Kearsarge Peg Co., Inc. an Historical Perspective1865 -2011
Edited by David A. Davidson
Society of Manufacturing Engineers
Machining/Metal Removal Technical Community
Deburring/Finishing Technical Group
The Kearsarge Peg Co., Inc. was established in 1865 as a manufacturer of hardwood (birch) shoe pegs, it currently continues to manufacture this product and is in fact the sole North American source for hardwood pegs and media. It has diversified into other products for use in abrasive metal finishing as well.
This presentation was developed to give the viewer some sense of the history and background of the company
Topics of Discussion
Early history of the company
Andover, NH location
Early Bartlett, NH location
The company’s product
Use in Shoe Manufacturing
Transition to Tumbling (Mass Finishing or Polishing) media for plastic and metal consumer items
Company established in 1865 following the close of the American Civil War
Initial operations in Andover, NH were powered by water power
Company named for Mt. Kearsarge located close by, which was the source of the streams which powered the Andover mill.
Shoe Pegs in 19thcentury shoe manufacturing
Shoe-pegs had been invented about fifty years earlier, by Joseph Walker of Massachusetts. Prior to that time, all parts of the boot were sewn by hand, but pegging proved to be such a time saver that they were soon widely-adopted. To save even more time (the earliest pegs were made by hand from long slivers of wood), machinery was developed to produce shoe-pegs quickly and efficiently. There were over two dozen factories in New England alone that produced shoe-pegs by the thousands
FROM: a blog by Nancy Cleveland, As a Laura Ingalls Wilder ResercherThinks – 2011
(1)Section of block showing pegs prior to being split
(2)Split Shoe Pegs(3) Bottom of shoe showing location of shoe pegsThe Antique Tool Collector's Guide to Value by Ronald S. Barlow (El Cajon California, 1991) states that Short wooden pegs were hammered through both layers of leather into the underside of the form. Temporary tacks which held the insole in position on the last were then removed and the outer sole and heel were either nailed or pegged thru the whole assembly with longer willow pegs. After the final trimming and shaping with various knives and shaves, the wooden last was removed and pegs were filed flush with a long handled peg cutting rasp which reached inside the assembled shoe or boot.
Shoe Peg Manufacturing in 1877
Here’s what was written about shoe-pegs in 1877:
Shoe-pegs are made by machinery. The bark is peeled off the log, which is then sawed into slices across the grain, a little thicker than the length of a peg. The face of each block which is intended for the heads of the pegs is planed smooth.
The block is grooved by a machine in which a V-shaped cutting tool recriprocates rapidly across the face of the block, which is advanced the thickness of a peg between each stroke of the cutter, by feed-rollers. After the block has been grooved one way, it is again grooved at right angles to the first grooves, the surfaces of the block on one side now presenting a regular succession of quadrangular pyramids, which are the points of the yet embryo pegs.
The splitting is done on machines by a vertically reciprocating knife, which drives into each groove in turn, as the block is fed beneath it, the object being not to split the pegs entirely apart, but to have them hang together at the heads. The blocks are fed to the splitting-knives by fluted rollers, the flutes of which fit the grooves in the blocks made by the grooving-machine. When the block has passed through the splitting-machine once, it is turned and fed through again at right angles to the direction in which it was first fed, and after this operation the pegs are nearly split apart, but they still hang together somewhat like a bunch of split lucifer matches. After the second feeding, knotty and faulty parts are removed, and the block is forcibly thrown off the table of the splitting-machine on to the floor, and the pegs fall asunder. The pegs are then dried in a tumbler heated by steam-pipes, bleached with sulphur fumes till they assume a uniform white color, run through a fanning-mill to free them from dust, and finally packed for market.
The largest factory of shoe-pegs in this country is at Burlington, Vermont, where one factory transforms every day four cords of wood into four hundred bushels of shoe-pegs.
Debarking and sawing blocks at Kearsarge
Splitting blocks into pegs at Kearsarge
Andover, NH Plant This early photograph shows the KearsargePeg Co, location in Andover, NH. It was a water-powered facility that was in operation from 1865 –1878. Water power was provided by streams coming off nearby Mt Kearsarge, hence the name . After 1878 operations were located in Bartlett, NH and were steam powered.
