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The Truth Tool Company


Table of Contents

Introduction

Truth Tool was an early maker of chisels, punches, and automotive specialty tools, operating in the area around Mankato, Minnesota. The company is probably best known for its chisels and punches, for which it developed great expertise in heat treating steel for optimal properties.

Company History

[1922 Advertisement for Truth Tool]
1922 Advertisement for Truth Tool. [External Link]

Truth Tool began around 1915 as a small blacksmith shop run by Arthur E. Cowden in Ellendale, Minnesota. Cowden liked to experiment with making chisels and punches, and soon the demand for these tools was such that he switched entirely to toolmaking. He adopted the name Cowden Truth Tool Company for his toolmaking venture, with the word "truth" emphasizing the element missing from the sales pitches of certain steel salesmen of the time.

The automobile industry was growing rapidly during the early years of the 20th century, and Arthur Cowden recognized the need for specialty tools to assist with various automotive service jobs. Truth Tool began developing a line of automotive specialty tools, and the company prospered as the expanding industry created great demand for automotive service tools.

In the early 1920s the company outgrew its original facility and moved to nearby Mankato, a location where they would remain for many years. In 1922 the company filed an application for "Truth" as a trademark, and the trademark was issued in 1923. The advertisement at the left was published on page 3 of the February, 1922 issue of The Garage-Dealer and shows examples of some of the company's tools at that time.

Around this same time, Truth Tools hired a young engineer named Rueb Kaplan, who would play an important role in the company's later history. Kaplan was a very talented tool designer and stayed at Truth Tool only briefly, then moved to nearby Owatonna and founded the Owatonna Tool Company in 1925.

During the 1920s Truth Tool continued to expand its automotive specialty business, and in 1930 made an important innovation for its older line of punches and chisels. Truth Tool developed a new method of heat-treatment that made it possible, for the first time, to use "Tarzen" gear steel for chisels and punches. The company conducted a famous demonstration whereby a 1/2-inch chisel was driven completely through a 1 inch steel plate, emerging undamaged from the other side. Truth's early catalogs include an illustration of the plate pierced by the chisel, a very effective demonstration of their tool quality.

Truth Tool offered sockets and drive tools of the York brand as early as 1927, and by 1929 was offering its own socket line in 3/8 and 1/2-drive. By 1934 Truth was offering 3/4-drive heavy duty sockets, and the catalog notes that the sockets were hot broached. Socket tools in the 1 inch drive size were available somewhat after this time.

Acquisition by OTC

In 1950 Truth Tools was acquired by the Owatonna Tool Company (OTC), the company founded by Rueb Kaplan. Truth Tool provided production help to OTC while the latter company moved to a new location, and then under OTC management began to focus on specialty hardware products. From about 1955 onward Truth Tool became a leading producer of hardware for doors and windows, and later was renamed as the Truth Hardware Company.

The Truth Hardware Company continues in business today and the company maintains a web site with an interesting Early History [External Link] page. Interested readers are encouraged to visit the company's page for more information.


Patents


Trademarks

In 1922 Truth Tool filed a trademark application for the mark "TRUTH" with the first use date listed as 1915, and the trademark was issued as #164,890 on February 27, 1923. The application listed the two members of the company as Arthur E. Cowden and Myrtle L. Cowden, with the company's location given as Mankato, Minnesota. Their products were listed as cold chisels, punches, claw bars, pinchers, pliers, screw drivers, and wrenches.


Tool Identification

Tools made by Truth are generally marked with the company name as "Truth" or "Truth Mankato". In some cases tools may be marked only with model numbers, without the company name, and in such cases identification may depend on catalog references for the models.


References and Resources

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

Truth Hardware maintains a web page at www.truth.com [External Link] with information on the current activities of the company.


Catalog Coverage

Product information was obtained from several Truth Tool catalogs, as summarized in the table below.

Catalog Year Format Notes
No. 35 1927 Half "York" brand socket sets listed
No. 36 1928 Half "York" brand socket sets listed. Double-hex box wrenches available.
No. 37 1929 Half Truth "Cyclone" socket sets listed
No. 38 1930 Half  
No. 39 1931 Half Lists open-end and tappet wrenches, likely made by Herbrand.
Lists flex-box wrenches.
No. 42 1934 Half Lists "Obstructo" obstruction wrenches, likely made by Herbrand.

