GTD Makes John Grant's Invention Known
Thread-Cutting Gadget Turns Greenfield Into Vital Industrial Center
The world "automobiles" is synonymous with Detroit, just as "steel"
is with Pittsburgh or "furniture" with Grand Rapids. And in the world's
tool industry, taps and dies are associated with Greenfield, Mass., in the same
type of thought association.
This distinction is due to a man named John J. Grant who alighted from a train
here in 1872 as a stranger to the town. He was not a native of the rural village
which he helped make famous and he did not remain long enough to share in the
industrial expansion that resulted from the patent he brought for a revolutionary
threading tool. Grant was just a machinist who had an idea how to cut threads
on a piece of metal instead of "jamming" them on. But he made Greenfield
a vital part of the machine age.
Grant was a Northampton machinist who toiled for years over his invention before
considering it ready for manufacturing use. There is little information available
about him nor has it ever been revealed why he happened to choose Greenfield
as the place to manufacturer his threading tool. But Greenfield's modern industrial
leaders and every Greenfielder who holds the town dear are indeed grateful for
the fate that brought John J. Grant here with a patent that was to establish
Greenfield as the world's largest center for the manufacture of precision threading
Grant set up shop in the B. B. Noyes factory on Hope Street now occupied by
the Wells Tool Company. American Photographic Corporation and the former Noyes
foundry which is currently operating by Production Machine Company. From this
humble start has developed the Greenfield Tap and Die Corporation which now
provides employment for more than 2,000 Franklin County men and women and supplies
markets around the globe.
Not long after establishing himself in his Hope Street shop, Grant obtained
the financial backing of Solon L. Wiley and Charles P. Russell who established
the firm of Wiley and Russell. They began their operations in a building which
stood near the site of the Greenfield Tap and Die Corporation present Plant
1. This building had previously been occupied by the John Russell Cutlery Company
which had transferred to Turners Falls where water power was beginning to offer
a beckoning hand to new industries.
The first products of the new Wiley and Russell firm were taps and dies. Grant's
die consisted of two adjustable half-discs of metal threaded on the inside and
set into a metal frame or collet. To match the work of the "jamb plate"
the dies cost 16 times more than the old "jamb plate" which had been
used for cutting threads. From this first threading die sprang new designs and
improvements, many of them by men whose first connection with the tool industry
were with Wiley and Russell. Many of these same men were later to establish
their own rival concerns or work as responsible members of some of the succeeding
tap and dies companies.
Because the Grant tool was a more expensive than the old "jamb plate"
it was necessary to develop a screw plate assortment of taps and dies, called
"Lightning" because it allowed the tool to be used by hand because
of the speed. Another early development was the "machine relieved process
by which the threaded portion of the tap was relieved back to the cutting edge"
as a means of reducing friction and minimizing breakage. The tap produces a
thread inside a hole in metal.)
Two years after starting their new plant, Wiley and Russell employed 40 men
and the owners of the firm at that time bought Grant's interest in his patent.
That same year, 1874, the Wiley and Russell Manufacturing Company was created
and soon afterward many skilled machinists, with the ability of modern engineers
and tool designers, began an exodus to form their own companies. Some of these
independent firms were among those later merged to form the Greenfield Tap and
Die Corporation of 1912 or absorbed by the GTD during its period of expansion.
Grant was the first to depart from the Wiley and Russell Manufacturing Company
and in 1873 he organized the present tap and die branch of the Pratt and Whitney
Manufacturing Company in Hartford. Leaving about the same time was Fred Gardner
who helped develop the tap and die business of the Charles H. Besley Manufacturing
Company and eventually opened his own firm, the Gardner Machine Company in Beloit,
The year 1873 saw Edward F. and Virginius J. Reece withdraw from Wiley and
Russell's employ to manufacture their own brand of screwplates under the name
of Reece Brothers. Having three patents of their own, the Reece brothers established
their firm where the present Bicknell-Thomas plant is located at the corner
of Wells and Devens Streets. Edward sold his interest in the firm to his brother
in 1889 but was forced to take over the entire plant upon the latter's illness.