KearsargePeg Co., Andover NH, 1870 photo. Note the female employees standing on the trestle bridge between the two buildings. Female employees were favored for the peg pointing and splitting machinery operations as it was felt they were more dexterous than their male counterparts
The Red Star Trademark was to be adopted by the KearsargePeg Co. in later years Note this New York company was established in 1847.
In 1878 the company purchased a 75 HP PORTLAND (D-slide) Locomotive and Marine Engine Works Steam engine with a ten foot flywheel and a 24 inch flat belt drive, and moved operations to Bartlett, NH. The mfg facility in Andover had been a water power operation. This steam engine continued to power most of the peg making machinery up to the 1980’s (The steam engine still operates at Maine State Museum at Augusta, ME.) This facility burned down in 1905 and was replaced by the same structures currently in use in 1911KearsargePeg Co. moves to Bartlett, NH –1878 -1911Plant Layout similar to Andover plant shown in previous slides, the brick building and smokestack housing the wood fired boiler and steam engine survived the 1905 fire and was used to power the mill rebuilt in 1911
Location of 1878 Kearsargeplant as shown in an early topographical map of Bartlett village, NH, which was also a teeming lumber manufacturing and railroad center
KearsargePeg Co. location as shown on Bartlett Village map of the late 1800s.
Note the rail spur shown connecting the company to the rail lines to accommodate shipment of the hardwood shoe pegs to New York, Boston and overseas.
In the 1800’s numerous shoe peg manufacturers were active throughout New England in support of the shoe industry, which was a major part of the New England economy.
Kearsarge Peg Co. Rebuilt 1911
The Company’s manufacturing plant was lost in a fire (see the previous mill photo) in 1905 and was rebuilt as shown in this sepia tinted photograph in 1911. At the time rail spurs were used to bring in raw materials, and ship out pegs packaged in wooden barrels or burlap (coffee style) bags
The brick building next to the large smokestack housed the 1878 steam engine which had survived the 1905 fire. The building next to the smaller smoke-stack housed a cooper shop. The company manufactured its own wooden barrels in which it packaged shoe pegs for export to European and South American shoe manufacturing operations.
Rail was the primary means of moving both raw material and finished goods. Numerous rail lines had been laid down in the Northern New Hampshire area, especially within what was to become the ¾ million acre White Mountain National Forest to facilitate timber harvesting
KearsargePeg Co. 1920’s photo shows both log length and four foot bolt cordwood inventory of white birch. At this time wood inventory was manhandled, 4 foot bolts were brought into the mill on rail carts that were pulled into the debarking and sawing area by a friction drive winch device that was powered by the steam engine. An historical journal noted in the 1880s that it was considered much easier for loggers to transport wood in the winter when it could be sledded out of the woods on snow. At a competing peg company located in nearby Conway, NH the winter purchase price for a cord of birch was $12.00 per cord, the summer price was 14.00. (Note one cord = 128 cubic feet or 4’H x 8’L x 4’D)
Shoe Peg Manufacturing Operations
Four foot long birch bolts would be initially processed in this area. (1) the birch bolts would be debarked, at the time this picture was taken this was a manual operation performed with “draw shaves”. (2) A slab saw was used to saw one side of the bolt flat so that it would lay flat on a table and would not roll during the cross- cut sawing operation(3) The bolt was then fed into a 38 inch crosscut saw with a manually operated reciprocating table and was sliced like a loaf of bread. The wood blocks were then conveyed to another area where they were processed into pegs.
