Alloy Artifacts  

Duro and Indestro:

The Tools of Progress

[Logo from Duro-Chrome Catalog] [Logo from Indestro Catalog]

Table of Contents


Duro Metal Products and Indestro Manufacturing, two companies with common management, were important makers of hand tools during the middle part of the 20th century. In this article we'll look at the company history and their extensive patent and trademark activities, discuss the somewhat complicated issues of tool identification, and of course show lots of examples of their tools.

Company History

Before examining the history of Duro Metal Products and Indestro Manufacturing, we first need to clarify the relationship between the two companies. A casual observer might at first think that Duro and Indestro were unrelated businesses, but on closer examination Duro and Indestro look and behave more like a single company, with a dual organization set up to promote the branding of their products.

For example, both companies listed their headquarters at the same address, 2649 North Kildare Avenue in Chicago, and both companies' catalogs show the same two illustrations of their factory buildings. Numerous items in the Duro catalogs were actually products branded Indestro, and Indestro products often listed patents granted to Duro Metal Products. The Indestro catalogs show most of the same products as the Duro catalogs, but with different model numbers assigned to the Indestro pieces.

From these considerations, for our present purpose Duro and Indestro can be treated as a single company with two major product brands. In fact, it appears that the main reason for Indestro may have been to allow production of inexpensive or economy lines of tools, without diluting the high-end reputation of the Duro products.

Although Duro and Indestro acted in concert for most of their history, the companies began separately and with very different products, then began to converge as each evolved into a tool company. For a period in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Duro and Indestro would have been fairly direct competitors, as each sought business from major retailers like Sears Roebuck and Western Auto Supply. Based on our historical findings, the companies finally joined forces in mid 1933, and afterwards became a potent force in the tool industry.

Duro Metal Products

With the above in mind, Duro Metal Products was founded in 1916 by Norris F. McNaught and William H. Odlum, both of whom would play an active role in product development for many years.

The words "metal products" in the company name leave open the possibility of a wide range of products, as the reader will see from the description of Duro's early products.

[1921 Listing for Lilly Hoist Controller]
Fig. 1. 1921 Listing for Duro Metal Products Lilly Hoist Controller. [External Link]

One of Duro's earliest products was the Lilly Hoist Controller, a mechanical and electrical controller for use on safety hoists in mines. Based on notices in trade journals, the Lilly equipment was being offered by 1919 and remained in production for a number of years. Duro Metal is noted as attending some trade conferences for mining equipment during this period. The controller was based on patent 1,153,124, issued to William J. Lilly on September 7, 1915.

Fig. 1 shows a catalog listing published in the 1921 edition of The Mining Catalog, providing an illustration and description of the Lilly hoist controller. The company's address is listed as 361 East Ohio Street in Chicago.

Another of Duro's early products was quite different: a set of stencils for doing hand lettering.

[1922 Notice for Lilly Letterograph]
Fig. 2. 1922 Notice for Duro Metal Products Lilly Letterograph. [External Link]

Fig. 2 shows a notice describing the "Lilly Letterograph" stencil set, as published on page 13 of the September 14, 1922 issue of Geyer's Stationer. This notice gives the company address as 360 East Grand Street in Chicago.

The seeming discrepancy in the company's address can be explained by noting that East Ohio and East Grand streets run parallel one block apart, so that a large building could have an address on each street.

Advertisements for the Lilly Letterograph appeared in some issues of Popular Mechanics beginning in August, 1922.

[Illustration of Duro Metal Products Factory]
Fig. 3. Illustration of Duro Metal Products Factory.

A notice on page 883 of the December 7, 1923 issue of Sheet Metal Worker states that Duro Metal Products had awarded a contract for a new building. The company address was given as 2649 North Kildare Avenue in Chicago, the address that Duro Metal (and later Indestro) would occupy for many years.

The scan in Fig. 3 shows an illustration of Duro's factory, as found on page 1 of the 1935 Duro catalog.

If the two products noted above provide little indication of Duro Metal becoming a leading tool company, the origin of Indestro Manufacturing will seem even more improbable. According to information discovered in trademark applications, Indestro actually began as the maker of a bottle-capping machine!

Sure Seal Bottle Capper Company

[Sure Seal Bottle Capper Logo]
Fig. 4. Early Sure Seal Bottle Capper Logo, ca. 1920s.

An early logo found on a wrench set provides an interesting (and unexpected) view of the origin of the Indestro brand and company. Fig. 4 shows the detail from an early Indestro nut and tap wrench set, marked "Sure Seal Bottle Capper Co." and "Chicago" around the outside, with "Mfrs. Indestro Products" in the center. This suggests that the Sure Seal Bottle Capper Company was the earlier entity using the Indestro mark, and that bottle-cappers were an important early product. Several patents for bottle-cappers were issued to Harold G. Rice before and after 1920, and some of the later patents were assigned to Indestro.