The name of the firm was changed to E. F. Reece Company but by 1895 employed
only six men.
In 1901 the company merged with Wells Brothers who also left the Wiley and
Russell Manufacturing Company. The Wellses, Fred E. and Frank O., with the help
of their father, Elisha, in 1878 began to manufacture their own type of die
under the name of Wells Brothers and their original location in a small wooden
building a short distance above the Wiley and Russell plant. Their product,
now know as the "Little Giant", was the first adjustable die.
Fire destroyed their building shortly after they organized and in 1879, they
were joined by Franklin E. Snow of Chicago who was born in Griswoldville in
1849. He proved to be a real spark plug in the Wells Brothers firm and his sales
ability was instrumental in the "Little Giant" being accepted throughout
the world. With his arrival the company was reorganized as Wells Brothers and
Company and after moving again, in 1889 it occupied the building on Sanderson
Street which is now a part of the GTD group.
About 1900, F. E. Wells left the concern and with his son, Fred W. Wells, established
the F. E. Wells and Son Company, with an original line of the "Economy"
pipe tools. It also turned out lathes, threading machinery and grinding tools.
Beginning with 5,000 square feet this firm had expanded to 53,000 square feet
by 1912 and included the business and some of the equipment of the F. E. Reece
Company which had been merged with Wells Brothers in 1910.
The new company added to its plants and had a capitalization of $90,000 when
it formed the nucleus of the GTD organization in 1912.
Another Wiley and Russell veteran to establish his own firm was A. J. Smart,
who served as plant superintendent from 1873 to 1906. Using several of his own
inventions he formed the A. J. Smart Company and turned out the "Green
River" and "Acorn" dies which he invented.
The most significant date in the history of the Greenfield Tap and Die Corporation
is April 1, 1912, when the organization of this company took place. It involved
the assets and sales outlets of the Wiley and Russell Manufacturing Company
and Wells Brothers Company.
Contributing his legal talents to the formation of GTD was the late Owen D.
Young, head of a Boston law firm and for many years chairman of the board of
General Electric. He drew up the legal language and conditions which made the
creation of GTD possible.
Principal figures were F. O. Wells of Wells Brothers GTD's first president
and Frederick H. Payne, the latter being unfamiliar with manufacturing activities
but having a background of financial experience in Boston. Plants included in
this merger were the Wiley and Russell Plant on Deerfield Street, now GTD Plant
No. 1, the Wells Brothers Plant on Sanderson Street, now Plant 2, and the Wells
Brothers Canadian affiliate at Galt.
The same year the A. J. Smart Manufacturing Company joined the GTD and the
Hope Street plant was utilized for specialized production work until the early
20's when the equipment was moved to Plant 1 for purposed of consolidation.
At that time the Ai rd-Don Company signed a long term lease on the Smart building.
War Brings Expansion
The first World War gave the GTD an opportunity to prove its capacity in producing
tools needed in the war effort and was the start of an expansion program that
helped make the GTD what it is today.
Three more companies were added in 1917- F. E. Wells and Son Company, the offset
of Wells Brothers, Nutter and Barnes Company of Hinsdale, N.H and the Bickford
Machine Company. In 1918 the new administration building on Sanderson Street
was completed. The following year F. O. Wells one of the organizers sold his
holdings and withdrew from the presidency and board of directors. He was succeeded
by Payne as president and Francis G. Echols as a director.
Following the first World War the company adopted a policy of adding new lines
in order to overcome the decline in production demands during the peacetime
adjustment period. In 1920 GTD entered the twist drill business and acquired
the Lincoln Twist Drill Company of Taunton which it moved here. Internal grinders
were also turned out by GTD for awhile, following the purchase of the Greenfield
Machine Company on Haywood Street and the Morgan Grinder Company of Worcester.
GTD later abandoned this line.
During the 1920's the GTD enjoyed the prosperity felt by other industries.
