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Chicago Manufacturing & Distributing


Table of Contents

Introduction

The Chicago Manufacturing & Distributing Company was a maker of ratchets and socket sets, most notable (in its early years) for its use of malleable iron castings to make virually all parts of the tools.

Company History

The Chicago Manufacturing & Distributing Company was a maker of ratchets, socket sets, and other metal products based in Chicago, Illinois. The company is believed to have commenced operations in 1911, based on a 1913 Report by the State of Illinois that lists the incorporation date as March 1, 1911. A 1920 List of Corporations issued by the State of Illinois lists the company address as 2602 West 26th Street in Chicago. Based on various published references, the company appears to have remained in business until at least the 1940s or possibly later.

The Chicago Manufacturing and Distributing Company was notable for making sockets and drive tools of malleable iron, a less common construction method at a time when pressed-steel sockets were the dominant technology. Only two other companies are known to have produced malleable iron socket sets, in particular the Syracuse Wrench Company and the Charles Miller Company.

[1915 Advertisement for Chicago Manufacturing]
1915 Advertisement for Chicago Manufacturing Wright Ratchet Wrench. [External Link]

The socket sets produced by Chicago Manufacturing were based on a distinctive ratchet described by patent #1,089,737, filed by G.K. Wright in 1913 and issued on March 10, 1914. The patent describes a ratchet of simple construction with parts that can be made as malleable iron castings, without the need for machining, thereby keeping the cost low.

The advertisement at the left, published on page 266 of the February 2, 1915 issue of Brick and Clay Record, illustrates the company's 'Wright Ratchet Wrench" product.

[1919 Listing for Chicago Manufacturing Socket Set]
1919 Listing for Chicago Manufacturing Socket Set.

By 1919 the company's socket sets were being offered by Sears Roebuck, giving them a national footprint for sales.

The scan at the left shows a listing for a "Socket Wrench Set" found on page 13 of the 1919 Justice Tires Sales catalog published by Sears. The illustration shows a set of seven sockets in a box, with a ratchet handle, universal, and extension displayed in front.

The distinctive design of the tools allows the maker to be identified as the Chicago Manufacturing and Distributing Company, and the illustrated set is very similar to the Chicago Manufacturing No. 60 Socket Set. Note in particular that the illustration shows the "A1" model number on the ratchet handle and the "A25" model on the extension. The socket sizes in the catalog listing differ somewhat from the sizes in the No. 60 set, but this may be confusion arising from differences in actual and nominal sizes.

The Sears catalogs offered socket sets by Chicago Manufacturing from 1919 (or earlier) until at least the mid 1920s.

Later Operations

By the mid 1920s the company was producing a self-adjusting wrench under the "Speednut" brand, based on patent #1,602,620, filed by J.V. Larson in 1924 and issued in 1926.

Other patents issued to the company include the McKee 1922 patent #1,437,602 for a track-bolt wrench, and the Sultemeyer 1923 patent #1,452,535 for making bearing rings.


Patents

Table 1. Chicago Manufacturing: Issued and Licensed Patents
Patent No.InventorFiledIssuedDescriptionNotes and Examples
1,089,737 G.K. Wright03/19/191303/10/1914Ratchet Wrench Chicago Manufacturing A1 Ratchet
1,437,602 R.J. McKee08/19/192112/05/1922Track-bolt Wrench  
1,602,620 J.V. Larson08/30/192410/12/1926Automatic Nut Wrench Chicago Manufacturing Speednut Wrench
1,830,033 J.V. Larson03/26/193111/03/1931Automatic Nut Wrench Chicago Manufacturing Speednut Wrench

Trademarks

We have not yet found any trademarks for Chicago Manufacturing and Distributing.


References and Resources

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


Catalog Resources

Currently we don't have any catalogs for Chicago Manufacturing.


Selected Tools


Chicago Manufacturing No. 60 Socket Set

[Chicago Manufacturing No. 60 Socket Set]
Fig. 1. Chicago Manufacturing No. 60 Socket Set, ca. 1915-1925.

Fig. 1 shows a Chicago Manufacturing No. 60 socket set in a wooden box, consisting of an A1 ratchet, A25 extension, A10 universal, and seven hex sockets arranged in front of the box. The tools in the set have a nominal 5/8-drive size, with a 5/8 female connection on the drive tools and a 5/8 male drive tang on the sockets.

The paper label on the lid is marked with "No. 60 Tool Box Wrench Kit" across the top, with "Chicago Manufacturing & Distributing Co." and "26th & Rockwell Sts, Chicago Ill." across the bottom. The middle part of the label lists the contents of the set with the socket sizes (always a helpful addition), and the center has a circular logo for the company.

