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Manufacturers Index - Hamilton Machine Tool Co.
Last Modified: Apr 4 2019 11:41AM by Jeff_Joslin
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In 1886 Charles F. Hilker was working as a traveling salesman for a rail supply company when he learned of a business opportunity: a company with a patented rail-car sealing system had run out of money and the assets could be bought cheaply. (Railways had begun to use a system of wire and a lead seal to secure rail-car doors and show whether they had been tampered with before being opened at their destination.) Hilker bought the assets and established the National Car Seal Co., based out of Hamilton, Ohio. The patent system proved to be problematic and Hilker was forced to invest time and money to improve it and reduce manufacturing costs by developing custom machinery. After a couple of years they were successful and were making and selling 12 million seals per year. Charles F. Hilker was president and Sherman C. Schauer was superintendent. Other members of the Hilker family were also active in the business.

In 1891 the National Car Seal Co. developed and began selling drill presses and emery grinders, perhaps as a means of using their in-house machine design skills and to diversify their business. By 1894, the National Car Seal Co. was doing business as the Hamilton Machine Tool Co. for their machine tool line. At this point the Hamilton Machine Tool Co. was not a corporate entity distinct from the National Car Seal Co.

By 1894 the "Hamilton" line of drill presses spanned sizes from 12 to 44 inches. These were modern (for the time) machines, available—in all but the smallest sizes—with power down-feed, automatic stop, and quick return. In late 1898 Schauer left to co-found the Cincinnati Machine Tool Co. to manufacture drill presses in competition with his previous employer. Hamilton Machine Tool had already been developing a line of engine lathes, and that line was introduced the following year, in sizes from 14 to 25 inch swing. By 1901 they were also making radial drilling machines with swings of 84 and 120 inches; the radial drill line seems to have been short-lived.

in 1903 the Hamilton Machine Tool Company was incorporated as a distinct business entity. In 1905 they acquired the Belmer Machine Tool Company of Cincinnati, for their line of heavy planers. The Belmer manufacturing facilities were relocated to their new owner's Hamilton factory. Over the ensuing years they also added shapers to their product lineup, as well as updated lathes with quick-change gearboxes, and more sophisticated grinding machines.

The Hamilton Machine Tool Co. went bankrupt in or shortly before 1926: in that year the company's receivers gave permission to the founder of the Hamilton Tool Co. to use that similar name.

From an article in 1918-07-04 Canadian Machinery

Information Sources

  • The Centennial Anniversary of the City of Hamilton, Ohio, September 17-19, 1891, 1892, pgs. 253-254.

    "The old style was to lock up freight cars with padlocks, but this was expensive and a nuisance, for cars went long distances and into the hands of strangers, the locks became lost and broken, and the sum total of expense due to this was enormous. Then the change was made to a simple strip of tin or wire sealed with a lead seal bearing the seal of the road that loaded the car. Every load for a box car means a car seal to be used, and destroyed when the car is opened.

    Charles F. Hilker was a traveling salesman for special railroad supplies and in 1886, in Cincinnati, a friend showed Mr. Hilker, a well-known type of car seal and explained to him the demand for them, and stated that certain parties had spent a fortune devising machinery to make these seals cheaply and that they had reached the end of their string and the affair could probably be gotten at a bargain, and he suggested that Mr. Hilker get it and start the business. Mr. Hilker did so, securing the entire outfit and patents. He started into the seal business, incorporating it as the National Car Seal Co. It was uphill work, the method was far from satisfactory, and money was lost from the start and Mr. Hilker had every good reason for quitting the business. But he stuck to it for two years and finally succeeded in radically changing the system of manufacture. In 1890 the company established its factory in Hamilton and put out upon the market about fifty different styles of car seals. The car seals of this company's manufacture are used by about one hundred and fifty thousand miles of railroad and the seals are selling at a rate of twelve million seals per year. The capacity is now being increased to two hundred thousand per day. The business is prosperous, and all the seals are being sold that can be made. These seals are made by automatic machinery of the most ingenious character, invented and built on the premises of the company.

    Early in 1891 the establishment began the manufacture of drill-presses and emery-grinders for general shop use, and these are selling largely, and it is in contemplation to take up the manufacture of bottler's supplies and other specialties.

    As an example of what can be done by sticking to a problem and studying it out, it may be stated that in the car seal shop, two years ago, it cost twenty dollars to do work which now costs one dollar." (Quote from 1892.)

