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Manufacturers Index - J. A. Fay & Co.

J. A. Fay & Co.
Keene, NH; South Keene, NH; Worcester, MA; Norwich, CT; Cincinnati, OH, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery

Last Modified: Nov 18 2019 9:20AM by Jeff_Joslin
If you have information to add to this entry, please contact the Site Historian.
1875 Factory View

Information on the early history of this very important company is sketchy and conflicting. Although we are gradually uncovering better information on the early history of this firm, you should still assume that any pre-1860 history is unreliable.

Early History

In 1833, George Page of Keene, NH, patented a foot-powered mortiser, the first such patent granted in the U.S. In 1834 he partnered with Edward Joslin to manufacture his invention; their firm was known as Page & Co. In 1836 Page and Joslin joined with Aaron Davis and Thomas M. Edwards to form T. M. Edwards & Co.

Later that same year Jerub Amber Fay, who seems to have been an itinerant salesman, bought out Page, Davis, and Edwards, and with the remaining original investor, Edward Joslin, formed a new company called Joslin & Fay. (At least, that is the often-repeated story. We have not found a single mention of "Joslin & Fay" previous to Simon Goodell Griffin's 1874 book, History of the Town of Keene, and we now suspect that Griffin got it wrong and all other references to Joslin & Fay are based on Griffin.) In 1842 Fay patented his own version of a foot-powered mortising machine. There are several surviving examples of his design.

Yet another name that appears in the early history of this J. A. Fay is Davis, Fay & Co., believed to have been a partnership between Aaron Davis and J. A. Fay, and it was in business at least 1844-45, definitely in business at the same time as J. A. Fay & Co. We have seen a Fay patent mortiser labeled as made by Davis, Fay & Co.

Label on an early J. A. Fay's patent mortiser

The various companies—Page & Co. / T. M. Edwards & Co. / Davis, Fay & Co.—may have existed simultaneously and different names may have been used depending on which product was being made or who was selling it.

Expansion into Connecticut, Ohio, and Massachusetts

Fay formed some sort of association with Caleb B. Rogers of Norwich, CT. Rogers maintained his own business, C. B. Rogers & Co., while at the same time he was director of J. A. Fay & Co.'s Norwich operations. We have seen the same model of machine, e.g., the Fay patent mortiser, bearing variously the C. B. Rogers name and the J. A. Fay name.

In 1847 or 1850, J. A. Fay & Co. opened a branch in Cincinnati. Fortunately for historians, that branch of the business—which would eventually become the headquarters—never operated under any name but J. A. Fay & Co. until the merger with the Egan Co. in 1893, as described below.

In 1853 the company purchased the operations of Childs & Tainter of Worcester, MA, which was making Daniels' planers. At this point the company had operations in Keene, NH; Norwich, CT; Cincinnati, OH; and Worcester, MA.

Death, Dissolution, and Resurrection

In 1854 Mr. Fay died unexpectedly while he was in Richmond, Virginia, trying to establish another plant. An 1856 J. A. Fay & Co. ad lists the company's directors: E. C. Tainter, Worcester; E. Joslin, Keene; C. B. Rogers, Norwich; and John Cheney, Cincinnati. Although she was not a director, Fay's widow maintained an interest as well. By this time J. A. Fay & Co. was one of the largest woodworking machinery manufacturers in the country, if not the world.

In 1861, with business in decline due to the Civil War, the company partnership was dissolved, but a group of agents bought the name and operations, sans the New Hampshire and Massachusetts locations. At that time, the company's Chicago agent, William H. Doane (see below) became the company president. Once they were past the turmoil of the re-organization, the company continued to grow and thrive. They were headquartered in Cincinnati, which increasingly became the gravitational center of the company.

At the time of the 1861 dissolution, the Worcester works were bought by its director, E. C. Tainter, who continued to operate them under his own name, and under the J. A. Fay & Co., name, which he had licensed from the Cincinnati owners. Tainter proceeded to resell third-party machinery under the Fay name, which led to a lawsuit; see the entry for E. C. Tainter & Co. for more.

It is not known what happened to the works in Keene, NH, following the events of 1861. To our knowledge, the only woodworking machinery maker active in Keene at that time was John Humphrey.

Following the 1861 dissolution and resurrection of J. A. Fay & Co. the Worcester firm of Richardson, Meriam & Co. advertised itself as a successor to J. A. Fay & Co. There does not seem to be any basis to this claim, although Horace A. Richardson was a nephew of Edward Joslin, who ran J. A. Fay's Keene operations. Richardson had worked for J. A. Fay & Co. from 1858 through 1861.

