Howland’s Samson Axes

1911-1950*
Toronto, Ontario
(Made in St. Catherines)

Howland’s Samson Double-Bit (1918-1930)
Thanks to Zak Keating for the image

Howland’s Samson axes were introduced in 1911 and were produced into at least the 1930s, and likely as late as the early 1950s. “Samson” was the high-end private label brand of Toronto-based hardware wholesaler H. S. Howland, Sons & Company.

Howland Samson was one of the few large etched logos offered by a Canadian maker, although they simplified their design to a much more common oval design around 1930. The axes were made for Howland by the Welland Vale Mfg Co. out of St. Catherines.


Howland’s Samson Quality

The “Samson” Brand was introduced in 1909 as a premium private label by H. S. Howland, Sons & Company.

The launch included baseball equipment and fire-proof roofing but quickly extended to things like bicycles, farm and garden tools, hand tools, and eventually even electronics like car headlights.

Samson axes were launched in 1911.

The success of the Samson line eventually led to the creation of a second line at a lower price point called “Waverly”. There were also Waverly axes.

Unrelated “Samson” Brands

Samson was a popular name in the hardware space, with many other companies sharing the name. Samson vices and milk tins for example were made in the same timeframe but are unrelated.


The First Samson Axes (1911-1918)

The first Samson axes have very distinct markings

Chopping Axes

The first version of the chopping axes had a very large and unique mark, which showed the logo framed on the side of the axe. With the words “Crucible, Steel, Special, Tempered” in the corners.

There is an impressive example of an early chopping axe on Worthpoint.

Bench Axes

Marketing image for Howland Samson Broad Hachet
Early Howland’s Samson Bench Axe Design (1914)

The earlier bench axes have a distinct version of the logo that is very similar to the later ones found on all axes, but has a taller serif font for the word “SAMSON”, and no space for the trademark copy above the word “Quality”.

There is an example of a bench axe with the early logo on Worthpoint.

Early Howland Samson Hatchets

Samson shingling, claw, and flooring hatchets are listed in the early catalogs – however by the 1920’s Howland seems to have dropped those models. No known examples or images of these hatchets have survived, and I suspect these smaller, lower-priced tools just had paper labels, similar to the Samson hammers.


The Second Etched Samson Axes (1918-1930*)

Howland's Samson Axe advertisement from 1923
H. S. Howland, Sons & Co. Catalog No.40 – 1923
Note: The rectangle banner at the bottom of the wreath was never added to the axe etching

The second axe design uses a version of the brand crest used to promote Samson across all product lines. It showcases the words “Howland’s Samson Quality” in a crowned wreath. There is a small band under the word Samson with the words “Trade Mark Registered”.

The same design was used on the single-bit axes, double-bit axes, bench axes, and also on paper handle labels.

It’s unclear exactly when the detailed etch design stopped being used, it could have been as early as the late 20s. However, I suspect it was around 1930 when Welland Vale (the maker of the axes) was purchased by American Fork and Hoe.

After the purchase, the factory massively cut down on the number of brands made and stopped producing etched designs of their own.


Late Samson Axes (1930* – 1950*)

The last version of the axe has a simple oval design around the words Howland’s Samson Quality. It has been seen on full-size chopping heads, boys’ axe heads, and hatchets.

This oval design is an unmistakable giveaway for Welland Vale axes from the period and was also used for Howden Truset, Owl Brand, and their own Welland Vale brand.


H. S. Howland, Sons & Co.

(1908) H. S. Howland, Sons & Co., 138-140 West Front St, Toronto, Ontario (1)

H. S. Howland, Sons & Co. was a wholesale hardware business based out of Toronto, Ontario that operated from 1877-1950. Founded by Henry Stark Howland a prominent businessman and politician in the Toronto area, and his sons Frederick Newton, Henry Stark Jr, and Peleg.

Purchase by D. H. Howden

The Howland company was bought out in 1931 by a competitor D. H. Howden when the city of Toronto expropriated their land to expand roadways and develop the infrastructure of the Toronto downtown core.

The D. H. Howden company was founded in London Ontario, but by this time had a large Toronto office just around the corner on York St. They also offered a line of axes, branded Howden Trueset.

Howden maintained both businesses after the purchase until at least the 1950s when they notably included both brands in the same catalog. Howland products were on the left page, while Howden’s were on the right.

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Did I get something wrong? Do you have one of these axes? Please share any pictures, information, or insights to help fill the archive. You can email: museum@axeandtool.com


Sources

  1. Thomas Fischer Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
    – Hardware & Metal, Vol. XX, Oct 10, 1908, No.4
    – Hardware & Metal, Vol. XXVI, March 7, 1914, No.10
  2. Biography of Henry Stark Howland – biography.ca
  3. H. S. Howland, Sons & Co. General Catalog No.23, May 1923
  4. British North America Philatelic Society – Illustrated Advertising Postal Stationery cards of Canada, Chris Ellis