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JOEL Joel's Blog

Change - The End of an Era.

07/21/2007 Another industry leaves Manhattan

In the Change - The End of an Era. 419th century New York City was a hot bed of manufacture. The Monitor of Civil War fame was built on the West Side, along the Hudson River Docks. All sorts of tools were made, bought, and sold here. After the Civil War, Manhattan had a fair share of toolmakers in residence. Josiah King, whose shop was at 383 Bowery (near where I live today), was a well respected planemaker of the time and typical of the crowd. Disston, the giant saw maker in Philadelphia, and Stanley, the colossus of New Britain, Connecticut, had huge factory complexes even then. King, like most New York City makers, was a small, local operation with a regional reputation rather than a national brand. Brooklyn had much larger factories than Manhattan did - up to fairly recent times Brooklyn was home to some serious manufacturing, though not hand tools. Even as late as World War II, The Master Rule Mfg. Co. Change - The End of an Era. 5 was making (among other things) their rather unusual straight extending "Interlox" carpenter's rule in Manhattan. I think their factory was on East 42nd Street on the East River, on land that was condemned and cleared in the late 1940's for the United Nations.

In any case, all that's gone now. Even stores that sold woodworking tools slowly closed up and moved. The giant machine tool district in Soho first became art studios and housing for artists, and then fancy condos and upscale stores. In time, getting quality woodworking tools in NYC became impossible. Garrett Wade, the pioneer in the revival of quality hand tools starting in the 1970's, finally closed its warehouse in New York and moved everything except their administrative offices to Cincinnati last year. We were the last place that carried anything. Now with our move to Brooklyn, for the first time in 300 years it will be impossible to by a Dovetail Saw, a quality Bench Chisel, or any specialist woodworking tools in Manhattan. Yes, all is not lost, we will be just a quick subway ride across the river, but an era has ended. It's especially poignant for me as a native Manhattanite with a lifelong interest in tools and social history. We didn't expect to be the last guys standing and now we're out of Manhattan too. A new era begins in Brooklyn...
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12/26/2008 michael
The Monitor was built in Brooklyn at the Navy Yards NOT Manhattan
thanks for the post.
Actually we are both right.
According to wikipedia

"Monitor's hull was built at the Continental Iron Works in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, New York, and the ship was launched there on 30 January 1862. The steam engines and machinery were constructed at the DeLamater Iron Works in Manhattan where 13th Street meets the Hudson River[2]"

John Ericsson's house was in Manhatten at what is not the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.
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