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Manufacturers Index - Ames Manufacturing Co.

Ames Manufacturing Co.
Chicopee, MA, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery & Metal Working Machinery

History
Last Modified: Jul 9 2015 10:07AM by Jeff_Joslin
If you have information to add to this entry, please contact the Site Historian.

According to an article in 1876 Manufacturer & Builder, this company was founded in 1829 by Nathan P. Ames, their first products being cutlery and swords. They prospered, acquiring the Chicopee Falls Co. and the Springfield Canal Co. They were successful and diversified, making machine tools, large cast bronze sculptures and statues, and brick-making machinery. Their machinery line included some drill presses of relatively modern design.

Although out of scope for this web site, we have a report of an Ames bayonet, dated 1864.

The 1874 work, Wiley's American iron trade manual of the leading iron industries of the United States, has an entry for this firm: "AMES MANUFACTURING Co. - Machinery, machine tools, cannon and statuary of bronze, swords, and steel work, water-wheels, turbines, etc. Hands employed, over 200. President, Emerson Gaylord; Manager and Agent, Gro. Arms; Treasurer, T. W. Carter; Superintendent, Albert St. Alden." The entry then quoted the following article from the American Manufacturer of Pittsburg, Penn., which we quote in its entirety even though it does not mention woodworking machinery:

Ames Manufacturing Company.

This establishment has stood for many years as the representative and exponent of American art in the production of elaborate and tasteful bronze statues that rival the choicest pieces from the foundries of Germany, France, and Italy. So, too, may it justly claim a national reputation, from being one of the two only concerns ever employed by our government to cast its bronze cannon, and the first to manufacture and furnish to our army and navy American made swords. Besides bronze statuary and swords, the manufactures of the Ames Company embrace machinery, of the heaviest and strongest kind (which has recently been greatly improved), and a variety of elegant silver-plated ware.

This history of this establishment, which has become one of the most extensive and important of its kind, not only in the United states but in the world, begins in 1829, when Mr. Nathan P. Ames, then a young man of twenty-six, started a small cutlery in the blacksmith shop of the Chicopee Manufacturing Company, at Chicopee Falls, employed at the outset nine workmen. The next year, he commenced to make swords, which had until this time all been imported, under the impression that they could not be made in this country, and secured contracts at once to supply them to our army and navy. What was the surprise of our English cousins to find, in a short time, that Chicopee blades surpassed the best of their own production in practical value, and to see it repeatedly demonstrated in the severest tests.

This branch of the business gerw rapidly, and in 1833 three times the original force of workmen were employed. During that year a new shop was built at Cabotville, and in 1834 the Ames Manufacturing Company was organized with $30,000 capital, and opened business in the new works with thirty-five men. The first officers were: Edmund Dwight, President; N. P. Ames, Treasurer and Agent.

Gradually the business increased, and new departments were added, until 1841, when the capital stock was enlarged, to $75,000, and the working force to 100 men. They also bought at the same time from the Chicopee Falls Company the shops, machinery, dwelling-houses, and water power at Chicopee Falls, and at once removed the business to that location. In 1845, having sold this property to the Massachusetts Arms Company, and further enlarged its capital to $200,000, the Ames Company bought the property of the Springfield Canal Company at Cabotville (now Chicopee), where their works have ever since been located. In 1849 the capital stock was increased to its present proportions, $250,000.

Mr. Ames made a visit to England in 1840, in connection with a board of officers appointed by the government, and after gaining, from carefull examination, all possible information regarding armories and manufactures of general machinery and cutlery, returned in 1841 and immediately made effective use of the results of his visit. In 1845 Mr. Ames was obliged by continued ill health to give up his active agency of the company, which he had held since its organization. He was succeeded as agent by his brother, Mr. James F. Ames, who was connected with the company until January 1872, either as president or agent, when he retired on account of failing health. In 1845 the iron foundry was erected, and the production of heavy machinery of all kinds begun, and has steadily increased, until from 4 to 12 tons Pennsylvania and Scotch pig are now consumed every day. A large amount of machinery has been turned out for cotton combing and silk combing; also machinery for the manufacture of plate glass, paper-collar machines, machinery for the construction of sewing machines, fire arms, and for various other purposes. One specialty is the manufacture of the Boyden turbine wheel, large number of which have been sent out.

Prior to 1853 every gun made in England been made by hand, and there was great doubt expressed as to the possibility of making them by machinery. The royal commissioners visited Chicopee with specimens of the Turkish wood from which their gun-stocks were made, and the Ames company quickly showed them that the same work which had cost eleven shillings sterling by hand could be done in twenty-two minutes by machinery. And not only that, but a stock once turned out would fit any one of ten thousand barrels instead of the single one to which, under the English system, it had been laboriously fitted by hand. The commissioners were satisfied that there was something in the interchange system worth availing themselves of, and an order was at once given to the Ames company for the manufacture of a full outfit of stocking and interchange machinery for the Enfield armory. Similar machinery was also soon ordered for several private arms manufacturing establishments in England.

The Spanish and Russian governments were also furnished with this machinery. During the past year a set of stocking machinery was made for Greenwood & Batley, Leeds, England.

For two years preceding the rebellion the works were run to their fullest capacity day and night, making arms for the South. At the outbreak of hostilities orders came rushing in from our government for swords, bronze cannon, shot, shell, and gun making machinery. Orders could not be filled fast enough, and to meet the exigency the capacity of the arms department was doubled. The force was augmented to from 700 to 900 men. When the company were approached by a party who desired to contract for all the swords they could make for a year with a view of monopolozing and controlling the market, they firmly refused to entertain any such proposition, or to advance their prices. The home demand, of course fell off since the close of the war, but some large orders for swords have recently been filled for foreign powers.

An important part of their business is the casting of bronze statuary. The first successful casting of bronze statues in the United States was done by this company in 1851. It was a bas-relief, called Instruction, for the Appletons, New York. Among the most expensive and important statues that have been cast here are the statue of Benjamin Franklin, in front of the Boston City Hall; the colossal statue of De Witt Clinton, in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn; the colossal equestrian statue of George Washington in Union Square, New York; the doors of the Capital building at Washington; the bronze work for the large fountain in Central Park, New York; and a large number of monumental and memorial statues for cities and town. The work for the National Lincoln monument at Springfield, Ill., now under way, will be one of the grandest productions ever made in bronze. The colossal figure of Lincoln is now completed. It represents him holding in one hand the Emancipation Proclamation, and wreathed with laurels. There will be three emblematic groups, representing the infantry, cavalry, and artillery branches of the land service, and a fourth representing the naval service. The modelling of the whole is done by Mr. Larkin G. Mead. It will require considerable time to complete this monument. The casting of a colossal bronze has to be done by very skilful hands, and not less than a year is required to complete one. They are now at work on a beautiful statue for Cedar Hill Cemetery, Hartford, designed by Conrads of that city.

The silver plating department of the Ames Company's works was started in 1851, and in this department a specialty has been made of ware designed for hotels and steamers. The plating is all done upon German silver, rather than upon britannia, and the ware turned out is heavy and durable.

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