Additional research has confirmed that the Sure Seal entity was the originator of the Indestro mark. A trademark search found that the Sure Seal Bottle Capper Company filed an application on September 10, 1921 for an "Indestro All Steel Capper" mark in a graphic design. The trademark was issued as #156,066 on June 13, 1922, with the first use date listed as January 20, 1921.

[Indestro All Steel Capper Trademark]
Fig. 5. Indestro All Steel Capper Logo, 1922.

Fig. 5 shows the graphic design included in the trademark application. The information from the trademark application shows that the Sure Seal Bottle Capper Company was using the Indestro brand during the early 1920s, and that the trademark was used on bottle-capping machines.

The trademark application noted that the Sure Seal company was a copartnership of Harold G. Rice, Louis M. Rice, and Landor Penne. Two of the partners are listed in the notice below, found on page 1161 of the 1923 Certified List of Domestic and Foreign Corporations, published by the Illinois Secretary of State.

[1923 Notice for Sure Seal Bottle Capper Corporation]
Fig. 6. 1923 Notice for Sure Seal Bottle Capper Corporation. [External Link]

Fig. 6 shows the Sure Seal Bottle Capper Company at 552 West Harrison Street in Chicago, with the officers listed as L. Penne (living in Oregon) and H.G. Rice. The capital was listed as $10,000.

Indestro Manufacturing

By 1926 there are references in trade publications to an Indestro Manufacturing Company in Chicago, and a 1928 notice gives its address as 2650 Coyne Avenue, and mentions H.G. Rice as the president. These notices show that by the mid 1920s Indestro Manufacturing had become the successor to the Sure Seal Bottle Capper Company.

Furthermore, a 1928 notice on page 386 of Volume 122 of Iron Age lists Indestro Manufacturing at 2650 Coyne Avenue as a maker of universal joints, valve lifters, and other tools, showing that Indestro had become a tool company by this time.

The piecemeal discoveries in the previous two paragraphs are neatly corroborated by the recently discovered document for trademark #229,445. The application was filed on March 13, 1926 by the Indestro Manufacturing Company and states that the mark "Indestro" was being used on a variety of tools, including nut wrench sets, socket wrench sets, ratchets, universal joints, valve lifters, and others. The company address was listed as 2650 Coyne Avenue in Chicago, the application was signed by H.G. Rice as president, and it even mentions the former operations as the Sure Seal Bottle Capper Company.

[1926 Advertisement for Indestro Socket Sets]
Fig. 7. 1926 Advertisement for Indestro Socket Sets.

By 1926 Indestro tools were being advertised and offered in catalogs. The scan in Fig. 7 shows a newspaper advertisement for Indestro socket sets, published on page 5 of the November 5, 1926 edition of the Edwardsville Intelligencer of Edwardsville, Illinois.

The larger set in the ad is noted with nine sockets and a "positive locking container", which is believed to be a reference to the Indestro No. 19 Socket Set, a popular model also listed in the 1926 Western Auto Supply catalog.

[1928 Catalog Listing for Indestro No. 600 Socket Set]
Fig. 8. 1928 Catalog Listing for Indestro No. 600 Socket Set.

Fig. 8 shows a catalog listing for an early Indestro socket set, found on page 10 of the 1928 McMaster-Carr "Industrial Merchandise" catalog. The contents of the set included a ratchet, an "L & T" handle, two speeders, two universals, extensions, 19 hex sockets, and 8 square sockets, all for the bargain price of $4.95.

A careful look at the illustration shows an odd mix of hexagonal and square drive pieces, including an adapter from hex to square drive. The L & T handle and the ratchet definitely are hex drive, but the presence of adapters suggests that some of the sockets could have been square drive.

Note that although the illustration of the L & T handle looks a lot like the Hinsdale TL-1 Convertible Handle, it's actually the recently (2019) discovered Indestro T-L Tee and Ell-Handle. This is one of the earliest known catalog listings for Indestro products.

By 1929 Indestro had moved again, this time to 3429 West 47th Street. The 1929 Certified List of Domestic and Foreign Corporations, published by the Illinois Secretary of State, lists the company at this address, and the 1930 Blue Book of Chicago Commerce confirms the address. The latter publication lists the company's products as socket wrenches, auto tool kits, polishing grinders, valve lifters, and a number of other tools, plus their original bottle cappers.

The move to West 47th street put Indestro practically next door to Sherman-Klove, at that time a contract manufacturer of screw machine products.

Duro Becomes a Tool Company

After exploring Indestro's development in the late 1920s, let's now try to fill in some details on Duro's transformation into a tool company. Unfortunately we're hampered by a lack of catalogs or advertisements covering the mid to late 1920s, but in 1929 and 1930 Duro socket sets started appearing in the Sears Roebuck catalogs. The Duro sets sold by Sears show a high degree of mastery of the relevant manufacturing technologies, including screw machine operations, metal forming and bending, and metal stamping for the cases.

