Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 16

Thread: The tool chest of John Robert Fortune, mid to late 1800s

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    US Virgin Islands
    Posts
    3,300
    Blog Entries
    6

    The tool chest of John Robert Fortune, mid to late 1800s

    ***This is not a gloat- posting this because it is something very interesting and worth sharing. I feel like the torch was passed to me and I must carry it on.

    I recently went to buy a few power tools, and got to talking to the guy. He found out that I liked hand tools, so he said, I have an old tool box full of old hand tools you might be interested in. I have heard this a lot, and it usually ends up being a 1960s box full of rusty Stanley stuff. He took me to the loft and I saw this wooden tool chest, and I knew right away this was something good. He opened it, and there were all the tools as they have been for over 150 years, and still looks like Mr. Fortune could use them today. I started to identify each tool and what it is used for, and the man got a tear in his eye. He is moving aboard a boat, and has no room to keep the box. It has been passed down through his family, and he wanted to see someone appreciate it.

    He wanted to give me the chest, and I instead paid him, and said very clearly, these tools are worth way more than this, but I will ensure they are kept together and I will respect them. I think we were both equally happy.

    I still have to go through all these and date them, but most planes seem to be mid to late 1800s. The jointer is stamped HL James, Williamsburg, Mass.. HL James stopped making planes in 1869. I do know from my conversation with his great grandson that Mr. Fortune fought in the Battle of the Light Brigade, which occurred in 1854, so this seems about right as far as dates he would have been purchasing tools.

    There are other tools that dont fit the era. The current owner said his father also used the tools, and likely that is why there are tools from up to the mid-1900s. The Diston D8 would be no older than 1880 (first year for the thumbhole), and I have not tried yet to date it. The keyhole saws look fairly modern, and of course the one chisel with a plastic handle is mid-1900s. The moulding planes are from Alex Matheison and Son, Edinburgh, which would be mid 1800s, as well as Ohio Tool, Phoenix Tool, and others. Many have no legible stamp. The fillister is from Auburn Tool Co., and has what appears to be two sets of irons.

    There is a nice little backsaw from C.E. Jennings Co., likely late 1800s.

    There are two soldering irons and a lead ball, as well as a glass cutter. Many Moulding planes are beading planes, and some specialty planes that I believe all pertain to windows and trim work. It seems that was Mr. Fortunes trade.

    Sorry, this is all I have time for now. If you want to see something up close, I can oblige, but it may take a day or so to get to it. I laid as many as I could fit on the table, and took a few shots of the box and moulding planes.

    B45D5040-575C-4246-9F1A-E5F383F5B59E.jpg FDC08B2B-BF15-4C17-8552-6F13E07FDDE8.jpg 709A7A40-5066-4E4D-92DE-ABADCA5D4861.jpg 7A342A37-0AA2-4F9F-910C-96D6CC8C02F7.jpg 124B4A32-1208-4712-A9F8-3F0F937D0AD7.jpg

  2. #2
    What a treasure, and so fortunate it found it's way to the right person to appreciate them!
    --Certainty is the refuge of a small mind--

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Lubbock, Tx
    Posts
    984
    Very cool. Glad you got them.

  4. #4
    it's island ,The PRICE IS RIGHT ! Congratulations ,Malcolm ! Let us know when that show will air!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Lake Gaston, Henrico, NC
    Posts
    4,607
    Wow!!!!!!!

  6. #6
    Dagnabit! Now I need to go wipe the drool off my keyboard

    Nice find. It is always good when something like that ends up in the hands of someone who truly appreciates it.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    20,946
    Blog Entries
    1
    Congratulations on your good fortune of being involved in the passage of this set of tools through history.

    It is also amazing they all appear to be taken care of well through the past century or so.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  8. #8
    Malcolm,

    Congrats, your acquiring the chest is what I expect most of us wish for our tools. When the day comes, and it is coming like a freight train, I hope my tool chest will be passed to someone like you and then passed again and again. But what I expect will happen sooner rather than later they will end up being split up and/or in the hands of a bottom feeder or even worst GoodWill.

    What is the old saying: Good things happen to good people.

    ken

    ken

  9. #9
    What a great story and it even has a happy ending! I'm glad for Mr. Fortune, his great grandson and for you.

    At some point down the years you should write out how you came to have the tools, and as much of the history as you learned from his descendent. Then put it in a small waterproof bottle (pill bottle, etc) and put that inside the box so it is there when your daughter passes it on to your grandchild.
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
    Location
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Posts
    76
    Some of these toolboxes end up in museums. Have you considered donating it?

    It would be nice if you made a video describing the tools in the box and their uses. There may be a piece of old wisdom there that can be preserved.
    Raf

  11. #11
    Excellent find. Use, maintain, and treasure them for that is the highest form of respect. I am fortunate enough to have been given 2 family tool chests dating back to the time when James Anderson Senior came over from Northern Ireland in 1846 and plied his trade as a shipwright and later as a carpenter in Cambridge Mass. They are my most treasured possessions and have been added to by each succeeding generation.
    Dave Anderson
    Chester Toolworks LLC
    Chester, NH

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    US Virgin Islands
    Posts
    3,300
    Blog Entries
    6
    Quote Originally Posted by Mel Fulks View Post
    it's island ,The PRICE IS RIGHT ! Congratulations ,Malcolm ! Let us know when that show will air!
    Haha, this gives me a great idea for a spoof video.

    Quote Originally Posted by Frederick Skelly View Post
    What a great story and it even has a happy ending! I'm glad for Mr. Fortune, his great grandson and for you.

    At some point down the years you should write out how you came to have the tools, and as much of the history as you learned from his descendent. Then put it in a small waterproof bottle (pill bottle, etc) and put that inside the box so it is there when your daughter passes it on to your grandchild.
    I am having the person I got it from write a bio of the original owner of the tool box and am including it in the box.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rafael Herrera View Post
    Some of these toolboxes end up in museums. Have you considered donating it?

    It would be nice if you made a video describing the tools in the box and their uses. There may be a piece of old wisdom there that can be preserved.
    Raf
    I am involved in a project to restore the Camille Pissarro house and create a hand tool workshop where visitors can see how West Indian furniture was made in the DWI. The box will ultimately go on display there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Anderson NH View Post
    Excellent find. Use, maintain, and treasure them for that is the highest form of respect. I am fortunate enough to have been given 2 family tool chests dating back to the time when James Anderson Senior came over from Northern Ireland in 1846 and plied his trade as a shipwright and later as a carpenter in Cambridge Mass. They are my most treasured possessions and have been added to by each succeeding generation.
    That would be great to see. Any large slicks in that kit?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Borger, Texas
    Posts
    1,362
    Malcolm,

    +1 on a great story. It adds to the history of woodworking, and it is of great interest to see a relatively complete, at least it looks like it could be, set of tools that went with a given trade back in the mid 1800s. I am glad they are going to a place where they can be displayed and the tool chest can even be documented. It is a great piece of the history of the island.

    Thanks and regards,

    Stew

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Borger, Texas
    Posts
    1,362
    Dave,

    Have you considered posting photos of the two tool chests. I know it would be of great interest to many of us.

    Thanks and regards,

    Stew

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    19,975
    Awesome story. Thank you so much for sharing that.
    Who knows what stands in front of,
    our lives; I fashion my future on films in space.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •