It was the height of the bicycle craze. Five Armstrong brothers open a bicycle supply business in Chicago. Their success led them to begin building parts in a backyard shop. This would be about 1890. Brother George was frustrated with lathe tools. George Armstrong patented lathe tool holder 429,381 on February 28, 1893. This was a challenge at the time to bore a square hole in metal that could be machined and then hardened.
A downturn in the bicycle market induced the brothers to close the bike shop. They began making tools full time in their backyard shop. A small factory was built in 1900. This burnt to the ground in 1902 and was rebuilt by the employees. A new factory was built in 1905. Drop hammers were purchased in 1909. They soon began making wrenches and then C clamps. Pipe tools were added in the 1920s.
They survived the depression by making tools for Montgomery Wards. A partnership was also developed with Blackhawk. They became one of the prominent hand tool makers of the time. They made tools for aircraft maintenance during the second war. After the war, their plant was outdated and machinery worn out. A new 200,000 square foot plant was built. Other plants were added. The market changed over time. The tool business was sold to Danaher in 1994.
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