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Machine dealers store front photos

I love these industrial archeology threads. I also have a 10L that has a Wills Machinery tag on it. A CLK187R, L00 spindle, serial # 12532RKK16. Was in a high school shop,I finally got it home and am now in the process of refurbishing it. Thanks for the pic's. Regards, Jim
 
Mine is also Wills Machinery. 1962 Heavy 10 with all of the attachments Wills must have liked L00 spindles as mine has one. Fully restored and working great.

John
 
It wasn't too many years ago that I was in high school, shop had been cancelled years before that & I was one of only a handful of people who even knew what lathe was, let alone find one. Took me 2 years to find one; got a small bench lathe that was probably purchased in the 40's from a store just like that. It's sad that all those resources have disappeared. Do you know how hard it is to teach yourself machining, purchase equipment, find tooling & open a shop when all you have is 40 year old books & mail order catalogs? I'd give anything to have a resource like that. I'll get off my soapbox now. Thanks for sharing the photos.
 
I really like these photos too.. .love to have one of those neon signs..

Back when these pictures were presumptively taken, "machine shop" / industrial arts / manual arts / shop (or even vocational education) were critical to our education system and our "manufacturing nation"...not to mention war prep. Over the most recent past, its not been this way (hence the large amount of SBL equipment available for repurposing by many of us on this forum). Indiana's new governer Mike Pence has promised to make vocational education a higher priority within Indiana's educatoinal system.
 
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Thank you for posting the photo of A.C. Colby's store.

A.C. Colby was THE South Bend Dealer in NYC and its environs. I was in A.C. Colby's store many times when I was a student at Brooklyn Technical HS (1964-1968). Some Fridays, when I had nothing to do after school, I'd take the subway into Manhattan instead of home to my folks house in Brooklyn. I'd get off at Canal Street and walk around the old "Machinery District". This was on Centre St., Lafayette St, and Broadway off Canal St. Colby was about the only new machine tool dealer. Everyone else was a used machine tool dealer, and they had everything and anything and welcomed a kid like me to come in and browse. I still have South Bend catalogs from the 1960's with Colby's sticker on them.

The round glass lights in the sidewalk are known as "vault lights". These were supposed to allow some light to filter into basements that extended out under the sidewalks on some of the older buildings. There is quite a bit written about the old Machinery District in NYC on some other threads on the Antique Machine Tool 'board. It was a special place and it has entirely vanished. Every last one of the machine tool dealers there are long gone. The buildings are now trendy stores selling clothing and Yuppie Loft Housing on the upper stories. The old names and descriptions of what the dealers traded in are still visible in fading paint on the upper story brickwork of a lot of the buildings. Legends like: "Machine tools bought and sold... Entire plants bought and sold... Lathes, Millers, Grinders..." can still be seen in the fading paint.

Colby had a small storefront compared to a lot of the dealers on Centre Street. However, Colby did a great deal of business. The power plant where I work was commissioned in 1972. At the time, someone who probably took HS machine shop spec'd out the plant machine shop. The result was Colby furnished a lot of it: a Southbend/Nordic 25" lathe (French made) , Southbend heavy 10" lathe, Southbend "Sturdimill" (British made, Eliot, I think).

In my home shop, I have a South Bend heavy 10" lathe which was sold new by Stevenson, a South Bend dealer in Kenilworth, NJ. When I needed to replace spindle bearings in that lathe (I bought it used in 1985), I got them from Stevenson who was still in business at that time. Their tag is still on the lathe, and they told me they sold it new in 1965.

I have a South Bend light 10" lathe on cast iron floor legs. It's a relatively "new" machine, but no dealer tag on it. It did come up from Westchester or NYC, so could have been sold by Colby.

Now for the funny part of this: The dealers on Centre Street were regarded as somewhere between horse traders and pirates. Nevertheless, they had all the time in the world to talk to a young person and let him browse and turn a cross feed crank or move a gear lever or two. Those used machine tool dealers would see us kids and know we were Brooklyn Tech boys, and know we were learning about machine shop work. They'd look at us and say something like: "C'mon in boychick (a Yiddish/ old NY slang term for a young fellow). It don't cost nothing to look around..." And, sometimes, they'd ask us what we were studying or what we wanted to do for our careers. The used machine tool dealers uniformly seemed to be cigar smokers, and generally had a half chomped stogie in their jaws. If they had something out of the ordinary, like a fine precision grinder or a geaqr shaper, they'd show it to us. The front show windows of the used machinery dealers held heaps of tooling, usually dusty. Stuff they took out of auctions in bushel baskets. There's be tool holders, knurling tools, mikes, chucks, centers, vises, and much more. If I saw something I wanted in the tooling, they'd sell it to me for very little, maybe 50 cents or a couple of bucks at most. I got toolholders and knurling tools I use to this day from them, and a vise for my Burke milling machine I use to this day. The vise was the big purchase for something like seven bucks, and was lugged home on the subway out to Brooklyn.

