Leonard L. Davis (Davis Level & Tool Co.)

The ornate levels and measuring tools of L. L. Davis and the Davis Level & Tool Company of Springfield, MA, are among the most sought after examples of the florescence of American toolmakers in the second half of the 19th century.   There is no direct connection between the Davis family of the Davistown Plantation and Leonard Davis.

The following information is quoted from the DATM (1999, pg. 214).

The Leonard L. Davis Co., started in 1867, "...became the Davis Level & Tool Co. in 1875.  Leonard L. Davis was born 21 Feb. 1838 and died 13 Aug. 1907.  He had 17 March 1868 and 17 Sept. 1867 patents for inclinometer levels made by this company (but marked with his name only) and the successor.  He also had a 31 Aug. 1875 metal plane patent, and a 21 Nov. 1871 level patent; the planes were made, but it is not certain if the level was.  (NOTE: Different Davis levels are marked with 17 March 1867 and 17 March 1868 patent dates; documentary sources indicate that only the 1868 date is valid.)"

The Davis Level & Tool Co., (1875 - 1892) "...made inclinometer levels with 29 May 1877 (F.T. Ward & T. Bedworth), 17 Sept. 1867, 17 March 1868, and 22 Sept. 1868 patents; metal planes patented by Charles E. Torrance 2 Jan. 1872; a universal square patented by Joseph C. Marshall 2 Jan. 1877; braces with patent dates of 17 April 1883, 14 Oct. 1884, and 1886 (John Bulen); and a 4 Dec. 1866 R. Hathaway patent combination gauge (also made by J. Stevens & Co.).  Davis sold his patent rights to the M.W. Robinson Co. of NY."

This inclinometer level is the first tool produced by this noteworthy company to be added to the museum's collection.

The following information is from: Commerce, Manufactures & Resources of Springfield, Mass.: A Historical, Statistical & Descriptive Review. 1883. National Publishing Co. pg. 51.


There is probably no section of our country where machinists' and mechanics' tools are used, that the name of the Davis Level and Tool Company is not also familiar, and for that, matter hardly any part of the civilized globe. The extent of this company's operations, the character of their productions, their contributions to the industrial thrift of the city, and the notoriety their products have given Springfield as a first class manufacturing center, all combine to make it a concern whose benefits are incalculable, and whose wide-spread and far-reaching trade stamp it as the peer of any similar establishment in the the whole country.

This enterprise was originally established in 1867 at Chicopee Falls, by its present sole proprietor, Mr. L. L. Davis. Soon after its inception the present style was adopted, and in 1875 the works were, removed to this city.  It was not until some time after its establishment that the house was marked by any particular degree of prominence, when the company secured several valuable patents, both by purchase and upon inventions of the proprietor, the adoption of which and the manufacture of the products have given them a national reputation.

The manufacturing plant of the company is equipped with all the necessary tools and machinery, including much specially constructed for their uses, and employment is furnished in the works for about twenty-five skilled artisans.

The products of the house, the most of which, as before stated, are protected by letters patent, comprise a general line of hardware tools, machinists' and railway supplies, the extent of which, in their great variety, would require too much space for particular enumeration by us. As a simple matter of justice, however, we should mention their Power Planers, Planer Cutters, Gear Cutters and Davis's Patent Adjustable Inclinometers, Improved Iron Bench Planes, Saw Clamps, Lathe Dogs, Thread Gauges, Hack Saws, Machinists' Screw Drivers, Scratch Awls, Surface Gauges, Marshall's Patent Center Square and Depth Gauges, Calipers, and Dividers. They also manufacture Johnson's Patent Car Brake, which is acknowledged by experts to be the simplest, quickest and most powerful article of the kind ever invented.

These productions, which are known in every machine shop in the country, have maintained their excellence of construction during the whole period of their manufacture, and whether the company are crowded with orders, or to the contrary, the same carefulness of details and uniformity of production is observable in all their output.  To the combination of these essentials of successful manufacture, the valuable patents owned by them, and the marked ability of the management, the Davis Level and Tool Company owe their present high reputation and standing.

Concerning a gentleman so well known to the trade as Mr. Davis, and who has been an enterprising citizen of Springfield for over twenty years, we may not presume to make any further personal comments; but we consider it quite within our province to congratulate the city of Springfield on the fact that a concern which has contributed so large a share to the prestige of American manufactures, as has the Davis Level and Tool Company, is located within her limits.

