Jackson -- but not that one

Discussion in 'Forum: Saw Identification and Discussion' started by summerfi, Jul 10, 2019.

  1. summerfi

    summerfi Most Valued Member

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    I seem to be on a roll lately of finding saws with Cuban mahogany handles. This Jackson 12" backsaw is the third in the last month. Jackson, of course, was a secondary brand of Disston. But the brass back and mahogany handle on this saw doesn't say "secondary brand" to me. It also appears older than the 1860 date when Disston is said to have started his Jackson line.

    Phil Baker published an article on Jackson-labeled saws in the December 2012 issue of The Gristmill. In that article, he shows a few backsaws that appear similar or identical to my saw, including the mahogany handles. He dates these saws in the 1840s and attributes them to William Jackson of Monroe, New York. That article, as well as the whole issue of who made Jackson-labeled saws, is controversial as evidenced by this backsaw.net thread from 2016.

    I may never know with certainty who made my saw, but it was a nice saw at an earlier time. It will go in the repair queue along side the two mahogany-handled Taylor Brothers saws I recently posted. With a little work next winter, perhaps it will be a nice saw again.

    Bob
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  2. Scott M.

    Scott M. Member

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    Hi Bob,
    Interesting saw. Did you pick that saw off eBay? There was one on there recently that looked just like yours and I almost placed a bid on because I am aware of the Jackson debate as well, and it looked early to me too. To be honest the condition kind of scared me away for I was saving my coin to place a large bid on another saw I was drooling over.
    At any rate, nice snag! I'm sure it will look great restored. It's also nice to know there are people out there still digging and researching.
    Take care and happy hunting,
    Scott
     
  3. summerfi

    summerfi Most Valued Member

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    183
    Hi Scott,
    Yes, this is an eBay saw. I made an offer and was fortunate that it was accepted. I know what you mean about drool-worthy saws. There are very few saws available to me locally, so eBay is one of my few options. The prices have increased in recent years as more people have become interested in old saws. I let many desirable saws go because the bid prices go so high. It's nice to pick one up occasionally.

    Bob
     
  4. Underthedirt

    Underthedirt Most Valued Member

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    Wow, I've never seen a brass backed Jackson or one with a handle other than Beech, top of the secondary line huh? Nice!

    Regards

    Mari
     
  5. Dusty Shed Dweller

    Dusty Shed Dweller Most Valued Member

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    I know Jackson's are a touchy subject, and early Disston's varied tremendously in style as they were individually made by hand and not mass produced to a pattern, but that looks unlike anything I've seen from Disston As a notorious tighter$e I couldn't imagine Henry using anything other utilitarian hardwood - he would have eschewed anything that ate into his profit margin.
     
  6. summerfi

    summerfi Most Valued Member

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    183
    Mari and Dusty,
    I'm pretty sure this saw wasn't made by Disston. I lean towards believing it was made by William Jackson of Monroe, NY, but there is no way of really knowing. Perhaps at some point in the future more light will be shed on these mystery Jackson saws.

    Bob
     
  7. David

    David Most Valued Member

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    Bob,
    Here are a couple of 1840's Disston handles that look similar to your Jackson, although I know they're not mahogany. And also a brass backed mahogany handled triple cove Jackson. Triple coves are native to the Philadelphia makers, I believe, so it's hard for me to imagine that a maker in a small New York town was making them on his own. But then, as I guess is obvious from my comments, I'm still a believer that it was Henry Disston who made these Jackson-marked saws.
    It's an interesting discussion, but ultimately we'll need some kind of proof to settle it.
    David
     

    Attached Files:

  8. summerfi

    summerfi Most Valued Member

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    You make some good points, David. The similarities of my saw to the early Disstons is unmistakable. But then again, most open backsaw handles do look similar. One thing that bothers me a bit is that Henry Disston only started his business in 1840. It seems odd that he would already be making a secondary brand of saws in the 1840s as he was still trying to get his business off the ground. I would think he would want to be emphasizing the Disston name, not some other name. But the fact is, we simply don't know. I certainly don't anyway. I hope the proof you mention comes along at some point. Regardless of maker, I'll enjoy my saw.

