Alloy Artifacts  

Beckley-Ralston Company

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Beckley-Ralston Company was a distributor of automobile supplies, accessories, and equipment during the early part of the 20th century.


Company History

The Beckley-Ralston Company was established in 1896 in Chicago and initially operated as a distributor of bicycle supplies.

[1904 Notice for Beckley-Ralston]
Fig. 1A. 1904 Notice for Beckley-Ralston.

By 1904 the company had begun to offer automobile accessories and supplies.

Fig. 1A shows a notice that the company would begin distributing automobile accessories and supplies, as published on page 96 of the August 1, 1904 issue of the Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal.

The text notes that a new catalog was available listing both old and new lines.

In addition to its wholesale distribution operations, the company was also a mail-order dealer and sometimes operated as a manufacturer.

[1914 Notice of Beckley-Ralston Exhibit]
Fig. 1. 1914 Notice for Beckley-Ralston Exhibit.

The scan in Fig. 1 was published on page 27 [External Link] of the February 19, 1914 issue of Motorcycle Illustrated and shows Beckley-Ralston's new building at the corner of 18th Street and Michigan Avenue.

The company's catalogs made extensive use of private branding, for which the company's "B-R" logo was frequently used.


Golf Clubs

By the late 1920s the company was manufacturing golf clubs, for which it filed at least two trademarks.

Later Operations

There are many references to the company in the trade press during the 1920s, but relatively few during the 1930s. This suggests that the company survived the Great Depression, but possibly at a much reduced scale.


Patents

Beckley-Ralston: Issued and Licensed Patents
Patent No.InventorFiledIssuedNotes and Examples
1,511,226 S.O. Lawrence01/09/192210/14/1924 Gearless Ratchet Wrench
Beckley-Ralston AT840 Ratchet

Trademarks

Beckley-Ralston: Registered Trademarks
Text Mark or Logo Reg. No. First Use Date Filed Date Issued Notes
MAXIMUS 60,826   11/26/1906 02/19/1907 Bicycles
Serial 23,598. Published December 25, 1906.
RADIATOMETER   11/01/1919 08/11/1920   Radiator solution testers
Serial 135,985. Published January 31, 1922.
CHIPPER 259,367 02/01/1929 02/13/1929 07/30/1929 For golf clubs.
Serial 279,258. Published May 21, 1929.
Stroke Savers [design] 261,297 11/01/1927 02/13/1929 09/17/1929 Golf clubs.
Serial 279,259. Published June 25, 1929.

Tool Identification

Beckley-Ralston made extensive use of private branding and its tools were frequently marked with the company's "B-R" logo.

[Beckley-Ralston B-R Logo]
Fig. 1C. Beckley-Ralston "B-R" Logo.

Fig. 1C shows a close-up of the "B-R" logo as it appeared on a tag with a socket set. The brass tag is embossed with "The Beckley-Ralston Co." and "Motor Goods" around the circumference, with "B-R" in the center.

This relatively large tag has room to print the company's name, but a smaller marking might consist of just the "B-R" in a circle.


References and Resources

Photographs and observations of particular tools are based on items in the Alloy Artifacts Collection.

Catalog Resources

Beckley-Ralston: Catalog Resources
Catalog Year Notes
    No. 91 (1924):
No. 91 1924 Copyright 1924. 384 pages.
Lists adjustable wrenches from Crescent and Pexto.
Lists open-end wrenches from Williams and Billings.
Lists pliers from Crescent, Kraeuter, and Pexto.
Other tools noted from Hinsdale.
Many tools private branded for B-R.

Selected Tools


Beckley-Ralston "Sampson" Socket Set

This next figure shows a flyer that was acquired with an early "Yala" Socket Set made by Syracuse Wrench, which turned out to have been sold by Beckley-Ralston. The flyer revealed an interesting alternate identity as the Beckley-Ralston "Sampson" socket set, and provided valuable contextual information as well.

[Flyer from Sampson Socket Set]
Fig. 2. Flyer from "Sampson" Socket Set, 1908.

The scan in Fig. 2 shows a small flyer found with the "Yala" socket set, identifying it as the "Sampson" socket set and providing a nice illustration and description.

Although this side of the flyer is not marked with a company name, the back side illustrates a grease gun offered by the Beckley-Ralston Company. In addition, a careful look at the illustration for the "Sampson" set shows the Beckley-Ralston "BR Co." logo on the upper cover flap.

From this we can conclude that the "Yala" socket set was distributed by Beckley-Ralston as their "Sampson" set. A subtitle just below the illustration notes the set as "A 1908 Ratchet Extension Set for the Motorist", indicating that Beckley-Ralston was offering the set at an early date. (Our earliest published reference for the "Yala" set is from March of 1908.)

This flyer is significant in providing an early date for our "Yala" socket set, as well as demonstrating that Syracuse Wrench had established distribution channels by that time. Beckley-Ralston published catalogs for mail-order sales, and having B-R as a distributor would have given Syracuse Wrench a national footprint for sales.


Beckley-Ralston 9 Inch Auto Wrench

[Beckley-Ralston 9 Inch Auto Wrench]
Fig. 3. Beckley-Ralston 9 Inch Auto Wrench, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1910 to 1920s.

Fig. 3 shows a Beckley-Ralston 9 inch auto wrench, stamped "Beckley-Ralston Co." and "Chicago" on the shank.

The overall length is 9.1 inches, and the maximum opening is 2.2 inches. The finish is plain steel.

The end of the handle has been formed into a spoon for use in removing tires from their rims.


