Thursday, November 20, 2008
My father had a set of books that always intrigued me. They sat on some bookshelves in the hall. The five volume set was bound in leather with gilt work on the covers. Each book was of a modest size and they somehow looked more like prayerbooks than textbooks. The set was about carpentry and was published by a long forgotten company, Theo. Audel and Co. So what is the history of Audel's?
We'll start with a very early trade journal. Power, was once Steam, and was founded by N. Hawkins, who wrote under the name Theodore Audel. The publication was established in October 1882. It eventually became the cornerstone of the McGraw-Hill empire but it's N.Hawkins that is most interesting. And so I'll turn to the NY Times.
Hmmm... not much there. A note in the 14 January 1963 edition of the NY Times (p.3) noted that Howard W. Sams and Co. "publishers of technical and trade manuals, books, and magazines" had acquired New York based American Handbook and Textbook Co., and its subsidiary Theodore Audel and Co.
Now the Howard W. Sams Company has an odd history. The founder sold the company in 1967 to ITT corporation. In 1985, ITT sold the company to Macmillan Publishing. In 1987, Macmillan was acquired by Robert Maxwell who sold off many of the divisions. The remaining assets were put on the block in 1989 and it was acquired by two executives who then sold the company to Bell Atlantic in 1995. In 2000 the company was sold again to a startup called eCatalogs, who spun off all assets that weren't catalog-related. The were acquired by Damon Davis who established Sams Technical Publishing. After a variety of transactions with Thomson Learning, the remaining assets were acquired by AGS Capital. Now that history is of some interest since I remember the Sams manuals from the early days of the Internet. But it doesn't get me to a history of Audel's. Back to N. Hawkins.
Was he Nehemiah Hawkins? Who apparently also wrote under the name of William Rogers? And may have been born in 1833? He may even be credited with the first usage of the word "bug" for a technical problem. A Nehemiah Hawkins was also instrumental in the establishment of Highland Park Illinois.
An engagement accouncement noted that a Harriet R. Hawkins, daughter of Nehemiah Hawkins, was betrothed to Herbert W. Todd (Sept. 27 1905, p. 9. NY Times). Another daughter, Mildred, seems to have been married to Walter Edward Jarvis on 12 December 1911 (13 December 1911, p. 11, NY Times). Maria Virginia, "beloved wife of Nehemiah Hawkins," died on 22 November 1913 (23 November 1913, p. c7, NY Times). The obit notes some connection to Springfield MA and Chicago. She died on her 70th birthday. A more detailed notice the next day (p.7) notes that she was the wife of Hawkins, "author and publisher of many scientific works." Nehemiah apparently lived a great deal longer.
The obituary for Hawkins from 17 January 1928 (p.29 NY Times) reads:
Nehemiah Hawkins Dies.
Publisher, Author and Inventor -- Descendant of Roger Williams.
Nehemiah Hawkins, retired publisher, author and inventor, seventh in descent from Roger Williams, founder of the Providence Plantation, died on Sunday in Scarsdale at the age of 94.
He was born in Providence, RI, and spent his youth in Springfield, Mass., where he began his career with the Merriam Company, publishers of Webster's Dictionary. Later, while residing in Chicago he was influential in the founding of the original Chicago University. Coming to this city, he published technical books for industrial works. He was one of the founders of Power, an engineering periodical. He belonged to the Park Avenue Baptist Church. He left a son, Victor, and two daughters, Mrs. Mildred H. Jarvis and Mrs. Herbert W. Todd.
The obituary in the Chicago Daily Tribune (18 January 1928, p.33) gives some more details. Apparently, he was "a pioneer Chicago railway construction engineer and bridge builder.... Mr. Hawkins came to Chicago in 1856 with the firm of Stone & Boomer. Later he entered the milling business and became a member of the Board of Trade. He was a brother of F.P. Hawkins of the Moraine hotel, Highland Park." F.P. Hawkins was perhaps Frank Hawkins, manager of the Highland Park Building Company.
In addition to his various books, Hawkins had some patents to his credits. He was issued #156,421 for "Improvement in bucket-elevators" (3 November 1874), #85930 (19 January 1869) for "Improvement in construction of elevator-buckets", #372,467 (1 November 1887) for "Binder" -- a way of putting together books, #172,247 (28 March 1876) for "Improvement in coal-hods", and #234,868 (3 November 1880) for "Screw conveyor."
