Bemis & Call

 

Although not the largest maker of saw sets, Bemis & Call made pliers, hammer and wrest types throughout the 1800's.

 

Formed from the partnership of Stephen Chapin Bemis and Amos Call, they were located in Springfield Mass.  More recognized for their adjustable "monkey" wrenches than their saw sets, they also made punches, scales and dividers. 

Stephen C. Bemis started in business as a clerk in a store owned by Joseph Pease in Chicopee, Massachusetts at 14.  In 1821 he was taken into a partnership and the company became Pease & Bemis.  Pease sold out to Bemis soon after the partnership and in 1825 Bemis formed the company Bemis & Chapin with Chester Chapin.  Chapin soon also sold out and Bemis continued running the company on his own.  In 1831 he moved the store to Willimansett, Massachusetts where he started the company Bemis and Sheffield.  Bemis and Sheffield were the agents for The Willimansett Manufacturing Company, which started making machine cards and small hardware in 1828.

The Massachusetts Private and Special Statutes gives the formation of The Willimansett Manufacturing Company, in Springfield in 1828 with Bemis, Joseph Sheffield, Albert Burgess and David Temple as the company officers.   Around 1835 Bemis took control of the company and started making tools under his own name, S. C. Bemis.

 

S. C. Bemis was making saw sets as early as 1838 as advertised in the Wm. H. Carr and Company catalog.  The Bemis and Call poster below lists 1835 as their founding date which is 9 years before they moved to Springfield, Mass in 1844.

In 1844 Stephen Bemis and Amos Call became partners and formed Bemis and Call Company in Springfield.  The reason for Amos Call becoming partners with Stephen Bemis is not clear.  I think that Call's history becomes less uncertain when the fact that Stephen Bemis and Amos Call were married to sisters is revealed.  Stephen Bemis married Julia Skeele in 1828 and Amos Call married her younger sister Ruhema Skeele in 1838.  1838 is very close to the 1844 date of the forming of Bemis and Call in Springfield.  It is entirely possible that Stephen Bemis hired his brother in-law and former apprentice as his partner in his new company.

In 1847 Herrick Aiken won a $2,000 patent infringement case against Stephen Bemis for improvements in saw sets.

Stephen Bemis's son William Bemis took over for his Father when the firm was incorporated as Bemis and Call Hardware and Tool Company in 1855.  William Bemis was the president and treasurer, Howard Bemis assistant treasurer, John Briggs secretary and Amos Call continued running the manufacturing department.  Stephen was not connected with the company after this time and went on to form other companies in Springfield.  Ultimately Amos Call became the president of Bemis and Call and worked at the factory until the day he died in 1888.

 

Stephen Bemis was Mayor of Springfield 1861 and 1862 and Amos Call was an alderman in Springfield in 1861, 1867 and 1868.   Bemis' time as mayor was complicated because of John Brown's assault on Harper's Ferry.

The Federal Government took control of Springfield, to protect the Springfield Armory and Bemis had to deal with it.  

Sometime during the great depression of the 1930's, Bemis and Call sold their tool business to Billings and Spencer in Connecticut.  Interestingly, Bemis & Call survived until 1988, although not a toolmaker anymore, they were a contract machine shop and made brass storage boxes for document storage.

Amos Call patented an adjustable rotary hammer type saw set in April 30, 1861 which was witnessed by Milton Bradley, the game maker.  The rotary hammer saw set shown below was proudly displayed on its own page within the 1876 catalog.  However, by around 1880 the rotary had disappeared from their tool poster also shown below.  Fairly complicated, it was probably too expensive to compete with the other sets of the day.

The reprinted poster is available from Roger K. Smith at rodgerksmith.com and the catalog pages were supplied by the Mechanick's Workbench, Marion MA, from originals located in the  Hagley Museum Library. 

The pictures of Bemis and Call are from "Sketches Of The Old Inhabitants And Other Citizens Of Old Springfield" by Charles Wells Chapin, 1893 from a Google Books scan.

 

c1880 Bemis & Call Poster 1876 Bemis & Call catalog front page 1876 Bemis & Call saw set page
1876 Bemis & Call catalog page for their rotary hammer saw set Examples Examples

 

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