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Manufacturers Index - Searjeant Metal Products, Inc.

Searjeant Metal Products, Inc.
Rochester, NY, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery

History
Last Modified: Jul 4 2019 2:00PM by Jeff_Joslin
If you have information to add to this entry, please contact the Site Historian.

Wilfrid H. Searjeant came to Rochester in about 1926 from his native England. Trained as an engineer, he worked for Eastman Kodak for a while and then for Taylor-Shantz Co. Around the time that Searjeant joined Taylor-Shantz, that firm's subsidiary, J. & H. Metal Products Co. ( In 1936 he acquired a half interest in the company. In 1943 he established Searjeant Metal Products Co., doing experimental work and making parts for the war effort, including for the Oak Ridge Atom Bomb project and for B-29 bombers. In 1947 the company introduced a short-lived "PowerCraft" line of benchtop woodworking machinery, including scroll saw, bottle-capper style drill press, 8" disc sander with drum, 8x24 inch lathe, and a line-shaft system for powering multiple machines with a single motor. Some of these machines, including the lathe and drill press, have never been observed in the wild and may never have made it into production. The machines are quite small and inexpensive but the ads claimed quality construction with hardened surfaces and bronze bushings or roller bearings.


From October 1947 Popular Mechanics

Their other post-war product line was related to safety guards for machinery, especially presses, and this product line quickly became the company's primary focus. Wilfrid's son Robert obtained a degree in mechanical engineering and joined the business in 1952. Within a few years the company was growing rapidly based on the success of their safety guards. The later history of the company is currently unknown but we have not found any mentions after about 1970.

In 1970 the company lost a landmark product liability lawsuit even though the company was blameless. A worker lost three fingers when a punch press—equipped with a Searjeant Metal Products two-hand control system—double-tripped while the operator's hands were under the ram. It turned out that the used control system was missing its air filter, and airborne dirt had caused a solenoid valve to malfunction. The court held that "strict liability" applied and that the manufacturer was required to pay compensation even though some unknown person had caused the defect by removing the air filter.

Information Sources

  • We first learned of this maker by seeing a small motorized scrollsaw on scrollsaws.com.
  • An article from the 1958-04-28 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle was provided to us by Lindsay Jonasse of Rochester. The article has a photograph of Wilfrid H. Searjeant and son Robert, and discusses the company's line of industrial safety products. A brief history is provided, which forms the basis of the information above.
  • In the legal community this company is known for a landmark 1970 court judgment against them, namely that a group of persons can be held liable regardless of their fault or participation in the harm, but simply because they are in the best position to bear the loss.