David Maydole:

An ‘Adz-Eye’ for Innovation

“I can’t make a very good hammer. I make only the best hammer I can make”

– David Maydole

Photograph of the Maydole Factory supervisor's office showing the Calendar Clock

Acknowledgments

The Chenango County Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the following for their involvement in this exhibition: John Antonowicz, Joe Fryc, Sharon Donahe, Henry Drexler, Kathy Greene, Zac Greenfield, Julie Kupris, Gail Merian, Marisa Modugno, Jessica Moquin, Katherine C. Ventura, and the CCHS Wednesday Work Crew.

In the 1830s, David Maydole, a blacksmith from Oxford living and working in Norwich, solved an age-old problem. How do you keep a hammerhead from flying off the handle? Inspired by the adze, a curved-bladed ax, Maydole was able to secure the head to the handle using what he called an “adz-eye.” With this and a few other enhancements to hammer forging, David Maydole secured his reputation for what would be known as the best hammers in the world for over a century. The Maydole Hammer Factory opened in 1845 and remained in the Maydole family until 1939 when Mayhew Tools purchased the company. Mayhew-Maydole secured numerous World War II contracts and was successful until the original factory burned down in 1957. The building was reconstructed and the business served as a subsidiary of Norwich Industries, Inc. beginning in 1961. The company operated until the end of the decade when it was abandoned and razed in 1969.

Introductory Sign to the exhibition, includes background of David Maydole
Wooden desk from Maydole Factory Supervisor Office

Office Desk; wood, black paint; Norwich, NY; c. 1900s

The office in The Maydole Hammer Factory housed several senior staff members; this desk is one of many located within that workspace. The “Supervisor’s Office” photo in this exhibition offers a glimpse into factory operations during the early 20th century.

Gift of Unknown
2021.7.1

Maydole factory bell

Maydole Company Bell; Sheffield, England; 1857

In the early days of the company, this bell would ring to call employees to work or declare an emergency. Many industries made use of bells due to how clearly they could be heard over the din of machinery. Imported from England, this was in use for most of The Maydole Hammer Factory’s existence. 

Gift of Kiwanis Club 
1964.24.1 

A clock-calendar hybrid that hung in the supervisor's office at the factory. The top portion tells time, the lower portion tells the date.

Calendar Clock; wood, brass; Norwich, NY; 1876

Timekeeping is very important in a factory setting. This calendar clock hung in David Maydole’s office keeping the time and date for the entire factory. When the clock struck the appropriate time, the “Maydole Company Bell” – also featured in this exhibition – would ring out, calling employees to break or work.

Gift of Mr. Nelson
1964.193.20

Photograph of the Maydole Factory supervisor's office showing the Calendar Clock

Supervisor’s Office; photo, mounted; Norwich, NY; c. 1900-1915

This view into the supervisor’s office at The Maydole Hammer Factory includes the unique calendar clock in this exhibition. The people in this photo are Mott Frink, Mert Ferris, Mott Bacus, Superintendent A.E. Race, and General Manager R.D. Brooks. 

Gift of Albert and Goldie Phillips
1965.164.1.17 

Award from World's Columbian Fair, 1893

World’s Columbian Commission Award; paper, frame; Norwich, NY; 1893

Among the many awards given to The Maydole Hammer Factory and its employees was this award from the World’s Columbian Fair in 1893. This, and other awards, secured the brand’s reputation for quality, helping to make Maydole the most popular hammer brand for nearly a century.

Gift of Mr. Nelson
1964.193.18

Recognition poster for contributions to the Byrd Antarctic Expedition in 1928

Byrd Expedition Award; paper, wooden frame; Norwich, NY; 1928

The Maydole Hammer Factory produced many of the tools that were used on the Byrd Antarctic Expedition. According to this award, “…without such assistance, the accomplishment of the Expedition in the Antarctic would not have been possible.”

Gift of Mr. Nelson
1964.193.17

Schematic for the David Maydole Hammer Factory as it was in 1911

The Maydole Hammer Factory; framed, photo; Norwich, NY; May 25, 1911

This is a framed survey of The Maydole Hammer Factory grounds as they were in 1911. Ann Vernette, David Maydole’s middle daughter, was the third president of the company after her father’s death. She began expanding business operations shortly after this survey.

