The drawback in the Hudson Bay pattern

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Square_peg, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. Alnamvet68


    Mar 26, 2013
    If you do the math, Charles Snow came on as a partner in 1896, at age 41. The Nealley & Co was founded in 1864, so 150 years (now 151) is correct for the Nealley portion of the company.
  2. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Precisely. And marketing makes it sound like Snow & Nealley have been making axes (incl. Hudson Bay axes?) for 150 years.
  3. rjdankert


    Mar 10, 2011
    From the link halfaxe provided below (my italics):
    [​IMG]Edward Bowdoin Nealley
    ". . .
    Charles Snow and Edward Bowdoin Nealley saw a growing demand for durable, high quality tools. They opened a shipping chandlery in 1864, and thus Snow & Nealley was born. With Edward Nealley managing operations, the company quickly became very successful. During Edward's 33-year tenure, Snow & Nealley introduced the popular axes and mauls that would become the cornerstone of the Snow & Nealley brand.
    . . ."
    From The Weekly Underwriter, Volume 73. 1905:

    [​IMG] Nealley chandlery&f=false

    So I'm wondering: 1.)What year was S & N founded? 2.) If axes were introduced during Edwards tenure, when?

    Also found this in an article from
    In that 2003 article Christopher Hutchins who bought S & N in 1998 is quoted as saying:

    “The ax business, although not profitable, is what Snow and Nealley has been all about since 1869,” Hutchins said. “The axes these days aren’t made to be axes. They’re made more to be gifts. They’re presents. So I think I can reposition the ax business.”

    Last edited: Dec 18, 2015
  4. M3mphis


    Jan 13, 2011
    My apologies, folks. I thought we were talking about the Chinese ones. Disregard my previous post.
  5. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    The above 'information' that includes the line "Charles Snow and Edward Bowdoin Nealley saw a growing demand for durable, high quality tools. They opened a shipping chandlery in 1864" originally appears in Snow & Nealley's website in the year 2000. Seems like that 'history' is more about marketing than about historical accuracy. As mentioned earlier, Charles Snow was only 9 years old in 1864.

    The second source (Weekly Underwriter) states that Nealley returned to Bangor in 1867 (not 1864) to start a ship chandlery business. I've seen other sources that say the same thing. One source says that "over the years [after his return in 1867] several partners joined the firm known as Smith & Nealley, Hinks & Nealley, and finally, Snow & Nealley."

    As mentioned earlier, Snow reportedly became a partner in 1896, and Snow & Nealley reportedly started manufacturing axes in 1919.
  6. joshiecole


    Apr 29, 2012
    This is interesting! I haven't found much in the way of reviews of the new made in US offerings. I suspect that's because it's taking time for the idea that they're back in the US to percolate round the forumsphere.
  7. Alnamvet68


    Mar 26, 2013
    This is correct...on several forums, when the subject of Snow & Nealley comes up, many continue to post that the heads are Chinese and the facility is in Bangor. While there may be old stock still left (most on eBay and Amazon, with a few unscrupulous internet dealers), it would be wise to call a legitimate dealer first to insure that what they're selling is indeed a made in the USA axe, as evidenced by the rollmark/stamp on the head, and the Smyrna, Maine imprint on the handle.
  8. Operator1975


    Sep 24, 2010
    I will be getting after the new year to test out and see what it's all about, see how it does, etc.
  9. rjdankert


    Mar 10, 2011
    I have been trying to put together a timeline for S&N Co. Do you still have that source? I am finding conflicting information for some dates.

    For example: "the company started manufacturing axes in 1919"
    From Bangor Daily News Oct 19, 1977:,1107546


    From 1913 advertisement of Snow & Nealley as mfr of axes.
    Maine Register, State Year-book and Legislative Manual Tower Publishing Company 1913:

    [​IMG] nealley axe pick pole&f=false

    thanks, Bob
  10. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    For the following timeline, I disregarded the marketing department's version of the company history, and instead relied on newspaper and journal articles, biographies, and business directory listings from that era. I will elaborate on the sources in a later post.