The socket models and sizes are, from the left, A24 (17/32), A23 (9/16), A22 (19/32), A21 (23/32), A20 (25/32), A19 (29/32), and A18 (31/32). The sockets are marked with the fractional size cast into one face (not shown), and with the model number cast into the drive tang.

The sockets and tools are finished with black paint. The wooden box holding the tools has dimensions 9.6 inches wide by 3.0 inches deep by 3.0 inches high.

[Chicago Manufacturing No. 60 Socket Set]
Fig. 2. Chicago Manufacturing No. 60 Socket Set Packed in Box, ca. 1915-1925.

In case some of our readers were wondering whether all of those tools actually fit in the small box, Fig. 2 shows the No. 60 socket set packed into its wooden box. Several of the sockets can be nested in order to reduce the space required.

One interesting aspect of this set is that the sockets and tools are constructed of malleable steel castings, the construction method also used for the early sockets sets from the Charles Miller Company and Syracuse Wrench Company. Apart from the similarities of construction though, no connection is known between Chicago Manufacturing and these other companies.


Chicago Manufacturing A1 5/8-Drive Ratchet

[Chicago Manufacturing A1 5/8-Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 3. Chicago Manufacturing A1 5/8-Drive Ratchet, with Insets for Reverse and Side View, ca. 1915-1925.

Fig. 3 shows the Chicago Manufacturing A1 5/8-drive ratchet from the No. 60 socket set, marked with "Patented March 10 1914" cast into the handle, with "Chicago Mfg & Distributing Co" and "Chicago" cast into the reverse.

The overall length is 8.9 inches, and the finish is black paint.

The patent date refers to patent #1,089,737, filed by G.K. Wright in 1913 and issued on the noted date.

The handle of the ratchet is also marked with a forge (or foundry) mark resembling "CH" with the "H" overstriking the "C". This mark is believed to indicate either Chicago Manufacturing itself, or else the contract foundry used for production.


Chicago Manufacturing A10 5/8-Drive Universal

[Chicago Manufacturing A10 5/8-Drive Universal]
Fig. 4. Chicago Manufacturing A10 5/8-Drive Universal, ca. 1915-1925.

Fig. 4 shows the Chicago Manufacturing A10 5/8-drive universal from the No. 60 socket set, marked with the model number cast into one part.

The overall length is 8.9 inches, and the finish is black paint.

The interior of the female end is equipped with a spring clip (not shown) to help secure a socket.


Chicago Manufacturing A25 5/8-Drive 9 Inch Extension

[Chicago Manufacturing A25 5/8-Drive 9 Inch Extension]
Fig. 5. Chicago Manufacturing A25 5/8-Drive 9 Inch Extension, with Inset for Construction Detail, ca. 1915-1925.

Fig. 5 shows the Chicago Manufacturing A25 5/8-drive 9 inch extension from the No. 60 socket set, marked with the model number cast into the shank.

The overall length is 8.9 inches, and the finish is black paint.

The inset shows the interior of the female end, with a spring clip riveted to the wall to help secure a socket.


Chicago Manufacturing 3Z-624 Exhaust Packing Nut Wrench for Model T Service

[Chicago Manufacturing 3Z-624 Exhaust Packing Nut Wrench]
Fig. 6. Chicago Manufacturing 3Z-624 Exhaust Packing Nut Wrench, with Insets for Marking Detail, ca. 1910-1920.

Fig. 6 shows a 3Z-624 exhaust packing nut wrench for Model T service, believed to have been made by Chicago Manufacturing. The wrench is marked with the "3Z 624" model forged into the shank, with a "CH" forge mark forged into the reverse (see upper right inset).

The overall length is 12.6 inches, and the finish is black paint.

The "CH" forge mark on the reverse is very similar to the forge marks found on ratchets and sockets from Chicago Manufacturing, providing the identification of the likely maker of this tool.


Chicago Manufacturing 8 Inch Speednut Wrench

[Chicago Manufacturing 8 Inch Speednut Wrench]
Fig. 7. Chicago Manufacturing 8 Inch Speednut Wrench, with Insets for Side View and Reverse Detail, ca. 1931+.

Fig. 7 shows a Chicago Manufacturing 8 inch Speednut self-adjusting wrench, marked with "Speednut" and "Forged Steel" forged into the shank, with "Mfg. By Chicago Mfg. and Dist'g Co." and "Chicago, U.S.A." forged into the reverse. The shank is also marked with a "Pat. 1602620 1830033" patent notice near the hanging hole.

The overall length is 8.1 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The first patent #1,602,620 was filed by J.V. Larson in 1924 and issued in 1926. It describes an "automatic nut wrench" with a spring-loading mechanism and closely resembles this tool.

The second patent #1,830,033 was filed by J.V. Larson in 1931 and issued later that year, and describes improvements to the design in the first patent.


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