Specialty Tools

Examples of the tools produced by Truth Tool are relatively hard to find, as most of the company's production predated 1950. We have been able to acquire some examples however, and will continue to expand this section over time.


Truth Pump Nut Wrench

We'll begin with an early specialty tool, listed in the late 1920s Truth catalogs as a "Pump Nut" wrench.

[Truth Swinging-Jaw Specialty Wrench]
Fig. 1. Truth Swinging-Jaw Pump Nut Wrench, ca. 1927-1929.

Fig. 1 shows an early Truth pump nut wrench with a swinging jaw, stamped "Truth" on the flat shank. The overall length is 6.4 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

The shank is made of flat bar stock, and the jaw is riveted to the shank loosely enough to swing freely. The light construction suggests an application needing only modest torque. With the jaws parallel, the opening measures about 15/16 inch.

The 1927 catalog listed this as a pump nut wrench, and the 1928 and 1929 catalogs also noted its use as a hub cap wrench. Two sizes were available, a 6 inch version (the present tool) and an 11 inch model. By 1930 this tool had apparently been discontinued, as it is no longer shown in the catalogs.

A very similar wrench is known to have been offered by Plomb Tools, possibly made for them by Truth.


Piston-Ring Pliers

[Truth Piston-Ring Pliers]
Fig. 2. Truth Piston-Ring Pliers, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1929.

Fig. 2 shows a pair of Truth piston-ring pliers, designed to grasp and compress a spring-steel band placed over the piston rings. The pliers are marked with just the Truth name.

The overall length is 10.6 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.

Currently we don't have an example of the steel bands used with the pliers, but hopefully will find one at some point.


Differential Adjusting Nut Spanner Wrench

[Truth Differential Adjusting Nut Spanner Wrench]
Fig. 3. Truth Differential Adjusting Nut Spanner Wrench, with Inset for Marking Detail, ca. 1928.

Fig. 3 shows a Truth spanner wrench for differential gear adjustments, stamped "Truth" on the upper arm.

The overall length is 10.2 inches, and the finish is plain steel.

This tool is listed in the 1928 Truth catalog in the section for Chrysler special tools, where it is recommended for the differential gear adjusting nut on Chrysler and other makes, except for Ford. Somewhat oddly, the tool was not offered in later catalogs.


Two-Jaw Gear Puller with Clamp Nut

[Truth Two-Jaw Gear Puller with Clamp Nut]
Fig. 4. Truth Two-Jaw Gear Puller with Clamp Nut.

Fig. 4 shows a Truth two-jaw gear puller with a tapered clamping nut, stamped "Truth" on the yoke.

The overall length (exclusive of the pressure screw) is 5.7 inches, and the width of the yoke is 3.5 inches. The finish is black oxide.


Striking Tools

Although chisels and punches were a major part of Truth's early production, tools in this category are now difficult to find. This is probably due to the need to periodically regrind or "dress" chisels and punches after hard use, with the result that the tool is eventually worn out and discarded.


Truth 7/64 Pin Punch

[Truth 7/64 Pin Punch]
Fig. 5. Truth Swinging-Jaw Pump Nut Wrench, ca. 1927-1929.

Fig. 5 shows a Truth 7/64 pin punch, stamped "Truth" on the shank.

The overall length is 5.6 inches, and the finish is black oxide.


Sockets and Drive Tools

Truth was offering sockets and drive tools as early as 1927 under the "York" brand, although possibly just as a reseller for these items. By 1929 sockets of Truth's own manufacture were available under the "Cyclone" brand. (The catalog said they were "Real Twisters"!)


York Early 1/2-Drive Hex Socket

[York Early 1/2-Drive 5/8 Socket]
Fig. 6. York Early 1/2-Drive 5/8 Socket, with Inset for Broaching Detail, ca. 1920s.

Fig. 6 shows an early 1/2-drive York 5/8 hex socket, marked only with the York name and the fractional size.

The finish is plain steel.


Early 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle

[Truth Early 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle]
Fig. 7. Truth Early 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle.

Fig. 7 shows an early Truth 1/2-drive flex-head handle.

The overall length is 10.8 inches, and the finish is black oxide.


