Manufacturer of Axes and Edge Tools, Providence, Pennsylvania
My great-grandmother, Amelia Maria Carter Kennedy, and her brother, Marvin, were very proud of their father, Pulaski Carter. Both of them researched and chronicled his life, and the life story that Amelia wrote was published in a number of biographical volumes at the beginning of the twentieth century. I inherited most of her research, notebooks and working copies of the sketches. This material provides the primary source for this article.
The Directory of American Toolmakers (Early American Industries Association, 1999) lists Pulaski Carter as a maker of axes active in Scranton, Pennsylvania, from 1870- 1871. There are no tool sources listed for Carter and only one primary source. This article adds to our knowledge about Carter.
Figure 1. Pulaski Carter.
Pulaski Carter Learns His Trade
Pulaski Carter was born in Westminster, Connecticut, 23 June 1813 (Figure 1). His mother died when Pulaski was nine months old. His father reportedly wanted Pulaski to become a physician, but Pulaski decided to go into business instead. With this end in view, he went to Brooklyn, Connecticut, and studied the blacksmith's trade.
After learning blacksmithing in Brooklyn, Pulaski Carter spent a year at Mansfield, Connecticut, in Owen Fenton’s business (he was a blacksmith and maker of scythes) before going to Winsted, Connecticut, in September of 1834. He spent almost five years in Winsted working for Captain Wheelock Thayer. After reading Pulaski’s expense account from that period, his son, Marvin Carter, wrote that, "He received $1.00 for York & Yankee scythes, cradles undoubtedly more, but no item to show." Towards the end of his time in Winsted he recorded his output in his account book as "53 doz in Mar. 1837 50-6 Yorks & 2 – 6 Yankees June 1838 50 doz Yankees & 2 doz & 8 Cradles..." Captain Thayer in later years visited Pulaski in his Pennsylvania home and in his correspondence provided valuable suggestions for the business.
On 5 August 1839, Pulaski Carter married Susan Sophia Spaulding, of Abington, Connecticut. Having now learned his trade, and wishing to go into business for himself, he started out the next year to find a suitable location. He visited several places, including Honesdale, Pennsylvania, but finally decided that he would settle in Providence, Pennsylvania (the first ward of Scranton since 1866). At the time it was part of Luzerne County. Lackawanna County was split off from Luzerne on 13 August 1878. In 1840 iron ore had only recently been discovered and anthracite coal mining had not yet begun. The area had, however, begun to grow, and roads had been built.
He returned to Connecticut, and the next year, 1841, took his wife to her new home. In October 1841, a child was born, but the mother died in November. The next July the daughter also died. On 7 August 1843, Pulaski Carter married his second wife, Olive Ingalls, of Canterbury, Connecticut. The following information from Portrait and Biographical Record of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania varies slightly from most published works:
On his arrival in Providence he rented [the] shop room of Jacob Sager and Larned White, and entered upon the business of making scythes. In June 1842, in company with Jerison White, he purchased the axe factory of Sager & White, and commenced the manufacture of axes and scythes. This was the first manufactory of the kind in the state. In a little while Jerison White sold his interest to Larned White, and 25 April 1843, Mr. Carter purchased Mr. White’s interest.1
Some accounts state that in 1840 Jerison White built the first edge tool factory at Capouse (the area of Providence named for the Indian chief of the Monseys), and soon after sold out to Pulaski Carter. The billheads and advertisements for Pulaski Carter's Capouse Works state, "Established 1841," and those for Jerison White "Established 1840" (Figure 2). In the material Amelia Carter Kennedy, Pulaski Carter's daughter, wrote for authors Rev. Horace Edwin Hayden and Col. Frederick L. Hitchcock, she said:
After his father's death in 1840, Mr. Carter, then a young man of 27, visited Pennsylvania looking for a factory site, finally locating in Providence, now the first ward of Scranton, Pennsylvania. In 1841 he began there the manufacture of scythes. In June 1842 in company with Jerrison [sic] White, he purchased the Sager and White Axe Factory and added axes to his line of manufactures. He soon bought out his partner's interest, and in 1843 took into partnership a boyhood friend, Henry Harrison Crane, but after a few years, Mr. Crane tiring of the responsibility of business retired from the firm, but remained in the works in a responsible position for more than thirty years. Mr. Carter then took as partner Artemus Miller, but this partnership was soon dissolved, Mr. Carter assuming the entire ownership and management of the business.Figure 2. [Click here to see full size.] A bill head for Jerison White & Son showing that the company was established in 1840. Accounts differ as to the relationship between Pulaski Carter and White. One account states they purchased as partners the Sager and White Ace Factory. Others say that White built the first edge tool factory at Capouse and then sold out to Carter.
