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10-09-2006, 08:17 PM #1
I collect Prentice/ss/s related items and one line of distraction is currently the Prentiss Vise Co. I've got a few old catalogs and a number of invoices and ads for this company. Based on that info, I've determined that the Prentiss Vise Co. sprang from the Hall Manufacturing Co. around 1880 and was in operation until at least 1940. They were based in New York City, and had manufacturing plants in Watertown, NY, Little Falls, NY, and Meriden, CT. The person who originally patented this vise was Mason Prentiss, of White Creek, NY, born around 1819. He was a gunsmith early in his life, and wound up working for Hall Mfg. where he developed the vise.
I'm hoping that people on this forum might have some additional information on this company. Dispite their 60+ years in existance, there is very little information available.
I plan to assemble the information I've got into a webpage at some point. and have set up a Yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/prentissvise/) to focus discussions on these vises and history of the company.
10-10-2006, 12:58 PM #2
I have no history but I do have a Prentice #510 vise. It is an excellent heavy vise with a large screw and huge rectangle tounge [I'm sure thats not the correct term] on the moving jaw. It is a very solid heavy vise for a 5". Is the company related to the Reed Prentice company? I had a RP lathe in one of my shops and it was an excellent machine, very well built and accurate.
10-10-2006, 03:24 PM #3
I just seem to collect vises in particular, and I'll have to check out how many of this brand I have.
I have no info on them, but I could check out some of my old machinery supply books/catalogs and see what they had for sale back in the day, and if they have any pertinent info.
Along these lines, I went to an auction this weekend, waited for about 4 hours for them to get thru all the house stuff- doilys, salt and pepper shakers, furniture, china, dishes, knick knacks, and all that worthless (to me) CRAP to get to the garage/tool stuff and killed all day. I was so damn mad.
Today I learned I missed an estate of a deceased farmer that same day while I was at this in-town auction. Used to be a railroad employee. The person told me that there was a big railroad sized vise, with a big bench, and the whole mess(with 2 more big benches they couldn't get a bid on) went for 50$.
I did a lot of phone calling and detective work and finally found out who bought the vise at the auction, turns out to be a friend of mine. I am gonna go scope it out and see if it is as big as I was told and see if I can't trade him out of it!
10-10-2006, 04:01 PM #4
I too have a Prentiss vise. Mine is a 3&1/2 inch 25 lb. machinist vise, marked Pretiss, Meridian Conn. I expect this was made some time in the 1930's. Mine came from an auction in Covington, KY. I reground the jaws to clean them up a little and the rest of the vise is in excellent condition. A classic old vise.
Perk in Cincinnati
10-10-2006, 09:18 PM #5
I went to the shop at home to check my vise again, I says Prentiss Bulldog No. 516 New York. On the moveable jaw it also is cast 516 and under it is 528. I also have a Reed Mfg. co. vise, Erie PA. Cast in are Pat. dates of 1908, 1912 and 1914. So again I wonder if these two are what formed Reed Prentiss or is that someone totally different.
10-10-2006, 09:40 PM #6
The prentiss' in the lathe companies was 'Prentice' not the 'prentiss' of the vise manufacturer, I think,.
10-14-2006, 02:36 PM #7
Thanks for all the posts and info! The Reed-Prentice Company was a different company from the Prentiss Vise Co. (different spellings, and I'm pretty sure there was no connection). There were a number of Prentiss/Prentice companies that manufactured tools and machinery .. I've got random info on many of them and at some point will track down the history of them all. If you've got info on any of them, I'd appreciate hearing about it!
There is the possibility that the Prentiss Vise Co. was bought by the Charles Parker Co. of Meriden, CT .. or it's possible that Parker Co. produced vises for Prentiss .. still digging for info on that.
When I get the Prentiss Vise website up and running, I'll have a page that will let people upload photos of their Prentiss vises .. I'll post here when that's available. In the meanwhile, if you've got a Prentiss vise and would like a scan of your vise from the catalog, just send me a private message with your email address and vise number.
Thanks again for your help .. if you've got any ideas about what may have become of the Prentiss Vise Co., do let me know!
10-15-2006, 12:41 AM #8
A few years ago, I got talked into restoring a few old vises for various friends (and, when I say 'restoring', that usually meant just cleaning/glass-blasting/painting as needed, occasionally brazing up broken parts on the fragile old Emmerts, re-making a few small parts, etc.) I did up a number of the old 'Emmert' and 'Oliver' patternmakers vises, and some of the 'machinists' type, including some Prentiss vises.
In conversations with some friends at the time, we talked about doing up a book on vises, along the lines of Richard Postman's book of anvils.....but nothing much came of the idea.
One thing I did do, however, was to buy the collection of scrap-books from the Columbian Vise Co, which covered from the late 'teens' to the 1970's. This is a fascinating piece of American industrial history, with, for example, a great deal of material about industrial survival during the economic depression of the 1930's, and later gearing up for the high-volume production of the war years.
Amongst various and sundry news cuttings of interest to the vise trade, they had saved copies of every advertisement run by Columbian and their competitors over that half-century.
If I remember correctly, the adverts revealed that the Chas. Parker Co. bought out Prentiss in the '50's. (a look through the books would give an exact date when Parker advertised having done so)
For a few years, the Prentiss vises continued in production, as 'Prentiss Vise Co., a division of the Chas. Parker Co.'. Having a look at the latest date on a Prentiss Vise advert would pretty much establish when the stopped production.