Ad from May 1873 "Journal of the Franklin Institute"

The 1860s through 1880s were prime years for J. A. Fay & Co., as Doane led them to expand and modernize their product line and also expand their sales as the country's rail system allowed them to ship further afield. Fay created an impressive portfolio of patents. In the 1880s, however, Defiance Machine Works established dominance in the heavy-industrial end of the machinery business, and crosstown upstart The Egan Co. became a serious irritant and threat to Fay.

Merger with The Egan Co.

In 1893, J. A. Fay & Co. merged with their crosstown Cincinnati arch-rivals, The Egan Co., to form the J. A. Fay & Egan Co. Egan Co. owner Thomas P. Egan became the president of the combined operations, and Doane became director. The merger was not a one-step procedure. It seems that the two parent firms created a co-owned entity, J. A. Fay & Egan Co., but each continued to operate fairly independently for several years. We have seen ads from each of the parent firms as late as 1900. These ads do not mention J. A. Fay & Egan Co., and it seems likely that the machines themselves were not always marked with the post-merger name until after 1900. Thus, a "J. A. Fay & Co." or "Egan Co." name on a machine probably means "made in 1900 or earlier" rather than "made in 1893 or earlier".

The Life of William H. Doane

Born in 1832, William Howard Doane started working for J. A. Fay & Co. when he was 18 years old, and quickly rose to become their agent Cincinnati, a growing market for the firm. After Fay died and the firm started to suffer the effects of the imminent Civil War, Doane and other agents engineered a buyout of the company. The agents put Doane as the president of the reorganized business, even though he was only 29 years old. Doane presided over the company's most successful years. When J. A. Fay & Co. merged with the Egan Co. to form J. A. Fay & Egan Co., Doane served as director of that company under president Thomas Egan. Doane received dozens of patents covering a wide variety of machines; his name was placed on most patents applied for by the company and it is difficult to know how much of the design work was Doane's. In his lifetime, Doane wrote the music for over 2,000 hymns. In fact, there is far more online information on his hymns than on his work at J. A. Fay & Co. In 1875 Doane was awarded an honorary Mus.D. degree by Denison College in honor of his musical and charitable work; they also named their library after him. Doane died in 1915, having become very wealthy from his work at Fay, and Fay & Egan.

An biography of William Howard Doane (PDF) appeared in the Summer 1998 Queen City Heritage. This biography emphasizes Doane's hymn writing.

Information Sources

  • Fourth Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, 1844, has these entries:

    J. A. Fay, Boston. Mortice Machine. Good and serviceable. Has been noticed at a former Exhibition.

    J. A. Fay & Co., Keene, N. H. Two Mortising, and one Tenoning Machine, with hub-frame attached. The builders of these machines, have given by practical and useful improvements, great efficiency and perfection of operation, with great durability, to these machines, and they richly deserve public patronage.

    J. A. Fay & Co., Norwich, Conn. One Power Mortising Machine; one Boring Machine; two Saw Arbors and Boxes. These are excellent articles, and valuable for the purposes designd, and worthy [of] a ...Bronze Medal.

    Davis, Fay & Co., Keene, N. H. Drill Stock.

  • Fifth Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, 1845, has these entries:

    Davis, Fay & Co., Keene, N. H. Mortising Machine. Operated by the foot. A very useful thing in a carpenter's shop.

  • New England Merchantile Union Business Directory for 1849 lists the following:

    [Under "Machinists"] Fay, J. A. & Co., Keene.

    [Under "Miscellaneous / Mortice and Tenoning Machines"] J. A. Fay & Co., manufacturers, Keene.

    [Under "Iron Founders"] Davis, Aaron, Keene.