Henry Harrison Crane
While working for Captain Thayer in Winsted, he had made the acquaintance of Henry Harrison Crane, and the two formed a friendship that lasted throughout their lives. Amelia Carter Kennedy wrote in one of her notebooks, "Copied from Fathers Family Record":
1880 Memorandum of Henry Harrison Crane. Was born in Warren Mass in 1815. Lived with his father John Crane in Pittsfield Mass and attended school there awhile. About 1820–24 moved to Winsted Conn with his father when he was about 10 or 15 years old, and learned his trade at scythe making with Capt Whelock Thayer about 1830 to 3–4 & 5.
Came to Penn. At Providence Luzerne Co about 1845 was engaged with me in the Scythe and edge tool business and worked for me many years. Worked for Millard in Clayville a few years and came back and worked for me again, and had a shock of Palsy probably, in 1878, and died from its effects June 11, 1880 and was buried in the Dunmore Cemetery.
"An Honest Man. The noblest work of God." Pulaski Carter
In the fall of 1841 Pulaski Carter put in three trip hammers and three forges. He purchased a thirty-acre tract of land from Henry Heermans and established "Carter's Capouse Works." Three others besides himself were employed in 1841, using three and a half tons of iron to make 180 dozen scythes and 160 dozen axes, which were ground, polished, boxed, and sold by Pulaski himself, who was foreman, salesman, and bookkeeper.
The shop, then a single building, thirty by fifty feet, gave place to a cluster of more than thirty buildings.2 There are still a few of the original buildings in the area, especially houses where the family lived. Some of the streets around the East Parker Street location are named Carter, Amelia, and Crane.
From "Marvin P. Carter's Sketch of Father's Life" as recorded by Amelia Carter Kennedy in a notebook:
He looked after the whole plant personally until his injury in 1876, besides devoting a great deal of time to public affairs. It was in all seriousness that any one wishing to see him was directed to "stay at any one place about the works and Carter will show up within ten minutes." He could lie down, and in an instant sleep, and ‘waken at his desire, ten fifteen– thirty minutes, and to his feet wide awake, with no trace of slumber apparent. Not only did he supervise the Works but attended to all the clerical duties in connection thereto until my brother-in-law W. D. Kennedy came in Sept. 1869.One hundred tons of iron were used annually, and more than 1,000 dozen scythes; 2,000 dozen axes; a large number of edged tools used by workers of wood, iron and stone; embracing carpenters’ and railroad and track adzes; miners’ and gravel picks, grub hoes, drills, crowbars, wedges; and harrow teeth, were produced.3
The catalogs I have for 1875 and 1880 show that the line was increased considerably in those few years, especially in the variety of chopping axes, scythes, and hay forks. There is a noticeable increase in the offerings for wooden items, such as scythe snaths and handles. Also of interest are the reduced prices of many of the items in the 1880 list.
I have found few advertisements placed by Pulaski Carter. The one in Figure 6 from an 1880 Scranton City Directory shows at the top a Keystone Clipper, with a Cast Steel Brush below it. Following Pulaski’s death, the illustration of the axe continued to be used by his heirs, when they formed Carter & Co. They used the same illustration either because they did not change the labeling of the axes or because the drawing was available.
[NOTE: Figures 3 through 6 are illustrations of an 1880 Pulaski Carter advertisement, an 1877 map of Capouse, and the 1875 and 1880 Pulaski Carter Catalogs shown, along with more information and illustrations, on the Capouse Works page.]
Figure 3. Capouse, Pennsylvania, 1877. Map by G. M.
Figure 4. Cover and inside pages of the 1875 Pulaski Carter catalog, which apparently was also used as the company's order form.
Figure 5. The 1880 Pulaski Carter catalog. In five years the line was increased most notably in the variety of chopping axes, scythes, and hay forks and many items have lower prices than the 1875 catalog.
Figure 6. An 1880 advertisement for Pulaski Carter. A Keystone Clipper is shown at the top.
|Figure 7. The Michigan
Pattern Bronzed is shown on page
112 of the 1891 John H. Graham catalog ( From the collection of
H. Bassett). On the same page Graham states that he is the
Carter & Co. Axes were also available in red, black or blue.