As I got older and bought a few machine tools from those guys, it was more like business. It was a known fact that the dealers employed "mechanics: (term loosely applied) to "rebuild" (term even more loosely applied) the machine tools they bought at auctions or liquidations sales. The rebuild consisted of washing the machine down with gasoline, usually out at the curb, taking apart anything that did not work and adjusting and doing what it took to get it working. Once the machine was inside the store, it got "rescraped". This was a frosting job done after cleaning up the bedways or dovetails with emery cloth and with no use of a straightedge. Swayback lathes and millers with badly worn sliding surfaces got "rescraped". They all got repainted with a gloss enamel.

It was caveat emptor. The dealers had lead cors and alligator clips so a machine could generally be tried under power, so you could find out if it was missing any teeth or worse. There'd be some inspection, some testing and checking (the simple tightengin of the carriage locking screw finger tigtht and running the carriage along the bed was a basic test) , and then the "hondeling" and "Geschaft" (negotiation and business dealing) would commence. Only a complete fool ever paid the original asking price. The bargaining was part of the process and fun. Once we struck a price, we shook hands. At that point, the dealer would offer a drink to seal the deal. Out would come a bottle of Scotch or Rye from a battered filing case, and out would come a couple of glass tumblers. The dealer would pour a couple of fingers of neat whisky in each glass, we'd clink glasses, and throw it back. Deal done.


Colby was another story. They sold new machine tools, and they were very defintely NOT part of the rest of the machine tool dealers. Colby did not exactly welcome kids from Brooklyn Tech to come browse and ask questions the way the rest of the shops in the machinery district did. Since I was not in a position to buy any new South Bend lathes, I did not buy anything from Colby except a copy of "How to Run a Lathe", which I have to this day. Colby did not strike me as the type of place where wild negotiations and bantering was going to happen, nor did they seem likely to pour anyone a drink of whisky to seal a deal.

My late father used to say: "It all evens out in the end". Well, Dad was right. Time and a changing economy, changing demographics (read: Yuppification) , and the internet have obliterated the old NYC machine tool district. In the end, neither the used machine tool dealers nor Colby are surviving there. I believe the one survivor is Grand Machinery, who existed in to the early 2000's. They relocated out to Long Island and are still run by descendants of the family that started the business. A.C. Colby WAS South Bend. With the demise of South Bend Lathe, I suspect Colby dissolved as well. I can say I was in their shop and can say the photo posted brings back a lot of good memories for me.
 
The bargaining was part of the process and fun. Once we struck a price, we shook hands. At that point, the dealer would offer a drink to seal the deal. Out would come a bottle of Scotch or Rye from a battered filing case, and out would come a couple of glass tumblers. The dealer would pour a couple of fingers of neat whisky in each glass, we'd clink glasses, and throw it back. Deal done.

You forgot the magic words "Mazel un Glick"
 
Lochiem!~ ws

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I love this kind of stuff :D
I grew up in Queens and fondly recall those summer afternoons when we had a couple of dollars (as in $2.00) in our pockets and my friend and I would jump on the subway for $0.35 and head downtown to Canal Street to see what we could find. Aside from the machine dealers there were surplus electrical component stores, plastics stores, hardware dealers and “Junk” stores. We used to spend the whole day walking in and out of these places and always came home with an arm full of “stuff” that we tinkered with for days. Even as kids we always “made a deal”, paying marked prices was for tourists.

I sure miss those days. Growing up sucks!

My Model A came from Colby. Here’s a shot of the tag:

SouthBend Colby Tag 2.jpg
 
To Metal Munger & Yachtsman:

"Ayn schonem Dank !" L'Chaim was said when knocking back the whisky, meaning: "To Life". "Mazl und Glick" means "luck and happiness".

In the FWIW and OT department: some few years ago, a member of my family asked if I could make her a ring. She was wanting me to teach her about machine work. I took a piece of 1" diameter 416 pump shafting (scrap shafting) and machined her a simple ring on my South Bend Heavy 10" lathe. That got me to thinking about a unique ring that would showcase machine shop work, and tie a few traditions together. What I was thinking in terms of is the "engineer's ring", worn by some Professional Engineers on the pinky or fourth finger of the right hand. The engineer's ring is machined from iron or stainless steel and is "facetted" to "prick the engineer's adjacent finger and never cease to remind the engineer of his/her responsibility and the trust placed in them". As I thought about the "engineer's ring", I hit on a design. In the Hebrew alphabet, the letter "Chai" (pronounced with a "ch" like you were saying "Bach") is the root of the Hebrew word for Life, as in "L'Chaim". Chai is the eighteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet and for that reason , 18 is considered as something of a lucky number. When a gift of a check is given, as for a wedding, tradition is to make it in some multiple of 18 or to at least contain the number 18 in some way. This symbolizes "Life". The design of ring I came up with is a 36 facetted ring, or "two lives". I machine the arbors to make the rings on my Southbend lathe, and machine the rings themselves on the same South Bend heavy 10 lathe. The facets are milled on my Bridgeport, using a dividing head. I wear my own 36 facetted ring on the fourth finger of my right hand, since I am a Professional Engineer. My wife and son wear their on other fingers. I've made these rings for people who are close to us, and for their "significant others", since the 36 facets signify "two lives intertwined".

