Alloy Artifacts  

Charles Miller Company


Table of Contents


Introduction

The Charles Miller Company was a maker of tools and equipment operating in Syracuse, New York during the early 20th century.


History

The Charles Miller Company (or possibly Charles Miller as an individual) was an early maker of ratchet wrenches, socket sets, and industrial equipment, with operations in Syracuse, NY.

Currently we don't have much information regarding the company, but based on the notice in Fig. 1 it was definitely in operation by 1912. However, Charles Miller the individual is known as an inventor and for an association with earlier business ventures in Syracuse.

In 1907 Charles Miller received several patents for ratchets and socket wrenches, and these patents formed the basis for several early socket sets. The first patent was #845,716, filed by C. Miller in 1905 and issued in 1907. It describes a ratchet wrench of simple and inexpensive construction.

The second patent #845,717, also filed by C. Miller in 1905 and issued in 1907, describes a Tee-handle socket wrench. The third patent describes an alternate form for a ratchet wrench similar to that in patent #845,716. This patent was filed by C. Miller in 1905 and issued as #853,930 in 1907.

Based on these patents, Charles Miller appears to have had an association with other early tool companies in the Syracuse area, including the Miller Combination Tool Company, Syracuse Wrench Company, and the C.M.B. Wrench Company. In particular, Miller Combination Tool produced a socket wrench set based on the 1907 Miller patents #845,716 and #845,717.

The Syracuse Wrench Company is known to have used the Miller patent #845,717 for the Tee handle in its socket sets. The early Syracuse Wrench socket sets also used cast malleable iron sockets similar to those in the Charles Miller socket sets.

The C.M.B. Wrench Company, formed in 1909, included Charles Miller as one of its founders (providing the "M" initial), and the company's products were based on later Miller patents for a swivel-headed ratchet. The company's socket sets were sold under the "Silver King" brand and used sockets cast of "silver metal", a copper-nickel alloy similar to brass.

With all of these socket-related ventures, it's not surprising that the Charles Miller Company also produced socket sets, and all of the examples to be shown later consist of sockets or socket tools.

[1912 Notice for Charles Miller Belt Idler]
Fig. 1. 1912 Notice for Charles Miller Belt Idler. [External Link]

In addition to socket tools, Charles Miller also produced industrial equipment such as the belt idler shown in Fig. 1, published on page 290 of the 1912 Vol. 37, No. 7 of American Machinist. This 1912 notice is currently the earliest public record found for the company.

The belt idler was based on patent #909,439, filed by Charles Miller in 1907 and issued in 1909.

Charles Miller was listed in some product directories in the years after 1912, with the latest listing (so far) being in 1920. For example, page 53 of the August, 1917 issue of Motor Record listed Charles Miller in the "nut and bolt" wrench category, with the products listed as "spark plug", "XX", "4 in 1", "2 in 1", and "Crow-Foot".


Later Operations

By 1920 the address for Charles Miller had changed from the "Industrial Building" to 1056 South Clinton Street in Syracuse.

[1920 Listing for Charles Miller Company]
Fig. 2. 1920 Listing for Charles Miller Company. [External Link]

The listing in Fig. 2 was published on page 854 of the January, 1920 Chilton Automobile Directory under the section for wrench makers. The company's products (in the wrench category) are listed as spark plug, crowfoot, ratchet and socket.

[1921 Listing for Miller Wrench Company]
Fig. 3. 1921 Listing for Miller Wrench Company. [External Link]

By 1921 the company had apparently changed its name to the Miller Wrench Company.

The listing in Fig. 3 was published on page 1076 of the April, 1921 edition of the Automobile Trade Directory and shows Miller Wrench at 1054-56 South Clinton Street in Syracuse, the same address last noted for Charles Miller.

[1922 Listing for Miller Wrench Company]
Fig. 4. 1922 Listing for Miller Wrench Company. [External Link]

The apparent name change is further confirmed by the listing in Fig. 4, published on page 504 of the 1922 Engineering Directory and showing an entry for Miller Wrench at the bottom. The company is identified as a maker of "belt shifters" and wrenches with a location at 1054-56 South Clinton Street in Syracuse.

The "belt shifter" is likely the Charles Miller belt idler shown previously — which worked by shifting a belt off of its pulley — making it reasonably certain that Miller Wrench was the continuation of the Charles Miller business.

We're still actively looking for more information on Charles Miller and these other early companies, and hope to expand this page in the future.


Patents

Charles Miller: Issued and Licensed Patents
Patent No.InventorFiledIssuedNotes and Examples
845,716 C. Miller10/13/190502/26/1907 Ratchet Wrench
Used by Miller Combination Tool
845,717 C. Miller12/07/190502/26/1907 Socket Wrench
Used by Miller Combination Tool and Syracuse Wrench
853,930 C. Miller10/14/190505/14/1907 Ratchet Wrench
909,439 C. Miller04/24/190701/12/1909 Belt Carrier (Idler)
952,435 C. Miller03/20/190903/15/1910 Socket Wrench
Assigned to C.M.B. Wrench
952,436 C. Miller03/20/190903/15/1910 Ratchet Wrench
Assigned to C.M.B. Wrench

Trademarks

The Charles Miller Company is not known to have registered any trademarks.


References and Resources

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


Catalog Coverage

Currently we have no catalogs for the Charles Miller Company.


Selected Tools

Socket Sets

Charles Miller offered socket sets in a number of different models, and all of the ones found so far are based on malleable iron sockets. Based on our limited information for the company, these sets were probably produced between 1912 and 1920.

