Brand identity has always been important to manufacturers. It's particularly true for someone who is convinced he makes a good product. Not only does the maker want to make a sale, he wants the buyer to come back for more and tell his friends about it as well. This is the reason for branding merchandise.
Henry Disston started out stamping his name on handsaws the same way as anyone else in the business, with a steel punch. It's a challenge to stamp your name in a hardened saw plate in one try, and even more so to strike multiple advertisements like "Warranted" or "Spring Steel" and adding two or three eagle stamps to really set off your product. The stamps come out uneven or too light to see, especially after the saw gets a little rust over it. Disston was one of the earliest saw makers to use the brass medallion or label screw to identify his product in a way that could not be hidden by the inevitable oxidation of steel.
Although stamps and etches have the disadvantage of becoming obscured, they are useful for brand identity at the time the product is being sold. Disston continued to use them as well as the medallions to identify the brand. Disston was possibly the first saw maker to use etching to brand his saws, in 1865. This allowed more elaborate design features than a stamp. I have tried to show a large sample of stamps and etches as they changed over time. The grouping below is not an exact order in time, nor is it intended to be a type study. The medallion study will be more helpful for dating a handsaw's year of manufacture than the etch.
If experience is any indication of the future, I can count on readers sharing images of etches and stamps showing variations on the designs shown on this page. Ten years of reader contributions that necessitated my constant revision was what made the medallion study expand and become a more useful resource. I appreciate your email.
Erik von Sneidern
|This is the earliest stamp from this group. It was made at the time Disston operated a two-man shop with his apprentice, David Bickley. It dates from the early to mid-1840's.|
|This stamp is from a No. 8 handsaw with a finely-shaped handle and a blank disk in place of a medallion. It probably dates from the mid-1840's.|
|This stamp is from the same time period, mid-to-late 1840's. It is from a No. 9 saw with another exquisitely carved handle and the flying eagle medallion, the first type of label screw used by Disston. The name stamp is flanked by three eagles and the words London Spring and Warranted. Larger image is here.|
|This is a brother to the stamp above, appearing to be made from a die of the same design. Of interest here is the German Steel stamp under the name. This is unique for a Disston saw, not a grade identification normally used by Disston. This saw was made several years before Disston started his own steel production in 1855.|
|This italicized name stamp also has a lightly impressed eagle. It is an early saw, probably from the late 1840's to 1850.|
|This stamp is from a No. 7 rip saw from the time of the so-called optimistic eagle, probably early 1850's.|
|Known as an inchworm stamp, these were made in the 1850's.|
|Disston later went back to the arched name stamp.|
|This is the blade of a No. 12 handsaw, which went into production around 1860.|
|Henry Disston began etching handsaws about 1865.|
|There are few saws with a Henry Disston etch.|
|The same year Disston started using etches on the saws, Hamilton Disston became a partner in his father's company. Hamilton was listed in the 1865 city directory living in his father's house on Front Street. His trade was listed as a machinist.|
|The company was called Henry Disston and Son from 1865-71.|
|In 1871 Albert Disston was the second son to become a partner in the company and the name was permanently changed to Henry Disston and Sons. He worked in the business office until his death in 1883.|
|The 1865-early 1880's etches have curled serifs on the lettering.|
|This early 20th century No. 112 handsaw has a transitional element. Note how the "patent ground" lettering has the curled serifs while the rest of the etch is less elaborate.|
|By the early 1900's all etches featured the abbreviated phrase for Registered with the U.S. Patent Office.|
|In the early 1910's the letters M. DE F. and M. IND RGTRADA were added to all the etches. They are abbreviated French and Spanish phrases for Trademark.|
|D-8 handsaw etches featured the Disston quote and signature as well as the number 8 inside the letter D until 1928. After that the etch changed to the hyphenated version.|
|All handsaw model names started with the letter D after 1928, including D-7, D-12, D-16, D-23 and others.|
|After WWII the etches on D-7 and D-12 handsaws as well as backsaws have a revised design.|
|The Victory handsaws have the most interesting etches. This one is from the 1930's. The D-115 logo is the post-1928 style, but the eagle is the design that was used before WWII. Later saws featured a large letter V.|