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H. Collier Smith Co.; Quickwork Co.
Smith-Warren Co., 1900-1910; Boston, Massachusetts; H. Collier Smith Co., 1912-1917; Detroit, Michigan; Quickwork Co., 1917-1940; Detroit, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois & St. Marys, Ohio
Associated Builders
Quickwork Div., Whiting Corp., 1940-1960, Harvey, Illinois; Quickwork Div., Beatty Machine & Mfg. Co., 1960-present, Hammond, Indiana.

Just as the name Pettingell is forever associated with the power hammer, the Quickwork name is equally connected with the rotary shear. During his lifetime its creator, Henry Collier Smith, was considered a master of sheet metal and his patented Quickwork rotary shears remained highly prized today with complete outfits fetching upwards of $10,000 on the rare occasion one is offered for sale.

Henry Collier Smith was born on May 27, 1866 in Raleigh, North Carolina. By the early 1890s he was working in the decorative metal roofing industry where he designed a novel machine for preparing and cutting tin roofing. Smith's filed a patent for the device on August 11, 1894 and was awarded US Patent number 550,572 on November 26, 1895. A half interest in the device was assigned to Roanoke Va.'s Joseph R. Collingwood and Harry C. Gara, of Philadelphia, PA.

Exactly how he ended up in Somerville, Massachusetts is unknown, but on May 31, 1899 he applied for his first patent related to metal window frames which was issued US Patent number 644,150 on February 27, 1900. Soon afterwards he entered into a partnership with Ralph L. Warren, forming the Smith-Warren Company which listed its headquarters at 93 Federal St. Boston, Massachusetts.

Smith was subsequently awarded eleven more patents relating to Metallic Window Frames and Sashes as follows: US Patent numbers 651,123 and 683,077 were both filed on August 24, 1899 and awarded on Jun 5, 1900 and September 24, 1901 respectively. US Patent number 649,081 was filed on September 20, 1899 and issued on May 8, 1900. US Patent number 696,110, filed on June 8, 1901, issued on March 25, 1902. US Patent number 701,097 was filed on Jan 2, 1902 and issued on May 27, 1902. US Patent numbers 724,133 and 724,134 were both filed on January 2, 1902 and issued on March 31, 1903. Patent number 724,137 was submitted on June 21, 1902 and issued on March 31, 1903. US Patent number 724,138 was filed on June 30, 1902 and awarded on March 1903. Patent number 755,585 was filed on March 23, 1903 and issued on March 22, 1904. US Patent number 805,387 was Smith's final patent application dealing with the construction of metal windows and sashes was submitted on July 3, 1903 and issued on November 21, 1905.

Before the ink was dry on his first metal window patent application Smith had already commenced the promotion and testing of the new windows, submitting prototypes for testing by the Boston and New York City Boards of Fire Underwriters. Once approved he licensed Boston window manufacturer, the E. Van Noorden Co., as the first manufacturer of the "W. Collier Smith patent metal window".

Details relating to the manufacture and engineering of the windows were subsequently ironed out by a joint patent submission. On November 19, 1901 Smith and Ezekiel Van Noorden were jointly awarded US Patent number 686,869 for a self-closing window, whose application was filed on October 20, 1899. An improvement on the design, US patent number 698,589, originally filed on January 13, 1900, was awarded to both men on April 29, 1902. Smith took out a patent on a metal window and sash assembly jig, US Patent number 745,299 which was filed on July 21, 1902 and awarded on November 1903.

The February 17, 1900 issue of Fibre & Fabric included an article advertisement for the new Van Noorden metal-framed window.


"The E. Van Noorden Co., 944-952 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, are making, under H. Collier Smith patents, hollow metal window frames and sash glazed with wire glass. The advantages claimed for these windows over the ordinary plate glass and tinned shutters have been conclusively proven by actual fire tests, notably when the works of Armour & Co., Chicago, were burned last March. At this fire, 150 wire glass windows kept the flames from buildings which were only ten feet away, saving a storehouse and $300,000 worth of manufactured goods. After a careful examination, the Boston Board of Fire Underwriters have approved the Van Noorden wire glass frames and sashes, and underwriters in most of the large cities of the United States have adopted rules, making, in buildings occupied for manufacturing, storage, etc., the same allowance for wire glass as for shutters. The chief advantages of wire glass are in the line of fire protection. Besides offering resistance to the spread of fire, they make it much easier for the blaze to be discovered, as it will show through the window. Closed shutters are a hindrance to firemen, while wire glass is easily broken with axes. Shutters must be closed for protection, and opened to give light, whereas wire glass gives light and protection all the time. They cost no more than common window frames and sash and fire shutters combined, but they possess so many advantages that they are attracting the attention of experts and manufacturers and owners of public and mercantile buildings. All windows can be arranged to close automatically in case of fire. E. Van Noorden Co. will be glad to send to interested parties a pamphlet describing and illustrating these windows."

