Alloy Artifacts  

Bethlehem Spark Plug Company

Table of Contents

Introduction

During the 1920s the Bethlehem Spark Plug Company offered a series of well-designed socket sets under the "Quickway" brand. These sets featured distinctive copper-coated sockets and tools in various sizes of hex drive.


Company History

In its early history the company was primarily a maker of automotive spark plugs. Since this site is mostly interested in hand tools, for us the relevant history begins in the early 1920s with the development of a line of socket sets. We'll fill in the earlier history as time permits.

[1924 Advertisement for Bethlehem Spark Plug Company]
Fig. 1. 1924 Advertisement for Bethlehem Spark Plug Company. [External Link]

Fig. 1 shows a full-page ad for the Bethlehem Spark Plug Company, as published on page 399 of the December 1, 1924 issue of the Automobile Trade Journal. The text notes the company's 12 years in business and provides an illustration of their factory in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The illustrations shows three examples of the company's products: a spark plug, a radiator cap, and a "Quickway" socket wrench set.

The text notes E.H. Schwab as the company's president.

References to the Bethlehem "Quickway" sets in the trade press first appear in 1922, suggesting that the products were first offered in that year. The next two figures show examples from trade publications.

[1922 Notice for Quickway Socket Wrench]
Fig. 2. 1922 Notice for Bethlehem "Quickway" Socket Wrench. [External Link]

Fig. 2 shows a notice for the Bethlehem "Quickway" socket wrench set, as published on page 33 of the November 8, 1922 issue of Motor World.

This small set consisted of a hexagonal Ell handle and five sockets from 1/2 to 3/4. the text notes that the knurled sockets are broached and cyanide hardened.

Although not mentioned in the notice, this was the company's Model "B" set.

[1922 Advertisement for Quickway Socket Set]
Fig. 3. 1922 Advertisement for Bethlehem "Quickway" Socket Set. [External Link]

The ad in Fig. 3 was published on page 73 of the December 28, 1922 issue of Motor Age and shows two early Bethlehem "Quickway" socket sets, a Mechanics' "D" set with 23 sockets, "L"-handle, "T"-handle, and ratchet, plus an "E" set consisting of an "L"-handle and eight sockets.

The text also refers to earlier "A", "B", and "C" sets.

The "D" set in the ad is an early model in a wooden box, but later versions of this set came in a nicely designed metal box with a socket organizer. The "D" set included the tools from the "A" set to cover small sizes, visible at the left in the wooden box.

The loose tools at the right in the ad are referred to as the "E" set, which appears to have been the same as the "C" set but with the addition of a laminated ratchet.


Patents

We haven't yet found any patents issued to the Bethlehem Spark Plug Company.

Bethlehem Spark Plug: Issued Patents
Patent No.InventorFiledIssuedNotes and Examples

Trademarks

We haven't yet found any trademarks registered by the Bethlehem Spark Plug Company.

Bethlehem Spark Plug: Registered Trademarks
Text Mark or Logo Reg. No. First Use Date Filed Date Issued Notes

References and Resources

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

Industrial Distributors

Bethlehem "Quickway" tools were sold through some industrial distributors and by at least one high-volume retailer, Western Auto Supply.


Selected Tools

Besides the Model "D" set shown in a figure below, we have several other Quickway sets, including a Model "C" set in a metal box, an early "D" set in a wooden box, and an 11/16-hex drive Model F set in a metal box. We plan to display them as time permits.

[1924 Catalog Listing for Bethelehem Quickway Models A, B, and C Sets]
Fig. 4. 1924 Catalog Listing for Bethlehem "Quickway" Models A, B, and C Sets.

Fig. 4 shows a catalog listing for the Bethlehem "Quickway" Models A, B, and C socket sets, as published on page 363 of the 1924 Waterhouse & Lester catalog No. 20.

The illustration shows set "A" with a Tee handle and seven sockets from 9/32 to 1/2, a size range suggested for working on carburetors or generators. This set was supplied in a wooden box.

Set "B" consists of an Ell handle and five sockets (the illustration incorrectly shows six) ranging from 1/2 to 3/4. This set came with an imitation leather case.

Set "C" consists of an Ell handle and eight sockets from 5/16 to 3/4, all contained in a wooden box. Although not specified in the listing, this set is known from an example to use 7/16-hex drive.


Bethlehem "Quickway" 7/16-Hex Drive Model C Socket Set

Later versions of the Bethlehem "Quickway" Model C socket sets were supplied with a laminated ratchet rather than an Ell handle, and were furnished with a metal case. We have an example of a later set and are preparing it for display.

Fig. 5. Bethlehem "Quickway" Model C 7/16-Hex Drive Socket Set To Be Added.

Bethlehem "Quickway" 1/2-Hex Drive Model D Socket Set

[Bethelehem Quickway Model D 1/2-Hex Drive Socket Set]
Fig. 6. Bethlehem "Quickway" Model D 1/2-Hex Drive Socket Set, ca. 1923 to Late 1920s.

