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Collection Summary
Administrative Information
Publication Rights:
Historical Note
Scope and Content Note
Separated Material
Container List
Bound Volumes

Eagle Square Manufacturing Company Records

Collection Summary

University of Vermont Libraries Special Collections Burlington, Vermont 05405-3596
Eagle Square Manufacturing Co., (South Shaftsbury, Vt.)
Eagle Square Manufacturing Company Records
Dates [inclusive]
49 cartons, 228 bound volumes
Shelf location
Library Research Annex.
The collection offers thorough coverage of the history of the Eagle Square Company from 1847 to the 1930s. The material in the collection records important events in the company's history, such as the original founding in 1846, the partnership of 1859, the incorporation of 1874, the improvements over the years, and the Stanley merger in 1916.

Preferred Citation:

[Identification of item] Eagle Square Manufacturing Company Records, Special Collections, University of Vermont Library.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

University of Vermont, Bailey/Howe Library, Special Collections 2002 


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights:

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

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Historical Note

Vermont legend has it that one day, soon after the War of 1812, a peddler stopped at the blacksmith's shop of Silas Hawes in South Shaftsbury to have his horse shod. In payment for this service, the peddler left Hawes some old saw blades. The story goes on to claim that Hawes, with typical Yankee ingenuity, welded two of these saws together at right angles, thereby producing the first steel carpenter's square. According to the legend, up until this time squares had been made of two lengths of wood, joined together at the angle with a piece of metal. However, one source suggests that while the story "has charm," it is "apocryphal":

"steel squares were known at least two hundred years earlier. Among the tools that belonged to Francis Eaton, the carpenter of Plymouth Plantation, was an iron square. When another Eaton, Governor Theophilus Eaton of New Haven, died in 1657, two iron squares were among his many tools." (Paul B. Kebabian, American Woodworking Tools (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1978, p. 188.)

On December 15, 1819, Hawes received a patent on the carpenter's square, but since most of the patent records of the early nineteenth century - including Hawes' patent - were destroyed by fires, the exact nature of Hawes' patent is not known and perhaps never will be.

After Hawes received his patent, he went into business with Stephen Whipple, another South Shaftsbury blacksmith. There was such a demand for the new squares that in 1823 Whipple built the Stone Mill and put in a trip hammer powered by a waterwheel. In April of 1825, Whipple and Gardiner Barton bought from Lyman W. Monroe the land on which the original Eagle Square buildings were constructed. A dam was also built, and the property was then leased to Silas Hawes on November 25, 1825 for ten years at an annual rent of $106.00. Two years later, in 1827, Hawes gave up the lease and retired from business. At this time, Whipple and Barton sold the property to John Hastings, of Hardwick, Massachusetts. In 1838, Denis J. George bought a quarter interest in the company, and in 1845 he bought out the last of Hasting's successors. Thus, by about 1846, the original Eagle Square Company was established.

Before the Hawes' patent expired in 1833, and in subsequent years, several small shops, with some six or eight hammers, were set up by various businesses in the South Shaftsbury area, all engaged in making squares. Jeremiah Essex, who owned such a shop in North Bennington, invented the Essex Board Measure, a device used to determine board feet.

Rufus W. Bangs also had a square shop in North Bennington, but this was destroyed in the flood of 1852. He is remembered as the inventor of the "eccentric rolls," the first important improvement in the manufacture of squares. These rolls perfected the tapering process. Before this time, the taper had been made by drawing the strips out under a trip hammer, but the eccentric rolls made a square that was thick at the angle and tapered toward each end. This tapered effect gave the square a much better "hang," or feeling of balance, than one made of flat steel. Bangs also invented the method of grinding to remove the scale which formed when the square was heated. This back-breaking job was done on large grindstones, six feet in diameter.

Another square manufacturing mill, located three miles north of South Shaftsbury, was run by Stephen A. Whipple, son of Silas Hawes' first partner. From 1851 to 1857, Herman Whipple replaced Stephen A. in this partnership.