Smith set about improving the operation of the windows and also designed an automatic closing system which was awarded a number of new patents.

On January 2, 1902 Smith applied for a patent on a self-balancing version of the metallic window and sash, which was awarded US Patent number 791,728 on Jun 6, 1905. His next patent dealt with the automatic closing system for the self-balancing metal-framed window and sash system. US Patent number 724,135 was filed on February 13, 1902 and awarded on March 31, 1903. In collaboration with his attorney Burnham C. Stickney, he applied for his fifth patent, an electric version of the automatic window closer, on July 15, 1903. The design was awarded US Patent number 774,854 on November 15, 1904. Immediately afterwards, an almost identical design was awarded 774,855, this time with Smith credited as the sole designer. The very next day he applied for a patent on a non-electric version which was awarded US Patent number 775,046 on November 15, 1904. On July 17, 1903 he applied for a patent on an improved version of the electric automotive window closer and was subsequently awarded US Patent number 776,559 in December 6, 1904. More improvements followed, which necessitated another patent, number 775,547 which was filed on July 30, 1903 and awarded on November 22, 1904.

An advertisement in the 1902 Insurance Engineering annual highlighted the potential qualities of the Smith-Warren automatic metal window system:

"Insurance Engineering has already printed in these columns a description of the automatic wireglass windows manufactured by the Smith-Warren Company of Boston and New York. Four types of these were shown at the exhibit of the Firemen's Convention. They were representative of the company's scope of manufacture and made an excellent showing. All types of windows manufactured by this company are pivoted so that they may be readily cleaned from the inside. This is a novel feature of the Smith-Warren Company's product. Each type, if desired, can also be arranged so that when a fire stream is played on the closed window the upper sash will open automatically, thus allowing access for the water to the inside of the building. All types are provided with a fusible metal attachment which operates at 155 degrees F. and allows the window to close automatically. This low fusing point is a valuable feature, as it does not necessitate the actual contact of flame to operate the window. One of the sashes shown had been through a fire test under the direction of the Philadelphia Fire Underwriters and had successfully withstood this trial, gaining thereby the approval of the Association. The exhibit was in charge of H. Collier Smith, patentee of the system, and the company's New York representative, with offices at 253 Broadway."

In 1903 Smith published a small book listing the specifications of Smith-Warren's products titled "Skylight and Roof Tables" which was published by the David Williams Company, New York.

Smith moved to Chicago, Illinois for the duration of 1904 where he set about designing an automatic sliding fireproof door. Three patents related to the device were taken out by Smith and assigned to the Allith Mfg. Corp. of Chicago, Illinois, a well-known building hardware manufacturer. Patent number 767,668 was filed on January 21, 1904 and awarded on August 16, 1904. US Patent number 773,997 was filed on April 22, 1904 and issued on November 1, 1904. The final door-related patent, number 830,745 was filed on March 27, 1905 and issued on September 1906.

He returned to metropolitan New York City in 1905 where he served as a consultant for Brooklyn's Hermann & Grace, Co. and for a short period of time ran his own sheet-metal works in Brooklyn. While in New York Smith began talking to a number of persons connected with the city's high-end automobile business and soon-after took a position with Moore & Munger as superintendent. Moore & Munger was one of a handful of pre-classic era Manhattan body builders that were organized to supply coachwork to New York’s high-class imported and domestic early automobile dealers, and were one of the first to offer composite aluminum-skinned coachwork.

He subsequently took a position in Springfield, Massachusetts as production manager and engineer of the Springfield Metal Body Co.'s fender, hood and tank department. He was later hired by the Racine Mfg. Co. of Racine, Wisconsin where he was placed in charge of the firm's metal body department which led to a position as superintendent of the sheet-metal and stamping department of the Cadillac Motor Car Co., of Detroit.

Once again Smith's mind turned to the creation of a better product and he set about designing a line of machine tools to help alleviate problems he encountered during his short time in the auto body business. In early 1912 he resigned his position at Cadillac and established a Detroit sales office at 125 Harper Avenue where he set about marketing his improved automatic power hammers and rotary shears. At the time he lacked the facilities to produce his own machines, so the actual manufacturing was subcontracted to the Kling Brothers Engineering Works of Chicago, Illinois, an arrangement that continued for the next six years.