MANUFACTURING OPERATIONS CLOSE UP: Four foot bolts of white birch (a four foot log length is referred to as a “bolt”) are sawn with a cross-cut saw into “blocks”
Splitting Operations: Blocks that had been sawn would be conveyed to this room for pointing (not shown) and splitting (shown here). Pointing was done by feeding the block into a feed roll, and having a V shaped reciprocating cutter cut grooves into the top of the block which would form the points of the pegs. Splitting was done on this
machine. The pointed block would be fed into a fluted roll which advanced the block one groove at a time (using a ratchet and pawl mechanical movement), a synchronized reciprocating knife would split the block into strips, and then split the strips into pegs. (at 900 cycles/min) A cup elevator would transport the pegs to a third floor storage area where they would be placed into gravity feed hoppers used to feed pegs into rotating kiln driers for drying.
From the 3rdfloor holding area pegs would be loaded into rotary kilns. A typical batch would have included fourteen 55 gallon drums of wooden pegs. The dryers had angle iron paced on the interior of the drum surface which would lift the pegs and cascade them through a 200 degree F. airstream. The process time to finish drying a batch of pegs was 1-1/2 hours. Typical batch yield was 12 –20 96 lb. bags depending on the size and type of shoe peg processed. Shown in the picture is factory manager Fred Hodgkins. The company’s operations were run by Fred and his father, True F. Hodgkinsbefore him for many decades. The business was very much a family affair, being owned by Edwin and George Foster of Plymouth, NH until 1944 when the operation was purchased by Stanley Davidson, a Boston, MA architect, and Frances Brannena Berlin, NH general contractor. The Davidson family owned and ran the business from 1962 -2002
After drying, pegs would be fed into rotating basket style screens. Pegs that were of the correct gauge or width would come out of the screen and onto a floor deck and then were raked into a cup elevator that would feed them onto a “Rotex” style flat screen that could screen out fines and dust.
From there the pegs would be bagged into burlap bags and weighed at 96 lbs. net, and the bags stenciled with the appropriate product and trademark information. The bags were hand sewn with jute twine to complete the packaging.
The burlap bags would be stacked on a rail cart, and a steam, powered friction drive winch would pull the cart up to a second floor warehouse area. When shipments were made by truck, hardwood polished slides would be used to convey the bags from a second floor warehouse door into the back of a semi-truck trailer. Full truck loads of 400 and even 500 bags were not uncommon.
Primary Power PlantBoth the 1878 and the (rebuilt) 1911 facilities were powered by the same 1878 Portland Locomotive and Marine Engine Works steam engine. The steam engine provided both the mechanical drive power to run the plant’s machinery (by jackshafts with flat belting) as well as provide lighting through a small generator run by the main drive belt. Although a product of 19thcentury technology, the operation was remarkably green and self sustaining. Steam was developed with a hand-fired wood boiler that used wood bio-mass as fuel (the wood waste byproduct generated by the company’s operations). The writer spent many an early morning (5:00 am) firing the boiler to the necessary 100 lbs. of pressure. Then using a10 ft long wooden cantilever wrench would position the 10 ft. flywheel properly so the initial cylinder stroke would create enough flywheel momentum to carry the flywheel through a full rotation with the initial surge of steam. In over 110 years of continuous operation the engine experienced one major failure. In the mid 1960’s, the piston cracked and seized inside the cylinder causing the flywheel shaft to be twisted by the stopping torque
Kearsarge Peg Co. 1942
In this photo, railroad tracks have been removed as motor transport starts to become more common. Cord wood is stacked next to the debarking and sawing area. When birch bolts (four-foot long logs) were supplied with diameters too large for the 38 inch cross cut saw to accommodate they would be blasted.