R2 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle

[Truth R2 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle]
Fig. 8. Truth R2 1/2-Drive Flex-Head Handle, with Insets for Construction and Marking Detail.

Fig. 8 shows a later 1/2-drive Truth R2 flex-head handle, stamped "USA" on the handle.

The overall length is 15.1 inches, and the finish is polished chrome.

The knurled handle is drilled for a 7/16-diameter cross-bar.


R11A 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle

[Truth R11A 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle]
Fig. 9. Truth R11A 1/2-Drive Sliding Tee Handle.

Fig. 9 shows a Truth R11A 1/2-drive sliding Tee handle, stamped "USA" on the head.

The overall length is 10.0 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.


Truth R6 1/2-Drive Ratchet

Although Truth tools are frequently found with dull gray cadmium finishes, this next example shows that the company could offer a high-quality chrome plated finish.

[Truth R6 1/2-Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 10. Truth R6 1/2-Drive Ratchet, with Insets for Reverse and Side View.

Fig. 10 shows a 1/2-drive Truth R6 reversible ratchet, stamped "USA" on the reverse.

The overall length is 10.9 inches, and the finish is polished chrome.

The reverse shank also shows a forged-in marking resembling a "B" enclosing an "S", possibly a mark from a contract forging company.


Truth R6A 1/2-Drive Ratchet

[Truth R6A 1/2-Drive Ratchet]
Fig. 11. Truth R6A 1/2-Drive Ratchet, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 11 shows a very similar R6A reversible ratchet, not marked with the company name but easily identified by the construction and model number.

The finish is cadmium plating.


R8A 1/2-Drive Speeder

[Truth R8A 1/2-Drive Speeder]
Fig. 12. Truth R8A 1/2-Drive Speeder.

Fig. 12 shows a Truth R8A 1/2-drive speeder, stamped "USA" on the shank.

The overall length is 17.8 inches, and the throw is 3.5 inches. The finish is cadmium plating.


R10 1/2-Drive Extension

[Truth R10 1/2-Drive Extension]
Fig. 13. Truth R10 1/2-Drive Extension.

Fig. 13 shows a Truth R10 1/2-drive 10 inch extension.

The overall length is 10.2 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.


1/2-Drive "Strait-Wal" Double-Hex Sockets

[Truth 1/2-Drive Strait-Wal Double-Hex Sockets]
Fig. 14. Truth 1/2-Drive "Strait-Wal" Double-Hex Sockets, with Inset for Broaching.

Fig. 14 shows a group of three 1/2-drive Truth "Strait-Wal" double-hex sockets, marked "USA" with the fractional size. The sizes are, from the left, 3/4, 7/8, and 15/16.

The inset at the top shows the hot-broached construction of the sockets.

The finish is chrome plating.


1/2-Drive "Strait-Wal" 1-1/8 Socket

[Truth 1/2-Drive Strait-Wal 1-1/8 Sockets]
Fig. 15. Truth 1/2-Drive "Strait-Wal" 1-1/8 Socket, with Inset for Broaching.

Fig. 15 shows another example of the "Strait-Wal" sockets, a 1/2-drive Truth 1-1/8 socket stamped "USA" with the fractional size.

The finish is chrome plating.

The inset shows the hot-broached construction of the socket.


3/4-Drive Tools

By the mid 1930s Truth had begun offering sockets and tools in 3/4 square drive.


3/4-Drive 1-1/4 Socket

[Truth 3/4-Drive 1-1/4 Socket]
Fig. 16. Truth 3/4-Drive 1-1/4 Socket, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1930s.

Fig. 16 shows a 3/4-drive Truth 1-1/4 double-hex socket, stamped "Truth Mankato Minn" with the fractional size.

The finish is plain steel.


3/4-Drive 1-7/8 Socket

[Truth 3/4-Drive 1-7/8 Socket]
Fig. 17. Truth 3/4-Drive 1-7/8 Socket, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1930s.

Fig. 17 shows a 3/4-drive Truth 1-7/8 double-hex socket, stamped "Truth Mankato Minn" with the fractional size.

The finish is plain steel.


3/4-Drive 1-7/16 Socket

[Truth 3/4-Drive 1-7/16 Socket]
Fig. 18. Truth 3/4-Drive 1-7/16 Socket, with Inset for Broaching, ca. 1940s.