While these smaller concerns were making squares, the Eagle Square Company seemed to dominate the square industry in the valley. What gave Eagle Square its lead over all competitors and finally put them all out of business, was the invention, by Norman Millington and Dennis George, of the 24 tool graduator. Until this time, the graduating marks had all been cut by hand with a graving tool. This meant -- for a square graduated in eighths -- cutting 192 marks exactly 1/8 of an inch apart, on each edge of the square. Since there are eight edges to a square, that meant cutting from 672 to 1200 graduations on a single square. With Millington's machine, 24 cuts were made at one time, so that when one inch was done, the whole twenty-four were done. The patent for this invention was issued to Millington and George on August 8, 1854.

After George acquired control of the Millington Graduator, business increased tremendously, and he found that he needed more capital. Consequently two other square makers, Herman Whipple and Jeremiah Essex, joined with William E. Hawks and S. C. Loomis of North Bennington in organizing the Eagle Square Company on January 1, 1859. Dennis George was the first President of this company, and Leland J. Mattison became Treasurer in charge of $17,000 in capital. When George died in 1864, he was succeeded by Thomas R. Sexton of Bennington. When Sexton died in 1867, he in turn was succeeded by A. B. Gardner, a Bennington lawyer. In that same year, L. J. Mattison retired, and William P. Mattison took over his duties.

In 1860 the firm diversified and began manufacturing wooden bedsteads. Soon these and other wood products, known as "manufactured lumber," became as important to the company as its production of squares. George had purchased a woodlot on the East mountain, and the company also owned 2,300 acres of wooded land in Glastenbury. In addition, Eagle Square had its own sawmill in Fayville, and another at the plant in South Shaftsbury. The manufacture of doors, sashes, blinds and other house-building materials was carried on from 1875-1920, and many of the houses and stores in Bennington, Hoosick Falls, and Cambridge, were built with materials from the Eagle Square Company. In the 1880s, 35,000 bedsteads were turned out annually, but as the supply of native hardwood was exhausted, the company turned to the manufacture of brush handles, screw driver handles, and eventually, stock for zig-zag rules.

The business continued to grow, and even more capital was needed, so Oake Ames of Boston was introduced to buy a quarter interest in the company as was A. B. Gardner. Until this time, the manager of Eagle Square had always been a skilled square maker, but when William P. Mattison (AKA "Nebraska Bill") assumed the position in the 1870s, the position became more oriented toward business administration. This type of management seems to have been successful, for when the firm was incorporated on July 1, 1874, under the provision of No. 6, Vermont Acts of the General Assembly 1870, it had a capital worth of $60,000.00.

At the time of incorporation, Eagle Square stock was owned mainly by Ames, Gardner and Milo Pierce of South Shaftsbury, E. Thompson Gale of Troy and William P. Mattison. After William P.'s death in 1896, his sons Fred L. and Clayton S. ran the business. Edward Courtland Gale, son of E.T., also took an active role in the company, serving as president of the Board of Directors from 1887-1913. Fred Mattison died in 1905, followed by his brother Clayton in 1910. After Clayton's death, J. B. Wilbur of Manchester, Vermont learned that the deceased man's stock, which constituted the controlling interest in Eagle Square, was for sale. Wilbur bought this stock as well as the few minority shares and then gave the company to his son, J. B. Wilbur Jr., who ran Eagle Square successfully for several years before selling it to the Stanley Rule and Level Company of New Britain, Connecticut in 1916. For the Eagle Square Co., this merger meant added strength with regard to broader sales exposure, brand identification, and product distribution. For Wilbur Jr., it meant a move to New Britain and a position as Treasurer of Stanley Rule and Level, a job which he held until his retirement in 1930.

Other names and events in Eagle Square's history deserve mention. After the death of Dennis George, Clark Bates became Master Mechanic of the plant until the time of his death in 1883. During his years at the plant, Bates built new machines for jointing or finishing the edges of squares. Llewllyn W. Cole succeeded Bates as Master Mechanic until his retirement around 1915. Cole changed the method of hand-welding to trip hammer and drop hammer welding so that two men could weld as many squares as four men used to. He also built a roll stamper that stamped four times as fast as a hand stamper. Cole also made a jointer that would finish two edges of a square in one operation. It should be pointed out that these machines were all built in the Eagle Square machine shop, as they could not be bought on the open market.