    Edward B. Nealley was born in Maine in 1837, but came to Bangor for the first time in 1867. (He previously attended college in Brunswick, Maine, then lived in Iowa, Washington, and Montana.) His business in Bangor was primarily a ships chandlery. It was first named "Smith, Nealley & Company. This was afterwards changed to Hincks & Nealley and later became Nealley & Company. Still more recently the business was conducted under the style of the Snow & Nealley Company, in which Mr. Nealley occupied the office of treasurer..." [Information and quotes from the book Maine: A History, 1919]

    1867 - Neally comes to Bangor for first time and starts Smith, Nealley & Company.
    Year? - Business name changed to Hincks & Nealley
    1870 - Charles Snow (age 14 or 15) begins working for Nealley.
    [1877, 1882, 1883, 1884 listings found for Hincks & Nealley]
    Year? - Business name changed to Nealley & Company
    [1888 listing found for Nealley & Company:
    Nealley & Co., Dealers in Cordage, Chan-
    dlery, Chains, Anchors, Raft Rope, Lath Yarns,
    Duck, Yellow Sheathing Metal, Wire Rope,
    Paints, Oils, Tar, Pitch, Oakum, etc., Nos. 20
    and 22 Broad Street.
    [Note: no mentions of axes in this 1888 list of products.]
    Year? - Business name changed to Snow & Nealley Company
    [1894 - earliest reference I've found to Snow & Nealley Co.]
    1896 - Snow becomes partner of company, according to Bangor Daily News.
    1905 - Death of Edward Nealley
    1910 - Death of Charles Snow
    1913 - Snow & Nealley Co. advertisement mentions "manufacturers of axes" among other products.
    1919 - Snow & Nealley started manufacturing axes, according to the Bangor Daily News.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2015
  11. jake pogg

    jake pogg

    Dec 20, 2015

    I've read virtually an entire thread,and was surprised not to see any mention of what i thought were pretty commonly held views:

    The Hudson Bay Co. did not,of course,produce their own axes.The contracts for the large parties of axes were put out pretty much for bid,and commonly went to the poorer,South and Estern-ish European states like Serbia and Slovakia.I believe i've also read about Italy,and even Sardinia(For the obvious reason-cheapness!:)

    The early trade in axes was random,as in the axes were not intended for use as tools,but as status trinketry(which was about right,as the Chippewayan and other tribes in those areas did not really have an analog for the axe,they got by without.Eventually,like the rest of us,getting used to using whatever was at hand,but the axe and the "tomahawk" continuing to serve primarily as status objects).

    Therefore,the axes could be as cheap,and as nastily made(many were not even steeled),and no one knew the difference anyhoo.

    Coming out of the economies and the climate of the countries of origin many of these early trade axes were descending from the agricultural tools(of course),often being some variant of a fruit-orchard trimming kind of an axe,those being poll-less(ease of manufacture),and smallish,(ease of transport to the Colonies),by nature of their original intended use.

    Now,if i may go into conjecture,this is how i always thought of it:All the North American axes (stemming from whatever past) have developed this fairly uncommon,if not in many instances unique,feature-a very skinny eye.Personally i believe that it was motivated by the size of the trees in the New World(everything like that was Long gone back in Europe).After all,it is seriously annoying hitting the sides of your axe inside the V-notch,say.A White pine 6' across is not exactly an apple branch...
    (Also,maybe as a secondary cause,it's the availability of hickory and white ash in N.America,for hafts,their toughness;many European hardwoods are brittle,and the softer woods require more volume inside the eye).

    So this is how i see the evolution of a HB type:Your typical Slovenian or whatever "souvenir" peddled by HBC was the only game in town,and soon whoever used an axe got a hang of it,then got downright good with it.
    The axe was of a modest,compact weight/size,and was indeed handy for someone moving about a lot.

    The eye,that started this discussion,was i think originally the Compression eye.And that being somewhat of a hassle,was soon modified to be handled in a conventional nowadays manner-wedged.

    Here's a decent example:

    Now the compression principle is quite a different animal physics-wise,wider,rounder,not weakened by being kerfed for the wedge,(usually has a sloppy inch or so sticking out the top,too).
    A good example would be a Bulgarian country axe,that usually has a giant beard,and a scary-shallow eye(and a very long haft to boot).But between the big,fad D-shaped volume of wood inside the eye,i don't think that they have much problems with the head coming loose...

