THE DAVIS LEVEL & TOOL CO.
The Davis Level & Tool Company of Springfield, Massachusetts is known
principally for their extensive line of fine levels that are sought by
collectors today. The history of the Davis companies, especially as it pertains
to levels can be in Don Rosebrook's "American Levels and Their Makers" Vol 1
(New England) 1999. Astragal Press. 267pp.
(1838 - 1907) founded a number of companies in and around Springfield, Mass,
even though his family continued to live in his native New Hampshire.
These companies manufactured and sold a variety of items, many of which were
patented by Davis. In addition to levels and braces, he was involved with
railroad equipment and supplies, as well as incandescent light bulbs and other
electrical equipment. The company that was responsible for a line of bit
braces was the Davis Tool & Level Company that was organized about 1875.
Davis braces are shown in Rosebrook's depictions of ads from 1889 and 1890,
which show the Davis ratchet brace. The brace is described as "Rose &
Johnson Patent Brace," in those ads. The brace below is an example of the
The ratchet braces are marked with four patent dates. The first, April
17, 1883 was issued to Elmore E. Rose (#275860, Pearson "C")
for jaws in an interlocking jaw-type chuck. This patent is found on every
Davis brace that I've examined. It is interesting that
Leonard Davis, himself, later (July 15, 1890, #432180, Pearson "A") received
a patent for a different style of jaw anchoring device. I've not seen a
brace with this patent. The second date on these braces is Oct 14,
1884 to Richard Johnson (#306690, Pearson "B") for the
style of chuck on the typical Davis brace. The "Rose & Johnson Patent
Brace" must refer to these gentlemen.
The remaining patents noted on the Davis ratchet braces are May 25, 1886
(#342727, Pearson "B") issued to John Bolen, and April 5,
1887 (#360650, Pearson "B") to Lawrence Bolen). These
patents pertain to the ratcheting mechanism and are missing from Davis sleeve
braces. All of the patentees of these braces are listed as being
All of the Davis ratchet braces that I've seen have steel corrugated chuck
shells, that originally were nickel plated. The sleeve braces, however,
have knurled brass chuck shells that can have different patterns of knurling, as
seen below. Now Trevor Ford, in Australia, reports a ratchet Davis brace
with a knurled brass chuck shell. Dogmatism is not a good thing!
braces are showy ones. The ornate chucks and special wrist handles of
these braces make them immediately recognizable. The marks are not
conspicuous and can be hard to find. Davis braces are signed in very small
stampings near the bottom of the rotating chuck shell. The wrist handles
are unusual for their decorative shape and material (gutta percha).
the gutta percha wrist handles of Davis braces are distinctive, there are
unmarked braces that have the same turned shape of the wrist handles, but these
are made of wood. I've seen a couple of examples of these.
Both feature fully clad cup handles with ring ratchet selector and knurled
interlocking chuck and jaws.
Quality brace, but completely unmarked, I don't know who the
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