Nelson Spofford was a school teacher turned surveyor in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He was also a hobby wood and metal worker. Nelson enjoyed making new contrivances for his workshop. He invented a new method of holding a bit in a brace. Patent number 25,984 was issued on November 1, 1859 for the Spofford brace. He received substantial royalties over the life of this patent. He was also a strong proponent of the metric system. Spofford enjoyed significantly less success in this endeavor.
John S Fray began making braces in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1866. A partnership with Horace Pigg developed by 1869. Fray & Pigg are jointly listed on a patent in 1881. The John S Fray Company is appearing in directories by 1883.
Fray braces are usually classified as Spofford or non-Spofford. A gripping jaw chuck patent number 130,709 was issued to Fray on August 20, 1872. A more modern version is patent number 219,574 issued September 16, 1879. A ratcheting version was patent number 395,889 dated January 8, 1889. This was challenged by Peck, Stow, & Wilcox. They had received patent number 293,957 on February 19, 1884 for a ratchet brace using paws.
Part or all of the company was sold to Stanley. The “History of Connecticut” Osborn 1925 states the date as 1909. An interesting note is Fray incorporated in 1909. Most sources agree on 1920. Even then there are listings for J S Fray in directories as late as 1927.
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