In late 1929 Duro filed an application for the "Duro-Bilt" trademark, with the first use given as October 12, 1929. The application listed the covered products as socket wrenches, socket wrench kits, valve reamers, and valve-grinding machines. The trademark application is consistent with the noted Sears activity, and we have two examples of Duro-Bilt socket sets that were probably sold through Sears.

In the absence of catalog resources, we can get a good handle on Duro's activities in the late 1920s by looking into their patent filings. When we look at the Duro Patents, we see a flurry of patent filings from 1927 to 1929, all related to automotive service tools. There are patents for reciprocating valve grinders (#1,749,300, #1,751,657), lever action ratchets (#1,798,481, #1,798,482), a convertible L-T handle (#1,744,413), and a socket kit holder (#1,788,535). All of these represent tools that would have been high demand at the time, and some of them show that Duro was looking closely at the activities of competitors like Hinsdale Manufacturing. For example, the L-T handle and lever action ratchets were basically knock-offs of Hinsdale designs, although possibly with improvements.

The patent and trademark records demonstrate that Duro was following a path similar to Indestro, so that both Duro Metal Products and Indestro Manufacturing were producing tools for the automotive service market by the late 1920s. Their early products included such items as hex-drive socket sets, 1/2 square drive socket sets, fixed socket wrenches, and specialty tools. (Indestro also produced a variety of other products, including bottle-cappers and kitchen utensils such as egg-beaters.) Examples of their early tool production can be seen in the Duro 634 Socket Wrench and Indestro Socket Wrench.

The Ownership Puzzle

What's missing from the public notices found so far is information on when Duro Metal Products and Indestro Manufacturing came to have common ownership. Our original assumption was that Duro Metal Products had acquired Indestro Manufacturing sometime in the early to mid 1920s, but given that the companies had separate addresses as late as 1930, the ownership change must have come some time after that.

We have found some clues in the public record. The 1934 Certified List of Domestic and Foreign Corporations lists both Norris F. McNaught and William H. Odlum with the entry for Indestro Manufacturing. In addition, the 1937 trademark application for the "streamlined" mark (#346,439) was signed by Norris F. McNaught as president.

A more subtle clue to the ownership change can be gleaned from the patent records. Harold G. Rice, the founder of Indestro, had a number of patents pending in 1932 and 1933, in particular #1,869,945, #1,904,328, and #1,912,725. Patents #1,869,945 and #1,904,328, issued on August 2, 1932 and April 16, 1933 respectively, both listed Rice as the assignor to Indestro Manufacturing.

But patent #1,912,725, issued on June 6 of 1933, lists Rice as assignor by mesne assignments to Indestro Manufacturing [emphasis added]. In property law "mesne assignment" is a term meaning an assignment that passes through an intermediary. In the context here, this means that by June 6, 1933 Harold Rice had already assigned his rights to the pending patent, presumably to the new owners of Indestro Manufacturing. This provides further strong evidence of the ownership change, and narrows the date of the transfer to sometime between April 16 and June 6 of 1933.

Barring further information to the contrary, we'll use mid 1933 as the date that the two companies joined forces.

Duro to the Rescue!

The refined timeline from the previous section allowed us to do more targeted searches on the ownership issue, but what we found was that Indestro had fallen into unfortunate circumstances. In late 1932 Indestro apparently ran into financial difficulties and was unable to make payments on a loan, and as a result the company was forced into receivership.

We discovered this in a series of public notices in the Chicago Tribune, placed in late 1932 and early 1933 by the bank's receiver. The notices announced the liquidation of Indestro's assets and listed a variety of machinery and production equipment for sale.

[1932 Notice of Liquidation for Indestro Mfg.]
Fig. 9. 1932 Notice of Liquidation for Indestro Mfg.

Fig. 9 shows a public notice of Indestro's pending liquidation, as found on page 37 of the October 23, 1932 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

The text provides an extensive list of the company's equipment and other assets, and the receiver is listed as W.F. Leimert, operating on behalf of the Central Manufacturing District Bank.

A number of similar notices were published in the early part of 1933, with the list of equipment remaining about the same, suggesting that the receiver was trying to sell everything in one lot. But it was probably difficult to sell used equipment in 1933, as the ongoing economic depression was causing many companies to fail.

The final notice was published on page 40 of the June 11, 1933 edition of the Chicago Tribune and announced a public auction to be held on June 13. The list of items to be sold included everything from production equipment down to desks, chairs, and filing cabinets, suggesting that basically all of Indestro's physical assets had been pledged as collateral for the loan.

