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Leonard Bailey and the Stanley Rule and Level Co 1869-1884

Philip Whitby

The relationship between one of America's foremost inventors of carpenters' hand planes and the manufacturing giant Stanley Tools, has a great history of both great productivity and of ambitions and dreams shattered beneath the wheels of the Industrial Revolution. Before speculating on the relationship between the Stanley Co. and Leonard Bailey, let's first review the known chronology of events as it applied to both.

May 1869 -S. R. & L purchases BAILEY, CHANEYAND CO. of Boston Mass. (this is Bailey's factory where he has been producing planes of various designs) and acquires the right to manufacture tools under Bailey's several patents. Stanley also contracts to produce planes at its New Britain Conn. factory (about 100 miles west of Boston), to which it removes machinery and stock from the Boston plant. Production of the first Stanley/Bailey planes commences. CHARLES MILLER is also a contractor at Stanley (starting approx. 1871) and produces his patented metallic plow plane.

Early 1875 - JUSTUS TRAUT patents the No.110 block plane Stanley has had in production for several months. Bailey claims sales of the plane cut into his royalties and the contract between Bailey and Stanley is terminated.

Summer 1875 - Leonard Bailey begins development of the 'Victor' plane line to compete with the Stanley/Bailey planes still in production by Stanley. Fighting between Bailey and the Stanley Co. over patent infringement is bitter, Stanley makes every attempt to stop Bailey from producing the VICTOR line of tools.

Summer 1878 - Stanley wins a court decision against Bailey and the Victor line of planes, the result of which is for Bailey to sell the Victor business to the BAILEY WRINGING MACHINE CO. of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, to move there and produce both VICTOR and DEFIANCE planes and tools.

January 1880 - Stanley Rule and Level Co. purchases the Defiance plane business of the Bailey Wringing Machine Co. and offers remaining stock for sale in its catalogue that year.

July 1884 - Stanley purchases the remains of the struggling Victor Plane Co. from Leonard Bailey along with manufacturing machinery and remaining inventory which they offer in their catalogue of that year. LEONARD BAILEY ends more than 30 years as a carpenter tool inventor and manufacturer and spends the rest of his long productive life in the manufacture of copy presses.

Stanley Rule and Level Co. continues to produce tools many of which are invented and developed by the brilliant plant superintendent Justus Traut. Stanley eventually sells the remaining stock of Victor and Defiance tools and in 1906 after Bailey's death, commemorates Bailey by casting his name in their standard line of bench planes.

Was Leonard Bailey mad as hell at the Stanley Rule and Level Co.? Probably, at sometime, why else would he name his planes 'Victor' and 'Defiance'. How did Bailey get along with other great tool inventors of the day? Some well, others not so well - surely he didn't have much use for Justus Traut who litigated against him and his Victor planes. On the other hand he and Charles Miller were jointly granted a patent for the Victor #14 combination plane.

At any rate there is plenty for tool collectors to speculate about concerning Leonard Bailey, Victor and Defiance tools, and their relationship to the giant tool maker Stanley Rule and Level Co. For a more comprehensive look at this page of tool making history see Patented Transitional and Metallic Planes in America 1827-1927 by Roger Smith.

Appeared 1996 - Toolshop Auctions Catalogue

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