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Manufacturers Index - Howard Manufacturing Co.
Last Modified: Aug 16 2011 8:08AM by Jeff_Joslin
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Franklin Augustus Howard was born in Bangor, ME, in 1830. At age 18 he moved to Belfast, ME, to train as a house joiner (carpenter). At age 30 he moved to California and worked there as a miner for four and a half years. He returned to Belfast and continued work as a carpenter; that was in about 1864. In 1866 Howard invented and patented a miter machine. About this time he went into partnership with a T. Thorndike, forming Howard, Thorndike & Co. That firm appears to have been shortlived. Thorndike was replaced by Hollis M. A. Poor, and the firm became the Howard Manufacturing Co. Under both these names they made miter machines and barrel-making machinery. Howard Manufacturing Co. is also reported to have made proof presses (which are outside the scope of this web site).

At some point, F. A. Howard purchased a half interest in Isaac Allard's 1868 patent for a spiral screwdriver. These screwdrivers were manufactured and marked, "F. A. Howard", and, later, "F. A. Howard & Son". For more information on this historically important screwdriver, see the 1992 Gristmill article by Cliff Fales.

It is not known whether Howard Manufacturing Co. continued to operate after F. A. Howard began making screwdrivers. The company was in business until at least 1873 and reportedly until 1876, but it appears that screwdriver sales did not really get rolling until after that time. It seems that Poor died in 1876, which may have led to the name change and the change from miter machines and barrel machinery to spiral screwdrivers. Cliff Fales' article, referenced above, provides evidence that F. A. Howard suffered from distribution troubles for some time after 1876, which suggests that Poor may have played an important role on the marketing side of the business.

Information Sources

  • Thanks to William Miner for first bringing our attention to the fact that this firm had manufactured a miter machine.
  • An article in the 1867-05-18 issue of Scientific American describes Howard's 1866 patent and concludes by directing those interested to Howard, Thorndike & Co. of Belfast.
  • The Davistown Museum has a page on F. A. Howard that includes an obituary of the man. The information on that page is courtesy of Cliff Fales.
  • The 1874 Wiley's American iron trade manual of the leading iron industries of the United States lists Howard, Thorndike & Co. of Belfast, ME, as a maker of "general machinery". Although the guide bears a date of 1874, the information on this maker may well have been collected a couple of years earlier.
  • The 1873 New England Business Directory has the following entry: "HOWARD MANUFACTURING COMPANY, Belfast Maine—Manufacturers of Howard's improved adjustable Miter Machines" , stave saws, Hall's patent stave edger".
  • A 1992 Gristmill article by Cliff Fales provides some information on Howard Manufacturing Co. and Franklin A. Howard. Like all other articles about Howard, it does not mention Howard, Thorndike & Co. But Fales does mention that Howard Manufacturing Co. changed to F. A. Howard in 1876. He also gives a starting date of 1865; perhaps that was the date from which Howard, Thorndike & Co. began operations. It is also possible that Howard Manufacturing Co. was founded in 1865, became Howard, Thorndike & Co. in about 1867, and quickly reverted back to Howard Manufacturing Co.
  • Regarding Hollis M. A. Poor: he is listed as a 30-year-old private in an 1861 listing of soldiers in the 4th Maine Infantry, Company K. It appears that Poor may have died in about 1876, which precipitated the name change from Howard Manufacturing Co. to F. A. Howard.