Beckley-Ralston No. ET805 Automobile Socket Set

We were fortunate to acquire a rare Beckley-Ralston No. ET805 socket set, consisting of a friction ratchet and 8 pressed-steel sockets, with some parts missing. We haven't found an exact catalog match for the set, but the 1924 Beckley-Ralston catalog shows a very similar AT805 set.

[1924 Catalog Listing for B-R No. AT805 Socket Set]
Fig. 4. 1924 Catalog Listing for Beckley-Ralston No. AT805 Socket Set.

The scan in Fig. 4 shows a listing for the No. AT805 socket set, as found on page 218 of the 1924 Beckley-Ralston catalog. The set consisted of a B-R "Master" ratchet, an offset handle, a long extension, a short extension (or drive plug), and 8 pressed-steel sockets.

Note that with the parts illustrated, there would be no way to connect the extension bar to the offset handle.

[Beckley-Ralston No. ET805 Socket Set]
Fig. 5. Beckley-Ralston No. ET805 Socket Set, ca. Early to Mid 1920s.

Fig. 5 shows a partial Beckley-Ralston No. ET805 socket set, consisting of a B-R "Master" ratchet, a drive plug, and seven of the original eight pressed-steel sockets.

Our set is missing a forged offset (Ell) handle, a long extension, one hexagon socket (probably 27/32), and possibly a double-female connector. The drive plug is an unmarked replacement from our inventory.

The sockets in the set have sizes, from the left, 15/32, 17/32, 19/32, 21/32, 25/32, [27/32?], 29/32, and 1-1/32. The sockets are all marked with the fractional size, and all but one are stamped "Made in U.S.A." with the Hinsdale Round-H logo. (Remember that as Pressed-Steel Sockets, these are all 1/32 oversize for the intended nut.)

It's interesting but not really surprising that the sockets in the set were made by Hinsdale, since Beckley-Ralston carried a number of tools marked for (or recognizable as) Hinsdale. This suggests that the ET805 is basically a Hinsdale set with the B-R "Master" Ratchet interpolated.

The socket set was furnished in a wooden box, with a Beckley-Ralston brass tag below the latch. The overall dimensions are 11.5 inches wide by 3.4 inches deep by 2.7 inches high.

[Close-up of Label for Beckley-Ralston No. ET805 Set]
Fig. 6. Close-up of Label for Beckley-Ralston No. ET805 Set.

Fig. 6 shows a close-up of the label on the top cover. The text lists the contents of the set as 8 sockets, a ratchet handle, an offset handle, a long extension, and a "square connector socket".

There is no mention of a drive plug, and we've never heard of a drive plug being called a "square connector socket".

If the ratchet is assumed to already include a drive plug, then the extra part could mean a 1/2-inch double-female connector, so that the extension could be used with the offset handle. This might explain the difference between our No. ET805 set and the No. AT805 set in the catalog illustration.

[Close-up of Beckley-Ralston Tag]
Fig. 7. Close-up of Beckley-Ralston Tag.

Fig. 7 shows a close-up of the Beckley-Ralston tag on the front of the wooden box. The brass tag is embossed with "The Beckley-Ralston Co." and "Motor Goods" around the circumference, with "B-R" in the center.


Hinsdale 21/32 Pressed-Steel Socket from Beckley-Ralston No. ET805 Set

[Hinsdale 21/32 Socket from ET805 Set]
Fig. 8. Hinsdale 21/32 Socket from ET805 Set, with Inset for Back Side.

Fig. 8 shows an example of the pressed-steel sockets in the ET805 set, a Hinsdale 21/32 socket stamped with the fractional size on the base, with "Made in U.S.A." and the Hinsdale Round-H logo on the back side. All except one of the sockets in the set were marked in this fashion. (And somewhat remarkably, there were no Mossberg replacement sockets!)

The socket appears to have a thin nickel plated finish.


Beckley-Ralston No. AT840 1/2-Drive "Master" Ratchet

[1924 Catalog Listing for B-R No. AT840 Master Ratchet]
Fig. 9. 1924 Catalog Listing for Beckley-Ralston No. AT840 "Master" Ratchet.

The scan in Fig. 9 shows a listing for the No. AT840 "Master" ratchet, as found on page 218 of the 1924 Beckley-Ralston catalog.

The B-R "master" ratchet used a roller clutch mechanism instead of a gear and pawl, and the text notes the minimal lost motion. B-R used this ratchet in all of the sockets sets listed in the 1924 catalog.

[Beckley-Ralston 1/2-Drive Master Ratchet]
Fig. 10. Beckley-Ralston 1/2-Drive "Master" Ratchet, with Insets for Back Side, Side View, and Detail, ca. 1922-1924.

Fig. 10 shows the Beckley-Ralston 1/2-drive "Master" ratchet from the ET805 socket set, marked with "The Beckley-Ralston Co." and "Chicago Ill." forged into the front, with "Drop Forged Steel" and "Heat Treated" forged into the back side.

The back side also has a forge mark visible at the right, shown as a close-up in the lower inset.

The front plate is stamped "The Beckley Ralston Co. Chicago" around the periphery, with "Pat. Pend." just below the drive opening.

The overall length is 8.8 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The roller clutch mechanism in this ratchet gives it a very fine and smooth action, with almost no wasted motion and with little backdrag. The patent pending status is a reference to patent 1,511,226, filed by S.O. Lawrence on January 9, 1922 and issued on October 14, 1924, with assignment to Beckley-Ralston. The patent document has a clear illustration of the roller mechanism.


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