Getting ready for the "Made in Acton" exhibit at the Hosmer House museum, we were excited to receive pictures of an Acton-made product that we had never seen before. We wanted to learn about the New England Vise Company of West Acton. Searching the internet led us to the June 19, 1866 patent of John S. Hoar of West Acton (No. 55,656) for an improved rotary bench vise.
Online searching of local newspapers and the 1870 Census's manufacturing schedules for information about the vise company was fruitless. (Middlesex County’s manufacturing schedules were not available online, and local online newspaper coverage is sparse in the early years.) Fortunately, we found some useful information in the Society's library. According to an undated newspaper article in a scrapbook in the Society's collection, "The present Pail Factory in West Acton was built in 1867 to manufacture vises. These were the patent of J. Sherman Hoar, of West Acton, and was the first vise ever patented in any country with an off-shot jaw (so called). It could be used on an entire rotary base or on a one-half rotary base. The market for these vises is world-wide. "
Online versions of published public documents of Massachusetts show that the New England Vise Company of West Acton was organized on January 25, 1868. Improbably enough, searching online, we found a mention in the Galveston (Texas) Daily News of November 15, 1868 that the New England Vise Company of West Acton, Mass. had twenty employees working in their vise manufacturing business.
John Sherman Hoar only lived for two years after the sale of the company. He died at age 43 of typhoid fever, leaving his wife Lydia (Whitney) and a large family. According to Phalen, one of the prized possessions of John Sherman Hoar's descendants was a model of his vise that he had created from what appeared to be cherry wood.
We have no idea how many vises were created in the West Acton factory during its short time in operation. We are very grateful to our Facebook visitor for sharing his vise with us!