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GTD Makes John Grant's Invention Known Around World

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 tools.

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, Wisc.

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.

Divisions Consolidated

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 form.

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.

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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This 1953 newspaper article from the Greenfield Recorder-Gazette in Greenfield, Massachusetts, underscores the role John Grant and the Greenfield Tap & Die Corporation played in helping to make Greenfield a vital part of the machine age. His invention, a revolutionary tap & die, established Greenfield as the world's largest center of the manufacture of precision threading tools. With the financial backing of Solon Wiley and Charles Russell, the three men established the firm of Wiley and Russell in 1872, and in 1874, Wiley and Russell purchased Grant's interest in his patent, and the Wiley and Russell Manufacturing Company was created. Soon after, many skilled machinists, with the ability of modern engineers and tool designers, left the company to form their own companies. Some of these independent firms were among those later merged to form the Greenfield Tap & Die Corporation (GTD) in 1912. In 1873, Grant organized the present tap & die branch of the Pratt and Whitney Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. World War II (WWII) gave GTD an opportunity to prove its capacity in producing tools needed in the war effort; it was the peak of economic times for the company.


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"GTD Makes John Grant's Invention Known Around World" article from Greenfield Recorder-Gazette newspaper

publisher   Greenfield Recorder-Gazette
date   Jun 9, 1953
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
width   9.0"
height   7.25"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Periodicals/Newspaper
accession #   #L06.012

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See Also...

"America's Entire Strength Is Now Concentrated on Our War Effort" ad for GTD from Greenfield Recorder-Gazette newspaper

Whitworth Hand Tap & Die set made by Greenfield Tap and Die Corporation during WWII

Go and No-Go Thread and Plug Gages made by Greenfield Tap and Die Corporation during WWII

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