With what we already know about Duro's acquisition of patent rights from Indestro, we can see now that the acquisition of the company was really just a transfer of intellectual property and intangibles. But we'd like to think that Duro also picked up some bargains at the public auction — and we can offer evidence that they probably bought some unsold merchandise as well as tooling such as stamping dies.

The 1935 Indestro catalog listed both the older Indestro Embossed Ratchet and Indestro T-L Handle, tools that overlapped Duro's own products. Given the overlap, it wouldn't have made sense to put them back in production, so the later sales likely came from old inventory bought at bargain prices.

[1935 Catalog Listing for 36-Piece Socket Set]
Fig. 9B. 1935 Catalog Listing for 36-Piece Socket Set.

Additional evidence of the acquisition of unsold merchandise can be seen in Fig. 9B, a scan of page 81 of the 1935 Western Auto (Western edition) catalog. The illustration shows an Indestro Embossed Ratchet along with sockets in the reduced-base style typical of Indestro in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The reappearance of these older tools was likely a "closeout sale" of inventory picked up at the auction.

It's also likely that Duro picked up tooling for some of Indestro's products at the auction. Later catalogs continued to offer some of Indestro's earlier products, including kitchen gadgets such as the "Whipit" egg-beater and various sets of stamped-steel wrenches. Keeping these products in production would have been much easier if the original stamping dies were purchased at the auction.

Development During the 1930s

With the ownership questions now more-or-less resolved, let's review the developments during the 1930s, as this was really a critical time for Duro/Indestro. By the early 1930s the two companies, although still operating separately, were both actively developing and marketing products for the growing automotive service market. Many patents were granted to Duro Metal Products during this period, covering both new product designs and better ways of producing existing items. By the time the 1939 Duro-Chrome catalog (#39M) was issued, the companies were offering a broad line of tools with both high-end and economy selections.

By the early 1930s Duro apparently had drop-forging capabilities, which was needed for products such as the forged body pressed-flange ratchet and drop-forged wrenches. Drop-forged parts had probably been required earlier for the production of their mine hoist equipment, or for their line of woodworking power tools. (Duro Metal Products also manufactured a well-regarded line of woodworking machines and other power tools, and produced a separate catalog of such equipment.)

During the 1930s, Duro and Indestro were suppliers to at least three major retailers: Sears Roebuck, Western Auto Supply, and Montgomery Ward. The tools supplied included socket sets, drive tools, and wrenches, and were sold both under existing Duro or Indestro brands, as well as private brands produced for the particular retailer. The paragraphs below will provide some examples of these supplier arrangements.

The 1931 Sears Spring and Summer catalog listed several "DuroBilt" brand socket sets, which are easily recognized as Duro production. The sets included a 45-piece carbon-steel socket set in a tool chest for $4.35, a carbon-steel 36-piece Wrench Set for $2.89, and the latest "Super DuroBilt" 40-piece alloy-steel set for $5.98. The latter set is particularly interesting, as it mentions the use of "Chrome Nickel Steel", and was also available with 12-point sockets for a slightly higher $6.75 price. In 1931 Sears had not yet extended its Craftsman brand to include socket sets, so sockets and drive tools were offered only under other brand names. (Other socket sets were sold under the Hinsdale, Merit, and "Bob Cat" brands.)

Indestro had found early success as a supplier to Western Auto Supply and had provided hex-drive socket sets (and possibly other tools) as early as 1926. By 1931 Indestro was also supplying alloy steel tools to Western Auto, as an Indestro "Chromium Vanadium" 17-Piece Socket Set was acquired with a Western Auto receipt dated in 1931. Indestro also supplied 1/2-drive carbon-steel socket sets to Western Auto, such as the 47-piece and 36-piece sets illustrated with Indestro's T-L handle in the 1932 catalog.

Duro was supplying valve grinders to Western Auto by 1929, and by 1932 Duro was providing "Perfection" offset box-end wrenches for the "Chromium Vanadium" line, in direct competition with Herbrand's "Multi-Hex" wrenches. By 1933 Duro was probably supplying knock-offs of Herbrand's "Obstructo" obstruction wrenches as well. The ability to compete head-on with Herbrand, on old-line merchant drop-forging company, is strong evidence for Duro's in-house drop-forging capabilities.

The Western Auto catalogs show that the Duro-Indestro "merger" in 1933 was quickly reflected in their tool production. The 1933 Western Auto (Eastern edition) catalog (copyright in 1933, so presumably published sometime in that year) lists an Indestro chrome-vanadium 17-piece socket set, with a Duro pressed-flange ratchet replacing the Indestro ratchet adapter supplied in the previous year. In addition, the 47-piece and 36-piece economy socket sets are shown with a Duro lever-action ratchet and L-T handle, replacing the Indestro Lever-Action Ratchet and Indestro T-L Handle that had been illustrated in the previous year.

