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J.UNDERHILL D.SIMMONS Broad Axe

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by the-accumulator, Nov 4, 2018.

  1. the-accumulator

    the-accumulator

    77
    Jan 24, 2008
    I recently featured this axe in the "It Followed Me Home" thread. Here it is all cleaned up and with a few surprises. As I got down through the rust patina, more markings appeared. I found "D. SIMMONS" and "WARRANTED" hiding in plain sight. I found lots of info about Daniel Simmons but very little about J. Underhill. I found no link between the two names, and the other Simmons marks I saw had "& Co" included in the mark. Can anyone shed light on the double marking?
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    I can't say that the handle is original, but it appears to be very old. It would take someone with more muscles than I have to swing this beauty all day long! T-A
     
    Nbrackett, A17, Yankee Josh and 2 others like this.
  2. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    My guess is that D. Simmons sourced the axe from J. Underhill, another axe manufacturer, then put the Simmons stamps on it (including the Warranted stamp, presumably meaning that it was warranted by Simmons).

    Some info about Josiah Underhill (a blacksmith) and Jesse Underhill (the son of Josiah)... Jesse Underhill was an 'enterprising and prominent' manufacturer of edge tools, employing about 12 men. Jesse's son, H.R. Underhill, was born in 1821. (H.R. Underhill's career in edge tool making is described further in the book linked below. Perhaps he continued using the J. Underhill brand stamp?)

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    Biographical Review: This Volume Contains Biographical Sketches of the Leading Citizens of Hampshire County, Massachusetts, Volume 1, 1895


    Some info about Daniel Simmons:
    https://www.facebook.com/Historical...iel-simmons-of-d-simmons-co-/498167230343134/
     
  3. the-accumulator

    the-accumulator

    77
    Jan 24, 2008
    Great info and much appreciated. I had seen the info about D.Simmons but not the Underhill article. Apparently Daniel Simmons was a very talented axe maker who built a company that employed as many as two hundred people. The Underhill article also describes a very talented axe maker. To confuse the matter, there were two Daniel Simmons, the man who founded D. Simmons & Co, and his nephew who worked in the business and was apparently involved with Lockport Edge Tools who took over Daniel, the elder's, interests after his death in 1860. The Underhill article mentions two J. Underhills, father and son, one who was an axe maker and the other a blacksmith. Your suggestion that my axe was made by Underhill for Simmons certainly sounds logical, but maybe it was the other way around?? Or maybe J. Underhill was an employee of D. Simmons?? I wish I could find information detailing some connection between the two names. Thanks for your input. T-A
     
  4. Square_peg

    Square_peg

    Feb 1, 2012
    I think this is right. But it's hard to say who was doing the warrantying.
     
    KiwiBloke likes this.
  5. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    My guess is based on (1) the reasoning that a company with more widespread marketing efforts could source some of its product line from a regional company that otherwise isn't distributing that far (a modern example from Italy is how Falci used to source some axes from Rinaldi, before Rinaldi put more efforts into the international market), and (2) the assumption that the deep stamping of "J. Underhill" was probably done at the factory, while the smaller shallow Simmons stamps (including the warranty stamp) could have been added later.
     
    crbnSteeladdict and Square_peg like this.
  6. the-accumulator

    the-accumulator

    77
    Jan 24, 2008
    You present a strong argument. Anything to be learned from the "D.Simmons" logo without the "&Co" following it? Maybe this axe was made early in Simmons's career when he had not yet built the company, and he hired some of the work out because he couldn't keep up with demand?? Lots of food for thought... Thanks for your interest and for sharing your thoughts and expertise. T-A
     
  7. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    According to this book from 1873, both the "D. Simmons" and "D. Simmons & Co." marks were still being used after Simmons died.

    page 43:
    "Mr. [Daniel] Simmons died in 1861, when the present [as of 1873] firm of Weed & Becker became the sole proprietors [Weed, Becker & Co.]
    page 45:
    "The axes of Weed & Becker, which still [as of 1873] bear the mark "D. Simmons," and "D. Simmons & Co." have been..."

    from The City of Cohoes: Its Past and Present History, and Future Prospects, Its Great Manufactories, 1873

    No expertise here, by the way. I'm learning as I go.
     
    crbnSteeladdict and junkenstien like this.
  8. the-accumulator

    the-accumulator

    77
    Jan 24, 2008
    So, if Daniel died in 1861 and Jesse Underhill died in 1860 (at 86 yrs old), we can probably assume that my axe was made no earlier than 1831 and no later than 1860. Do we know how late in his life Jesse was still making axes or, at least, how late his name was showing up on axes? Or maybe there is a reference somewhere to the time frame of when both the Underhill name and the Simmons name might have appeared together. What about the words "cast steel" and "warranted"? When were they likely to have been stamped on an axe? I think "cast steel' appeared on pocket knives as late as the about 1920. I'm guessing that "warranted" disappeared earlier than that. I think I read that "warranted" on a straight razor is most apt to be found on eighteenth century examples. What about the pattern of my axe? Does that help date it? The more answers I get, the more questions arise!! Thanks for helping me learn along with you. T-A
     
  9. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Some more details, the "J" in the "J. Underwood" might have been referring to either Jesse or his brother Jay (both being sons of Josiah, who died in 1822). Jay and Jesse went to Boston in 1822 to work for a Mr. Faxon, and the brothers took over the shop when Faxon died in 1824. They returned to Chester in 1826. Jay moved the machinery there from Boston and started his own shop in 1828, where he "ran four fires". Jay continued his business until he died in 1839.

