Alloy Artifacts  

R.F. Sedgley, Incorporated

Table of Contents

Introduction

R.F. Sedgley, Incorporated was a maker of socket sets and other tools operating in Philadelphia during the early 20th century. The company is best known for its "Hexall" brand hex-drive socket sets, introduced in 1916 and representing an early example of machined and cold-broached sockets.


Company History

R.F. Sedgley, Incorporated was founded by the eponymous Reginald F. Sedgley, an inventor with several patents for ratchet wrenches and socket-related tools. The company was located at 2311 North 16th Street in Philadelphia and claimed operations extending back to 1897.

R.F. Sedgley's best-known products were the line of "Hexall" brand socket sets, which were introduced in 1916. The "Hexall" sets were notable for their early use of machined and broached sockets.

Currently we don't have much information on Sedgley's business prior to the introduction of the "Hexall" socket sets. Later advertisements claimed that the business had been established in 1897, but no public references to Sedgley have been found for the period prior to 1916. Based on their later products, we initially thought that Sedgley probably ran a machine shop and offered services to other local businesses.

2311 North 16th Street

In exploring the origin of the Sedgley socket line, we discovered some interesting and surprising information. Our earlier research on the Will B. Lane Company had turned up a 1914 advertisement for Lane's "Unique Ratchet" set while Lane was still living in Philadelphia. But the most surprising part was that the address for Lane in the ad was 2311 North 16th Street, exactly the same as Sedgley's address! This suggested that Lane was either employed at this address, or possibly renting space in an industrial building.

We then did a further search for public references to the 2311 North 16th Street address and found another tenant. Henry M. Kolb was a firearms maker who produced a "Baby" miniature revolver, and we found advertisements from Kolb at this address from as early as 1910. (Earlier references to the Kolb revolver go back to 1902, but at a different address in Philadelphia.)

Further checking found that in 1914 Kolb and Sedgley had collaborated on developing a ratchet wrench, for which they filed a patent application on April 24, 1914. The two received patent 1,140,167 on May 18, 1915, with Sedgley assigning his half of the patent to Kolb.

[December 1914 Ad for R.F. Sedgley Hexall Socket Set]
Fig. 1A. December 1914 Ad for Kolb "K & S" Socket Set.

By December of 1914 Kolb was advertising a "K & S" socket set using the ratchet developed with Sedgley, with the set named for the two inventors.

The scan in Fig. 1A shows an advertisement for the "K & S" ratchet wrench socket set, as published on page 343 [External Link] of the December, 1914 issue of the Automobile Trade Journal.

[July 1915 Ad for R.F. Sedgley Hexall Socket Set]
Fig. 1B. July 1915 Ad for Kolb "K & S" Socket Set. [External Link]

Once the patent was issued, the ads for the "K & S" sets began noting the patent date.

Fig. 1B shows a later ad from Henry M. Kolb for the "K & S" socket set, as published on page 369 of the July, 1915 issue of the Automobile Trade Directory.

Kolb apparently had substantial production capabilities, as the first generation of the new ratchet already had a drop-forged handle with crisp forged-in markings, as can be seen from the illustrations.

A comparison of the "K & S" ratchet wrench set with the Lane "Unique Ratchet" Wrench Set shows the very close resemblance of the two products. If we look at the timeline of events in April of 1914, with the publication of Lane's advertisement and the filing of Kolb and Sedgley's patent application, it's clear that Kolb and Sedgley must have begun planning a competing product as soon as they learned of Lane's "Unique Ratchet" set.

From the above information we can see that Henry M. Kolb was the senior tenant (if not the owner) at 2311 North 16th Street. Sedgley's assignment of his half of patent 1,140,167 to Kolb suggests that in 1914 Sedgley was probably an employee of Henry M. Kolb.

Business Succession from Kolb

Shortly after the introduction of the "K & S" socket sets, Henry M. Kolb retired from his business, and was succeeded by R.F. Sedgley.

[December 1915 Notice of Retirement for Henry M. Kolb]
Fig. 1C. December 1915 Notice of Retirement of Henry M. Kolb. [External Link]

Fig. 1C shows a notice of the retirement of Henry M. Kolb, as published on page 48 of the December, 1915 edition of the American Machine & Tool Record.

Kolb's retirement announcement confirms that Sedgley worked for Kolb as the factory foreman, and that he had been associated with Kolb since around 1905. The succession to Kolb's business explains Sedgley's later claim to being established in 1897 and the later sales of Kolb's "Baby" revolver.

At this point we don't have any further information on the connection between Will B. Lane and the Kolb/Sedgley factory. We haven't found any evidence of other possible rental tenants at the the 2311 North 16th Street address, so the weight of evidence would point to Lane being an employee of Kolb and Sedgley in 1914.