As the depression approached, the presidency was vacated by Frederick Payne
who was appointed assistant secretary of war under Herbert Hoover.
Depression Hits Hard
The depression struck GTD hard and the few years preceding 1934 saw a sharp
dip in production, a drop in the number of employes and wages paid them and
curtailment of the sales program. The depression made it necessary to close
many of the company's buildings and in June 1931, the U. S. Department of Agriculture
signed a lease to occupy the vacant Riddell street plants, which contained 65,000
square feet of floor space.
Slumping business made it impossible for GTD to pay dividends on its cumulative
eight per cent preferred stock and these unpaid dividends, reached nearly a
million dollars, a handicap that hung over the head of this tap and die organization
as it attempted to revive from the depression doldrums.
In 1932 the late Atty. Charles N. Stoddard assumed presidency of the GTD and
in 1933 the current president Donald G. Millar, and friends bought controlling
interest in the firm from two New York banking organizations. Millar carried
out a reorganization of the capital setup of GTD by funding the unpaid preferred
dividends. A new issue was exchanged for the preferred stock and the dividend
arrears, were met by a new issue of second preferred stock, junior to the first
preferred stock but rated ahead of the common stock.
Following this the company entered a period of restoration and Col. Frederick
H. Payne in 1935 returned again as president. The directors included Millar,
John K. Olyphant, James J. Tunney, William D. Bailey and Grant Keehn, all of
New York City.
Regaining strength, the GTD in 1936 annexed the J. M. Carpenter Tap and Die
Company of Detroit, in operation since 1870, and in 1937 it bought the Russell
Manufacturing Company on Carpenter Lane, started by the sons of Charles P. Russell
of the Wiley and Russell plant.
Gage Plant Added
In 1940 as war orders began to arrive in large quantity, the company followed
the advice of the War Department and built its new Sanderson Street wing which
provided another 40,000 square feet of space for gage production. This was financed
with the help of the government at a cost of $1,000,000 in keeping with federal
policy of helping industry to expand for the benefit of the war and defense
efforts. Since acquired by GTD this building is one of the most modern of its
type being completely air conditioned.
During World War II the Greenfield Tap and Die Corporation operated round the
clock, Sundays and holidays included to keep pace with the demands being placed
on it by thousands of American factories requiring GTD's gages and threading
instruments for war production. Without the threading and cutting tools turned
out by GTD, the machines needed to manufacture guns, tanks and other important
weapons could not have been built rapidly enough to keep Allied forces on the
move in Europe and the Pacific.
At the conclusion of World War II, GTD had been awarded five Army-Navy E's
for excellence in production and for meeting the delivery schedules set up by
the War Department in order to keep the war machinery rolling.
In 1943 the Galt., Ont. plant, a holdover from the Wells Brothers acquisition
was sold to Canadian interests which still manufacture taps and dies there and
serve as GTD's Canadian sales representatives.
Buys Geometric Tool
In December of 1944 GTD acquired Geometric Tool Company of New Haven which
had been in business 50 years when it was purchased by GTD. This organization
which employs nearly 300 added a broader line of larger taps and dies in the
GTD list of items.
In 1946 the Detroit plant purchased in 1936 was brought here and consolidated
principally with operations at the No. 2 plant. This unit was moved mainly because
of the progress in air travel which brought GTD closer to the automotive market
in the Detroit area and for other advantages resulting from consolidation of
operations under one roof. GTD continues to do a large amount of business with
the automotive industry, largely through the connections that existed between
the Detroit organization and auto manufacturers.
In May, 1948 GTD purchased Ampco Twist Drill Company of Jackson, Mich., which
was moved here soon afterward. This added a line of twist drills, reamers and
end mills which had been purchased from other sources and merchandised by GTD
with its other lines up to that time. Bringing Ampco here made it possible to
hire another 150 employers at a time when he post-war slump in sales had left
many Franklin County men without jobs.