  • Fifth Annual Report of the American Institute, including the results of the 1846 Fair of the American Institute, lists J. A. Fay, Keene, N. H., David Jacobus, agent, 138, Wooster street, for the best foot morticing machine. Silver medal.
  • Sixth Annual Report of the American Institute, March 1848, including the results of the 1847 Fair: Fay & Joslin, New Hampshire, for a boring and morticing machine, Silver medal. For a ratchet drill, Diploma. This report is the only direct evidence we have for "Joslin & Fay"; all other reports of this name can be traced back to the S. G. Griffin book.
  • Seventh Annual Report of the American Institute, March 1849, including the results of the 1848 Fair: J. A. Fay & Co., 28 Fourth-street, for the best morticing machine for general purposes, Silver medal. For the best hub morticing machine, (Silver medal having been before awarded), Diploma. For morticing and tenoning machine, (Silver medal having been before awarded), Diploma. For an improved machine for boring and tenoning, Diploma.
  • Eighth Annual Report of the American Institute, March 1850, including the results of the 1849 Fair: J. A. Fay & Co., Keene, N. H., for improved machines for morticing and tenoning hubs: Silver medal. For improved power morticing and sash sticking machines, Silver medal.
  • Transactions of the American Institute for the year 1850, including awards for that year's Fair of the American Institute: J. A. Fay & Co., Keene, N. H., for the best boring and morticing machine, Silver medal. For sash moulding and planing machine, Silver medal. For sash head and morticing machine for hubs, Diploma. For an excellent boring and morticing machine, Diploma.
  • The 1850 census lists Jerub A. Fay residing in Cheshire, NH. He was born "about 1807".
  • 1852 ad (Google books): J.A. Fay & Co: Patentees and Manufacturers of Labor-saving Machines ... Manufactured at Keene, N.H. ... By J.A. Fay & Co, Jemb A. Fay, Edward Joslin, J.A. Fay & Co Published by s.n., 1852 2 pages. Followed on p. [2] by descriptions of the tenoning and mortising machines and "Cash prices of J.A. Fay & Co.'s improved machines. Keene,—May, 1852."
  • Transactions of the American Institute for the year 1853, including that year's Fair of the American Institute: J. A. Fay & Co., Keene, N. H., D. Jacobus, agent, 138 Wooster street, for a tenoning, sash moulding and morticing machine, a silver medal having been before awarded, diploma.
  • The List of Premiums Awarded by the Managers of the Twenty-Seventh Annual Fair of the American Institute, October, 1855 lists "J. A. Fay & Co." as having won Diplomas for each of "second best power mortising machine", "large foot mortising machine", and "portable mortising machine". For their Power Mortising Machine it says, "This machine has a pulley attached to a crank wheel that gives a continuous reciprocating motion to the chisel; the whole of this work is drawn down by a foot lever, and consequently the entire resistance comes from the foot. This for heavy work would produce a jar at least unpleasant that is not felt in No. 656 [the entry from Lane & Bodley, which won first place and a Silver Medal[. The inventor claims an improvement in the self-reversing of the chisel. This is produced by a catch, acting on a half cylindrical inclines plane, (placed on one side of the chisel step) as the chisel is raised from the work at the end of the mortice. For light work it is supposed that the machine will answer very well."
  • Ad in Illustrated American Advertiser Vol. V, 1856
  • The 1859 Caverhill's Toronto city directory for 1859-60 has a listing for "HODSON WILLIAM, sash, door, and blind factory, planing machines, sawing, &c., depot for J. A. Fay & Co., wood working machinery, Keene, N. H., Worcester, Mass., corner Shepard and Richmond sts., house 82 Richmond st. west."
  • Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts for 1870, and available online through Google Books, has the following entry:


    F[ay]., J[oslin]., R[ogers]., and T[aintor]., copartners, began business of manufacturing machinery at Worcester in 1852 under the name of F. & Co.; and F. J., R., and C., copartners, began like business at Cincinnati in 1853 under the same name, using it as the style of the firm and as a trademark. F. died in 1854. Ever since his death J,. R., and C., copartners, continued the business at Cincinnati with all the rights as to the use of the name of F. & Co. which the Cincinnati firm had originally; and J. R., and T., copartners, continued the business at Worcester under the name of F. & Co. with the assent of F.'s representatives, until 1861, when their firm was dissolved and its orders, correspondence and good will were sold to T., who thereafter pursued the business of buying and selling, but not of manufacturing machinery. Held, that J., R., and C. could not maintain a bill in equity to enjoin T. from using the name of F. & Co. in his business and attaching it to machinery which he sells made by others than themselves.