Gift of Mr. Nelson
1964.193.16

Bricklayer's skutch

Bricklayer’s Scutch; iron, hickory; Norwich, NY; c. 1900s

An astonishing variety of hammers and tools were made at The Maydole Hammer Factory during its existence. A “scutch”– also known as a “scotch” – was used for smoothing bricks after being laid. Some versions of this tool included both a hammer end and a chisel end.

 

Gift of Mr. Nelson
1964.193.1.125

Standing Maydole Sign. Reads "Maydole Hammers, Each individually balanced at the factory. Try it for yourself. A hammer for every need"

Standing Maydole Sign; cardboard; Norwich, NY; c. 1920s-1940s

Over the years, the company put more time into advertising the brand. In addition to newspaper ads printed via copper plates, signs like this one were used to display product samples.

Gift of Unknown
2021.7.2

An unfinished hammer head

Unfinished Hammer Head; iron; Norwich, NY; c. 1900s

Maydole hammers were forged in a three-stage process consisting of forging, tempering, and polishing. What you see here is a hammer shortly after the first stage of forging. After the hammer was forged, it would be sent to another room to be tempered and polished.

Gift of Mr. Nelson
1964.193.1.127

Claw Hammer Head

Claw Hammer Head; iron; Norwich, NY; c. 1900s

Finished hammerheads would be polished on leather-wrapped wheels before being secured to the handle. The deeper hole in the center is the secret to Maydole’s adz-eye innovation, creating a more secure connection between handle and hammer.

Gift of Mr. Nelson
1964.193.1.135

Black painted hammer handle ready to have a head attached. There is also an inscription that reads, "since MAYDOLE 1831."

Black painted handle; hickory, paint; Norwich, NY; c. 1920s

Hammer handles were usually made of hickory because of the qualities of the wood. Stiffness, hardness, resiliency, shock resistance, and toughness all had to be considered when selecting wood for tool handles, and hickory ranked high in all regards. Not all handles were painted like this, but it was desired by some customers.

Gift of Mr. Nelson
1964.193.1.126

Hammer with etched lines through the head

Hammer with Etching; iron, hickory; Norwich, NY; c. late 19th C.-early 20th C.

This is one of many examples featuring the craftsmanship with which The Maydole Hammer Factory produced hammers. The lines visible on the head are likely created by the process of acid etching into the hammerhead. Claw hammers such as this one are among the most common hammers used.

Gift of Mr. Nelson
1964.193.1.133

Ice skates produced by Maydole during the 1860s

Maydole Ice Skates; iron, wood; Norwich, NY; c. 1860s

For a short time, The Maydole Hammer Factory produced ice skates in addition to tools. In the winter, “skate parties” along the Chenango Canal were a popular pastime. Despite the success of the skates, David Maydole decided there was greater potential for growth in hammer production, and discontinued the product line.

Gift of George MacHale
1962.50.1

Small office scale

Graduated Beam scale; metal; Norwich, NY; c. 1920s

This graduated beam scale sat on a desk in the factory office. An item would put placed on the square platform the weight would slowly be moved along the beam until the scale balanced. While not made in the factory, this scale would have supported business operations.

Gift of Mr. Nelson
1964.193.2.1 

Framed smallest hammer made in the Maydole factory. Attributed to Jared (Jerry) Fuller, who was a long time employee of the factory

Smallest Maydole Hammer; framed; metal, wood frame; Norwich, NY; c. 1900s

Workers at The Maydole Hammer Factory created hammers of all shapes and sizes, and this is said to be the smallest ever produced! The skill of these craftsmen was unrivaled in their time as is shown by this sample, as well as by the various awards the company received. 

Gift of Gladys Fuller Balcrum
1967.120.1 

Broadax with handle signed D. Maydole

Broadax with handle signed D. Maydole; iron, wood; Oxford, NY; 1837

Before David Maydole started The Maydole Hammer Factory in Norwich, he was a small-scale blacksmith from Oxford, NY, specializing in edge tools and carriage springs. This ax predates Maydole’s invention of the adz-eye joining for tool and handle. 

Gift of Tracy Law 
2014.47.130 

Meat Chopper

Maydole Meat Chopper; wood, iron; Norwich, NY; c. 1900s

True to his roots, Maydole continued making edge tools after The Maydole Hammer Factory took off. David Maydole’s reputation allowed just about anything he produced to become a commercial success. 

