The James Swan Tool Co.
Seymour, Connecticut

Tool Types

Augers, Awls, Bits, Boring Machines, Chisels, Draw Knives, Handles, Screwdrivers

Directory of American Toolmakers Information

Swan, who was born in Dumfries, Scotland, December 18, 1833, immigrated from Scotland in 1854 and worked at the Bassett Iron Works in Birmingham, CT, the Farrel Foundry & Machine Co in Ansonia, CT, and for Oliver Annes before buying Annes's business in 1877. The "Est. 1856" date is probably Annes's. He acquired Douglass Mfg. Co. and changed its name, but apparently still used its name in 1894. Swan had patents on 20 August 1867 for a machine to make augers, 21 April 1868 for an augur handle, 9 June 1868 for auger bits, 14 July 1868 for an auger, 16 November 1869 for a bit/auger die, 14 December 1869 for an auger handle, 15 February 1870 for a machine to grind and polish bits, 15 March 1870 for an auger, 30 May 1870 for an auger, 27 June 1871 for an auger, 19 September 1871 for a hollow auger, 20 May 1873 for a machine to form lips on augers, 29 July 1873 for an auger, 27 June 1882 for a screwdriver, 12 June 1883 for an expansive bit, 25 December 1883 for an auger, 31 July 1885 for a draw knife, 11 May 1886 for a boring machine and 28 May 1894 for a hollow auger. Many of these patents were issued prior to the formation of his own company and may have been used by one or more of his previous employers.

Upon Swan's death, the company passed to his son William, followed by his brother John, followed by James, Son of John. Upon its closing in 1951, it was owned by one R.S. Robie.

Identifying Marks

Configurations of Swan's name with or without "& Co.," city/state, patent dates, a swan figure

General Information
The Davistown Museum has recently acquired a number of James Swan tools from a Boston hardware store which warehoused its inventory circa 1950. Many of these tools were in their original wrapping paper. Some were stamped “Douglass Co.” or similarly with the James Swan stamp over it. Also of great interest were some ship auger bits stamped “Germany” and restamped with the James Swan logo, indicating that he was not only a manufacturer but an importer. In general, Swan-marked tools are frequently found by the Liberty Tool Co. The Swan company, along with the Stanley Rule & Level Co., are considered to be the last manufacturers of fine edge tools working at the end of the classic period of American toolmaking.


Woodworker's Guide: New re-handled James Swan chisels made with blades purchased from Liberty Tool

These scans were taken from the 1911 James Swan company catalog of "Premium Mechanics' Tools."


Note the lack of laminated edge on this gouge compared to those further down.




The original wrapping paper and included handle.

Note the variety of markings found in a single box of chisels--makes it difficult to date them, though the company catalog does seem to differentiate in price and quality between those marked "Extra best tool steel" and those not.



Very clearly defined laminated edge on this square edge gouge.





Very clear laminated edge is present on most, but not all, gouges.




Nelson, Robert E., Ed. (1999). Directory of American Toolmakers: A listing of identified makers of tools who worked in Canada and the United States before 1900. Early American Industries Association.

Swan, James Company. (1911). Illustrated catalog and price list of premium mechanics' tools manufactured by The James Swan Co. Facsimile of the original. Fitzwilliam, NH. Ken Roberts Publishing Company.


Tools made by James Swan in the museum collection