    Bill in equity filed by Caleb B. Rogers of Norwich, Connecticut, Edward Joslin of Keene, New Hampshire, and William H. Doane and William E. London, both of Cincinnati, Ohio, all being copartners in the business of manufacturing woodworking machinery at Cincinnati, under the name of J. A. Fay & Co., alleging that they alone have the right to use that name in their business and as a trade-mark, and praying for an injunction to restrain the respondent from using it in his business at Worcester, or conneting it with woodworking machines sold by hime unless they were made by the complainants. The case was reserved by Chapman, J., for determination by the full court, on facts which were agreed by the parties substantially as follows:

    There were at various times prior to this bill four different firms engaged in the business of manufacturing woodworking machinery, under the name of J. A. Fay & Co., as follows:

    1. About 1847 the business was first begun under that name by Fay and the complainant Joslin, at Keene, New Hampshire.
    2. Soon afterwards it was begun at Norwich, Connecticut, under the same name, by Fay and the complainants Joslin and Rogers.
    3. In 1852 it was begun at Worcester, Massachusetts, under the same name, by Fay, Joslin, Rogers, and the respondent Taintor; and afterwards one Horace Richardson also was admitted as a partner.
    4. In 1853 it was begun at Cincinnati, Ohio, under the same name, by Fay, Joslin, Rogers, and one John Cheney; the complainants Doane and Loudon afterwards succeeding to Cheney's interest.

    Fay died in 1854. The Keene firm was dissolved by his death. His interest in the Norwich firm was conveyed to others, and the name of that firm was changed to C. B. Rogers & Co. The business of the Worcester firm was continued under the name of J. A. Fay & Co., with the assent of Fay's representatives. The business of the Cincinnati firm also was continued under the same name.

    And it was agreed that the Cincinnati firm has used that name ever since it began, both as a style of the firm and as a trade-mark; that it has all the rights in respect to its use which it had at the time of its original establishment; that it carries on a very extensive manufacturing business at Cincinnati, and sends its machines to various foreign countries; that the name is of great value as a trade-mark, on account of the superior quality of the machines formerly manufactured by all the four firms and now by the complainants; and that machines bearing that mark are sought and preferred above others.

    In July 1861 the Worcester firm, being insolvent, was dissolved by mutual consent, and Rogers was appointed to settle its business. After the dissolution the partners agreed in writing that the property of the firm should be sold at public auction, one article of this agreement being in these words : "The orders that may be received and the good will of the firm to be sold and disposed of to such of the partners as will bid the most therefor, as soon as may conveniently be done." In pursuance of this agreement the orders, correspondence and good will of the firm were bid off by the respondent Taintor for the sum of eight hundred dollars, which he paid.

    Since that time Taintor has been engaged in buying and selling, but not in manufacturing, woodworking machinery at Worcester, his business being to solicit and procure orders, which he fills by purchasing machinery from other manufacturers; and he has used the name of J. A. Fay & Co. in various ways, some of which are as follows: He has attached the name to machines which he has sold and sent into foreign countries. He has circulated price lists with the name printed at the head of the first page, and the same name printed below with the addition of the words "E. C. Taintor, succeeding partner;" with an announcement printed on another page that such lists will be sent on application to J. A. Fay & Co. or E. C. Taintor, Worcester; with an announcement on a following page that such lists will be sent on application to J. A. Fay & Co. or E. C. Taintor, succeeding partner; and with the words "J. A. Fay & Co. builders of all kinds of woodworking machinery," printed on the last page, surrounded by cuts of machines, the name of E. C. Taintor not appearing on that page at all, and the name of J. A. Fay & Co., wherever occurring on any of the pages, being printed more conspicuously than the name of E. C. Taintor. And he has used letter-paper in his correspondence, having in one upper corner of the page a cut of a machine over a scroll containing the name of J. A. Fay & Co., and with the words "Builders of woodworking machinery, E. C. Taintor, successor to J. A. Fay & Co.," in the other upper corner.

    It is needful for the complainants to sustain three propositions: 1. That they have a right to the name in dispute ; 2. That the respondent has not a right to use it as he has done; 3. That the case is within the equity jurisdiction of the court .

    The exclusive right was originally in the Keene firm. Both its members were members of the complainants' firm and assented to its use by that firm also. They could authorize the use as against themselves. The case finds that the complainants have all the rights the Cincinnati firm originally had. Therefore, as against Fay's representatives, they have full right. The Cincinnati, Worcester and Keene firms had concurrent rights, exclusive against all the world except each other. On the extinguishment of either, the right remained in the continuing firms. On the dissolution of the Worcester and Keene firms, it remained exclusively in the complainants' firm, unless the right of the Worcester firm passed to the respondent.