In 1906 another important improvement was made when steel manufacturers began rolling steel sheets 24 inches wide, and powerful machines were developed that could cut a blank from a sheet, so that welding was abolished. The taper was cold-rolled too. And since the square did not have to be heated, no scale was formed, and thus the grinding operation also became obsolete.

Over the years, several finishes were developed for the squares: plain polished, blued with graduations and figures filled with white, Royal Copper, a galvanized finish for use near salt waster; and -- eventually -- a stainless steel and aluminum square.

Henry E. Harris, who worked for Eagle Square from 1874 to 1926 and was a plant superintendent during the last eighteen of these years, was responsible for yet another improvement. In 1906, he secured a patent on a "take-down square," a square that could be unjointed at the angle and carried in a tool box.

Due to Eagle Square's constant improvements, which helped maintain its reputation for excellence, the company continued to increase production into the twentieth century. In 1937, with some 100 people on the payroll, Eagle Square shipped over 190,000 squares. Among the men -- both from Eagle Square and Stanley -- responsible for these productive years in the early 1900s were Henry Richards in the mechanical department, Charles Burdick in the rule shop, Thomas Conklin as superintendent, Frederick Eddy in manufactured lumber, and Eli Richardson in the square department. Mr. Joseph A. Fuller of the Ross and Fuller Association of New York represented Eagle Square products throughout the U.S.A. and Canada for over forty years. The high standards of the goods, coupled with Mr. Fuller's own personal integrity, created a relationship of mutual respect and trust between Eagle Square and its customers.

In 1946 increasing costs and scarcity of wood brought about by World War II prompted Eagle Square to purchase a mill in Stockbridge, Vt., along with 5,800 acres of timberland in that area. The company continued to acquire additional timberland, and by 1967 it owned over 11,500 acres. In 1963, the Stockbridge Mill burned to the ground. However, as was the case with two previous fires -- one in 1860 and the other in 1880 -- the damage was soon repaired, and the company continued to prosper.

Stanley Rule and Level was acquired by the Stanley Works of New Britain, Connecticut in 1920 and was made a division of that company in 1935. Into the mid 1900s the following people at one time or another served as officers on the company's Board of Directors: B. B. Bassette, M.A. Coe, E. W. Christ, Mrs. N.F. Wyman, L. W. Young, W. C. Milkey, J. E. Stone, E. C. Stockwell, P. B. Stanley, E. H. Burr, J. C. Cairns, E. V. Higbee, Allen Moore, E. L. Warren, J. S. Black, Jr. and J. P. Clawson.

Throughout the many changes in ownership and administration, the factory in South Shaftsbury has retained the "Eagle Square Company" name. While a new, modern building now houses the company's major production operations, some of the original buildings remain intact, in use.

For other sources, please see "Miscellaneous File: History," carton 49, folder 3.

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Chronology of Eagle Square Company
1819  Silas Hawes receives patent on carpenter's square.
[1820]  Hawes goes into business with Stephen Whipple.
1827  Hawes retires, and the Eagle Square property is sold to John Hastings.
1838  Dennis George buys a quarter interest from Hastings.
1845  George buys out the last of Hastings' successors.
[1846]  Original Eagle Square Company is established.
1854  Invention of the Millington Graduator.
1859  George is joined in partnership with Herman Whipple, Jeremiah Essex, and Hawks and Loomis. L. J. Mattison becomes Treasurer of this firm.
1860  Beginning of the Manufactured Lumber Dept.
1867  William P. Mattison takes over as Treasurer.
1874  The Eagle Square Co. is incorporated. Major shareholders at this time are: Oake Ames, A. B. Gardner, Milo Pierce, E. T. Gale, and Wm. P. Mattison.
1896  William P. Mattison dies. His sons, Fred L. and Clayton S., take over the business.
1906  Invention of the "Take-down Square".
1910  Last surviving Mattison, Clayton S., dies. J. B. Wilbur buys Eagle Square for his son, J. B. Wilbur, Jr.
1916  Eagle Square sold to Stanley Rule and Level. J. B. Wilbur, Jr. becomes Treasurer of the mother company.
1920  Stanley Rule and Level acquired by The Stanley Works.
1930  J. B. Wilbur, Jr. retires from Stanley Rule and Level.
1935  Stanley Rule and Level is made a division of The Stanley Works.
1963  Stockbridge Mill fire.