It is basic machine shop work, and a tie to the old ways of doing things, using HSS toolbits, a South Bend Lathe and a Bridgeport, and a dividing head. As a kid, I dreamed of having a South Bend lathe with quick change gears and then some. I can say that the life and career I've come into has surpassed my wildest dreams that I had in those days when I walked Centre Street and looked at used machine tools or bummed a catalog off AC Colby. I am past retirement age and years of service, but still keep working as I love the work and am in a great niche with a great crew. Wife knows I will retire when I am ready, and knows that unless I can keep a hand on the machine tools and work, I will not be remotely happy or myself. I can say in all honesty that I've had a great run. I can say with a degree of sadness that the era that made me and even the kind of work I do are almost extinct. I am an oldtime engineer and machinist, a stubborn dinosaur, I guess. I can also say that a practical knowledge of machine tools and machine work took me far and made me in so many ways. Seeing the picture of Colby's shop brought back a flood of memories, even to the way the light came between the buildings, the smells and sounds, and the feeling of going home to my folks and supper. Tonight, for Metal Munger and Yachtsman, and to the memory of those old machine tool dealers, I will have a couple of shots of Slivovitz. It is 100 proof kosher plum brandy from Czechoslovakia, and it is what the oldtimers drank on special occasions. L'Chaim ! (to Life !) Sei Gesund und mach a Leben (you should be healthy and make a living).
 
To Metal Munger & Yachtsman:
Tonight, for Metal Munger and Yachtsman, and to the memory of those old machine tool dealers, I will have a couple of shots of Slivovitz. It is 100 proof kosher plum brandy from Czechoslovakia, and it is what the oldtimers drank on special occasions. L'Chaim ! (to Life !) Sei Gesund und mach a Leben (you should be healthy and make a living).

Thanks!

Somehow I bet you also have the address of John H. Winn. Dept. 607. 124 W. 23rd St.. New York purveyor of chemicals etc. in your memory bank :D
 
די פּראָבלעם מיט זייַענדיק 1/3 דור אייראפעישער אמעריקאנער איז אַז עס געץ פאַרפאַלן אין דער איבערזעצונג. יוגנט איז געווען שטענדיק ווייסטאַד אויף די יונג האַ? ws
 
Did a quick search to see what's there now... figures!

So that should answer the question of "what happened". Instead of making things we now sit around drinking coffee while surfing the net. I think that is a cast iron store front too.
 
To Metal Munger & Yachtsman:

Tonight, for Metal Munger and Yachtsman, and to the memory of those old machine tool dealers, I will have a couple of shots of Slivovitz. It is 100 proof kosher plum brandy from Czechoslovakia, and it is what the oldtimers drank on special occasions. L'Chaim ! (to Life !) Sei Gesund und mach a Leben (you should be healthy and make a living).

Joe -

Now my Slovenian grandfather and Croatian grandmother (what a combination and stories in that pairing - met and married in Pittsburgh) passed down the need for Slivovitz - so to you Na zdravje and Zivjeli. If I only had some Slivovitz in the house I would join you!

Dale
 
Metal Munger:

Yes, I do recall Winn Scientific. I was not into chemistry, but a friend in HS was. He took me to Winn once. Winn was a nice man who seemed to have no problems selling "dangerous chemicals" to HS boys. I bought a bottle of sulphuric acid with the idea I'd try etching my initials into my tools.