So we have the typical tech works. And then there's this very odd thing: "The mormon of the little manitou island: an historical romance by the Knight of Chillon of Switzerland and Associates." It was published by the Uplift Company. The listed address -- 253 West 88th Street in New York -- matches the address provided in the various obituaries and marriage notices. The book was published in 1916, three years after the death of his wife and is dedicated to "Roger Williams", the author of "Religious Liberty."
Who was Richard F. Hawkins? A brother perhaps? There's an advertisement in the "Northampton and Easthampton Directory" (1883/1884) for the R.F. Hawkins' Iron Works, "Successor to Wm. Howe, Stone & Harris, and Harris & Hawkins." It notes that the company does "Howe Truss, Pin and Link, Riveted Lattice and Solid Plate Girder Bridges, Draw Bridges, Turn Tables, Bolts, Forgings, R.R. Frogs and Switches, Steam Boilers, Tanks, and all Riveted Work, Iron and Brass Castings Building Fronts, Etc. Machine and Blacksmith Work to Order." It provides a Springfield MA address.
Are there other hints? Hawkins' Indicator Catechism is dedicated to Henry Raabe, M.E. The Progressive Machinist was dedicated to "the late Gustave Kemmerling M.E. of Berlin, my first instructor in the noble art of which he was master." Aids to Engineers' Examinations was dedicated to Victor Hawkins (who also assisted with the Mechanical Dictionary). The Handbook of Calculations for Engineers and Fireman was dedicated to "C.A.H. with filial affection." Maxims and Instructions for the Boiler Room was "Fraternally inscribed to W.R. Hawkins, R.F. Hawkins, and F.P. Hawkins."
It seems that Frank P. Hawkins was quite a popular guy in Chicago.
Nehemiah gets a write up in "A dictionary of North American authors deceased before 1950" and Richard Fenner gets some treatment in "The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume 3, 1891." He also gets some mention in a book called "Massachusetts of today: a memorial of the state, historical and biographical, issued for the World's Columbian exposition at Chicago":
His business has grown until he is proprietor of one of the leading industries of the city. Among the structures that stand as fair examples of his work are the New Bedford and Springfield jails, which are constructed largely of iron. Among the other notable structures for which Mr. Hawkins is responsible is the Willimansett bridge, near Holyoke, eight hundred feet in length. This bridge is built of iron, and was constructed at the expense of the city of Holyoke and neighboring towns.
He also constructed the North Hampton bridge for the Massachusetts Central Railroad. This is an iron bridge, and is one thousand five hundred feet in length. Mr. Hawkins is a Republican, and has frequently been the choice of the party managers for mayor, but he has never been induced to accept the nomination, for the reason that he would be compelled to neglect either the office or his private business. He was an alderman for three years, and is at the present time a watercommissioner. Mr. Hawkins is one of the most active members of the Board of Trade and one of the directors. He is also a member of the Financial Committee of the Hampden Savings Bank. Mr. Hawkins was married on Sept. 3, 1862, to Cornelia Morgan, daughter of A. B. and Sarah (Cadwell) Howe. They have five children, Paul, Florence, Edith, Ethel and David Hawkins. In all matters relating to the scientific construction of iron bridges Mr. Hawkins is considered one of the best authorities in the country, and his opinion is held in high esteem by experts in the same line of work.
There is some information on Stone and Boomer. There is apparently even a manuscript by Frank F. Fowle entitled "Memoir of General George Boardman Boomer Bridge Builder and Soldier" that was "compiled from private sources for the Engineering History Division of the Western Society of Engineers." A copy -- or perhaps the original source materials -- are now housed in the Ambraham Lincoln Library and Museum (#94-0049). The scope notes provide some other names of potential interest: Amasa Stone, Andros B. Stone, and Lucius B. Boomer. His sister, Amelia Stone, also wrote a book about him called "Memoir of George Boardman Boomer" in 1864. It was the general's brother -- Lucius B. Boomer and A.B. Stone (Andros B. perhaps?) who established a bridge building business in the winter of 1851. He went to St. Louis to manage the business. He became a partner in the firm about 1853-54.
So who were Andros B. Stone and Lucius B. Boomer? Lucius B. Boomer also established the American Bridge Company in 1870. It was liquidated in 1878 but reemerged in 1891 as the American Bridge Works, which was eventually acquired by the American Bridge Company (eventually acquired by U.S. Steel).
So I'm not getting any closer to a history of Audels but some pieces are starting to fall into place.