Ames Shovel Shop - Easton, MA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member NorStar
N 42° 04.174 W 071° 06.226
19T E 325956 N 4659641
Quick Description: Before Ames-Tru Temper, the Ames Shovel Shop at one time made at this location in Easton shovels in the 1800s for the building of railroads and gold mining, and controlled up to 60% of the market share in the U.S.
Location: Massachusetts, United States
Date Posted: 9/22/2010 11:34:28 AM
Waymark Code: WM9R2Y
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member woolsox
Views: 6

Long Description:
In the North Easton section of Easton is a series of multi-story stone buildings. Today few sounds come from them, but in the height of activity when the Ames Shovel Shop operated here, you would likely hear the sounds of metal working and forging as shovel after shovel were produced.

In 1803, Oliver Ames, Sr., moved his family business, the Ames Shovel Shop from West Bridgewater to this part of Easton, one town away. From then on, they produced high-quality and innovatively designed shovels and the business steadily grew. They were one of the first U.S. produced iron tipped shovels - up to that point most iron shovels came from Britain. Also, principles of mass production were being introduced where areas of the shop would specialize into one particular job, such as making handles.

By 1844, Oliver, Sr.'s sons, Oliver, Jr., and Oakes, joined the family business and helped operate it. Then, first, the gold rush of the mid 1800s occurred and, later, the Civil War occurred and the building of the transcontinental railroads began. Then production was fervent and the Ames family made a lot of money. Ames shovels not only were found in the United States, but also in other parts of the world, as well, including Australia. At peak production, the Ames Shovel Shop cornered 60% of the U.S. market for shovels, producing 1.4 million shovels a year with 500 people. They were often used as a form of money where cash was scarce.

Oliver, Jr., and Oakes went on to bigger things. Oliver became the President of the Union Pacific Railroad when the transcontinental railroad was being built. Oakes Ames became a Congressional Representative for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, both were implicated in one of the first corporate fraud schemes, Credit Mobilier, which tarnished their reputations. However, they were loved in their home town of Easton.

Production of shovels stopped in 1952. Since then the company has been through several mergers to become Ames-Tru Temper, based in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Shovels are still being produced under the "Ames" name but not in Massachusetts.

The buildings visible today date back to 1852, which replaced buildings lost in a fire. The first building was the Long Shop, which still is the longest building in the complex. Others were added until 1928. Most of the buildings are made using stone materials. Most of the complex is within an area bounded by Main Street, Oliver Street, and Mechanic Street, plus the Handle Shop, which is on the north side of Oliver Street, now occupied by the Y.

Up until recently, the shops were partially occupied by small industrial and commercial businesses. Within the last few years, there has been a development proposal submitted to make the majority of the buildings into condominiums, with a significant portion of them becoming low income (Section 40B) housing. The proposal submitted would bypassed most processes including any historic preservation measures. Ground roots effort from the community has not only saved the buildings from significant alteration and destruction, but also has allowed for alternate plans more sensitive to historic preservation to be submitted.

At present, the location is marked no trespassing. However, much of the complex can be seen from Main Street, Oliver Street and Mechanic Street. The Easton Historical Society is located next to the complex in the old Easton Railroad Depot on Mechanic Street. If you are fortunate enough to find it open, go and visit.


Responsible Growth for Easton (there is a pdf with the history of the shovel works on this site, but it also provides the latest development news):
(visit link)

Easton Historical Society:
(visit link)

Ambrose, Stephen. Nothing Like it in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
Product manufactured here: Iron shovels in all different forms

Oliver Street
Easton, MA United States of America

Web Page: [Web Link]

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