Later in the 1930s, Duro/Indestro was a major producer for Western Auto's ChromeXQuality line, and continued to supply products for the later Wizard and Westcraft tool lines.

For Montgomery Ward, Duro/Indestro produced sockets and wrenches for the company's "Riverside" line, and some examples of these tools will be shown in a later Riverside section. A 1935 Montgomery Ward catalog shows a 35-piece chrome-vanadium steel socket set in a toolbox for $8.45; the set can be recognized as Duro production by the socket design and the pressed-flange construction of the ratchet. The catalog also offered a chrome-vanadium "Compact Utility" Socket Set, as well as chrome-vanadium box-end wrenches and an older 36-piece carbon-steel socket set for just $2.69.

Hot-Broached Sockets

In May of 1935 Duro filed for an important patent on their new hot-broaching method for making sockets, and the patent was issued as #2,027,922 in January of 1936. The patent document has an excellent discussion of the prior art (cold-broaching) and the advantages of hot-broaching, and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the how and why of such things. Among the advantages cited are the increased strength of the sockets, the smooth broach free of chatter marks, and the relieved lip at the drive end that allows for easier connection to a drive tool.

Duro was relatively early in adopting the hot-broaching process for socket production, which would eventually become standard for the industry. More information can be found in the section on Hot-Broached Sockets with Duro's socket tools.

The Streamlined Design Trademark

In early 1937 Indestro filed an application for an important trademark, the "streamlined" design for its wrenches. The application listed December 30, 1936 as the first use date, and the registration was issued as #346,439 in May of 1937.

The trademark application shows the design as a dart-like elongated oval, with the illustration placing it within the outline of an open-end wrench as an example. This trademark is notable in that it doesn't depend on any specific wording, but only on the design itself, so that any wrench made with this distinctive design could still be regarded as marked by Indestro. This would have allowed the company to make tools with the specific "Indestro" branding omitted from the forging, so that the finished tools could be marked with private brands as needed.

[Indestro Chicago Open-End Wrenches with Streamlined Design]
Fig. 10. Indestro Chicago Double-Open Wrenches Showing Streamlined Design.

Fig. 10 shows the streamlined design as it appears on several Indestro double-open wrenches, each marked "Indestro Chicago U.S.A." with "Drop Forged Select Steel" on the reverse. (The reverse is shown later with the discussion of the Select Steel mark.)

In these examples the streamlined design takes the form of depressed panels with pointed darts at the end, and the width of the panels follows the natural shape of the shank.

The streamlined design also appears as raised panels with darts on other wrench models.

Later Operations

Duro and Indestro continued to prosper during the 1940s and '50s, but by the 1960s appeared to be losing ground to other competitors. Sometime during the '60s the Indestro operations were formally merged into Duro Metal Products, and the tools began appearing with dual brands "Duro-Indestro". The tool lines were "harmonized", which unfortunately meant that some of the special higher-end features of the Duro-Chrome tools were dropped. The company continued operating through the 1970s and 1980s, and was finally closed in 1990.


Duro Metal Products devoted substantial resources to research and development activities, as evidenced by the numerous patents issued to the company. In addition, a number of patents were assigned to Indestro Manufacturing by its founder H.G. Rice, and these were part of the intelluctual property acquired with Indestro. In some cases Duro licensed patents from outside the company.

The table below lists some of the known patents issued to Duro or Indestro, or patents used by the companies and assumed to have been licensed. The list may not be complete, but will be expanded if new patents are found.