    Bob
     
  9. summerfi

    summerfi Most Valued Member

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    183
    Hi again,
    Not to beat a dead horse, but I've been doing a little more reading on the possible origins of Jackson saws. This has led me to a theory about my saw and similar early Jackson-labeled saws. I'm not saying my theory is fact, but it sounds plausible and warrants further investigation.

    My reading began with Phil Baker's June 2007 Gristmill article titled Jackson Backsaws. In that article Phil shows a picture of a Jackson saw with an Eagle Saw Co. medallion. Phil attributes the saw to William Jackson of Monroe, NY and indicates it is from the 1850s, or near the end of production for Mr. Jackson, whom he says stopped making saws around 1860. Wiktor Kuc posted a picture of this same saw on this backsaw.net thread. This got me wondering what could possibly be the connection between Jackson saws and the Eagle Saw Co.

    Next I read Mike Stemple's March 2010 Gristmill article titled The Eagle Saw Company. That company, which operated on the grounds of Sing Sing Prison in New York, made few saws marked with its own name. Rather, it made saws marked with the names of other companies who held contracts. This piqued my interest because I know many of the saws made at Sing Sing have Cuban mahogany handles like my saw. To quote Stemple, "[The Eagle Saw Co.] made high end saws and backsaws for Platt & Holryod, Cortland & Wood, AJ Shotwell, the early Monroe, NY maker William Jackson, and others. Many saws made under contract by Eagle have standard features. They have very stylistic mahogany, Cuban mahogany, or rosewood handles." (Emphasis mine).

    Mike Stemple posted a picture of a Jackson saw he owns on the Facebook group Saws, using, collecting, cleaning and restoring. That saw has a brass back and a rosewood triple cove handle. Mike attributes the saw to William Jackson of Monroe, NY. While I agree with David's assessment that it is unlikely a saw maker in a small NY town would be making triple cove handles on his own, it is certainly possible that Eagle Saw Co. did. As Stemple notes, "In the mid 1800s, the Eagle Saw Co. was one of the largest saw makers in America."

    It is worth noting that, due to serious business disputes among the owning partners, the Eagle Saw Co. ceased to exist in 1857. This is not far off from the 1860 date that Phil Baker postulated that William Jackson saws were no longer made.

    So in summary, my theory is that Jackson-labeled saws made prior to 1857, or before the 1860 date when Henry Disston is said to have started his Jackson line, can be attributed to William Jackson of Monroe, NY. This would include my saw, the similar looking mahogany-handled saws in Phil Baker's December 2012 Gristmill article titled Three Jacksons, and Mike Stemple's rosewood-handled triple cove saw. Early on, Jackson may have made saws in his own shop in Monroe. Later on, it appears he contracted out the making of his saws to Eagle Saw Co. at Sing Sing Prison. Why this change occurred is unknown. Perhaps William simply got too old to make saws himself anymore. Or perhaps he turned the business over to a son, who contracted the saw making out. Whatever the case, there seems to be evidence that some saws attributed to William Jackson, and pre-dating Disston's use of the Jackson name, were made by Eagle Saw Co. at Sing Sing Prison.

    As always, further discussion is welcome.

    Bob
     
  10. David

    David Most Valued Member

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    273
    Hi Bob,

    Coincidentally, when I read your response the other day I was sitting in my hotel room with Mike Stemple, after we had spent a hard day looking for/at saws at the Donnelly auction in Avoca, New York. So, to be sure of what I had heard before, I asked Mike again about his naming William Jackson of Monroe as the maker of his Jackson marked triple cove saw. Mike told me he got all his info about that from Phil Baker. Unfortunately, this statement effectively removes Mike’s articles from being any independent confirmation of Phil’s theory. So we’re only left with Phil’s proposed theory of who made these saws. No other triple cove saw has ever been associated with the Sing Sing saw works, as far as I know.