We're located some 50-ish miles south of you, in the foothills out east of San Jose......if you get down this way, one of these days, you'd be welcome to visit and have a look through those old scrap-books, which would give you quite a good look at the vise trade, and a good look at Prentiss, albeit through a competitor's eyes.
10-15-2006, 02:38 PM #9
The EAIA "Directory of American Toolmakers" (DAT) gives dates of 1872-1948 for Prentiss of Watertown NY. "The New York City location was a headquarters or sales office; their factory was in Watertown"
Anyone with interests along these lines should join the Early American Industries Association. There's more about Prentiss in the DAT, but the book is copyrighted, and I'm reluctant to quote it at length.
Suffice to say that Prentiss is credited with the tradenames Magic, Bull Dog, Rapid Transit, Monarch, Rex, Gipsy, Star, Yankee and Eclipse. They also used patent holder's names Shepard, Bingham, Blake, and Lewis as trade names.
The use of the name Yankee is a big surprise to me, because Yankee is a trademark of the North Brothers of Philadelphia, later purchased and absorbed by Stanley. (I own three North Bros. Yankee drill press vises.)
I think the use of "Rapid Transit" for a quick acting vise is a stroke of marketing genius!
10-16-2006, 10:28 PM #10
Wow .. this is great information! Thanks!!
So, it sounds like the Prentiss vises that are marked "Meriden, CT" were made after the Chas. Parker Co. buyout (since they were located in Meriden).
Carla .. I do actually make it down to San Jose on a regular basis for work, so when things slow down a bit, I'll contact you to see when a good time would be to have a look through your scrap book .. sounds very interesting, thanks for the offer!
John .. thanks for the bits you've provided .. that really helps to narrow the scope. I'd love to get a copy of the "Directory of American Toolmakers" reference, but it appears that it is out of print. I've emailed a contact at the EAIA about it and may just join .. sounds like it could be a wealth of information when it comes time for me to research the other Prentice/ss/s machinery manufacturers.
Thanks again all!
10-17-2006, 01:08 PM #11
I have 3 vises made by this company. One is a sheet metal type with the tall narrow jaws, the rear jaw swivels like a toolmakers vise.
10-17-2006, 02:32 PM #12
After making my earlier post, I noticed that John Holcomb stated that his vise had the Bulldog name on it. Bull Dog is indeed listed in the DAT entry as a tradename used by Prentiss, as I noted above.
I have little doubt that the EAIA will someday issue a new edition of the Directory of American Toolmakers, or DAT. The original edition was produced by non-computerized methods. I believe the original editor has passed away, although I'm not 100% sure of that. Someday, someone will "take up the reins" and make a new edition by modern methods and no doubt add whatever new material is available at that time. It is my fond hope that whomever does this will poll the members of PM to uncover knowledge held by PM members but not yet in the DAT.
There is a web-based DATAMP, Directory of American Tool and Machinery Patents at www.datamp.org
10-21-2006, 03:38 PM #13
I heard back from someone at the EAIA who said that they were planning to reissue the DAT on a CDROM once some additions were made.
Meanwhile, if anyone has one for sale or knows the whereabouts of one for sale, please contact me.
04-10-2007, 01:34 PM #14
I found a Prentiss vise "bull dog" No. 92 in a garage we cleaned out. It is stamped new york city.
The guy was an old time mechanic and we think the vise has been there since the early 50's.
Any one interested?
04-10-2007, 05:00 PM #15
Here's a picture of an invoice for a Prentiss vise dated Aug. 1903: http://www.prenticenet.com/museum-dev/viewitem.php?id=5
Here are some other invoices from other Prentiss companies: http://www.prenticenet.com/museum-de...&sort=&r=0&n=0
04-11-2007, 02:41 AM #16
I know of a surplus shop here in town that has a huge prentis vise this is the biggest vise i have ever seen i have a six inch wilton and at work we have several 300 pounders but this is crazy it must weigh 500 lbs the jaws are eight inches across on the ground the thing comes up to my knee it opens at least fifteen inches they sarted out asking 750 bucks for it a couple of years ago now they are down to 450 but it is still not cheap enough yet because it is still their.
04-13-2007, 12:50 AM #17
Here's a picture of the vice in that invoice from above. Swivel base and swivel back jaw make this very sturdy vise quite versatile. Its stamped Prentiss No. 22. Its been on my bench for the last ten years or so and was on a string of service trucks before that. Its one of the few vises I have that Im not afraid to tighten as hard as I can pull. Ed.
04-13-2007, 09:38 PM #18
Your vise is a breat, and I have its twin that I dug out of the ground near Phila twenty years ago, but it is not immortal. I broke that swivelable rear jaw trying to bend something big.
Fixed it again by machining off waht was left of the flange that holds it down in the base casting, and bolting on a 1" thick steel disc. The tail of that swiveling jaw broke off, too, and the casting does not want tyo weld, but it works fine.
I love to compare the gross weight(150 lb or so) and opening (10'' or more)of this 6" wide jaw vise with its sorry modern competitors.
Actually, after I finish gloating, I am sad that such fine things are made no longer.
04-14-2007, 12:48 AM #19
My Prentiss vise says "Prentiss Vise Co. New York No 54" on the left side of the main body under the jaw and says "Bull Dog" on the left side of the main body under the flat portion forward of the jaw. It says "Prentiss New York" on the left side of the movable section just below the jaw. Jaws are 5" wide and open to about 12". Rear jaw does not pivot.
11-29-2007, 01:41 PM #20
Add another Prentiss vice,
this was affixed to my new old drill, think it resisted efforts
to remove it over time due to good old Mr Whitworths bolts and nuts!