Fig. 6 shows a 1/2-hex drive Bethlehem "Quickway" Model D socket set in its metal case. The Model D set was actually two sets in one, as it included a complete Model A set to cover the smaller sizes.

The larger tools consist of a ratchet, a sliding Tee handle, three extensions, a universal, and 16 1/2-hex drive deep format sockets covering all sizes from 15/32 to 15/16 by 32nds.

In addition, the Model A set (the small box at the back center) provides seven 3/8-hex drive sockets, with sizes ranging from 9/32 up to 1/2.

The set as acquired was reasonably complete, but is missing one of the extensions and the 15/32 socket.

The sturdy steel box measures 11.5 long by 5.2 wide by 2.0 high.


Bethlehem "Quickway" 1/2-Hex Drive Ratchet

[Bethelehm Quickway 1/2-Hex Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 7. Bethlehem "Quickway" 1/2-Hex Drive Ratchet, with Insets for Reverse and Side View, 1923.

Fig. 7 shows a 1/2-hex drive Bethlehem ratchet from the Model D socket set, marked with "Bethlehem Spark Plug Co." and "Bethlehem PA" forged into the shank, with "Drop Forged Steel" and "Made in USA" forged into the reverse.

The overall length is 9.5 inches, and the finish is copper plating.

The shank is also marked with a forged-in shield symbol enclosing a "B", as can be seen at the righthand side. Readers familiar with our article on Bonney will immediately recognize this as the Bonney B-Shield Logo, a marking frequently found on early Bonney tools. The reverse has a forged-in code "JO.." visible at the end of the handle, another type of marking generally found on Bonney tools, and recently determined to be a date code. These markings indicate that the ratchet (or at least the forged body) was produced for Bethlehem by Bonney, and the "JO" date code indicates production in 1923.


Bethlehem "Quickway" 1/2-Hex Drive Sliding Tee Handle

[Bethelehm Quickway 1/2-Hex Drive Sliding Tee Handle]
Fig. 8. Bethlehem "Quickway" 1/2-Hex Drive Sliding Tee Handle, ca. 1920s.

Fig. 8 shows a 1/2-hex drive Bethlehem sliding Tee handle from the Model D socket set, unmarked but with the characteristic copper finish.

The overall length is 8.2 inches, and the finish is copper plating.

The sliding head has a threaded hole in the top for a thumbscrew, now missing from this example.


Bethlehem "Quickway" 1/2-Hex Drive 15/16 Hex Socket

[Bethelehm Quickway 1/2-Hex Drive Socket]
Fig. 9. Bethlehem "Quickway" 1/2-Hex Drive Socket, with Insets for Drive End and Broaching, ca. 1920s.

Fig. 9 shows a 1/2-hex drive Bethlehem 15/16 hex socket from the Model D socket set, marked only with the size as "15-16".

The left inset shows the 1/2-hex drive end in the turned-down base.


Additional Bethlehem "Quickway" 1/2-Hex Drive Tools

By 1925 Bethlehem was offering additional tools to supplement its standard 1/2-hex drive Model "D" set, in particular speeders and Tee handles.

[1925 Catalog Listing for Quickway 1/2-Hex Drive Speeder and Tee Handles]
Fig. 10. 1925 Catalog Listing for Bethlehem "Quickway" 1/2-Hex Drive Speeder and Tee Handles.

Fig. 10 shows a catalog listing for Bethlehem speeder and Tee handles, as published on page 373 of the 1925-1926 Williams Hardware catalog.

The speeder (brace) handles were available in 14 and 20 inch lengths, and the Tee handles were available in 6 and 12 inch lengths.

Both types of handles are noted as fitting Model "D" sockets, i.e. 1/2-hex drive.


Bethlehem "Quickway" 11/16-Hex Drive Model F Socket Set

In addition to its standard 1/2-hex drive sets, by 1925 Bethlehem was also offering a Model "F" set of heavy-duty socket tools using an 11/16-hex drive size.

[1925 Catalog Listing for Bethlehem Model F Set]
Fig. 11. 1925 Catalog Listing for Bethlehem "Quickway" Model F Set.

Fig. 11 shows a catalog listing for the Quickway Model F set, as published on page 373 of the 1925-1926 Williams Hardware catalog.

The set consisted of a sliding Tee handle, 8 and 16 inch extensions, and nine sockets from 15/16 up to 1-1/2. The set was furnished with a heavy steel box.

We have a Quickway Model F set and are preparing it for display.

Fig. 12. Bethlehem "Quickway" Model F Socket Set To Be Added.

Bethlehem 11/16-Hex Drive 7/8 Hex Socket

[Bethelehm 11/16-Hex Drive 7/8 Socket]
Fig. 13. Bethlehem 11/16-Hex Drive 7/8 Socket, with Insets for Drive End and Broaching, ca. Mid 1920s.

Fig. 13 shows an 11/16-hex drive Bethlehem 7/8 hex socket, marked only with the fractional size.

The overall height is 2.1 inches, and the finish is copper plating.

The left inset shows the 11/16 hex drive end, and the right inset shows the 7/8 hex service end.


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