In those primitive days before this company was formed, blacksmiths made practically all bolts and nuts with a hammer, anvil and vise. In 1844, there came to New York, William Evans Ward, who in Philadelphia had learned the machinist’s trade. He found employment at a Manhattan iron works, and being a Quaker, secured quarters in a boarding house on Mott Street, conducted by Hannah Ketcham, a member of the Society of Friends.
Ellwood Burdsall, also a Quake and a bookkeeper in a New York stove foundry likewise lived at Mrs. Ketcham’s. Ward and Burdsall became fast friends.
Emil C. Boerner, another picturesque personality of those early days, and afterward in Port Chester, was Mrs. Mary B. Alcott, who entered the firm in 1860, taking charge of inspection and the nutting and packing of bolts. She, too, stayed fifty-three years. The high reputation of the Company for quality is due in large measure to the foundation she laid for good workmanship. Her dry wit withered any attempt to get by with mediocre goods. Sometimes it seemed her goals impossibly high, but never for a moment would she relax and the factory lived up to her expectations. She died in 1913.
The idea of sending men out over the country to sell the products of the Company was first conceived by Samuel Comly, who started with the Company in 1863. In his prime, Mr. Comly’s master salesmanship was predominant in the bolt and nut industry of America. Mr. Comly’s death occurred in 1923 after 50 years of loyal service.
Mr. Ward designed and built various machines and for a time manufactured wood screws, calling them the Union Screw Company. Another company, however, obtained a patent on a gimlet-pointed screw and took the wind out of their sails. But they were not men to give up and cry No Opportunity. “If not wood screws, then something else,” they agreed.
From a manufacturer in New York Mr. Burdsall learned that screws, if fitted with nuts, could be used in assembling stoves; and the little plant put on the market the first stove bolts and rods. The business now grew rapidly, Isaac Russell becoming a partner. Burdsall abandoned his pen-and-ink job and devoted himself to the commercial part of the business. He was the salesman, correspondent, billing clerk and treasurer while partner Ward developed machinery for extending their product to bolts for plows, carriages and machines.
By 1850, Mr. Ward had designed, built and patented (#9508) the world’s first automatic, solid die cold-heading machine. This machine is now located in the Henry Ford Museum in Greenfield, Michigan. He went on inventing for many years and developed nearly all the earlier bolt and nut making machinery.
Emil C. Boerner became an apprentice in the Russell, Burdsall & Ward machine shop and spent fifty-six years in its service developing many of the machines that were used. He was a man of lofty ideals and intense loyalty, and his methods inspired the whole organization.
In 1871, Mr. Ward was elected president of Russell, Burdsall & Ward. In 1882, Mr. Ward, his son William L. Ward and Samuel Comly started the Port Chester Bolt and Nut Company in Port Chester, New York. Mr. Ward was now president of both companies. In 1889, Mr. Burdsall died and Mr. Ward’s health began to fail. He turned over the mechanical department to Ellwood Burdsall, Jr., who carried on the Ward tradition.
In 1901 the two companies merged becoming Russell, Burdsall & Ward Bolt and Nut Company with William L. Ward succeeding his father. In 1907, to give better western service to agricultural equipment manufacturers, a plant was purchased at Rock Falls, Illinois. In 1908 RB&W began to concentrate on the development of fasteners for the automotive industry.
By 1924, the Company’s product line included 20,000 varieties of Bolts and Nuts and 1,800 employees. In 1928 the Coraopolis, Pennsylvania plant was built with product lines for carriage, wagon, and buggy manufacturers. Four generations of the Ward family served RB&W through 1973. The need for a more modern plant became clear and in 1973 the company purchased the National Screw Plant in Mentor, Ohio and announced the closing of the Port Chester plant. William E. Ward (who had served RB&W since 1955) died shortly after.
John J. Lohrman succeeded him as the first non-family member to serve as president. Many changes were taking place in the fastener industry. Standard fasteners were being imported in great quantities from Japan, Canada and other countries at prices that made it impossible for American producers to compete. RB&W changed most of its product lines from standard product to specialty engineered parts for the automotive, farm implement, electrical and small engine industries.
In April 1980, RB&W purchased the entire fastener manufacturing operations (5 plants) from Lamson & Sessions. From that purchase the Kent, Ohio and Mississauga, Ontario plants survived through to the acquisition of RB&W by Park-Ohio Industries, Inc., a subsidiary of Park-Ohio Holdings Corporation in 1995.