    Phil was deeply interested in learning all he could from a saw. To that end, he removed the screws and handle from every backsaw that ever found its way into his shop…even those saws he was repairing for others, in spite of their requests to leave the screws intact. He did that to learn if the handle was original or a replacement and to see whatever stamps might be on the blade under the handle. All are certainly useful questions to ask of a saw. Unfortunately, once the screws have been removed and replaced it’s difficult to know later if they or the medallion were original to the saw. We can no longer ask Phil if the Eagle Saw Co medallion appeared to be original to the saw when he got it, and we couldn’t tell now even if we were looking at it.

    Wiktor, in the post you referenced, firmly said that, although he had researched the question, he could find no record of William Jackson having made saws in Monroe after 1813, that being the only time when he is actually documented to have made saws there. Phil never provided any other facts to further his claim, as far as I know.

    The Eagle Saw Company is fairly well documented and, as far as I know, there is no confirming evidence that they ever made saws marked Jackson, although we have evidence that saws were made at Sing Sing marked for A F Shotwell, Cortland Wood, Platt & Holroyd, Henderson & Co, and James L Cheeseman. All of the Eagle Saw Co full size saws that I have seen have also been die stamped “Eagle Saw Co”. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t do the same with a backsaw of theirs

    All of this is to say that we have only two documented facts supporting your theory. First, Phil had a single saw marked Jackson with an Eagle Saw Co medallion, which may or may not have been original to the saw. Second, it is documented that William Jackson was making saws in Monroe in 1813. All the rest of what we think we know about this theory is “attributed” or “indicated” but not supported by any documentation.

    I still have great respect and fondness for Phil Baker, who was both kind and helpful to me, and I miss him and his ready smile. Phil would always end his articles with a request for feedback and further information from his readers, I think because he knew history is never settled until buried under the weight of facts. So I feel compelled to bring this discussion back to the facts we know, rather than allowing Phil’s theory to gain status of fact without lots of supporting evidence. The more we build theories upon other theories the closer we get to writing fantasy. The more that theories built on theories are published the more they can become perceived as facts by the casual reader. We shouldn't allow that to happen.
    David
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2019
    JIMBODIXON likes this.
  11. summerfi

    summerfi Most Valued Member

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    183
    Hi all,
    I have a correction to make about this saw. While the handle certainly looked like mahogany in its uncleaned condition, I've now finished restoring the saw. During cleaning, it became apparent the handle is actually apple. This makes the saw most like saws #10 and 11 in Phil Baker's 2012 article, which he dates at 1849 and 1850, respectively.

    Pictures of the restored saw are attached. I know I've taken the restoration further than some people who visit this site prefer, and I'm fine with that. I believe saw restoration is largely a matter of personal taste, and there is no right or wrong. The saw was far from virgin when I received it, having missing parts and severe damage. Now it's a functional saw that looks nice too. I don't believe I've destroyed any history in the process.

    As I said a few posts ago, I don't know who made this saw. I don't believe we should discourage ideas and discussion, as that's how we finally arrive at truth, if we ever do at all.

    Bob

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  12. Joe S

    Joe S Most Valued Member

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    Bob
    Nicely restored. Without any abuse it should last another 170 years.
    Enjoy it
    Joe S.
     
  13. David

    David Most Valued Member

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    Hi Bob,
    It's a pleasure to see a damaged and broken saw brought back to usable condition. A fine job, as your restorations so often are.

    David
     
  14. ray

    ray Administrator Staff Member

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    637
    Nice repair job on the broken horn, the grain and colour match is excellent. Always heartwarming to see a beautiful saw like this brought back to life.
     
  15. summerfi

    summerfi Most Valued Member

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    Thanks guys. I appreciate the kind words. Matching grain and color on handle repairs can be difficult, but I think I'm improving over time as I learn new techniques.
    Bob