Yachtsmanbill:

Yich kann Yiddish verstehen und reden, nicht lesen. (phoenetic Yiddish vs the "real" Yiddish which Yachtsmanbill has posted). Yiddish was a great language, and part of my growing up. When my parents (both born in the USA) did not want us kids to know what they were speaking about, they spoke Yiddish. This means something was up, so the need to understand Yiddish was there. My grandparents spoke it almost exclusively, and you could go in the streets of our neighborhood in Brooklyn and do business in any number of stores speaking Yiddish. It was so prevailent that the local Chinese restaurant owner, an emigrant from China, spoke a bit of Yiddish. The guard at the local savings bank was a man of color, and he spoke a bit of Yiddish to help elderly customers fill out their forms. A lot of the customers of my grandparents' type were, at best, semi literate in English. As a kid, I used to get asked by my own grandmother to read her mail and translate it to her. I parlayed a grasp of Yiddish into my first machine shop job, working for German immigrants who spoke German in their machine shop. Nowadays, I speak some bastardization of both languages which seems to work across the board. My wife's people are from Galicia (the Austro Hungarian Empire), and my own people are from up on the Russian-Polish border, so I am a Litvak. Wife's mother raised hell when I showed up, hollering about my being a Litvak (somewhat lower class than a Galizianer in her opinion). When we'd speak Yiddish, my wife;s mother always understood and tossed it back to me, and never let me forget that I was a lowly Litvak. Years passed, and my wife's mother neared the end of her life's journey. She was in her 80's, and we'd placed her in a nursing home up in Albany, NY. Towards the end of my mother in law's life, she was shutting down and days passed where she did not know her own daughter. I'd walk into her room and she'd brighten right up, tell everyone that Joe had come, then ask me in Yiddish what I'd been up to. One day, I figured if I said something totally outrageous, it would draw my mother in law into the present and get her on track for a bit. So, when my mother in law asked what I'd been up to, I replied in Yiddish that I'd come from the village "Kurveh" (whore). Wife almost fell out of her chair and started punching my shoulder for saying what I'd said. Mother in law laughed, and asked me in Yiddish how the visit to the village whore had gone and what she was like. Once we got past that part of the conversation, mother in law stayed in the moment for a good while. It became a regular routine towards the last bit of my mother in law's life. I'd come from work with food and beer for my wife and myself, my harmonica, and settle in for a visit. Each visit opened with the same crazy conversation in Yiddish to get my mother in law pulled on track. Wife's Yiddish is not that extensive, so I'd wind up in a long conversation with my mother in law about all sorts of things, translating to my wife. The only other thing that seemed to work at getting my mother in law into the moment was to play some of the old songs she loved on my harmonica.

Dale:
As I wrote to Yachtsmanbill, My own "pairing" with my wife was somewhat similar to your grandparents. The feuds and allegations and insults that are traded between oldtime Galizianers and Litvaks were legendary. The Galizianers came from the old Austro Hungarian empire, and could have come from parts of Poland, Hungary, or Austria. Litvaks came from Russia, parts of Poland, and Lithuania. I am 100% Litvak, wife is 100% Galizianer, and my wife used to tell our kids - if they did something good or noteworthy, it was the Galizianer in them, if they screwed up, it was the Litvak in them. Wife claimed only a Litvak could put away the alcohol the way I do, and now that our son is 24, he hangs in with me when we get together. Wife says his smarts and savvy are the Galizianer side, his ability to hold his liquor is the Litvak side. Son is working in Minneapolis, and found a liquor store with Slivovitz on the shelves. He brought me a bottle at Thanksgiving. Where upstate are you ? I can certainly see the need to meet up and share some Slivovitz. Na Zdrovyeh would be the Russian or Polish that my own people said in addition to L'Chaim. Wife is on me to make some Vishniak. Good for what ails you. I've been asking the local liquor store to order me in a bottle of "Everclear" or "Graves" (198 proof grain alcohol) which is the start of Vishniak. It is sour pitted cherries cooked in sugar to make a thick syrup. This goes at the bottom of some mason jars and the rest gets filled with the alcohol. After a few months in a dark cool place, the alcohol has infused into the cherries and the syrup has mixed with the alcohol to make a liquer or cordial. When I was a kid, Vishniak was widespread. If you had a stomach ache, you got a sip or two of Vishniak. If you had a cold or cough, you got a dose of Vishniak before bed. If the adults were having company, they'd have the Vishniak after a full meal, then if you were a good kid, you got some of the cherries from the bottom of the jar, or you got them on ice cream. Either way, we need to hook up before too long !
 
Metal Munger:

Yes, I do recall Winn Scientific. I was not into chemistry, but a friend in HS was. He took me to Winn once. Winn was a nice man who seemed to have no problems selling "dangerous chemicals" to HS boys. I bought a bottle of sulphuric acid with the idea I'd try etching my initials into my tools.

hmmpph not a chemist and all these years I thought "Vishniak" was an invention of Thiokol. No cherries grow in Alaska but we do have plenty of raspberries and they make a wonderful liquor :drool5:

It was not just the storefronts but the interiors the link below is of the interior of automotive supply store circa 1926:
Shorpy Historical Photo Archive :: Gearhead Heaven: 1926
In those days a top automotive mechanic was also a good machinist South Bend catered to them with a line of lathes and accessories. Note in enlargement of section of the picture a case containing calipers, gauges and other measuring and machinists tools.
Tools.jpg
 








 
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