleet' which harassed and then annihilated the Great Armada which proud and arrogant Spain had sent to humble a rebellious England.  Four generations of the name were in Plymouth County, our branch being associated with Plymouth, Duxbury, and Kingston, in that order.  The last of these generations was the famous group of six brothers who ran the Drew yard together at the Landing and who built the Independence, the first commissioned vessel in the United States Navy.

In all these generations, the making of the iron work, the bolts and braces and fixtures, the forging of the tools, necessary for making and finishing the craft, was done in little hand forges in the yard, entirely by man power.

Major Seth Drew was one of these brothers.  His son Seth Jr., known as Deacon Seth, also worked in the Drew yard.  Seth Jr. seems to have inherited, thro his mother, the aptitude for mill work for which the Brewsters have been noted.  Instead of remaining in the shipyard, he turned his attention to the making of ships' tools and supplies on a larger scale and by water power.  In 1805, with his brother-in-law Thomas Cushman and Seth Washburn, he started an Iron Works -- a water-shop -- on Stony Brook.  All three men had natural ability and the Stony Brook Iron Works, 'the Drews' works' as they have been commonly called, were a success.  With the incoming of more Washburn blood thro Deacon Seth's wife, the later generations had an even greater mechanical inheritance.

On the water privilege which they bought on Stony Brook, stood a grist mill and nearby a blacksmith shop (not a water shop), both owned and run by Isaac Brewster.  Previously an early sawmill had stood on the privilege.  The gristmill was continued as it stood; the blacksmith shop was moved over to the stream, or else a flume was dug to the building, and made into the Iron Works or Auger shop.  Here in the old shop which stood on the present stone dam, they made tools and did ships blacksmithing for the local yards, Plymouth and Duxbury as well as Kingston, and here they did also much other local work, --the job work which still plays a part in the business.  When Mrs. Sever's andirons burned out or she wanted a new pair, they were made in the Drews' shop.  When Thomas Adams built a new house, the braces and hinges, locks and shutter hangers, the crane and its hangings, the trammel hooks, fireplace fittings and the brick oven door were made at Drews' shop.  Iron work for wagons, farm tools, anchors for small craft, clam diggers, and the like were all made at the works.  Local work has been continuous down to the present day.

Deacon Seth Drew's sons learned the business.  Job followed in his father's footsteps and did ships blacksmithing and local work as his father had done.  Christopher also learned the business of auger making from Nahum Bailey Sr., son-in-law and successor to Seth Washburn.  Thomas Bailey had also learned auger-making and had continued with the concern after his turn of apprenticeship was over.

Christopher Drew wanted to launch out, --to expand the business, to get into the outside market.  His father, while he sympathized with the young man's ambition, had no desire to take on the care and responsibilities of expanding the business.  (Thomas Cushman had withdrawn from the firm and had gone down to Smelt Brook where he established the Cobb and Drew privilege and Uncle Seth Washburn's increasing age had caused him to retire from active business.)

Uncle Christopher and Thomas Bailey decided to go into partnership together and start a new business or firm.  With financial help and encouragement from Deacon Seth, they built a new shop, equipping it with the most modern tools and power machinery.  They called themselves C. Drew & Company, and they founded the firm which in June 1937 completed a century of existence.  This was 31 years after the establishment of the Iron Works.

I have given the background rather fully, after all, but I am justified because since the merger of the two lines of work, the Iron Works and the Auger Shop, with C. Drew & Company, after Uncle Job's death, the business as it was previous to 1837 is the inheritance of the C. Drew & Company of today.

...The old buildings, the Stony Brook Iron Works, stood in he midst of what is now the pond, close to or on the present dam and not far from the present factory building.  They were on an island formed by the natural stream and the flume leading to the new shop, and the foundations still show in the bottom of the pond when the water is low.  They stood until Mr. Bates made extensive changes about 1875.  The new shop was built just where the main part of the present factory stands, the front cable indicating the width of the original structure.