We can reason that if Lane had expected to use Kolb's factory to produce his "Unique Ratchet" sets, obviously Kolb and Sedgley would have expected some part of the profits. Thus Lane's move to Chicago might have been forced by a failure to reach an equitable arrangement with Kolb and Sedgley. But regardless of the reasons, by the time that Lane announced his "Unique Ratchet" set in April of 1914, Kolb and Sedgley were already planning to make a competing product.

The "Hexall" Line

By early in 1916 R.F. Sedgley had coined the brand "Hexall" for a line of hex-drive socket sets and had filed a patent for a method of storing sockets on a hexagonal Ell-handle. In addition, Sedgley filed a trademark application for "HEXALL", which was granted as #111,295 in July of 1916.

The "K & S" set remained in production and appeared in advertisements for Sedgley's "Hexall" products.

[1916 Notice for R.F. Sedgley Hexall Socket Set]
Fig. 1D. 1916 Notice for R.F. Sedgley "Hexall" Socket Set. [External Link]

The notice in Fig. 1D was published on page 98 of the November 25, 1916 issue of Hardware Age and illustrates the "Hexall" and "K. & S." socket wrench sets.

The set at the top consists of an Ell handle and seven sockets, with the sockets stored on the handle when not in use. The use of the Ell handle for socket storage was described by patent 1,289,558, filed by R.F. Sedgley in 1916 and issued on December 31, 1918.

The text notes that the sockets were made of bar steel and case hardened, making this an early example of machined and broached sockets, in an era when pressed-steel sockets were the dominant technology.

The set at the bottom is the "K. & S." ratchet wrench set, which consisted of a ratchet, an extension, seven sockets, and two screwdriver bits in a small case. The initials stand for Kolb and Sedgley, who had worked together to develop the ratchet in the set. (The article goes on to describe the lower set in the original source.)

The illustration shows an early version of the set, with a ratchet described by the 1915 Kolb and Sedgley patent 1,140,167.

Later versions of the set included a ratchet described by the 1917 Sedgley patent 1,224,223, which used a spring steel wire with a loop at the end to set the pawl bias.


Machined and Cold-Broached Sockets

As noted in the previous section, the sockets in the "Hexall" sets were machined and cold-broached, an early use of the technology that would become dominant in the 1920s and 1930s. Kolb and then Sedgley's use of cold-broached sockets from late 1914 on was second only to that of the Will B. Lane Company, whose "Unique" socket sets were first offered in April of 1914.

In the years before 1920, the Lane "Unique" and Sedgley "Hexall" socket sets were the main proponents of machined and broached sockets. It wasn't until Blackhawk's May 1919 introduction of heavy-wall interchangeable sockets in 1/2 inch square drive that mainstream socket technology caught up with the pioneers.

By 1919 Sedgley had extended their product line to include fixed socket offset wrenches and rim wrenches.

[1919 Ad for Hexall Offset Socket Wrenches]
Fig. 2. 1919 Ad for "Hexall" Offset Socket Wrenches. [External Link]

Fig. 2 shows an ad for a set of seven "Hexall" offset socket wrenches, as published on page 149 of the August, 1919 issue of Hardware World.

The text notes the sizes as ranging from 1/2 to 7/8, and provides a table showing what nuts (in the various size conventions) each wrench would fit.


Sedgley Incorporated

By 1920 R.F. Sedgley had become incorporated.

[1920 Notice of Incorporation for R.F. Sedgley]
Fig. 3. 1920 Notice of Incorporation for R.F. Sedgley.

Fig. 3 shows a notice of incorporation, as published on page 115 of the January 1, 1920 edition of The Iron Age.

[1920 Ad for Hexall Socket Sets]
Fig. 4. 1920 Ad for "Hexall" Socket Sets.

Fig. 4 shows an ad for "Hexall" socket sets, as published on page 74 of the December, 1920 edition of Dun's International Review.

The text also notes "Est. 1897", indicating substantial prior operations before the advent of the "Hexall" product in 1916.

By 1921 Sedgley had expanded their product line to offer a new No. 8 "Hexall Dreadnought" socket set.

[1921 Listing for No. 8 Hexall Dreadnought Socket Set]
Fig. 5. 1921 Listing for No. 8 "Hexall Dreadnought" Socket Set.

Fig. 5 shows a listing for the No. 8 "Hexall Dreadnought" set, as published on page 644 of the 1921 edition of the Iron Age Catalogue of American Exports.

The No. 8 set was the company's largest set to date, and included two ratchets, an offset handle, two extensions, 16 hexagon sockets, 4 square sockets, two screwdriver bits, and three adapters.