Figure 8 (right). Page 113 from the same catalog illustrates the Southern Kentucky, Baltimore Kentucky Beveled, Jersey Pattern, and Long Island axes.
|Figure 9. The price list, from page 115 of the 1891 John H. Graham catalog, offers second quality axes not found in Carter's catalogues on the previous pages. Considerable space is devoted to the unsatisfactory quality of the pictures, which were not to scale and didn't show all the details. Figure 10. Carter's Rockaway, from page 114 of the 1891 John H. Graham catalog, features a unique label.|
|Figure 10. Carter's
Rockaway, from page 114
of the 1891 John H. Graham catalog, features
a unique label.
The same axe is also used to illustrate the article about Capouse Works, Carter & Company, that appeared in "Scranton, Pennsylvania, (The Electric City)" by the Scranton Republican, 1896. The article stated that the implements were made on machinery that was operated by steam power and distributed among wholesale and hardware houses throughout Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.
Figures 7 through 10 are all from pages 112 to 115 of the 1891 illustrated catalogue of John H. Graham & Co., Hardware Manufacturers and Manufacturer's Agents Exclusively, 113 Chambers and 95 Reade Streets, New York. These were provided by Kendall H. Bassett, who reported that there were no other axes listed in the catalog.
The ad in Figure 11 from the 1895 Scranton Fire Alarm Boxes Directory, shows the name change after Pulaski died, but with the earlier illustration. The single black diamond axe and the double-bitt black diamond axe both have the same interesting label (Figure 12).
Figure 11. Pulaski Carter carried on for some years after Pulaski’s death in 1884 as Carter & Co., as seen in this advertisement from 1895. By 1900, the company had closed. The illustration is the same one used in the earlier advertisement. Note the company's telephone number included in the ad.
The single black diamond axe was used on Carter & Co.
after Pulaski Carter's death and features the same label (Figure 13).
the edges of the diamond design is written, "P. Carter; Scranton, PA.;
Handmade; Black Diamond." In the center is written, "This AXE is
Forged, neither press punch or drop being used. The Material is the
Best obtainable. Particular care exercised in every process of
and each Axe carefully Tested. It is not warranted, we know it is
On the billhead shown, Pulaski’s heirs took this thought one step
by printing across the top "‘NO WARRANTEE’ Goods at risk of purchaser
shipment in good order."
Figure 12. A
Carter & Co. bill head from 1898.
The billhead is from the collection of Kendall H. Bassett.
Figure 13 (right). The single black diamond axe continued to be used on the Carter & Co. envelopes after Pulaski’s death. This axe and the double bit axe on the bill head both carried the label explaining Carter's warranty policy. [Click to see an enlargement of the label.]
In 1864 Pulaski Carter's factory burned down. It was only insured for $10,000, and the loss was a heavy one, but as soon as his customers and friends heard of his loss, offers of help began to flow in. But he put the tempting offers aside and rebuilt himself, without borrowing a dollar and preserved the personal independence he loved so well. [In 1864 Pulaski Carter incorporated under a new name with partners and the ability to sell stock. Perhaps Amelia was not informed of this.]
Marvin Carter, Pulaski’s son, took note of his father's efforts in his "Sketch of Father's Life" as recorded by Amelia Carter Kennedy in a notebook:
I have seen him nights – after the fire – in the little house used temporarily as an office – at work at the books, suddenly stop, go to the sink, dash water over head and face, briskly rub dry and thus "freshened" return to his work.In November 1876, he had a serious accident. Two teams driven by drunken racers crushed each side of Mr. Carter's carriage with their own, wrecking it and seriously injuring him.
In 1877 Pulaski Carter's partners were Calvin Parson of Wilkes-Barre and Edward Weston of Providence. In this year Mr. Carter fitted up a rolling mill, which was designed to manufacture bar iron from scrap iron of every kind of shape.4
He never recovered from the effects of the accident in 1876, and died 13 October 1884, aged seventy-one years. He left surviving him his widow and three children. The children, Pulaski P., Marvin P., and Amelia M. (who married William De Witt Kennedy), carried on the business that he started in 1841. They had all been working for Capouse Works in one capacity or another. The business was continued by these heirs by mutual consent and verbal agreement under the firm name of Carter & Co. Over the last few years of the century the assets were sold. The business was considered closed as of 1 January 1900.
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