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Scope and Content Note

While the Eagle Square Company Collection is fairly large, its arrangement is very simple and straightforward. The collection's seventy-four linear feet break down into twenty-seven feet of bound volumes and forty-seven feet of papers. The bound volumes are listed first in the inventory since they pertain mainly to the company's early years (1847-1910), while the papers focus on the years from 1903 to the 1930s.

Bound Volumes

The Letter Books (1864-1903) have been placed at the beginning of the bound volumes, because they provide a discursive introduction to these volumes. They are divided into books of Incoming or Outgoing correspondence. These books seem to deal with many aspects of the Eagle Square Company, but unfortunately, they are often illegible.

The remaining bound volumes are classified and arranged by series, with books of original entry -- such as Journals (1859-1906), Cash Books (1847-1906), Check Books (1864-1908), Bank Books (1859-1906), Trial Balances (1903-1908), and Time Books (1865-1910) -- followed by books of final entry, such as Payroll Records (1873-1962) and Ledgers (1859-1906). Miscellaneous Bound Volumes such as Invoice Books (1869-1894), Inventories (1859-1942) and one-of-a-kind volumes (1864-1912) make up the final series of bound volumes. It should be noted that although the bound volumes appear first in the inventory, for physical reasons, they are shelved after the papers. Also, while the volumes are generally shelved according to their designated volume number, this arrangement is juggled from time to time in order to make the most effective use of space, and to prevent the larger volumes from crushing or obscuring smaller ones.


The papers in the Eagle Square Collection consist mainly of Correspondence and Purchase Orders. The Correspondence falls into four categories: Numerical (1903-1932), Alphabetical (1903-1932), Remittances (1903-1918), and Yard Measures (1912-1919). The correspondence in the Numerical series is placed first (cartons 1-28), because this is the largest series. In this Numerical File, each correspondent is allotted a number, and any correspondence with that firm or individual is filled under that designated number. For example, all correspondence with the Ross and Fuller Association, agents of Eagle Square, is filed under #1. The numbers in this first series of Correspondence range from 1 to 409. Occasionally, more than one firm or individual may have been assigned to one number. In addition, some numbers have no correspondent assigned to them, and thus these numbers will not appear in the Numerical File. These minor discrepancies in the filing system present no real problems, but the researcher should be aware of them.

There appears to be no key or explanation to this Numerical File. Numbers seem to have been allocated on a "first come, first served" basis. For the most part, however, the firms with which Eagle Square had the most correspondence seem to appear early in this file. Ross and Fuller alone occupies four cartons. Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett and Co.; Simmons Hardware; Bigelow and Dowse; Dunham, Carrigan and Hayden; Cambria Steel; J.M. Warren; Belknap Hardware; and Boeckh Bros. are all included under the first twenty numbers assigned. J. B. Wilbur, Jr. has one folder of correspondence under #23, in addition to fifteen folders as part of #8, the number which has been allocated to Stanley Rule and Level. In addition to the Wilbur material, there are four cartons of Stanley Rule and Level correspondence filed under #8. Many of the twentieth century names mentioned in the "background" section above appear at some point -- albeit briefly -- in these four cartons.

All of the material in this Numerical Correspondence File is first arranged numerically and then chronologically within each of the assigned numbers.