  • 1894-95 Williams' Hamilton Directory lists "Hamilton Machine Tool Co. (The), The National Car Seal Co., Proprietors, n e c Water and Market". Also listed is "National Car Seal Co. (The), Chas. F. Hilker, President and Manager; Fred J. Hilker, Secretary and Treasurer; Railway Requisites and Machinery, n e c Water and Market". A separate listing of businesses includes "National Car Seal Co. (The), Incorporated—Capital, $25,000. Chas. F. Hilker, President and Manager; Sherman C. Schauer, Vice President and Superintendent; Fred. Hilker, Secretary and Treasurer."
  • 1896-09-10 Industrial World and Iron Worker. "The Hamilton Machine Tool Co., at Hamilton, have just completed another large order for drill presses, which will be shipped in a few days to Stockholm, Sweden."
  • 1896-08-13 American Machinist lists Hamilton Machine Tool Co. as a maker of drilling machines.
  • 1898-99 Williams' Hamilton Directory lists "Hamilton Machine Tool Co., Chas. F. Hilker, president; Sherman C. Schauer, superintendent, Symmes Av., Lindwnwald." Also listed is "National Car Seal Co. (The), Chas. F. Hilker, president; Sherman C. Schauer, superintendent, Symmes Av., Lindenwald".
  • 1899-02-02 American Machinist has an ad from Cincinnati Machine Tool Co.: "The personnel of our firm is August H. Tuechter, for the past fifteen years with the Bickford Drill & Tool Co. and Sherman C. Schauer, for the past ten years with the Hamilton Machine Tool Co...."
  • 1902-07-19 The Age of Steel. "The Hamilton Machine Tool Company, Hamilton, Ohio, has sent out a near circular of their new 'Hamilton' lathes, 14 to 28-inch swing, with universal screw-cutting and feeding arrangement. Improved automatic stop and other new features. 'Quick change and wide range' for feeds and screw pitches. The specification are given, and a detailed description of the 'Hamilton' improved pattern screw-cutting engine lathes."
  • 1902-10-16 The Iron Age, in an article on a meeting of the National Machine Tool Builders' Association, lists C. F. Hilker of the Hamilton Machine Tool Company, Hamilton, Ohio, as an attendee.
  • February 1903 Modern Machinery. "The Hamilton Machine Tool Company, Hamilton, O., has been Incorporated. Capital stock $300,000."
  • 1903-08-27 The Iron Age. "The Hamilton Machine Tool Company have but recently moved into their new pattern and foundry building, which is 80 x 120 feet, and equipped with one large traveling crane. In connection with this they have erected a fire proof vault for the storing of their patterns. They report the month of July as the largest in their history, and that August is fully holding its own. They have just published a very handsome catalogue for their trade, which to say the least is very suggestive as to the enterprise of the Hamiltonians, as it is all of home manufacture. The tools that made the engine and paper mill, the engine that drove the presses and made the paper, the cuts, the printing and the binding, all Hamilton products."
  • 1904-05-05 American Machinist, in an article on a meeting of the National Machine Tool Builders' Association, lists Chas. F. Hilker of the Hamilton Machine Tool Co., Hamilton, Ohio, as an attendee.
  • The 1905 Hamilton City Directory lists "Hamilton Machine Tool Co. (The)-Incorporated January, 1903. Capital stock, $350,000. Chas. F. Hilker, President and Manager; Nelson E; Speer, Vice President. South-west corner Symmes Avenue and c., H. & D. R. R." The directory lists Hans Baerbalck as a draftsman and Harry M. Beeler as foreman of the fitting department
  • 1905-04-27 The Iron Age: "The Hamilton Machine Tool Company, Hamilton, Ohio, of which Chas. F. Hilker is president, has purchased the plant of the Belmer Machine Tool Company of this city and will continue to manufacture the Belmer line of planers. The Belmer plant will be continued at its present location until early fall, after which time it will be removed to Hamilton and become a part of the Hamilton Machine Tool Company's plant. Two new buildings are now being erected to accommodate this arrangement, one 60 x 200 and one 40 x 200 feet, fully equipped with all the modern improvements, including a traveling electric crane with a 40-foot span. In addition to this a new boiler house and pattern storage building is under way, which when completed will materially increase their power plant. The company will probably be in the market for additional machinery as soon as the buildings now being constructed are completed and , the present equipment as well as that secured from the Belmer plant has been rearranged."
  • A 1911 lawsuit, Hamilton Mach. Tool Co. v. Memphis Nat. Bank does not shed much light on the company or its operations.
  • American Machinist, Volume 49, 31 Oct 1918, page 818
  • The lathes.co.uk page on Hamilton lathes provides a detailed history of this firm.
  • American Lathe Builders: 1810-1910 by Kenneth L. Cope, 2001 page 71
  • A worldcat page lists several catalogs from the Hamilton Machine Tool Co.:
    • Undated Illustrated descriptive circular of 26 inch & 32 inch back geared and automatic feed upright drill presses : built by the Hamilton Machine Tool Co., builders of 16 in., 22 in., 26 in., 32 in., and 36 in. drill presses
    • 1896 Catalog of upright drill presses.
    • Undated 16-inch bench drill : manufactured by the Hamilton Machine Tool Co.
    • Undated Grindstone frames or troughs : built by the Hamilton Machine Tool Company.
    • Undated Tool grinder : manufactured by the Hamilton Machine Tool Co.
  • A Google Books search gives more catalog titles:
    • 1896 Catalog of Upright Drill Presses.
    • 1906 Hamilton Planers and Shapers: Catalog - Issue 5.
    • 1915 "Hamilton" 16-inch Engine Lathe.