Providence Tool Company Records
Size: 3.5 linear feet
Catalog number: MSS 89
Processed by: Cindy Bendroth, November 1988.
Additional material updated through January 2003
©Rhode Island Historical Society
The Providence Tool Company was the outgrowth of the business ventures of two brothers. In 1834, Joseph and Jeremiah Arnold began manufacturing nuts and washers in Pawtucket. When Joseph retired, Jeremiah joined William Field, named their business William Field & Co., and moved to Providence in 1846. In April 1847 the name was changed to the Providence Tool Company.
The company is known for its ammunition production. However, in its early years, it primarily made hammers, pick axes, marlinspikes, nuts, and bolts. In 1856 it merged with the Providence Forge and Nut Company. The Providence Tool Company was successful in supplying machine parts and tools across the nation.
The Civil War created a demand for companies to make munitions for the Union army. The Providence Tool Company took up the call and began weapons manufacturing in 1861. The Company hired Frederick W. Howe, a former supervisor at the Robbins and Lawrence Armory in Windsor, Vermont, to help start the manufacturing of arms.
During the 1860 and 1870s the company continued to produce hardware and machinery. The business expanded so much that in 1867 it opened an office in New York and London. In 1869 the London office closed and when the company encountered difficulty in 1875, the New York office closed as well. In 1873, it received a contract from Singer Sewing Machines to make sewing machines and made machines under other brand names.
From 1872 to 1875, the Providence Tool Company obtained arms contracts with the Turkish government. These contracts helped finance the company's expansion from 148 West River St. to additional plants at 41 and 95 Wickenden St. By the turn of the century the Tool Company had produced 850,000 firearms. The Turkish government did not pay for the arms produced by the 1873 and 1875 contracts. The company became involved with legal battles and lost money on interest and defaulted loans. Finally in 1885 the company reorganized as the Rhode Island Tool Company, which still exists in 1999.
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Scope and content:
The Providence Tool Company Papers cover from 1844 to 1944, with the bulk of the material from the years 1856 to 1875. Some of the earlier material involves William Field & Co., and records after 1885 are from the Rhode Island Tool Company. Some of the records were kept by William B. Dart, treasurer and president for 1865 to 1876. Important subjects include: selling arms to the Turkey, arms manufacturing, and hardware production and sales. Important people represented in the collection include: O.F. Winchester, Rufus Waterman, J.B. Anthony, George Rusher, N.E. Watrifs, James A. True and William Field.
Series I: Correspondence (1846-1944), 1 lin. ft
Correspondence contains mostly orders for company products and requests for payment. Also contains correspondence with the Turkish government. Arranged chronologically.
Series II: Bills and Receipts (1844-1883) 3 folders
This series includes bills to and from the William Field and Company as well as the Providence Tool Company. Arranged chronologically.
Series III: Contracts (1872-1876), 3 folders
Contracts are with the Turkish government and are written in French, English and Turkish. Arranged chronologically.
Series IV: Miscellaneous (1847-1944) 1 folder
Consists mostly of articles on the company, a company history, and sample of a stockholder's certificate.
Series V: Patents (1867-1879) 3 folders
Patents are primarily for guns. Arranged alphabetically by patent holder.
Series VI: Payroll (1863-1865) 3 folders
This series consists of lists of workers from contracted companies and the amount owed to them from the Providence Tool Company. Arranged alphabetically by contracted company's name.
Series VII: Reports and agreements (1865-188l) 4 folders
Reports and agreements are to and from the company's clients and employees. Consists primarily of material from the Turks and Columbian government. Arranged chronologically.
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The collection has arrived in a series of accessions over the past fifty years. The company's archives apparently fell into the hands of an individual who periodically sells small portions to dealers. These are the portions that have arrived so far:
1944Single contract dated 1875 with Providence Tool Company, gift of William C. Dart, company president.
1945 Four items regarding Turkish contracts, gift of Mary and Jane Anthony, probably descendants of a former president.
1967 Letter from Josiah King to Providence Tool Co., 1849, gift of Nino Scotti.
1973 Records kept by William B. Dart, treasurer/president, 1865-1876. 150 items. Gift of Mrs. M. Dart Dunbar of Saunderstown, R.I., a family member.
1988 Approximately one and a half linear feet of records, purchased from Millie Longo.
1990 About 250 items, 1856-1865 (trial balances, payroll,bills) purchased from Mildred Longo.
1994 1 box of invoices and orders, mostly 1847-1862, purchased from Mildred Longo.
1997 10 items dated 1854, purchased from Mrs. Hudson's Fine Books and Paper.
1999 68 items dated 1847-1849, purchased from Charles Apfelbaum
2001 Two receipts to William Field & Co. dated 4/18/1846 and 6/16/1846, gift of Rick Stattler
2002 Short letter from Corlis, Nightingale & Co. dated 3/15/1850, gift of Cherry Bamberg
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Papers were unfolded as much as possible and put in acid-free folders and boxes. Materials that had been processed before were refoldered and incorporated with the new material and put in acid-free boxes. Steel pins that held papers together were left in, unless rusted. Oversize material was left in the original box and folders.
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Box 1 Correspondence
Folder 1 January - May 1846 (William Field & Co.)
2 May - August 1846 (William Field & Co.)
3 August - December 1846 (William Field & Co.)
4 February 1847 - June 1849, 1850
5 April 1, 1851 - May 8, 1851
6 May 9, 1851 - June 30, 1851
7 July l, 1851 - July 18, 1852
8 July 19 - August 20, 1852
9 August 21, 1852 - September 9, 1852
10 September 10 - September 30, 1852
12 January 1- January 30, 1855
13 February 1 - February 22, 1855
14 February 23 - March 16, 1855
Box 2 Correspondence
Folder 1 March 17 - October 1855
2 January l - February l6, 1856 [George Rushner]
3 February 19 - April 5, 1856 [George Rushner]
4 April 21- June l7, 1856 [George Rushner]
6 January - February l7, 1858
7 February 18 - April 5, 1858
8 April 6 - April 26, 1858
9 April 27 - May 19, 1858
10 May 20 - June l5, 1858
11 June 16 - June 30, 1858
Box 3 Correspondence
Folder 1 1871-1872
3 1873 [Turkish memo]
Bills and receipts
Contracts with Turkish government
11 French copy, 1873
14 Martini, 1878
15 Norcross, Joseph, 1877-1879
16 Peabody, Henry O., 1867
17 Forging job, February 1864 - June 1865 [including N.E. Watrifs]
18 Henry Hammond, 186l-1864
19 True and Boyden, August 1863 - March 1864
20 James A. True, April 1864 - May 1865
Reports and agreements
Boxes 4 and 5: Unprocessed accession, 1990
Trial balances, payroll, bills, etc, 1856
Box 6: Unprocessed accession, 1994
Invoices, orders, 1847-1862
Oversized box l
Folder l Bills and receipts, undated
Contract - Turkish government
2 & 3 1873 - Dual language (2 folders)
4 1873 - French copy
5 Correspondence - April 1876
6 Chassepot, 1866
7 Crispin, Silas, 1866
8 Wessely, Zdenko Ritter von, 1869
9 Reports and agreements, 1874-1879
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Anthony, John B. (1829-1904)
Field, William & Co.
Firearms industry and trade - Rhode Island - Providence
Machinery - Trade and manufacture
Waterman, Rufus (1817-1896)
Winchester, Oliver F. (1810-1880)
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