    Now i do believe that (most) of the above is (largely)correct!
    Again,i was surprised to not see this mentioned,but there was tons of really good information here,and i really appreciate people taking the time to set it all down.
    Thank you.
    I am sorry if this will rub anyone wrong in a way of going against the accepted romance and myth of the "frontier",and want to say that i myself am a romantic!
    (Or i wouldn't have spent the last 20+ years river-ratting up and down the Yukon...I really like the HB shape myself,and so does everyone on the River,summer,in the boat,or winter,on the snomachine(where it has it's own custom mount).Many oldtimers would literally not take a step outside without their HB/boy's axe in their hand,but also these people are going away,and these axes with them,new generations,new technologies...
    The history of the HBC itself is tough to romanticise,the records being largely intact,they were not exactly the philantropists that many would see them as,but cold,ruthless institution,the scourge of the country and it's people.But that too is not so simple...
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2015
  12. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Sources of the previous information:

    Biography of Edward B. Nealley from
    Maine: A History, Biographical, 1919, p. 127-129

    Description of Nealley & Co., formerly Hincks & Nealley.:
    Leading Business Men of Bangor, 1888, page 62

    Hincks & Nealley listing, under 'Ship Stores and Chandlery':
    Maine State Year-book and Legislative Manual, for the Year 1883-84, page 490

    Obituary of Edward B. Nealley:
    Obituary Record of the Graduates of Bowdoin College, 1911, page 349

    Obituary of Charles L. Snow:
    Paint, Oil and Drug Review, Volume 52, Van Ness Publishing Company, 1911, page 50

    Local newspaper article:
    Ax business booms at Snow & Nealley, by Dennis Miller, Bangor Daily News, October 19, 1977, page 26

    Another reference to Nealley moving to Bangor in 1867:
    The Maine Historical Magazine, Volume 8, 1894, page 121

    Another bio of Nealley, from 1894:
    History of Bath and Environs, Sagadahoc County, Maine: 1607-1894, page 436

    1894 reference to "Snow & Nealley":
    Annual list of merchant vessels of the United States, Volume 26, 1894, page xxviii
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2015
    Hairy Clipper likes this.
  13. highpointforge


    Jan 6, 2007
    I have been trying to carve a hickory handle for at least a year for my S&N Hudson Bay 1.25lb head. I broke the handle on some tough wood and really miss it in my rotation. Anyone good at hanging handmade handles ?
  14. Oxbow


    Feb 5, 2015
    I have to say, the above statement is nonsense. A tomahawk is a lousy woodchopping tool compared to a felling axe, and a tomahawk/trade axe made from wrought iron would make an even worse chopping tool when so compared. But compared to a stone celt it is a GIANT LEAP forward out of the stone age, over the copper and bronze ages into the Iron Age. A shitty steel-less trade axe would have (and did) revolutionize the material culture of the Eastern and Northern Woodlands. Likewise the Amazonian rain-forest. The idea that Native Americans would just hang on to the damn things as status objects when they were such obviously superior tools for cutting wood in cultures that LIVED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WOODS is ridiculous.
  15. littleknife


    Nov 29, 2000
    Actually, Jake’s statement makes not only sense, but in a way is also correct - at least if not taken as a generalization.
    For many tribes the unusual and novel metal trade axe, which at least at the beginning was not universally available or easy to obtain, was a status symbol too. Some were likely used, but many were primarily objects of social status. There is a reason pipe hawks were not used in Europe but were coveted by the natives in North America. Also, there is a reason that brass hawks were successfully traded even in the 19th century, when iron and steel ones could be obtained too (for a higher price).

    That said, even the lousy trade axes/hatchets made useable weapons and tools for butchering game or processing kindling.

    This idea is not so ridiculous, if you realize that what is considered “obvious” in a given society depends on its traditions and way of life.
    For a settler/colonist from Europe the woods were an obstacle to clear for farming and source of building material used in a European way. Rapid clearing of forest land required uses of axes rather than fire, because frequently the forest land was claimed by many families, some already with existing wooden buildings, and forest fires are impossible to control efficiently. Also, some of the cut wooden material could be utilized for building purposes and some as fuel. The types of crops settlers used required large areas, where ploughs and beasts of burden could be used to prepare the soil for planting.