We have been able to acquire a number of different Charles Miller sets and will be preparing them for display. The relative ease of acquiring the sets suggests that the company met with reasonable commercial success, but also raises a question: where are the advertisements for Charles Miller? The periodicals of this era have numerous advertisements for other makers of socket sets, but so far we haven't found any for Charles Miller.


Charles Miller No. 99 Socket Set

[Charles Miller No. 99 Socket Set]
Fig. 5. Charles Miller No. 99 Socket Set, ca. 1912-1920.

Fig. 5 shows a Charles Miller No. 99 socket set in a wooden box, consisting of a ratchet, extension, sliding Tee head, nine hex sockets, and two square sockets. The set is marked with a paper label on the inside of the lid, reading "No. 99 Set" at the top, followed by "Charles Miller" and "Sole Manufacturer", with "Syracuse New York" on the next line. The remainder of the label offers illustrations of the various tools and combinations in the set.

The socket sizes and models in the front row are, from left to right, 1-1/16 (No. 10), 1 Inch (No. 9), 7/8 (No. 8), 13/16 (No. 7), 11/16 (No. 6), 5/8 (No. 5), and 9/16 (No. 6c). The sockets in the back row are, from left to right, 5/8 (No. 5 Square), 1/2 (No. 4 Square), 7/16 (No. 4c), and 1/2 (No. 4). All of the sizes listed above are the nominal service openings; the actual measured sizes are approximately 1/32 larger. The sockets are marked with the model numbers cast into the side, with "Miller" stamped on the drive tang.

The drive size for the set is a nominal 5/8 square, with the ratchet providing a 5/8 square opening and the sockets using a 5/8 male drive tang. The female drive openings are fitted with a spring clip to hold the inserted drive stud, except that the top of the sliding Tee head uses a detent ball.


Charles Miller 5/8-Drive Ratchet from No. 99 Socket Set

[Charles Miller Ratchet from No. 99 Socket Set]
Fig. 6. Charles Miller Ratchet from No. 99 Socket Set, with Inset for Side View, ca. 1912-1920.

Fig. 6 shows the (unmarked) 5/8-square female drive ratchet from the Charles Miller No. 99 Socket Set.

The overall length is 9.8 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

The ratchet consists of a cast malleable steel head holding an 11-tooth drive gear (also of malleable steel) with a nominal 5/8 square opening. The stem of the drive head is hollow to hold a pawl and spring, with a steel rod inserted at the other end as a handle. The small screw on the side of the ratchet head is a retaining screw and fits into a slot in the drive gear.

The drive opening is fitted with a spring clip to hold a socket or extension in place.

Although not marked with a patent notice, this ratchet is covered by patent #845,716, filed by C. Miller in 1905 and issued in 1907.


Charles Miller 5/8-Drive 8 Inch Extension from No. 99 Socket Set

[Charles Miller 5/8-Drive 8 Inch Extension from No. 99 Socket Set]
Fig. 7. Charles Miller 5/8-Drive 8 Inch Extension from No. 99 Socket Set, with Inset for End Detail, ca. 1912-1920.

Fig. 7 shows the unmarked 5/8-drive 8 inch extension from the Charles Miller No. 99 Socket Set.

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

The inset shows a close-up of the socket drive end of the extension, with a spring clip to hold the socket. (However, the spring clip on this tool is broken.)


Charles Miller 5/8- Drive Sliding Tee Head from No. 99 Socket Set

[Charles Miller 5/8-Drive Sliding Tee Head from No. 99 Socket Set]
Fig. 8. Charles Miller 5/8-Drive Sliding Tee Head from No. 99 Socket Set, with Inset for End Detail, ca. 1912-1920.

Fig. 8 shows the (unmarked) 5/8-drive sliding Tee Head from the Charles Miller No. 99 Socket Set.

The overall length is 2.1 inches, and the finish is nickel plating.

The inset shows the drive opening in the cylindrical end, fitted with a spring clip to hold the inserted drive stud.

This tool can be used to make either a fixed offset handle or sliding Tee head. With the extension bar fitted into the ball end and a socket in the cylindrical end, the combination becomes a sliding Tee handle, and the detent ball helps to hold the slider in position.

With the extension bar inserted into the cylindrical end and a socket in the ball end, the combination forms a fixed offset handle.


Charles Miller 5/8 Male Drive Sockets from No. 99 Socket Set

[Charles Miller 5/8 Male Drive Hex Sockets from No. 99 Socket Set]
Fig. 9. Charles Miller 5/8 Male Drive Hex Sockets from No. 99 Socket Set, with Inset for Top View, ca. 1912-1920.

Fig. 9 shows two of the 5/8 male drive hex sockets from the Charles Miller No. 99 Socket Set, the No. 8 hex socket on the left and the No. 10 hex socket on the right. The sockets are marked with the model number cast into the side, and with "Miller" stamped at an angle on the drive tang.

The socket sizes were measured at 29/32 (No. 8) and 1-3/32 (No. 10), intended for nominal sizes 7/8 and 1-1/16 respectively, with a 1/32 oversize allowance.

The sockets were made as malleable steel castings, with no post-casting machining except for turning the tops flat. The hollow drive tang is a nominal 5/8 square slightly undersized for clearance; one was measured at 0.60 by 0.61 inches.


Alloy Artifacts Home Text and Photographs Copyright © 2005-2019 Alloy Artifacts Site Index