Duro and Indestro: Issued and Licensed Patents
Patent No.InventorFiledIssuedNotes and Examples
1,376,583 H.G. Rice 11/29/1920 05/03/1921 Bottle Capper
RE15,222 H.G. Rice 09/10/1921 11/08/1921 Bottle Capper
1,744,413 E.H. Peterson et al 07/05/1929 01/21/1930 T-Wrench handle
Duro Convertible L-T Handle
1,749,300 Peterson & Odlum 08/29/1927 03/04/1930Reciprocating Valve Grinder
1,751,657 Peterson & McNaught 05/06/1929 03/25/1930Reciprocating Valve Grinder
1,788,535 McNaught & Peterson 10/11/1928 01/13/1931Socket wrench kit
Indestro 1351 Socket Set
1,798,481 McNaught & Peterson 10/08/1928 03/31/1931Lever action ratchet handle
Duro 672 Ratchet
1,798,482 McNaught & Peterson 10/08/1928 03/31/1931Lever action ratchet handle
1,857,211 W.H. Odlum et al 02/27/1931 05/10/1932Wheel Puller
1,858,372 Peterson & McNaught 11/09/1931 05/17/1932Valve Spring Compressor
1,868,839 McNaught & Peterson 07/03/1930 07/26/1932Ratchet Lever
1,868,840 McNaught & Peterson 07/03/1930 07/26/1932Ratchet Lever (Non-Reversible)
1,869,945 H.G. Rice 10/08/1926 08/02/1932Holder for Socket Wrench Kits
Indestro No. 19 Socket Set
1,902,878 McNaught & Peterson 06/16/1932 03/28/1933Pressed-Flange Ratchet Construction
Duro-Chrome 678D Ratchet
Indestro Super 3201 Ratchet
1,904,328 H.G. Rice 03/01/1930 04/18/1933Bottle Capper
1,932,796 McNaught 05/18/1931 10/31/1933Grease Ram
1,912,725 H.G. Rice 04/22/1929 06/06/1933Socket Wrench Set And Holder
Indestro No. 28 Socket Set
1,968,215 E.H. Peterson 01/08/1934 07/31/1934Commutator Cleaning Tool
1,978,590 McNaught & Peterson 01/12/1934 10/30/1934 Spring-Loaded Universal Joint Mechanism
2,027,922 N.F. McNaught 05/29/1935 01/14/1936 Hot-Broach Method of Making Sockets
2,044,982 T.L. Hedgpeth    Sanding Machine
2,064,351 McNaught & Peterson 01/23/1936 12/22/1936Socket Wrench Kit
2,065,340 McNaught & Peterson 10/05/1935 12/22/1936Socket Wrench Kit
2,065,341 McNaught & Peterson 01/23/1936 12/22/1936Socket Wrench Kit
D103,579 N.F. McNaught 01/18/1937 03/16/1937 Drain Plug Multi-Wrench
Indestro No. 410 Drain Plug Wrench
D111,026 W.R. Hosford 04/07/1938 08/23/1938 Screwdriver Socket Holder
D119,441 W.A. Sandy 01/20/1940 03/12/1940 Battery Pliers With Box-End Wrench Handles
Duro-Chrome 2114 Pliers
2,256,624 W.H. Odlum 12/14/1940 09/23/1941Universal Joint
2,363,350 W.P. Nail 02/11/1944 11/21/1944 Battery Terminal Multi-Tool
Duro-Chrome 648 Battery Tool
D143,931 W.H. Odlum 07/20/1945 02/19/1946 Design for Tool Handle
2,395,681 W.H. Odlum et al 11/08/1944 02/26/1946Dual-Pawl Ratchet Mechanism
Duro-Chrome 699 Ratchet
2,686,582 Odlum & Hosford 03/22/1952 08/17/1954Ratchet Wrench Reversible Drive Mechanism
Indestro Super 2775 Ratchet
Wizard H2833 Ratchet
2,836,273 Odlum & Hosford 06/10/1953 05/27/1958Reversible Ratchet Mechanism [Slide Shift]
2,841,289 W.H. Odlum et al 09/14/1954 07/01/1958Wall Rack For Tools


Many of the tools produced by Duro and Indestro were marked with one of their well-known registered trademarks, and these of course are easy to identify. However, the companies also used a number of informal and unregistered marks for their tools, and these will be described (to the extent they are known) in the sections below. First though, let's review the registered trademarks, using information obtained from the USPTO database.

Duro and Indestro: Registered Trademarks
Text Mark or Logo Company Reg. No. First Use Date Filed Date Issued Notes and Examples
Sure Seal 156,066 01/20/1921 09/10/1921 06/13/1922 Sure Seal Bottle Capper Co.
Indestro Logo
Indestro Indestro 229,445 01/20/1921 03/15/1926 06/26/1927 Used for various tools
Duro-Bilt Duro 268,130 10/12/1929 10/28/1929 03/11/1930 Duro-Bilt Socket Set
Duro Chrome Duro 285,395 01/13/1931 01/24/1931 07/28/1931  
Tools of Progress Duro 335,056 01/07/1934 12/09/1935 05/19/1936 Tools of Progress Logo
"Spin-Flex" Duro 338,643 05/01/1935 05/18/1936 09/15/1936  
Duro Duro 345,576 01/07/1934 12/09/1935 05/04/1937  
Indestro 346,439 12/30/1936 01/18/1937 05/25/1937 Norris F. McNaught, President.
Streamlined Wrenches
Klip Tite Indestro 359,113 03/08/1937 04/04/1937 08/02/1938 Indestro 920-03K Wrench Set
Indestro Indestro 582,680 06/13/1922 11/15/1951 11/24/1954  
Tools [Triangle Logo] Indestro 588,070 1939 11/15/1951 04/13/1954 Inverted Triangle Logo
Select Steel Tools Indestro 733,592 03/21/1961 05/26/1961 06/26/1962 Text in outline box

Manufacturing Dates

Duro and Indestro tools were generally not marked with a date code or other specific indication of the manufacturing date. When estimates of manufacturing dates are needed, they must be based on factors such as marking style, design, patents, trademarks, or other characteristics.