A lawsuit indicates that the early Quickwork machines built for the firm by Kling Bros. revealed the amounts paid to the firm during the term of the contract:

"Such orders were given, and manufactured by the Klings for about 6 years under the agreement, Quickwork paying Kling Bros, as high as $60,000 in one year and more than $200,000 altogether, for the manufacturing the Klings did."

The first national advertisements appeared in the carriage and bodybuilding trades in early 1912. The following article/advertisement appeared in the April 1912 issue of The Hub:


"We spoke of these metal working devices a few months ago quite fully, but they are good enough to mention more than once. Mr. H. Collier Smith, whose shops are in Detroit, is an Edison in his way. His machinery does the unaccustomed. Take the shear, for instance, it is true as stated that it is the only shear on the market that cuts reverse (S-shaped) curves without bending the edges or otherwise mutilating the sheet; cuts radii of 1 ½ in. or more in any direction or 3 in. diameter or larger hole in center of sheet without cutting in from side, leaving the metal flat and perfect, as though it were separated by magic. Provided with both power and hand drive, interchangeable at will instantly.

"The machine meets every requirement of any kind of sheet metal work up to 16 gauge steel, including body, fender and general auto parts, sheet metal work for buildings, mills, factories, ships, ventilation work, etc.

"Other sizes are made to cut heavier gauges up to 3/8 in. thick steel in much less time and more perfectly than by other methods, thus making the cutter a desirability for every worker of sheet metal of any gauge."

The machine's introduction was mentioned in the January 1913 issue of Machinery:

"Rotary Shear: H. Collier Smith, Detroit, Mich. A rotary shear designed for Irregular cutting operations on sheet metal up to ½ inch in thickness. This machine will cut practically any form of irregular curves, including reverse curves, and leaves the edges of the metal flat and smooth."

By August of that year he had moved into a small factory at 807 Scotten Ave. Detroit. More machines were announced in the August 28, 1913 Issue of Iron Age:

"H. Collier Smith, manufacturer of rotary shears, 807 Scotten avenue, Detroit, Mich., is having plans prepared for an addition, 37 x 100 ft., to his plant. Additional machine equipment to be installed consists of one planer, one plain horizontal milling machine, one 30-in. lathe, one 20-in. lathe, and two 14-in. lathes, driven by electric motor."

Smith's equipment proved popular and were used by many of Detroit's largest automobile manufacturers as evidenced by the following excerpt taken from "Ford Methods and the Ford Shops, an article published in the December, 1914 issue of Engineering Magazine:

"This page shows the mud-guard department, ten gangs of men, one gang for each one of ten 'closing-down' machines, supplied by H. Collier Smith, "quick-work" sheet-metal tools, Detroit; about nine men in each gang are placed at right angles to the belt; mud-guard assembling begins at the far end, and is finished when the mud-guard reaches the belt; the last operation man lays the fender on the belt to be carried away from the job. This belt makes a direct saving of two truckers, and a very considerable indirect saving by moving the fenders as soon as they are ready to move, and so keeping the floor cleaned up and the whole job in tidy shape."

Smith applied for patents on an improved power hammer, US patent numbers 1,154,666 and 1,154,667 on November 20, 1914. H. Collier Smith's business continued to grow and in 1917 he reorganized as the Quickwork Co. and announced plans to construct his own factory in Marysville, Ohio, 175 miles south of Detroit:

"Announcement has been made of the incorporation of the Quickwork Company, of Ohio, to take over the business of H. Collier Smith, Detroit. The controlling interest will be vested, as before, in Mr. Smith, the officers being, as before, H. Collier Smith, president and general manager; H. E. Groves, vice president; A. F. Smith, secretary and treasurer; K. J. O'Leary, production manager; Harry G. Smith, engineering department head; and R. H. Sims, sales manager.

"A plant will be put up at St. Marys, Ohio, where the company has secured a large site, and the line of Quickwork machines will be turned out there while general offices, sales rooms and show rooms will be retained in Detroit. The company makes Quickwork machines for manufacturing automobile fenders, as well as heavier machines suitable for use in ship yards, boiler shops, and various concerns handling plate or sheet metal. The heaviest of the line will handle 1/4 inch plate, and is a rotary shear of 17½ tons weight."