[Quotes below are from Emily Drew's father's memories]

..."Special attention was given, in the beginning, to the manufacture of what was known as Treenail (treenail, pronounced trunnel) Augers, used in the building of wooden shipping and differing from the regular Carpenter's Augers in the matter of length of the twisted section and also in quality.  They were used for boring holes in the oak timbers that formed the frames of ships, preparatory to fastening those timbers together with iron bolts or with tree nails" (literally Tree Nails, or wooden pegs, just as houses were framed).  "The nature of this work demanded long Augers and the best quality of steel and workmanship, to perform their work and withstand the severe service required of them"

"Another line to which attention was soon given was the Ship Calkers' Tools.  In the building of wooden shipping, of every style and size, be it a mud scow ar an ocean-going ship, a canal boat or a pleasure yacht, one of the last operations is calking all joints and seams with oakum, a preparation of hemp and tar, or with cotton in the case of small boats.  This is to make them water tight, and it is done by driving the oakum or cotton into the seams between the planks with a Calking Iron and Mallet.  The trade in these goods was right in line with that of Treenail Augers, and aided by the good name that their Augers had earned for them, the making of Calkers' Tools became an important addition to the business.  There are many styles and shapes necessary to the proper calking of the various parts of ships.  If you were to see samples of all patterns, lengths, widths, and thicknesses of Calking Tools that have been produced at our factory, you might, with good reason, wonder why there need to be so great a number and variety of them.  The reason is that, while the nature of the work requires this variety to a considerable extent, it is largely due to the whims and fancies of the men who use them."  (They select a tool by its "feel", balance, or "ring" when it is struck.)

The young firm prospered, Uncle Christopher's progressive methods were successful, and he was backed by the skill and loyal support of his partners.  In the 17 years since they formed the partnership, they had paid off their indebtedness to Deacon Seth for their part in the new building and its equipment and had apparently started on the upward path when, in 1854, the shop, as the family always calls the factory, burned down.

No one knows what caused the fire, but probably a bit of red hot scale flying from an anvil or power hammer buried itself in some crack or crevice of woodwork or anvil block and smoldered until it burst into flame.

At the time, Deacon James Foster was running the grist mill while the Drews ran the Iron Works.  In those days before the pond was enlarged, there was seldom enough water for power for both mills at the same time.  The grist mill, used less constantly, as given second rights to the power.  It worked out that in time of scarcity of water, the Iron Works used the "day pond" as long as the water lasted, then the pond was allowed to fill up again for the next user.

Deacon Foster went down about nine or ten o'clock at night and started the waterwheel and the machinery of the gristmill.  Then he went back to his home on Foster's Lane, where Mrs. Greenwood now lives, following an old lane now abandoned.  At one o'clock he went down again to stop the machinery and let the pond fill up again for the next day of Iron Works.  As he neared the mill, he saw to his consternation that Drew's shop, a building which stood close by the gristmill, was a mass of smoking ruins.  He roused the family but of course nothing could be done.  It was a heavy blow to the partners.  There was some insurance, probably a reasonable amount for those days when insurance was still a novelty and not so heavily carried as is common today. The men were still young; Mr. Thomas Bailey was fifty but Christopher Drew was thirty nine and his brother Seth was only thirty.  (Job who had succeeded his father was 43.)  They knew the business, they had established valuable contracts with dealers in Boston, and they finally decided to rebuild.

The new building occupied the same foundation as the old and again the most up-to-date machinery and tools were installed.  Some changes in manufacturing methods and machinery had taken place in seventeen years since the firm started in business, and in the end the almost overwhelming disaster proved to be a blessing in disguise.  My father was less than a year old at the time of the fire, so the story of the business from 1854 to today is the story of his lifetime.

It is a far cry from the machinery and equipment of one hundred years ago to that of the present.  Even my recollection is of a shop quite different from the present one.  As we stood at the entrance, at the top of the steps looking down into the forge room, a row of old trip-hammers stood at the far right on the platform from which the stairs to the upper floor ascended.  To the left were forges ranged along the north wall, with their brick chimneys and their anvils for hand work.    At the rear were the bin for coal for the forges and the open racks for steel bars used in making the tools.

...Upstairs, as now, the visitor entered the tempering room with its forge and furnace, where in the old days the augers were shaped and finished.  This is where my grandfather always worked.  Beyond is a second forge, where I understand Mr. Thomas Bailey used to work, seldom used now but busy all the time in the days when the auger business was brisk.  To the right of the entrance is the polishing room where tools are finished for the market, and beyond is the packing room.  The stock room is also on this floor.

When the business started and for many years afterward, each department had its own water-wheel for power, -- two large overshot wheels ran the wheels in the polishing room and the bellows or air-pumps for the forges, respectively; and a sort of turbine tub-wheel was used for power for the trip-hammers in the forge room.  About the time steam was installed, the old wheels were taken out and a modern turbine put in which served until it was replaced by the new one in 1919.

The contrast between the old trip-hammers and the Bradley hammer fascinated me as a youngster.  I loved to watch them and we children slipped off down to the shop at every opportunity to watch the men, or occasionally to fall into the pond.