In order to assist with estimating manufacturing dates, we hope to develop some guidelines based on tool markings and other characteristics. For now, the following list of events and observations may be helpful in determining the manufacturing date for some tools.

References and Resources

The photographs and observations in this article are based on items in the Alloy Artifacts collection.

Information on the company history was obtained from an obituary for Gertrude McNaught Odlum in the January 23, 1992 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

Catalog Coverage

Product information was obtained from a number of Duro Metal Products and Indestro Manufacturing catalogs, which have been summarized in the table below. In some cases the publication year may be approximate, as the catalogs were sometimes undated and furnished with separate price sheets.

Duro and Indestro: Catalog Resources
Catalog Year Format Notes
      Duro 1935 Catalog (Full format):
Duro 1935 Full "Handy-Twin-Hex" box wrenches of C-V steel, Handy-Hex model numbers.
Combination wrenches in six models 02031 (3/8) to 02036 (11/16).
Duro-Chrome open-end, tappet, and obstruction wrenches.
Duro-Chrome socket sets in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4-drive.
Some 1/2-drive carbon-steel socket sets, but no 1/2-hex drive tools.
Substantial selection of fender and body tools available.
      Indestro 1935 Catalog (Full format):
Indestro 1935 Full "Super Quality" C-V open, tappet, obstruction, and box wrenches.
"Super Quality" C-V socket sets in 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2-drive.
Pressed-flange ratchet No. 3202 available.
Lists both Indestro and Duro versions of the L-T convertible handle.
Carbon-steel socket sets in 1/4-hex, 3/8-hex, and 1/2-hex drive, 12-point.
Carbon-steel socket sets in 1/2-drive, 12-point.
      Indestro 1937 Catalog (Full format):
Indestro 1937 Full "Super Quality" C-V OE, tappet, obstruction, and box wrenches.
"Super Quality" C-V socket sets in 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4-drive.
Notes patented "Hot-Broached" sockets.
"Special Alloy Steel" angled box, OE, and open+box wrenches.
Extensive listings for carbon-manganese 1/2-drive socket sets.
      Duro 1938 Catalog 38M (Mini format):
Duro 38M 1938 Mini Distributed by Chanslor & Lyon, an industrial distributor.
Duro-Chrome box-end wrenches illustrated with streamlined panels.
Duro-Chrome combination wrenches in models 2031 (3/8) to 2039 (15/16).
Duro-Chrome socket sets in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 3/4, and 1 inch drive.
      Indestro 1938 Catalog (Full format):
Indestro 1938 Full "Super Quality" C-V open, tappet, obstruction, and box wrenches.
C-V wrenches with cadmium (or unpolished) finish also available.
"Super Quality" C-V socket sets in 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4-drive sizes.
"Special Alloy Steel" offset box, angled box, OE, and open+box wrenches.
Extensive listings for carbon-manganese 1/2-drive socket sets.
Extensive listings for 1/4-hex, 3/8-hex, and 1/2-hex drive socket sets.
      Duro 1939 Catalog (Mini format):
Duro 39M 1939 Mini  
      Duro 1939 Catalog (Full format):
Duro 1939 Full Duro-Chrome socket sets in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 3/4, and 1 inch drive.
Includes flex-box wrenches in standard and millimeter sizes.
Includes "Select Steel" offset box wrenches in 8xx series.
Includes 6 pages of carbon-manganese socket sets and tools.
Includes 1/4-hex, 3/8-hex, and 1/2-hex drive socket sets.
Substantial selection of fender and body tools available.
      Indestro 1939 Catalog (Full format):
Indestro 1939 Full "Super Quality" C-V open, tappet, obstruction, and box wrenches.
C-V wrenches with cadmium (or unpolished) finish also available.
"Super Quality" C-V socket sets in 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4-drive sizes.
"Select Steel" offset box, angled box, OE, and open+box wrenches.
Extensive listings for carbon-manganese 1/2-drive socket sets.
Extensive listings for 1/4-hex, 3/8-hex, and 1/2-hex drive socket sets.
Substantial selection of fender and body tools available.
      Duro 1941 Catalog (Full format):
Duro 1941 Full Duro-Chrome socket sets in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 3/4, and 1 inch drive.
Combination wrenches in both "Dart" and Thin style.
"Select Steel" offset box wrenches in 8xx series.
"Select Steel" (old carbon-manganese) socket sets in 1/2-drive.
"Select Steel" 1/4-hex, 3/8-hex, and 1/2-hex drive socket sets.
Substantial selection of fender and body tools available.
      Indestro 1941 Catalog (Full format):
Indestro 1941 Full "Super Quality" C-V open, tappet, obstruction, and box wrenches.
