Anyone who reads this column semi regularly has read here much about the Ames family.
I make no apology for writing about the family frequently. Because, let's face it, it fascinating, among the most accomplished in U.S. history, has strong roots here in Easton, and has given beyond generously to this community.
So when I arrive or come upon some interesting and valuable information about the Ames family, or a story about one of its members that I find engaging, I am inclined to share it here.
So, earlier this week, a good friend of mine emailed me this link to a PDF file of a superb history of the Ames shovel and tool company.
The author of the piece is Ames family descendent, Dr. W. Ames Curtin – a successful entrepreneur and scientist. He published the history, titled, Ames In America – Building A Past – Forging A Future, in 1999, on the occasion of the 225th anniversary of the founding of the business.
Ames In America – Building A Past – Forging A Future is excellent. It includes photos and other graphics. (Just a note – the PDF file might not download in the most crisp detail; but if you play with it a bit, and maybe don some reading glasses, you should be able to take in all the info.)
At one time, 60 percent of all shovels in the world were made in Easton. The Ames company, based now in Pennsylvania, is still in the tool business. As you can read on its website, it is a world leading manufacturer of “non-powered” lawn and garden products.
Non-powered means shovels, rakes, spades, hoes, and other tools that are powered through good old physical labor without the accompaniment of electricity or fuel energy.
Ames uses this tagline in its marketing: “Our Tools Built America.” They sure did.
The history my friend sent me led me to find this site – also created by Dr. Ames Curtin – which is a valuable and highly interesting trove of information on the Ames family.
If you check out some of the media to which I have linked here, you will have an opportunity to learn a lot about the Ames family. There is a lot of quality information there.
But to avail yourself to some shorthand of how important the Ames company was to America while still based in Easton (just one more reason why the Ames Shovel Shops needed to be preserved), I provide here an excerpt from the history section of the Ames website:
Ames shovels were used in numerous landmark events including the groundbreaking for the B & O Railroad in Baltimore; the building of the transcontinental railroad; the search for California gold in the 1840’s; the installation of the Statue of Liberty; Admiral Byrd’s exploration of Antarctica; the building of the Hoover Dam; the creation of Mount Rushmore and the construction of the interstate highway system.
The family-owned company grew to become an industrial leader during the 19th century. In the 1870’s Ames produced more than 5,000 shovels each day - 60 percent of the world’s production of metal shovels. Around that time, Oakes Ames, one of the owners, invented a handle bending machine to efficiently produce the famous Ames bend, a revolutionary shovel design in its time.
Originally located in Massachusetts, the company began its long tradition of supplying shovels and other tools for war efforts during the Revolutionary War. The company has continued supporting United States war efforts for more than two centuries. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln personally asked Ames to supply shovels to the Union army. When World War I battles exposed troops to the dangers of rapid machine gunfire, Ames played an integral role in supplying the tools to dig protective trenches. The efforts continued during WWII when Ames produced 11 million entrenching tools, armored tank plating and shell casings for American forces.
I hope you will agree that the considerable attention I give here to the Ames family and what it built and what it gave is most justified and almost necessary.