The May 1917 issue of the Hub also carried the news:

"Quickwork Co. Succeeds Collier Smith

"The Quickwork Co. has been organized to take over and operate the machinery business of H. Collier Smith, of Detroit. This business includes the manufacture of machinery for working plate and sheet metal for automobile parts. Mr. Smith retains the controlling interest and will have active charge of the operations of the company, which is capitalized at $400,000. Officers include: H. Collier Smith, president and general manager; H. E. Groves, vice-president; A. F. Smith, secretary and treasurer; W. J. O'Leary, production manager; W. W. Prigg, director of sales, and Harry G. Smith, engineer."

Quickwork joined the ranks of a select group of firms that catered to the composite automobile body business. Other manufacturers that sold sheet-metal-working tools included Pettingell Mfg. Co., Amesbury, Mass.; C.C. Bradley & Son, 432 N. Franklin St., Syracuse, N.Y.; Long & Allstatter Co., Fourth & High Sts., Hamilton, Ohio; C.M. Yoder Co., Engineer's Bldg., Cleveland, Ohio ; and Kling Bros., 1300 North Kostner St., Chicago, Illinois.

On August 31, 1916 Smith applied for a patent on a Work Support for Rotary Shears, for which he was awarded US patent number 1,259,306 on March 12, 1918. He continued to work on perfect his rotary shears and applied for five more shear-related patents in the next few years: US Patent number 1,313,960 (filed Jan. 27, 1919 – awarded Aug. 26, 1919); patent number 1,372,913 (filed Nov. 17, 1919 – awarded Mar. 29, 1921); patent number 1,398,978 (filed Nov. 17, 1919 – issued Dec. 6, 1921); patent number 1,561,803 (filed Dec. 1, 1921 – awarded  Nov 17, 1925); and patent number 1,528,797 (file May 26, 1924 – issued Mar. 10, 1925).

Three subsequent Smith patents were also related to metal working, a bending machine - patent number 1,588,817 (filed Nov. 13, 1922 – awarded Jun. 15, 1926); a sheet-metal roller - patent number 1,585,696 (filed Dec. 4, 1923 – issued May 25, 1926) and a ribbing and perforating machine - patent number 1,568,537 (filed May 16, 1924 – awarded Jan. 5, 1926). Also of interest, but unrelated, was an unusual three-wheeled automobile designed by Smith that was awarded patent number 1,237,714 on Aug. 21, 1917.

In 1918 Quickwork opened up a Philadelphia sales branch in the Bourse Building, 21 South 5th Street in order to better serve its East Coast customers. The firm greatly expanded its product offerings and following the War many of its products were sent overseas. Stateside, the firm's rotary shears and power hammers were a valuable asset when creating custom fenders out of sheet steel and aluminum.

The text from a circa 1920 display advertisement follows:

"Manufacturers of Plate and Sheet Metal Working Machinery


"Made in 7 sizes.

"Cut all gauges of sheet and plate metal up to 1 inch thick in straight or irregular shapes and openings without cutting in from the side of the sheet. Leaves square, true edge that requires no finishing. Used in building ships, boilers, tanks, cars and general plate and sheet metal work.

"Save 50% to 90%:

"The development of the Automatic Indicator, and its application to the "Quickwork" Rotary Shear makes the "Quickwork" a shear that cuts straight work faster than by any other method excepting a long bladed shear that makes the entire cut at one stroke; the "Quickwork" takes the place of all other straight bladed shears of any kind.

"It also does irregular cutting, taking the place of oxy-acetylene torches or the punching of a row of holes and does away with the work necessary to finish up a burned or punched cut, but the main purpose of the "Quickwork" is to cut straight lines.

"A "Quickwork" Shear buys itself out of the saving it makes. It refunds its price in a very short time. Therefore its purchase means only a temporary investment. You soon have your money back, plus the shear, which continues to return dividends, paying for itself over and over again at short intervals so long as it is used.

"We cordially invite you to call to see us at our plant or, if you desire, we will send a practical representative to see you. We will take pleasure in submitting proposals covering shears for cutting plates of any thickness you may specify up to 1".

"Write for catalogue No. 6o."