The second Correspondence series, the Alphabetical File, is organized a little differently. It is first arranged by year, then alphabetically within that year: 1903, A-Z; 1904, A-Z; etc. There does not appear to be any discernable difference in the nature of the correspondence in these first two series. Names which appear in the Numerical File are often also included in the Alphabetical File. However, sometimes the letters in the Alphabetical File run for a few years, then stop (e.g. 1906-1908). Correspondence with the same firm may begin in the Numerical File, starting at the date that it ceased to appear in the Alphabetical File. This perhaps indicates that the Numerical Files were reserved for those correspondents with whom Eagle Square expected to have a good deal on contact, while the Alphabetical File may have been designed for short-term correspondence.

The third Correspondence series, "Remittances," is very short. Like the second series, it is arranged alphabetically and by year. It contains correspondence accompanying payments made to Eagle Square by its customers.

In 1912, Eagle Square introduced a Yard Measure that could be mounted on the counters of Dry Goods stores. The fourth and final Correspondence series contains material pertaining to this new line. The dates of this series range from the time the product was introduced in 1912, until 1919, when Yard Measure correspondence apparently ceased to be filed separately. This final Correspondence series is also filed alphabetically and by year.

Purchase Orders

Purchase Orders follow Correspondence, beginning with "Accounts Payable." This series contains notifications of goods and services ordered by Eagle Square from its suppliers. While the general range of dates for the series is 1906-1922, the researcher should be aware that there are many gaps. Check the Shelf List for details. All Purchase Orders are filed alphabetically and by year.

Purchase Orders, Accounts Receivable consists of orders made by customers for Eagle Square goods and services. This series includes Purchase Orders from the Stanley Rule and Level Co. roughly from 1917 to 1923.

The final series under Purchase Orders contains orders relating to Eagle Square's line of Yard measures and includes both accounts payable and accounts receivable. As with the Yard Measure Correspondence, Purchase Orders for Yard Measures appear to have been kept separate from the time the line was introduced in 1912 until about 1919.

Bills of Lading

Only a few Bills of Lading remain. These are two folders form 1916-1917 and two feet for 1923-24. No other years are included.

Miscellaneous File

This final series of the Eagle Square Company papers consists of material which does not fit into any of the main series. The Miscellaneous File contains many one-of-a-kind items which shed extra light on some aspect of Eagle Square or on someone associated with the company. The items are arranged alphabetically by subject. For further details concerning the nature of these items, please consult the shelf list. Also, it should be noted that several photographs of the Eagle Square plant in South Shaftsbury, as well as the Stockbridge mill, have been removed from the Miscellaneous File and have been added to the Wilbur Photo File. Please see the Separation Sheet for details.

In general, the collection offers thorough coverage of the history of the Eagle Square Company from 1847 to the 1930s. The material in the collection records important events in the company's history, such as the original founding in 1846, the partnership of 1859, the incorporation of 1874, the improvements over the years, and the Stanley merger in 1916. In addition, the collection reflects events occurring in the world at large. For example, an increase in correspondence with the government, particularly with the War Ordinance Dept., mirrors Eagle Square's reaction to both WWI and WWII, while notification of wage and salary cutbacks disclose the grim effects of the Depression of the 1930s. The Eagle Square Manufacturing Company Collection provides a rich source of information for those researchers willing to sort through this extensive collection.

M. Gelinas, January 1982

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Related Materials

Separated Material

10 photographs (17.5 x 21.5 cm.), depicting three different views of the Eagle Square Plant in South Shaftsbury, Vt., have been removed from the Eagle Square Mfg. Co. collection and been added to the Oversize Photo File in the Wilbur Collection, folder #36.

1 School Notebook containing composition on eighteenth century British literature has been removed from the Eagle Square Mfg. Co. collection and added to the Large Bound Manuscripts Collection in Wilbur. The notebook contains neither name nor date.

3 photographs (8 x 10cm) of Stockbridge Mill Operation. In Wilbur Photo File under "Stockbridge." [1946]

1 photograph (8 x 10cm) of a Blacksmith's Shop. In Wilbur Photo File, under "Blacksmith."

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