...More than once, when we children were playing in the fields up on the hill, we stopped to listen to the sounds which came up from the shop.  A slow Clop! Clop! mingled with a staccato Rat-tat-tat-tat-at-t!

Clop! Clop! Clop!  "That's Uncle Christopher's hammer."  Rat-tat-tat-tat-at-t!  "And that's papa's."  To which Rob agreed, "Yup, that's Uncle Charlie's."  And that difference in the sound shows the difference in the two types of hammer as well as anything could.

The trip-hammer ran by a rachet system and was slow in recovering its "head" to start again on its downward drop.  It fell with the full power of its heavy weight and then was raised slowly and crudely.  The blow had little or no regulation.  It was powerful and slow.  The newer Bradley hammer, cushioned and more delicately hung balanced, rebounded immediately from the blow and could be regulated easily and quickly from the heaviest blow to the most delicate tap, at will.  Much of the the lighter work in shaping a tool, which had to be done by hand on the anvil, in old trip-hammer days, could be done on the Bradley, accurately and quickly.  This Bradley hammer was the one my father had struggled to secure because of its superiority over earlier types, and the work it could do amazed his older partners and opened their eyes to the possibilities in the improved machinery which had come into the market in those few years which followed the fire.

...As time went on, methods changed.  New steel required new manufacturing processes.  One day Uncle Christopher came to my father and said, "It's no use, Charlie, I've got to give in.  I learned how to handle tool steel when I was a boy.  I've learned how to use it all over again twice since that time.  Now they have sent us a new kind all over again.  I give up and let you forge the new steel.  I'll keep on with the old kind as long as I can."

Robert and Clarence inherited a well-equipped factory so they have had little to worry about so far as machinery goes, but they have had to "step lively" to keep up with an ever-changing type of material, the new alloys which are being constantly produced and which are demanded by present day conditions.

"As the years passed, the lack of sufficient power to drive machinery became more and more a handicap.  C. Drew & Company owned an undivided half of the water power upon which they were located, and that half was insufficient except during the wet season.  Steam power was needed, but how to arrange for it and install it, was a serious problem..."

In 1882, an opportunity knocked at the door.  "Edgar Reed and Thomas Prince, desiring to start business as tack and rivet makers, (later Reed & Prince of Worcester, Mass.), came to the partners and asked for room and power in the factory.  As a result, the factory building was enlarged and a steam plant installed large and powerful enough to take care of the needs of the business for future expansion.  Indeed, until the steam plant became out-dated, and it was decided to replace it with the more modern electric motor system, it served all the needs of a business which had expanded with the years and is still in use, in part, for heating the factory.  "Under the improved conditions we were enabled to put in labor-saving machines and to operate them greatly to advantage over the old methods."  Other additions have been made at the plant from time to time as demands for more room from the company or from tenants have been met.

In the meantime, the old Stony Brook Iron Works had been merged with C. Drew & Company after the death of Job W. Drew and there had been a division of the water privilege and land between the heirs of Deacon Seth Drew and the heirs and successors of Seth Washburn of the original partnership.  In 1871, the Drews and Caleb Bates defined their ownership in the privilege, the Drews taking land and buildings on the north side of the stream, while Mr. Bates had the property on the south side of Stony Brook.  Mr. Bates then built a big new dam with double stone walls with earth fill between, taking much of the material from the head of the pond, extending out to the south and west of the old dam, enlarging the pond more than twice its original size below the highway.  He erected buildings which were later used by the Old Colony Rivet Works, in which Mr. James L. Hall was interested, and which were in use for a number of years until they burned.  After Mr. Bates death, about 1900, the property on the south side of the stream was acquired by C. Drew & Company, with the exception of certain property below the stone dam which was bought by H. C. & W. S. Cole, tack makers who were tenants in the Drew factory.  The firm now controlled all the water power of the stream and continued to do so, using the water power as far as it will go, with electric power as auxiliary, and steam for heating the buildings only.

In 1900, Seth Drew passed away, his interest in the business being divided equally between his son Charles H. Drew and his son-in-law Lemuel R. Ford.  In 1907, Christopher P. Drew died at the ripe old age of 91, interested to the end in the progress of the business, the town and the world at large.

Larsen, Ray. The art of the draw forger.
Larsen, Ray. The Art of the Draw Forger - Part II includes the following information and photo:
The dies developed at Drew more than 100 years ago to form mallet heads on shipbuilder's caulking irons paint an excellent portrait of the level of sophistication attained by early tool makers. (pg. 6).

Drew's machinists were an imaginative lot, and an examination of the company's old dies often reveals innovative solutions to thorny problems. (pg. 6).