Smith's son, H. Collier Smith Jr., joined the firm during the late twenties and by mid-1927, The family decided to take the firm private. The August 8, 1927 Lima News reported:


"H. Collier Smith To Take Entire Possession of QuickWork Co., St. Marys

"St. MARYS, Aug. 8—(Special) —Stockholders in the Quickwork Co., both preferred and common, have by agreement sold their stock to H. Collier Smith, president and general manager of the company, who will assume full control of the plant as soon as the company can be dissolved according to law. Smith, buying the interest of the stockholders, takes over all assets and liabilities of the company which has been operating in St. Marys since 1916. The plant hereafter will be operated under the name of H. Collier Smith, successor of the Quickwork Co. In 1911 Smith started manufacturing sheet metal working machinery in Detroit. He came to St. Marys in 1916 and the Quickwork Co. was organized to manufacture the machine that he had invented."

H. Collier Smith Sr.'s health suffered a serious setback in the fall of 1932, and on September 16, 1932, he shot himself in his St Mary's factory. The September 17, 1932 Sandusky Register reported:

"ST. MARYS O., Sept. 16 (AP) — H. Collier Smith, Sr., president of the Quickwork Manufacturing Company, committed suicide in the rotary sheers plant where large orders for the Japanese navy recently had been completed. His health was given as the cause by officials."

At the time H. Collier Smith Sr. was the sole owner of the firm's stock which was consequently transferred to his wife Agnes F. Smith. The firms officers were reshuffled after his death as follows: H. Collier Smith, Jr., President; Agnes F. Smith, Vice-President; and Jalth T. Scott, Secretary.

In 1934 H. Collier Smith, Jr., erected a small factory near the Los Angeles Municipal Airport to produce airplane parts, but remained interested in the firm which was helping Japan Navy ramp up for the Japanese Government's invasion of China in 1937. The December 12, 1934 Lima News covered a visit to the plant by an officer of the Imperial Japanese Navy:


"ST. MARYS, Dec. 12 — Goro Tsuchiya, engineer with the Imperial Japanese navy, was in St. Marys yesterday to visit the Quickwork Co. plant. The Japanese navy has received a number of pieces of equipment from the local factory."

The August 22, 1935 Lima News indicated the firm was moving to Chicago sometime in the near future:

"Strolling thru the town, meeting Mme. H. Collier Smith, the brilliant St. Marys manufacturer. She did tell me they are moving the Quickwork Industry to Chicago where her son will take full charge and she will trip carelessly and casually on a world tour."

The move to 400 West Madison St., Chicago, Illinois occurred in early 1936, and on Sept. 27, 1938 the Lima News reported on the sale of the firm's St Mary's property:

"St. Marys Factory Building Purchased

"ST. MARYS, Sept. 27 — The Hannifin Manufacturing Co. has bought the factory building on the north side of the Cehna-rd from the Quickwork Co. It has been renting the building since September, 1936, when it moved a branch of its factory here from Chicago. Hannifins bought the building and approximately 350 sq. ft. of land. The Quickwork continues to own the property to the east, north and west of the 350 foot strip and the building across the roadway. The consideration paid for the building is given at $8,400."

H. Collier Smith Jr. continued to run the company from California where the H. Collier Smith, Jr., Co., of Inglewood, manufactured airplane parts for the West Coast's booming airplane manufacturing industry. He also followed in his father's footsteps and continued to make improvements on the firm's machine tools for which he was awarded the following patents:

Circle cutting attachment for rotary shear, patent number 2,209,211 (filed May 31, 1939 – issued Jul. 23, 1940); forming and trimming machine, patent number 2,251,810 (filed Aug. 19, 1938 - awarded Aug. 5, 1941); forming method and apparatus, patent number 2,344,743 (filed May 6, 1941 – issued Mar. 21, 1944); and circle cutting attachment, patent number 2,209,211 (filed May 31, 1939 - issued Jul. 23, 1940).

On May 31, 1940, Agnes F. Smith sold all of Quickwork's assets to the Whiting Corporation of Harvey, Illinois for $15,000 cash and the right to receive 10% of the gross sales of Whiting Corporation for the rest of her lifetime, or a minimum of ten years. The Quickwork stock was valued at $34,000 on an adjusted basis, and she received in the final liquidation with respect thereto assets of a total value of $39,204.26 exclusive of the right to the percentage payments under the agreement of May 31, 1940.

Engineering News reported the sale as follows:

"Whiting Corp., Harvey, Ill., has purchased the business of the Quickwork Co., 400 West Madison St., Chicago, Ill. Business will be conducted under the name Whiting Corp., Successor to the Quickwork Co."

Whiting continued to build Quickwork Rotary Shears into 1960 when the Quickwork Division was sold to the Beatty Machine & Mfg. Co., of Hammond, Indiana.

© 2004 Mark Theobald -






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