C-V wrenches with cadmium (or unpolished) finish also available.
"Super Quality" C-V socket sets in 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4-drive sizes.
"Select Steel" offset box, angled box, OE, and open+box wrenches.
Extensive listings for carbon-manganese 1/2-drive socket sets.
Extensive listings for 1/4-hex, 3/8-hex, and 1/2-hex drive socket sets.
Substantial selection of fender and body tools available.
      Duro 1946 Catalog (Full format):
Duro 1946 Full 108 pages. No prices listed. Same as 1947 edition.
      Duro 1947 Catalog (Full format):
Duro 1947 Full 108 pages. No prices listed.
Duro-Chrome socket tools in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 3/4, and 1 inch drive.
Ignition wrenches in 6x and 8x series, no finish specified.
"Select Steel" hex-drive socket sets in 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 drive, 2 pages.
"Select Steel" 1/2-drive socket sets and tools, 7 pages.
"Select Steel" OE wrenches with "P" prefix for chrome plated finish.
Body and fender tools, 4 pages.
Refrigeration tools and socket sets, 4 pages.
      Duro 1955 Catalog 35/35-S (Full format):
Duro 35/35-S 1955 Full 80 pages + 8 page supplement. Undated, but 1955 price list applies.
Duro-Chrome socket tools in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4 drive.
Ignition wrenches in 6x series chrome plated, 8x series discontinued.
No "Select Steel" socket sets in 1/2-drive.
"Select Steel" OE wrenches with "P" prefix for chrome plated finish.
"Select Steel" combination wrenches up to 1084 (1-1/4).
Body and fender tools, 3 pages.
Refrigeration tools and socket sets, 4 pages.
Supplement shows "Select Steel" hex-drive sets in plastic pouches.
      Duro 1955 Catalog 35M (Mini format):
Duro 35M 1955 Mini Includes price list dated August 1, 1955.
      Indestro 1956 Catalog 20/20-S (Full format):
Indestro 20/20-S 1956 Full 68 pages + 13 page supplement. Undated.
Includes "Mechanics Net" price list dated June 19, 1956.
Chrome alloy socket sets in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4-drive.
Combination wrenches in 77x series still in thin design.
"Select Steel" socket sets in 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 hex drive.
"Select Steel" box wrenches with polished or unpolished heads.
"Select Steel" combination wrenches up to 1084 (1-1/4).
      Duro 1962 Catalog 37 (Full format):
Duro 37 1962 Full 88 pages + 10 page supplement. Undated, "over 45 years" ~ 1962.
Combination wrenches in "Dart" style still available.
Combination wrenches in 22xx series now standard thickness.
Short combination wrenches from 2227S (1/4) to 2237S (3/4).
      Duro 1962 Catalog 37-M (Mini format):
Duro 37-M 1962 Mini  
      Indestro 1964 Catalog 22A (Full format):
Indestro 22A 1964 Full 100 pages + 15 page supplement. Undated, "almost 50 years" ~ 1964.
Combination wrenches Nos. 771 to 783 now standard thickness.
Short combination wrenches from 767S (1/4) to 777S (3/4).
"Select Steel" OE wrenches with "P" prefix for chrome plated finish.
"Select Steel" combination wrenches up to 1089 (1-5/8).
      Indestro 1964 Catalog 22MA (Mini format):
Indestro 22MA 1964 Mini  
      Indestro 1967 Catalog 55-M (Full format):
Indestro 55-M 1967 Full 67 pages. Undated, "over 50 years" ~ 1967.
Indestro Super line plus mechanics's tools, no "Select Steel" tools.
Includes "M.P.I." series socket sets with molded plastic inserts.
Includes impact sockets in 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4 drive.
      Duro 1972 Catalog 40 (Full format):
Duro 40 1972 Full 96 Pages. Undated, "more than 55 years" ~ 1972.
Standard socket tools in 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4 drive.
Metric socket tools in 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 drive.
Impact socket tools in 3/8, 1/2, 3/4, and 1 inch drive.
Combination wrenches in 33xx series, supersedes 22xx series.
      Indestro 1982 Catalog 60 (Full format):
Indestro 60 1982 Full 80 Pages. Copyright 1982 Duro Metal Products.
No listings for "Select Steel" tools.
Quick-release locking ratchets available, based on Roberts patent.
Sockets with straight-wall design.
Impact socket tools in 3/8, 1/2, 3/4, and 1 inch drive.

Industrial Distributors

Duro and Indestro products were also available from selected industrial suppliers and from high-volume retailers, including Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, and Western Auto Supply. The Western Auto catalogs listed Duro and Indestro alloy steel tools under the "Chromium-Vanadium" brand in earlier catalogs, and Duro/Indestro later provided extensive contract production for Western Auto brands.

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