Blasting entailed using a hand auger to drill a hole into the center of the log, and filling the hole with black gun-powder and capping it. A fuse would be lit from a safe distance and the log would be blasted, splitting it neatly in two longitudinally. Yankee Ingenuity with explosives…
Kearsarge Peg Co. Aerial view 1965Wood yardBoiler and Steam Engine BuildingDebarking and Sawing AreaPointing and Splitting Area
Undriedpeg storage 3F, Drying operations 2F, Screening and Bagging 1F
Trestle rail car to
second floor warehouse
Shoe Pegs as Tumbling Media: Example of plastic eyeglass frame tumble finishing and polishing. The frame to the right shows the as-machined condition, the frame to the left has been radiused, smoothed and polished using shoe pegs and abrasivesIn tumblingbarrels
Transition –from Shoe Pegs to Tumbling Media
WHAT IS MASS FINISHING? Mass finishing is a term used to describe a group of abrasive industrial processes bywhich large lots of parts or components made from metal or other materials can beeconomically processed in bulk to achieve one or several of a variety of surface effects. These include deburring, descaling, surface smoothing, edge-break, radius formation, removal of surface contaminants from heat treat and other processes, preplateand prepaintor coating surface preparation, blending in surface irregularities from machining or fabricating operations, producing reflective surfaces with nonabrasive burnishing media, refining surfaces, and developing superfinishor microfinishequivalent surface profiles. All mass finishing processes utilize a loose or free abrasive material referred to as media within a container or chamber of some sort. Energy is imparted to the abrasive media mass by a variety of means to impart motion to it and to cause it to rub or wear away at part surfaces. Although by definition, the term mass finishing is used generally to describe processes in which parts move in a random manner throughout the abrasive media mass, equipment and processes that utilize loose abrasive media to process parts that are fixturedcome under this heading also. Barrel FinishingBarrel finishing is unquestionably the oldest of the mass finishing methods, with someevidence indicating that crude forms of barrel finishing may have been in use by artisans as far back as the ancient Chinese and Romans as well as the medieval Europeans.
In this method, action is given to the media by the rotation of the barrel. As the barrel rotates, the media and parts within climb to what is referred to as the turnover point. At this point, gravity overcomes the cohesive tendencies of the mass, and a portion of the media mass slides in a retrograde movement to the lower area of the barrel. Most of the abrading or other work being performed on parts within the barrel takes place within this slide zone, which may involve as little as 10–20% of the media mass at any given moment. A variety of process elements may have an effect on this slide zone and its efficiency. (See diagram on previous slide)
Shoe pegs and other dry process media were used in 30 x 36 inch maple lined barrels such as the one shown to the right. Eyeglass frame manufacturers used double barrels with a lower and upper barrel contained in one stand for processing plastic eyeglass frame components. Larger firms utilized hundreds of these units to perform tumble finish and polish operations on large production lots of eyeglass frame and sunglass components. Shoe pegs treated with fine abrasive and polishing creams and powders were capable of producing mirror-like low micro- inch surface finishes with bulk-processing in contrast to costly manual buffing procedures often used prior to he tumbling process adoption.
Many plastic items are still finished in dry process tumbling procedures…
Plastic items polished with hardwood shoe pegs by barrel tumbling
Other Applications for Wooden Shoe Pegs
Pegs primary uses were: (1) shoe pegs/shoe nails in shoe manufacturing and (2) a media or carrier for abrasive and polishing materials for the tumbling or barrel finishing of buttons, jewelry and plastic eyewear frames. Additionally pegs were utilized in manufacturing novelty items for kindergarten or school use such as those modified by the Ideal School Supply Co. in the picture to the left. Other uses included toy manufacturing, splicing factory flat belts, coopers plugs, making boxes, lacquer ware, brushes, window sashes, life rafts, small cabinet ware, foundry cores, piano actions and fireworks. By far the most bizarre application was the use of very small pegs coated with explosive material to stuff into cigarettes and cigars by novelty companies to create exploding cigarettes and cigars.
Other wooden shapes in addition to shoe pegs were utilized by the company for barrel finishing. The different shapes made it possible to access parts with more complex and difficult to reach geometries…
Tumbling Product Line Expansion
Other hardwood shapes were utilized in addition to shoe pegs, including wooden diamonds, cubes and double ended pegs fur tumbling. Additionally, granular agricultural products including sawdust chips, corn cob granules and walnut shell were treated with fine abrasive material for use in vibratory and centrifugal polishing of metals
Hardwood Media for Dry Process Finishing in Vibratory Finishing Equipment
Centrifugal Barrel Finishing… Hardwood Media shapes would be used in mixtures with other dry process granular media to produce final finishes on metal parts. Although similar to barrel finishing the added centrifugal force produced finishes 10 –15 times faster than traditional methods.