With the success of the Taylor patent brace really little inventive activity seems to have occurred until the 1850s when a number of patents pertaining mainly to chucks and their means of gripping bits appeared. Most of these were not produced in quantity and today are often quite rare. Examples of chucks patented by Daboll, Streeter,* and others are found, but are quite uncommon. Toward the end of this decade some important advances in chuck design were made when the patents of Nelson Spofford and Clemons Rose made their appearances. Spofford's chuck was made famous by the John S. Fray Co. of Bridgeport, Connecticut,  and is considered under that company’s page, while the Rose chuck was an early product of the Millers Falls Mfg Co.

In the early 1860s interest in devising new bitstock designs seems to have exploded, and about 100 new brace-related patents were awarded during the decade. One of the prominent brace inventers to emerge at this time was Harry S. Bartholomew of Bristol, Connecticut. Not immediately concerned with

                                                                                                                             European Ball Brace
chucks, Bartholomew was initially interested in ways to fit his braces with wooden wrist handles. His early patents were for the idea of sliding a lathe-turned handle down an iron rod that had been fitted with a cup handle at one end, and then bending the rod above and below the wrist handle to form the bow of the brace. These braces tended to be small, were lightly constructed, and had a simple chuck with a side screw to fix the bit. Indeed, Bartholomew marketed them as "cheap" braces. The wrist handles were small and turned to very short, fat shapes. Bartholomew termed them "Ball" braces, and their general appearance was similar to the "penny" or "gent’s" braces produced in Europe.  Bartholomew’s ball brace patents were successful and, and being a brace manufacturer, he sold many of these braces before the patents ran their course. After that occurred, with few exceptions most manufacturers adopted his ideas, and the technique of fixing a wooden wrist handle before bending the brace shaft became a universal production technique, continuing to today.*             


These braces are marked a bit unusually, having Bartholomew's name and/or the patent date lightly stamped along the middle of the wrist handle.  This one, for example, is marked, "Patented / May 21, 1861."  This is Bartholomew's patent #32347 and is commonly found.  Chuck Zitur has a brace like this, marked with the patent, that was manufactured by Fray & Pigg.   So Bartholomew must have licensed his patent out to other manufacturers..

Bartholomew went on to obtain several other patents for braces, and championed the patents of other inventors. One of these was of Arthur Armstrong (#307252, Oct. 28, 1884, Pearson "A" for rarity) for a chuck which levered the tang of a bit into the jaws after they had been closed (the illustration is from one of Bartholomew's catalogues).

Bartholomew himself modified this design in a subsequent patent (June 18, 1889) to screw the upper assembly of the chuck forward against the seated tang. It is interesting that this idea had been earlier exploited by Albert Goodell in a chuck that was found in some of the earliest Millers Falls Mfg. Co. braces .

The brace production of Harry Bartholomew, which began as early as 1855 finally ended in 1903 when the company was acquired by the Stanley Rule & Level Company  as one of the early acquisitions in their program to enter the bit brace market in a big way.  Bartholomew continued to work, receiving his final brace patent in 1906, and assigned his patents to Stanley..

Return to Brace INDEX



- See "I Bend the the Steel Bows" Stanley Tool Collector’s News, Vol. 6 (15) p. 13. 1995