LET'S TALK RUSTY IRON
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J.P. Johansson sold the patent to Bernt A. Hjorth, who owned a Stockholm tool and machinery factory that later became Bahco, presently part of Snap-On Tools, Inc. Bahco claims that more than 100 million of its wrenches sold worldwide since production began.
The origin of the Crescent wrench in America is a little unclear. One account says a Swedish immigrant, Gunnard Oberg, invented an adjustable head wrench about the turn of the 20th century while working for the Anderson Machine Shop in Jamestown, N.Y. A man with the Swedish-sounding name of Karl Peterson visited the Anderson shop, saw the wrench and paid Oberg $500 for the invention.
Peterson named the tool the Crescent Wrench, after he decided the rounded head and jaws of the wrench looked like a crescent moon. In 1907, he started the Crescent Tool Co. in Jamestown to manufacture the new tool.
Another story says that Peterson worked for William Hjorth & Co. before starting the Crescent Tool Co. Peterson was awarded a patent in 1915 for an improvement on Edward Worcester's original 1857 design, and the new tool was called the Crescent wrench because the Crescent Tool Co. first made the wrench.
Regardless of how Peterson came up with the idea, or where the name originated, the Crescent wrench - or the look-alike Bahco wrench - is a necessity in almost every tool-box around the globe. Legend has it that Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic in 1927 with only gasoline, sandwiches, a bottle of water, pliers and a single Crescent wrench. Richard Byrd reportedly took along a set of Crescent wrenches when he attempted to reach the South Pole in 1929. On March 23, 1965, when Gus Grissom and John Young took the first manned Gemini flight into space, a couple of Crescent wrenches went along for the historic ride.
The Crescent Tool Co. is still in business, although it's now part of Cooper Industries, and still manufactures Crescent wrenches and other hand tools.
The next time you reach for a Crescent or Bahco wrench - or any of the many copies now manufactured -thank the crafty Swedes and Americans who helped create this handy and indispensable farm tool. FC
- Sam Moore became interested in agricultural machinery growing up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items.
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