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Manufacturers Index - Francis Reed Co.
Last Modified: Jun 3 2018 1:54PM by Jeff_Joslin
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Francis Reed acquired the The George Burham Co. in 1889, continuing to operate under the Burnham name until 1902 when he changed the name to The Francis Reed Co. For several years after acquiring the Burnham company, Reed continued to make the Burnham line of post drills. Over time, Reed shifted his focus from post drills for blacksmiths and carriage makers to single and multiple spindle "sensitive" and plain bearing drilling machines.

Advertisement from the August 1902 issue of "Machinery"

A sensitive drill is designed to drill small diameter holes. Sensitive drills usually have continuously variable speed and feed rate, often using a friction-drive mechanism that provides only modest torque but works very well in this application. Other makers of sensitive drills in the 1880-1910 timeframe included W. F. & John Barnes Co. of Rockford, IL; S. D. Cline (succeeded by Elmer J. Cline) of New York City; Stover Novelty Works of Freeport, IL; States Machine Co. of Hartford, CT; and Hisey Wolf Machine Co. of Cincinnati, OH.

Mr. Francis Reed died in 1921; his sons Ralph G. Reed and Morton F. Reed continued to operate the business until 1939, when it was acquired by Production Machine Co. of Greenfield, MA. Historically, little is known about Francis Reed Co. other than the following description that appeared in a Reed product catalog published by Production Machine Co.

Francis Reed and H. J. Barr were pioneers in the development of Sensitive Drills and were the largest producers in this time. The Francis Reed Company have been building drilling machine continuously for about fifty years, and the present line consists of three styles high speed ball bearing Sensitive Drills and a very complete of plain bearing machines.

A great many Reed & Barr and Francis Reed Co. Sensitive Drills have been placed on the market throughout the world...

Information Sources

  • Most of the information here is courtesy of Albert Shane, curator of the Museum of our Industrial Heritage.
  • Machinery Magazine Aug 1902
  • New England Families Volume 3, 1914 pg 1567.
    Francis Reed, son of Ezekiel Sayles Reed, was born at Danbury, New Hampshire, April 28, 1852. He attended the district schools of his native town until he was nine years old, when the family removed to Penacook (Concord), New Hampshire, where he attended the Penacook public schools and academy. Nine years later he went to Manchester, New Hampshire, where he learned the machinist's trade in the shops of the Amoskeag Mills. At that time the company was manufacturing a steam fire engine and Mr. Reed worked in this department, beginning with the modest stipend of seventy-five cents a day. When the Blood locomotive works bought the fire engine business of the Amoskeag Company, Mr. Reed continued in the employ of the new owners. In 1880 he entered the employ of the Union Water Meter Company at Worcester, Massachusetts, and worked at his trade for two years there. Afterward he was for three years in the employ of the Boynton-Plummer Machine Company. In 1885 he engaged in business as a partner in the firm of Reed & Page, electrical contractors. In 1889 he bought the business of George Burnham, manufacturer of blacksmith drilling machines, and continued the business at 15 Hermon street, Worcester, under the old name until 1902. Since then he has been in business under the name of the Frances Reed Company in his present location, 43 Hammond street, Worcester. During this time, Mr. Reed added improvements to the the blacksmith drilling machines and began to develop sensitive drill machines. Mr. Reed has invented many devices and improvements in the machines manufactured by his company. A new drill which makes a number of holes at the same time is one of the wonderful machines made by this concern. He employs thirty or more skilled mechanics and the product of his factory is sold in all parts of the world. His two sons, Ralph S. and Merton F. Reed, are associated in business with him. Mr. Reed is a gifted mechanic, a shrewd man of business, energetic and industrious.
  • A source, whose identity is forgotten, reported that in 1891 Reed had eight employees making nine different drill press models.
  • The 1921-07-20 issue of Iron Trade Review has the following obituary.
    Francis Reed, founder of the Francis Reed Co., Worcester, Mass., builder of sensitive drilling machines, died at his home in that city, July 11, aged 69 years. He had been engaged in business for 32 years and was widely known in the machine tool industry. Mr. Reed learned the machinist trade in Manchester, N. H., going to Worcester in 1880. In 1885 he formed a partnership under the name of Reed & Page, which carried on an electrical business. Four years later he took over the business of George Burnham, which developed into the present company. His sons, Ralph G. Reed and Morton F. Reed, are connected with the company.
  • A 1939 issue of American Machinist reported that "Production Machine Co.. Greenfield, Mass., has purchased the Francis Reed Co., Worcester, Mass., manufacturer of sensitive drilling machines." 1939 issues of Industry Week and Steel carried the same report, word for word. The date is not known exactly because the data point comes from Google Books, which does not show complete pages for journals published after 1922.
  • The Wikipedia page on Francis Reed provides a biography of the man.