    The respondent did not acquire that right by buying the good will. Story on Part. § 100. Lewis v. Langdon, 7 Sim. 421. Crutlwell v. Lye, 17 Ves. 335, 346. Shackle v. Baker, 14 Ves. 468. Harrison v. Gardner, 2 Madd. 198. Anonymous, 16 Am. Jur. 87. But, if he did, he acquired no right to use the name otherwise than as the Worcester firm used it. Manufacturing and selling was their business. His is only selling. He acquired no right to bestow the name, as he does, on all the manufacturers from whom he buys to sell again. His present use of the name is a fraud on the complainants and the public.

    ...We do not find anything more substantial in the claim of the complainants that the defendant is guilty of a fraud, because, instead of manufacturing and selling machines under the name and with the trade-mark of J. A. Fay & Co. he puts that mark upon machines which he purchases of other manufacturers. If he has a right to use the name in his business, and to affix it as a trade-mark to his goods, so far as these complainants are concerned, they have no legal interest in the manner in which his business is conducted. ... Bill dismissed with costs

  • Twenty-Third Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture", 1873, including the results of the 1873 Indiana State Fair and Exposition in Indianapolis: Best saw for scroll work, J. A. Fay & Co., Cincinnati, O: Diploma. Best boring and mortising machine, J. A. Fay & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio: Diploma.
  • From Reports and awards for the Centennial Exhibition, 1876: "J. A. Fay & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, U. S. WOOD-WORKING MACHINERY. Commended for ingenuity of design and excellence of execution of all machines and tools exhibited. These machines all work exceedingly well. Special mention is deserved for the method of supporting the upper wheel shaft in band re-sawing machines, and for the facility of controlling and removing the tools during the work on planing and moulding machines, and especially for certain important points of originality."
  • Reports of the United States Commissioners to the Paris Universal Exposition, 1878": "J. A. Fay & Co. Machines for reduction of lumber and manufacture of furniture. A collection of seventeen machines for cutting and manufacturing wood into shapes for house building, furniture, wagon and carriage work, etc."
  • Various other works provide histories of this firm. The first one is the basis for many of the others.
    • Simon Goodell Griffin's 1874 book, History of Keene N. H., has biographical information that illuminates the early years of J. A. Fay & Co. A biography of Edward Joslin is reprinted in the VintageMachinery wiki.
    • A 1924 article in the Cincinnati Enquirer gives a history of this firm.
    • Dana Batory's book, Vintage Woodworking Machinery: An Illustrated Guide contains a history of J. A. Fay & Co. and several reproductions of period ads and catalog pages. Some of the history given in Batory's book is somewhat in conflict with the history given here or the other articles reproduced below.
    • An updated version of Batory's research on J. A. Fay & Co.'s early history appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of Fine Tool Journal (volume 56, no. 4).
    • Searches of the Cornell "Making of America" archive have been fruitful. Both Scientific American and Manufacturer & Builder are available there, and both have had numerous articles on J. A. Fay & Co. and/or J. A. Fay & Egan Co.
    • Kenneth Cope's American Cooperage Machinery and Tools lists W. H. Doane as a maker, in 1861, of a stave machine. Cope's source appears to be an 1861-01-12 article in Scientific American describing Doane's invention; the article refers inquiries to Mr. Doane, and there is no mention of J. A. Fay & Co. We have seen an 1861 city directory that listed W. H. Doane as the Chicago agent for J. A. Fay & Co., and Doane had supposedly been with the company since 1850. Furthermore, Doane became president of the company later that year. It all makes it seem rather unlikely that Doane ever manufactured his inventions himself. In any event, Doane was one of a group of company agents who purchased control of the company after Fay's widow and partners dissolved the company in 1861.
    • A Building History of Northern New England, by James L. Garvin, 2002: "During the 1830s, when Federal-style moldings were giving way to heavier profiles favored in the Greek Revival style, inventors began to devise machinery to manufacture moldings by water- or steam power. About 1834, George Page, Jerub Amber Fay, and Edward Joslin of Keene, New Hampshire, formed a partnership for the manufacture of woodworking machinery. Eventually incorporated under the name of J. A. Fay and Company, the firm introduced the first powered molding machines manufactured in the United States. In 1847 the firm established branches in Worcester, Massachusetts; Norwich, Connecticut; and Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1848 the company began to produce the first successful molding machines built for general use. Eventually consolidating its business in Cincinnati, the J. A. Fay and Egan Company became the largest manufacturer of woodworking machinery in the world."
  • Carriage and Wagon Makers Machinery and Tools by Kenneth L. Cope, 2004 page 89