Zachary T. Furbish

This information is courtesy of Clifford D. Fales, reprinted with his permission.

The following material was the subject of a display presented at the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association meeting on June 22-24, 2000 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Copyright © September 11, 2000, Clifford D. Fales, All rights reserved.

The Roots of "YANKEE" Screwdrivers
 The Forest City Screwdriver Co.
Zachary T. Furbish

"Forest City" is the nickname for Portland, Maine.

The patent of April 15, 1895 which appears on both of these examples (spiral-ratchet screwdriver and ratchet screwdriver) was granted to Z. T. Furbish of Augusta, Maine. This patent date also appears later on several models of "YANKEE" spiral and ratchet screwdrivers produced by North Brothers Manufacturing. Co.. e.g. Nos. 20, 30, 30A, 31, 31A, 35, 135.

This 1895 patent was granted to Zachary T. Furbish, the inventor. All subsequent Furbish patents were assigned by him to North Brothers Manufacturing Co.

At the time of this patent Furbish was residing in Augusta, Maine. With the exception of one additional patent in 1888 when his place of residence was also shown as Augusta, Maine, all the subsequent Furbish patents were assigned to North Brothers and his place of residence was Philadelphia.

Furbish was granted at least 26 other patents in subsequent years relating to screwdrivers, drills, accessories such as chucks and manufacturing processes for these types of tools.

Furbish is listed in Augusta and Portland, Maine directories between 1870 and 1896 variously as a carpenter and machinist.

The Forest City screwdrivers first appeared in announcements and advertising in 1896. North Brothers Manufacturing Co. spiral and ratchet screwdrivers were first marketed in 1897 or 1898.

There are known documents which state that North Brothers Manufacturing Co. (previously in the foundry business), entered the tool manufacturing business with the purchase of, or by merging with, the DeForest Screw Driver Co. in 1897. This may be a typo or transcription error and, in my opinion, probably refers to the Forest City Screwdriver Co.

Sources: Jerry Serviss, Carl Stoutenberg, Joe Ward

Forest City ratchet screwdriver marked: "FOREST CITY SCREWDRIVER CO. / PATENTED APRIL 16, 1895". 
Length overall = 10.25", Blade length = 6".  Except for the knurlled band which moves the shifter, the construction
of the ratchet mechanism and the shifter are very similar to the North Brothers Manufacturing Co. No. 10 ratchet screwdriver.

Forest City spiral-ratchet screwdriver marked: "FOREST CITY SCREWDRIVER CO. / PATENTED APRIL 16, 1895". 
Length overall without bit - closed = 12" / extended = 14.5" 
There are two shifter buttons, which, when set in various combinations
produce a variety of motions: 
  (1) clockwise motion when pushed to drive a screw 
  (2) clockwise motion when ratcheted to drive a crew 
  (3) counter-clockwise motion when pushed to remove a screw 
  (4) counter-clockwise motion when ratcheted to remove a screw 
  (5) reciprocating clockwise and counter-clockwise motion for
automatic/reciprocating drilling 
  (6) continuous clockwise motion when pushing or pulling for
  (7) spindle locked in closed position. 
The screwdriver bit and bit retainer are missing from this example.

Zachary T. Furbish
Documented dates and locations

The following places of residence and occupations for Zachary T. Furbish were supplied by the Maine Historical Society (Center for Maine History) in 1997.

From city directories at the Center for Maine History:

1870, Augusta: carpenter
1886, Augusta: Stevens & Furbish ? screwdriver mnfrs. @ kennebec Dam, Augusta
1890, Augusta: wife only listed
1893, Augusta: carpenter
1894, Augusta: Furbish, Staples & Co. ? lock mnfr in Augusta
1896, Portland: machinist with Hayes Tool Co.
1898, Portland: machinist ????? moved to Philadelphia, PA

These additional places of residence are documented from the first four U.S. Patents granted to Zachary T. Furbish.  All were for ratchet screwdrivers.

Date Patent # Patentee City of Residence
Sep. 27, 1881 247,669 Mallett, Charles H. & Furbish, Zachary T. Augusta, ME
Apr. 03, 1883 275,235 Mallett, Charles H. & Furbish, Zachary T. Augusta, ME
Oct. 28, 1884 307,187 Hamlen, Franklin L. & Furbish, Zachary T. Augusta, ME
Apr. 07, 1885 315,137 Furbish, Zachary T. & Hamlen, Franklin L. Augusta, ME

Clifford D. Fales
September 9, 2000

Other Maine patents
Date Patent # Patentee City of Residence
May 15, 1883 277561 Furbish, Isaiah M. (screwdriver) Augusta, ME
Apr. 16, 1885 537681 Furbish, Zachary T. (ratchet for screwdrivers or drills) Augusta, ME
Jan. 25, 1898 597766 Furbish, Zachary T. (ratchet tool) assigned to North Brothers Manufacturing Co., Philadelphia, PA. Portland, ME
Jan. 03, 1899 616911 Furbish, Zachary T. (mechanical movement) assigned to William H. Stevens, Portland, ME Portland, ME

North Bros. Manufacturing Co. "Yankee" Tool book describing, with illustrations, some up-to-date labor saving tools. More especially: ratchet screw drivers, spiral screw drivers, automatic or push drills, breast and hand drills etc., etc.
North Bros. Manufacturing Co. Catalogue of "Yankee" tools ice cream freezers etc., etc.
Robinson, Trevor. The ratchet screwdriver.

Clifford Fales now has a webpage on spiral screwdriver patents.