The following information and illustration is from: Inland Massachusetts Illustrated. A Concise Résumé of the Natural Features and Past History of the Counties of Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire, their Towns, Villages, and Cities, Together with a Condensed Summary of their Industrial Advantages and Development, and a Comprehensive Series of Sketches Descriptive of Representative Business Houses. 1890. The Elstner Publishing Company, Springfield, MA. pg. 56.

Manufacturers of Hardware Specialties and Machinists' Supplies-No. 30 Taylor St.; Warehouse, No. 79 Chambers St., New York.

Of the numerous industries that Springfield can boast the manufacture of tools and mechanics supplies is among the most important.  The most conspicuous local representative of this interest, and one of the largest in the country, is the Davis Level and Tool Company, established by Mr. L. L. Davis in 1868.  The present style was adopted in 1875, the intention being to incorporate the concern, which has never been done, Mr. Davis retaining sole control.  The works occupy one entire floor, 50 x 90 feet, of the large three-story brick building No. 30 Taylor street, and are equipped in the best manner with all requisite machinery, while the private and business offices are commodious and handsomely appointed.  From fifteen to twenty-five first-class mechanics are employed, and the output is disposed of to the trade through the general warehouse and salesrooms at No. 70 Chambers street New York, or exported largely to Great Britain, France, Germany, Australia, and other countries Mr. Davis, the founder and general business manager, is a native of Laconia, N. H., a courteous and obliging gentleman, a broad-minded and liberal citizen, and a thorough-going, progressive, and successful manufacturer and merchant.

The specialties of this house embrace full lines of hardware specialties and machinists' supplies; including adjustable spirit plumbs, levels, and inclinometers, iron pocket levels, builders levels and level glasses, patent ratchet bit braces, improved iron-block planes, carpenters' and machinists' marking awls, jewelers' screw-drivers, hack saws, breast drills, thread gauges, drill and lathe chucks, combination calipers, Marshall's universal squares, planer jacks, Buells "Giant" hollow-handle tool sets, "Champion" amateur scroll chucks, "Champion" independent jaw chucks, improved geared or pinion key chucks, independent reversible jaw chucks, and many other useful and valuable implements."  A new and important device that will interest all railroad men is Johnson's patent car brake, which operates bv means of a lever, lies low, is situated where the brakeman is exposed to no danger, is instantly applied and released, is strong and light, is cheap, durable, and reliable, takes up all slack caused by wear, all parts made in duplicate, saving cost of repairs; the frames are interchangeable, are out ot the way of brakeman's lantern, and the long lever down when brake is on or off.

The following information is from: Springfield City Directory and Business Advertiser for 1874 - 75. For the Year Commencing July 1, 1874. 1874. Published by Clark W. Bryan & Co. pg. 412.

The large block which Robinson, Marsh & Co. are putting up at the corner of Taylor and Dwight streets, is about ready for the roof.  No building in the city is more substantially built than this, and it will be used entirely for light manufacturing purposes.  It is 87 feet by 90, is well lighted, and has a boiler room in the rear, 65 by 14 feet.  Rising to a hight of four stories, it is neatly trimmed with brown stone, and will cost when completed about $30,000.  Royal Harrington attends to the brick work, and the carpentry is done under the supervision of C. S Ferry who has built some of Springfield's finest structures. One-half the building, will be occupied by O. B. Douglass & Co., wood workers, and portions of the remaining half will be used by the Davis Level Company, now located at Chicopee Falls, and possibly by the United States Spring Bed Company.

Davis Tool & Level Co. Price List
Below are scans of some of the pages from this circa 1880 price list.  We find that many people have questions about their old Davis levels and hope that the pictures here will be helpful to you.  Most of their levels are quite common and we encourage you to use them.  We suggest that you do an eBay search to determine a market value for your level.
Price list cover
Title page
Company description

Due to the time it takes to download the images on a slow Internet connection, we are placing the rest of the pages onto another web page.  To see them follow these links:  levels, planes, gauges, calipers, screwdrivers, hacksaws, drills.

Blanchard, Clarence. (Fall 2008). Fine Tool Journal. 58(2). Inside cover:

American Levels and Their Makers: This website has information on some Davis levels.
Bit Braces made by Davis Level & Tool Co.

Tools of the Davis Level & Tool Co. in the Museum collection.