The Armstrong Bros. Tool Company began in 1890 as a maker of bicycle parts and service tools, founded in Chicago, Illinois by four brothers. Their first manufacturing operations were conducted literally from a backyard wooden shed, and the brothers also operated a retail store for their bicycle parts.
In 1895 Armstrong introduced what would become their first major product, a tool holder for lathe cutting bits. Developed from their own manufacturing operations, the Armstrong tool holder was a forged handle that accepted small interchangeable cutting bits, thereby replacing the individually forged cutting tools previously required. This dramatically reduced the time and expense involved in making lathe cutting tools, and it’s fair to say that these tool holders revolutionized the industry.
With the success of the tool holder, in 1900 Armstrong built their first real factory at 617 Austin Avenue in Chicago. This was replaced a few years later in 1905 by a 100,000 square foot brick factory at 317 North Francisco Avenue, a site they would occupy for many years.
Up until 1909 Armstrong concentrated primarily on tool holders and related products, but in 1909 they started producing a line of drop-forged wrenches. This line of tools continued to expand over the years.
By 1920 Armstrong was offering three sizes of “Aero” tappet wrenches made of chrome-nickel steel, an early example of alloy steel usage for tools. The notice at the left, published on page 748 of the November, 1920 issue of Railway Mechanical Engineer, announces Armstrong catalog B-20 and notes the inclusion of “Aero” tappets among the new products.
In 1948 the company moved from the Francisco Avenue site to 5200 West Armstrong Avenue, where they remain today. A second manufacturing facility in Fayetteville, Arkansas was added in 1974.
In 1994 Armstrong was acquired by the Danaher Group, a conglomerate with other tool company holdings including Allen, K-D, Matco, and Moore Drop Forging. Armstrong operates now as the Industrial Hand Tools division of Danaher.
APEX Tool Group will cease production of its Armstrong and Allen lines of hand tools, ending employment for 170 workers at its Sumter plant. The Armstrong lines of hand tools will end by March 31
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