The text notes a japanned metal case, but the illustration shows the set in a wooden box.

Although not mentioned in the text, the larger ratchet in the set has a 9/16-hex drive stud, and presumably the larger sockets were 9/16-hex drive. The larger drive stud can be seen in the illustration, and a later ad for a No. 11 9/16-hex drive set makes it clear.

Somewhat oddly, this is the only public reference we've found thus far for the "Hexall Dreadnought" set, suggesting that it might have been intended just for the export market.

9/16-Hex Drive Sets

By 1922 Sedgley was offering heavier-duty socket sets based on 9/16-hex drive. The heavier drive tools had actually been introduced in the No. 8 "Dreadnought" set, which offered a mixture of 1/2-hex and 9/16-hex sockets and tools.

[1922 Ad for No. 11 Ratchet Socket Set]
Fig. 6. 1922 Listing for No. 11 Ratchet Socket Set.

Fig. 6 shows an ad for a "Hexall" No. 11 9/16-hex drive ratchet socket set, as published on page 9 of the February, 1922 edition of Dun's International Review.

The text notes that the set contains a 12 inch handle of 9/16 hexagon steel, providing the drive size for the set.


Later History

The later history of R.F. Sedgley, Incorporated is uncertain, as the company's socket sets seem to have disappeared by the mid 1920s. A number of advertisements for "Hexall" sets were published in 1922, but a careful search found none in 1923 and only one in 1924.

Some distributors continued to list the "Hexall" sets in their catalogs, but distributors are known to continue listing discontinued products until their inventory has been exhausted. (The 1926 J.M. Waterston listing is our last known reference.)

Sedgley had a second product line of miniature revolvers, and this business appears to have continued for some years after the socket sets disappeared. Sedgley received trademark #237,705 for revolvers on March 29, 1927. Public references to Sedgley's firearms business continue at least into the early 1930s.

We think it's possible that the company's socket business was acquired by New Britain Machine, as the latter company is known to have used the 1918 Sedgley patent 1,289,558. See our discussion of New Britain Stealth Acquisitions for some speculative possibilities.


Patents

R.F. Sedgley: Issued and Licensed Patents
Patent No.InventorFiledIssuedNotes and Examples
1,140,167 H.M. Kolb et al 04/24/1914 05/18/1915 Ratchet wrench.
Used for early "Hexall" sets.
1,224,223 R.F. Sedgley 01/18/1917 05/01/1917 Ratchet wrench.
Sedgley "Hexall" 1/2-Hex Drive Ratchet
1,289,558 R.F. Sedgley 02/05/1916 12/31/1918 Hexagonal bar holding multiple sockets.
Later used by New Britain Machine.
1,521,331 R.F. Sedgley 02/26/1921 12/30/1924 Clutch-type Ratchet Adapter.
Not known to have been produced.

Trademarks

R.F. Sedgley: Registered Trademarks
Text Mark or Logo Reg. No. First Use Date Filed Date Issued Notes
HEXALL 111,295 01/24/191603/17/191607/04/1916 Socket wrench sets

References and Resources

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

Currently we do not have any catalogs for R.F. Sedgley.

Industrial Distributors

R.F. Sedgley "Hexall" socket sets were available from industrial distributors. We'll add references as time permits.

[1924 Catalog Listing for Hexall Socket Sets]
Fig. 7. 1924 Catalog Listing for "Hexall" Socket Sets.

Fig. 7 shows a catalog listing for "Hexall" socket sets, as published on page 363 of the 1924 Waterhouse & Lester catalog No. 20.

The illustration shows two "Hexall" sets, the No. 2 ratchet socket set (at the bottom) consisting of a ratchet, extension, screwdriver bits, and seven sockets in a small case.

The No. 5 set (top illustration) consists of an Ell handle with seven sockets, with the handle itself serving to store the sockets.


Selected Tools


R.F. Sedgley "Hexall" 1/2-Hex Drive Ratchet

[R.F. Sedgley Hexall 1/2-Dex Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 8. R.F. Sedgley "Hexall" 1/2-Hex Drive Ratchet, with Insets for Reverse and Side View, ca. 1920s.

Fig. 8 shows a 1/2-hex drive Sedgley "Hexall" ratchet, marked with "Ratchet Socket Wrench" and "Pat. May 1, 1917" forged into the handle. The reverse is marked "Forged Steel" with "R.F. Sedgley, Inc." and "Phila. PA. U.S.A.", plus another "Hexall" marking.

The overall length is 7.3 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The patent date refers to patent 1,224,223, filed in 1917 by R.F. Sedgley and issued later that year.

The marking for "R.F. Sedgley Inc." on the handle indicates production in 1920 or later.


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