    In contrast, most native tribes living in the eastern woods lived in less permanent settlements, using different building structures, which did not rely so much on heavy timber. Their farming practice also did not require large open areas, since they could grow their corn, squash and beans in small clearings, and large trees were not necessarily removed. There are plenty of historical records to show that most native tribes tried to continue they traditional way of life even after encountering the European settlers, and most were forced to live in permanent settlements (in this case reservations) only after they were defeated. This could easily explain, why the trade axe was as much a status symbol for them as a tool, despite its “obvious” superiority as a tool for cutting wood.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2015
  16. jake pogg

    jake pogg

    Dec 20, 2015


    There's a tee-shirt that i've seen in my village a couple people wear that states:"When the White man first came here,each man had many wives,who did virtually all the work,while the man hunted and fished all day...And the White man thought that he could improve on that system!" (...or something of that sort:)

    The reason my argument seems ridiculous is that you ASSUME that the chopping(cross-cutting of a large section,more or less),is in fact necessary,FOR(mind you)the persecution of whatever material culture,"the pursuit of happiness...",et c.

    Well,the FACT is,that no such thing was necessary...They were pretty darn successful material culture without metal at all(copper,as a religious object,just for it's "cool factor").

    Living IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WOODS :)does not imply needing to clearcut every stinking one of them there trees!Yes,do take a close look at the Amazon rainforest!(How would you like to work in one of them logging camps?But again,i can maybe see the appeal of cheap coke,and chearer 11-year old whore...Nah,i can't,sorry,but to each his own...)

    The terms "Iron Age","stone -",et c. do Not actually mean what you'd like to imply.(They're entirely Relative(to a given culture/time),specific,professional terms that the archaeologists came up with,for needs more complex that you or i would easily grasp(pardon my assumption of your informedness,as judged from your statement,my own education ended in 6th grade...)

    There was never that linear progression,stone-bronze-iron,it's VASTLY more intricate.

    The egg-headed Science itself is rather poorly informed of the tool-usage specifically(they're good about keeping an open mind,though,which is a beginning,anyway).

    A good example may be the stone-edged tools of the Paleo-eskimo cultures of Pt.Hope,Alaska.Micro-blades,inserted and glued into the wooden or antler matrix,to anyone in the Trades,would immediately bring to mind that Home Depot shelf with the carbide-tipped blades...

    Without quoting a (longish :) reading list here,just believe me when i say that THOSE PEOPLE GOT STUFF DONE!:)(that's the stuff that THEY needed done,not Henry Ford or Andrew Mellon...

    It's not the axe,the difference is between the Nomadic Hunter/gatherer,and the sedentary Agrarian culture.It was like oil and water,and we all know who got the best of whom...Which only means that.

    With utmost respect,Jake
  17. littleknife


    Nov 29, 2000
    Jake, great post and the last few sentences sum up nicely what I meant to say too. :thumbup: :thumbup:
  18. markv


    Sep 8, 2004
    "Many oldtimers would literally not take a step outside without their HB/boy's axe in their hand,but also these people are going away,"
    pretty much sums up my technique with a hoe during gardening season.
    i actually read most of the vital arguments in this thread. good stuff.
  19. jake pogg

    jake pogg

    Dec 20, 2015
    Gentlemen,thank you for the vote of confidence.I swear by all that's holy that i'm not JUST talking about all these things...

    The facts,too,should be (substantially)correct.

    And again,i myself Love axes,their history,their ins and outs...I forged more than one of them darn things(uff...).

    And i'm no stranger to wiping out large stands of old-growth trees,either,(and rafting them down to where i do all sorts of things to them...(Alas,never with an axe...I just got done building a 1200' sq cabin,and i'm not sure if a single axe was even on the site... )

    But like many rural people i do read a lot,and can't help putting certain things together between what i read and what i do,and what goes on around me...

    With respect to all,Jake
  20. Square_peg

    Square_peg Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 1, 2012

    It was the discovery of North American hickory that enabled the creation of smaller eyes. No European wood could hold up to the impacts of wood cutting like hickory can. Still today most European axes have larger 'D'-shaped eyes and ash hafts. Ash is good handle wood - just not as good as hickory. Tool design has to take that into account. Socketed eyes are one way they dealt with the lack of excellent haft wood.

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