Nearly 2,000 stockholders own 250,000 shares of capital stock in GTD. Between
10 and 20 per cent of GTD's business is in foreign markets and the firm is represented
virtually all over the world. Its sales offices and warehouses in this country
are located at New York City, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles. Fifty salesmen
of GTD are either on the road or assigned to these sales offices.
Local buildings once occupied by GTD include the USDA buildings on Sanderson
and Riddell Streets, the building on Haywood Street now occupied by Minot Printing
and Binding Company, the Ai rd-Don building on Hope Street and a Riddell Street
building now occupied by Hartwin Motor Sales. These plants were vacated in keeping
with the GTD policy of consolidating its facilities under one roof for the sake
of economy and efficiency.
In addition to Plants 1 and 2 GTD still uses a shop building on Riddell Street
for repairing company machines and making some of the smaller machine equipment.
In action it operates a hammer forging plant in Turners Falls and a box shop
on Chapman Street.
In 1915, three years after the formation of GTD the company employed 710 persons
and it reached an all-time peak of 3,558 during World War II, plus another 400
at the Detroit plant. At present the employment total is nearly 2,000.
Employees have been represented since 1941 by the UE Local 274. GTD has one
of the most generous employes fringe benefits' programs in the tool manufacturing
field, providing annual benefits which cost GTD more than $1,000,000 in aggregate
Wide Fringe Benefits
These benefits include a group life insurance program which costs GTD an average
of $60,000 per year, group accident and sickness insurance which costs approximately
$250,000 a year, paid holidays which represent more than $160,000 a year, paid
vacations at $287,000 annually and numerous other benefits that are considered
routine by GTD.
GTD and the union last year worked out a unique retirement pension plan into
which the company deposited $250,000 as the initial sum, to be followed in succeeding
years by heavy outlays. This is considered an outstanding feature and is unusual
among industrial organizations comparable to the GTD.
The GRD has also demonstrated an interest in the education of sons and daughters
of its employes, having established four scholarships last year for these young
people. Judges for the college scholarship program, which allows $500 a year
for four years, are Deerfield Academy Headmaster, Frank L. Boyden, Greenfield
School Supt. Frederick W. Porter and Mantague Supt. Arthur E. Burke.
1,100 in Services
During the war a total of 1,1000 employes left the concern to enter military
service, a contribution the firm was wiling to offer despite the difficulties
of obtaining skilled labor during those years.
In the interest of national security a company police force, similar to the
precautions taken during the last war, has been set up again under direction
of James J. Burns, former Greenfield police sergeant who also headed the World
War II security organization.
Basic items manufactured by GTD are taps, dies, gages, drills, reamers, end
mills, pipe tools, screw plates and screw extractors.
Donald G. Millar, president is a native of Westwood, N. J., and before buying
into GTD he was a vice-president and director of American International Corporation
of New York City, an investment trust firm, where he had served since his graduation
from Brown University in 1920. Millar was elected to the presidency in 1937.
Among the other men responsible for the administrative functions of GTD are
Harry L. Bill, vice-president and general manager; Leo F. Hunderup, vice-president
and assistant general manager; William J. Eberlein, vice-president in charge
of sales; John B. Roys, clerk, treasurer and secretary; Earl Koonz, works manager;
Charles J. Sullivan, Plant 1 superintendent; John Watson, Plant 2 superintendent;
Raymond Helbig, advertising manager; James W. Harrington, with the firm for
more than 40 years, purchasing agent; Oscar E. Koehler, chief engineer; Glen
Stimpson, gage engineer; Richard Badertscher, chief of the field engineers;
E. A. Enderle, production manager; George Burrer, personnel manager; William
L. Nielson, export manager; Louis Edes, service manager; Robert Bibby, office
manager; Stuart Sinclair, metallurgist and Allen Carruthers, research engineer.
GTD is a ten-million-dollar organization which has risen from a little wooden
building along the Deerfield River to its present position of prominence in
worldwide commerce. Last year its sales surpassed $18,000,000.
The success story of the GTD is one that is shared by the people of Greenfield
and Franklin County whose lives are a part of GTD and whose hands help make
GTD products the top quality they are.