Gift of Henry R. Bennet
2002.21.1 

A photo of the longest serving employees

Maydole Employees; framed, photo; Norwich, NY; 1911

Pictured here is a group of senior employees of The Maydole Hammer Factory. All of these men had worked for the factory for over 20 years, and some for as many as 40 years. At the time of this photo, Patrick Shea had been there the longest at 48 years.

Front row, left to right – E.J. Walworth, John M. Martz, A.E. Race, Charles A. Houghton, Thomas M. Cox.

Back row, left to right – James Bolger, Malachi Scanlon, Henry C. Sanford, Patrick Shea, Jacob Cline.

Gift of Goldie Phillips
1970.92.1.1

Claw hammer with black painted handle

Hammer with Painted Handle; iron, painted hickory; Norwich, NY; c. 1920s

The Maydole Hammer Factory’s reputation came from both craftsmanship as well as customer service. This claw hammer has a painted black handle, a specific detail specially requested by some clients.

Gift of McCowan Estate
2002.24.15

Maydole Hose Company Firefighter belt

Maydole Hose Company Belt; Norwich, NY; c. Early 1900s

This leather belt is from the Maydole Hose Company, among the first organizations for firefighting in the city of Norwich. Formed in 1887, 30 employees created this team. Eventually, it became part of the first fire department in Norwich. The Maydole Hose Co. No. 2 still exists today within the Norwich Fire Department. 

Gift of Martha Benedict 
1976.74.1 

Cap from the top of the Maydole Hose Co. Water Tower

Water Tower Cap; iron; Norwich, NY; c. 1900s

During the height of The Maydole Hammer Factory’s success, this sat atop the water tower on the grounds. After the Chenango Canal closed (circa 1878), the tower was the main source of water for the factory during fires or other emergencies.

Gift of Delos Campbell
1972.47.1

Grave marker that servedFlag holder from Maydole Hose No. 2

Maydole Hose Company Grave Marker; iron; Norwich, NY; c. 1900s

Firefighting has always been a dangerous job. Those who served were honored posthumously with grave markers to designate their membership in the Maydole Hose Company. This style of marker would also hold a flag.

Gift of Unknown
2003.30.54 

Wrench produced by Norwich Industries, Inc.

Pipe wrench; iron; Norwich, NY; c. 1960s

Much like the pipe tongs also featured in this exhibition, the pipe wrench signifies the company’s attempts to diversify products, a necessary move as sales declined. These innovations helped slow the inevitable decline and eventual end of the company.

Gift of Howard Welton
1993.65.1

Pipe Tongs produced in the Factory

Pipe tongs; iron; Norwich, NY; 1960s

These pipe tongs were made in Norwich at The Maydole Hammer Factory building by Norwich Industries. Part of the company’s efforts to expand their market, these represent the evolution of the local tool industry.

Gift of Tracy Law
2014.47.83 

Copper printing plate with advertisement for Maydole Hammers

Copper printing plate; copper, wood; Norwich, NY; c. 1920s

During his lifetime, David Maydole never advertised his products, believing that the quality spoke for itself. After his death, his successors began advertising to encourage company growth. This copper plate was used to print ads in newspapers. Other similar plates were used to imprint the company brand into a tool. 

Gift of Goldie Phillips
1970.92.22.1

Dictaphone

Dictaphone; metal, rubber; Norwich, NY; c. 1920s

Dictaphones were used to record sound at the turn of the 20th century. The name “dictaphone” was patented by Alexander Graham Bell; eventually, the name became the term for all dictation machines. Sound was recorded on wax cylinders like this until circa 1947, eventually replaced by magnetic tape.

Gift of Mr. Nelson
1964.193.21A

Radiant Glass Heater

Radiant Glass heater; metal, glass, wood; Norwich, NY; 1960s

After The Maydole Hammer Factory burned down in 1957, the building remained dormant for several years. It was later occupied by Norwich Industries Inc., which produced radiant glass goods such as this heater. 

Gift of Unknown
2020.57.1 

Zachary Greenfield

Zachary Greenfield

Senior Museum Assistant

Zachary Greenfield is from Great Falls, Montana. In 2017, he graduated from George Mason University with a B.A. in history. Zachary has experience working with the National Anthropological Archives as well as the Special Collections Research Center at George Mason University. Since August 2020, he has served as a senior museum assistant and curatorial consultant for the Chenango County Historical Society and Museum. In May 2021, Zachary graduated from the Cooperstown Graduate Program with a master of museum studies. In his free time, Zachary enjoys video games and reading.