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    ...
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    Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of ..., Volume 2
    edited by William Richard Cutter


    However, the "Cast Steel" stamp on the axe could indicate a production year later than 1839 when Jay died.
     
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  10. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Well, as I speculated earlier, since Jesse's son H.R. continued making edge tools after 1860 then perhaps he continued using the J. Underhill stamp, since it was a recognized brand? (This type of thing seems to have happened a lot in the histories of the various axe companies.) And the book from 1873 says that the "D. Simmons" stamp was still being used (in 1873). So, I wouldn't rule out that the axe could have been made after the Civil war years.

    Trying to find some surviving documentation of the Simmons-Underhill connection might be like searching for a needle in a haystack. It could be merely some purchase orders that were discarded. Researching the pattern could give some clues, though ideally a catalog or advertisement for D. Simmons could be eventually found...
     
  11. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
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  12. Square_peg

    Square_peg

    Feb 1, 2012
    If it were that old the body would be made of wrought iron. No, it was made after about 1870. I would guess closer to the turn of the century.
     
    Moonw likes this.
  13. the-accumulator

    the-accumulator

    77
    Jan 24, 2008
    So, if I got this right, an axe made before 1870 would likely have an iron frame with a steel bit welded into it, while an axe like mine is made completely of steel which makes it a later piece? I guess I won't learn if I don't ask questions. Thanks, T-A
     
  14. Square_peg

    Square_peg

    Feb 1, 2012
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  15. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Now I'm confused. I had the impression that a "cast steel" stamp could mean that the bit is made of cast steel, within an iron body.
    From an earlier thread:

    300Six wrote:
    "...perhaps we can get back onto the meaning of "cast steel" within the context of a late 1800s stamp. An antique axe that is stamped 'cast steel' denotes 1) the entire head is hammer or drop forged from a single piece of 'then-new-fangled process' (cast) steel, or: 2) traditional wrought iron has been supplanted by 'cast steel' for forging of the head but continues to insert higher grade steel for the bit or: 3) the entire head is formed via pouring molten steel into a casting. Which is it?"

    jake pogg replied:
    "300Six, i'm increasingly uncomfortable setting myself up as some sort of a know-it-all...:(
    But,i'd say that the meaning of latter--
    the meaning of "cast steel" within the context of a late 1800s stamp--
    ...would be (option 4): A wrought-iron body, with a "cast-steel" edge welded in.

    https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/help-with-identifying-an-antique-broad-axe-cast-steel.1563140/
     
  16. Square_peg

    Square_peg

    Feb 1, 2012
    But this axe doesn't have an iron body. It's clearly a steel body. With the shallow but uniform pitting on the axe it's obviously been fully rusted at some point. A wrought iron body would show up from that.
     
  17. Square_peg

    Square_peg

    Feb 1, 2012
    Yes, yours is completely made of steel but likely a composite of 2 steels, a mild steel body and a high carbon steel bit.
     
  18. jake pogg

    jake pogg

    686
    Dec 20, 2015
    Finally my silly internet connection allowed me to see these photos...Cool thread,thank you all,Steve's historic research is great as usual ,careful and thorough...
    This axe is most definitely a composite,a softer body with the steel edge and cap of poll welded on.You can see that on the 4th photo,on the close-up of poll.(3rd photo,of the back(unbeveled)side one may or may not discern the weld...it should be visible in person.Steel is always(almost:) darker;and it looks like it's fairly close to the edge. g. the tool is worn some).

    So the body of that axe was forged of a malleable,lower-C iron,that in itself wasn't heat-treatable as an edge material.Then it had a higher Carbon edge and poll-plate forge-welded on,that is for certain.

    But that's all we can say.I'm afraid that the nature of either of these alloys cannot be further specified,Nor,any dating done on this basis.
    Edges from higher-C containing steel were laminated onto tools well into 20th century(unto today,really if you consider carbide-tipped products and all bi-metal blades currently).
    Also,Wrought Iron is a slippery term to use,as it meant a number of slightly different things in different historic periods,often non-metallurgically specific;but yet sometimes very specific,like "Single(double,triple,et c. unto 5-times)-Refined Wrought iron",a very perticular Architectural grade...But there were many different kinds of iron used in tool building,and their designation was also diverse...Swedish iron,et c.

    But in a Very general sense,Square_peg is very right in that it was very different from Bessemer steel by being non-homogeneous.But for dating,again,it does very little if anything.
    Wrought iron was produced in the U.S. until 1969,when the last production ceased.
     
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  19. Agent_H

    Agent_H Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    First of all, I want to thank everyone who takes the time here to hunt archaic information on axes and makers here on the forums.
    Especially Steve Tall, for whom it seems to be effortless (being part machine probably helps :))

    Since D.Simmons & Co came up, what can be discerned from the markings on this axe?
    [​IMG]D.Simmons&Co by Agent Hierarchy

    [​IMG]D.Simmons&Co by Agent Hierarchy

    [​IMG]D.Simmons&Co by Agent Hierarchy

    I did read the trove of information presented in this thread but I am wondering if the "Cohoes, NY" would help determine a range of years. I guess, meaning was there somewhat of a gauged period in which the plant in Cohoes operated and the Simmons axes where marked with it.

    "Cast steel" and "Warranted" being present as well. I haven't had much time to forum (one of my favored pastimes) but I have been trying to catch up :thumbsup:
     
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