Power hammers also brought radical change to the way steel was heated.  Draw forging required a blank that was heated clear through to a very high heat, a feat difficult to achieve consistently in the traditional charcoal- or coal-burning forge.  In addition, draw forging was a lot faster than hand forging, and the traditional forge couldn't keep pace.  This led to the development of coal-fired furnaces and later, the high-volume gas- and oil-fired fireboxes now found at Drew and other draw forging shops. (pg. 7).

Photo below from page 8.

Larsen, Ray. "A satisfied customer is the best advertisement" C. Drew & Co.'s caulking irons.
As with much of southeastern Massachusetts, Kingston was blessed with an abundance of bog iron, the hydrated oxide of iron known as limonite, which occurs as dark brown cellular masses or nodules laying loosely on the bottom of glaciated ponds and swamps. In the early 1700s, substantial quantities of bog ore were already being recovered from the bottom of Jones River Pond (known now as Silver Lake), and by 1752, Kingston had gone so far as to appoint a special town official to oversee the harvesting of this valuable resource. (pg. 104-105).

The ore was usually found in water less than twelve feet deep and was raised by men in large, flat-bottomed boats wielding drags, rakes, or heavy, powerful tongs similar to oystering tongs. It is said that three thousand tons of iron ore were taken from Jones River Pond alone in this way. Much of this iron was used to make cannon balls for use in the War for Independence. So far as I have been able to learn, no ore boats remain today, but they probably were similar in design to the large, barge-like gundalows that were used on rivers throughout the region in early times to transport hay grown on marsh meadows, many of which could only be reached by water. Some of these gundalows reached forty feet in length, had twelve-foot beams, and were capable of carrying eight tons of cargo. (pg. 105).

Although the early history of ironmaking and ironworking in Kingston is lost to us, it is clear that by 1728, iron was being made by direct reduction and converted to products on a triphammer at the "Old Forge," a bloomery on Hall's Brook. By 1800-fully five years before Deacon Seth Drew built his iron works on Stony Brook-the town had five bustling forges, one blast furnace complex, and a slitting mill which was used to convert iron plate into commercial products such as nail rod. These early iron shops made anything and everything that a pioneering town like Kingston needed, but their principal products were the anchors and other iron fittings needed by the town's prospering shipbuilding industry. They are often referred to in history books as "Anchor Forges." (pg. 105).

By 1837, when Christopher Drew founded C. Drew & Co., Kingston had seven such forges, two furnaces, a slitting mill, a growing nail and tack industry, and three factories already dedicated solely to manufacturing tools: spades and shovels in shops on Furnace Brook and Mile Brook, and shipbuilders' augers at Thomas Cushman's Auger Works on Smelt Brook. (pg. 105-106).

So how were these wonderful [caulking] irons made? Drew was founded some twenty years before the introduction and commercialization of drop forging and so did all of its forging on traditional, light triphammers. As it so happens, this is the ideal technology for forging tools like calking irons. From a metallurgical standpoint, the many light blows delivered by these machines refines metal as it is being worked and develops an ideal cross section for tools like calking irons, giving them an extraordinary toughness and resilience; from an aesthetic standpoint, it plays to the natural flow of the stock as the desired form is developed. (pg. 107).

Drew continued to make its calking tools in the traditional manner until the very end, long after its competitors had switched to drop forging. Drop forging, which employs very large hammers to smash out tools in three or four heavy blows, doesn't refine the steel as traditional triphammer forging does, and the tools themselves had to be redesigned, deleteriously, to accommodate this new forging process. (pg. 107).

C. Drew & Company. Catalog No. 34: C. Drew & Co. established 1837: factory at Kingston, Mass. Plymouth county.
  • The two pages in Larsons article above are also from this same catalog.
  • Below are pages 6 and 7.
  • For additional Drew catalog listings and other citations, see Andrew Pollack's C. Drew bibliography.

Silver Lake News article on the sale of the company to Kingston Tool Co.  The fire occurred shortly after the publication of this article.
Welcker, Generations of Augermakers in Kingston, Massachusetts.

Andrew Pollock has set up a website titled: C. DREW & CO. Antique Tool Collectors Research Forum, whose mission is to gather and publish information on all aspects of C. DREW & CO. and its products. They are also eager to gather and publish information on Nahum Bailey, Daniel Bisbee, Thomas Cushman, John Washburn and other tool manufacturers who worked in Kingston, Massachusetts.

C. Drew caulking mallet: A description of its use.

Tools from C. Drew & Company in the Museum collection.