Fig. 18 shows a 3/4-drive Truth 1-7/16 double-hex socket, stamped "USA" with the size as "1-7-16".

The finish is polished chrome.


3/4-Drive Sliding Tee Handle

[Truth 3/4-Drive Sliding Tee Handle]
Fig. 19. Truth 3/4-Drive Sliding Tee Handle, with Inset for Marking Detail.

Fig. 19 shows a Truth 3/4-drive sliding Tee handle, marked with just the "Truth" name.

The overall length is 20.0 inches, and the finish is cadmium plating.


Wrenches


7/16x1/2 Flex-Box Wrench

The next three figures show examples of early flexible socket wrenches from Truth Tool. Wrenches of this type were listed as early as the 1930 catalog, and the description suggests that this style was quite novel at the time.

The particular examples shown here are probably from around 1935, based on the known dates of other tools in the lot. The tools are in exceptionally good condition, having seen little or no use over the years.

[Truth 7/16x1/2 Flex-Box Wrench]
Fig. 20. Truth 7/16x1/2 Flex-Box Wrench, with Inset for Side View, ca. 1935.

Fig. 20 shows a Truth 7/16x1/2 flex-box wrench, marked with just "Truth" and the fractional sizes. This wrench was the smallest of the three models offered in 1930.

The overall length is 7.6 inches, and the finish is a black oxide coating.

Herbrand was also producing flex-box wrenches at a fairly early date, possibly as early as 1930. An example of their flex-box model is the Herbrand 6827 Flex-Box Wrench.


9/16x5/8 Flex-Box Wrench

[Truth 9/16x5/8 Flex-Box Wrench]
Fig. 21. Truth 9/16x5/8 Flex-Box Wrench, with Inset for Side View, ca. 1935.

Fig. 21 shows a Truth 9/16x5/8 flex-box wrench, marked with just "Truth" and the fractional sizes.

The overall length is 9.0 inches, and the finish is a black oxide coating.


11/16x3/4 Flex-Box Wrench

[Truth 11/16x3/4 Flex-Box Wrench]
Fig. 22. Truth 11/16x3/4 Flex-Box Wrench, with Inset for Side View, ca. 1935.

Fig. 22 shows a Truth 11/16x3/4 flex-box wrench, marked with just "Truth" and the fractional sizes.

The overall length is 10.7 inches, and the finish is a black oxide coating.


7/16x1/2 Thin Offset Box Wrench

[Truth 7/16x1/2 Thin Offset Box Wrench]
Fig. 23. Truth 7/16x1/2 Thin Offset Box Wrench, with Inset for Side View.

Fig. 23 shows a Truth 7/16x1/2 thin offset box wrench, marked with just "Truth" and the fractional sizes.

The overall length is 6.8 inches, and the finish is plain steel.


1028X 25/32x13/16 Open-End Wrench

[Truth 1028X 25/32x13/16 Open-End Wrench]
Fig. 24. Truth 1028X 25/32x13/16 Open-End Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 24 shows a Truth 1028X 25/32x13/16 open-end wrench, marked with "Chrome Alloy" forged into the shank, with "Made in USA" forged into the reverse. The faces are stamped with "Truth" and the model number on the front, with the fractional sizes on the reverse.

The overall length is 7.9 inches, and the finish appears to be nickel plating.


T-2 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench

[Truth T-2 1/2x9/16 Tappet Wrench]
Fig. 25. Truth T-2 7/16x1/2 Tappet Wrench, with Inset for Reverse Detail.

Fig. 25 shows a Truth T-2 1/2x9/16 tappet wrench, stamped "Vanadium Tappet" and "Sold By Truth" with "Mankato, Minn." below.

The overall length is 7.1 inches, and the finish is plain steel.


1094 3/4x7/8 Tappet Wrench

[Truth 1094 3/4x7/8 Tappet Wrench]
Fig. 26. Truth 1094 3/4x7/8 Tappet Wrench, with Inset for Reverse.

Fig. 26 shows a Truth 1094 3/4x7/8 tappet wrench, marked with "Made in U.S.A." forged into the shank, with "Chrome Alloy" forged into the reverse.

The overall length is 8.9 inches, and the finish is chrome plating.


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