1910 – 1940*
Lewis Bros. Hardware (Montreal, Quebec)
This brand is always (understandably) misidentified as the famous Walters Black Diamond, including by earlier axe researchers like the legendary Tom Lamond (yesteryearstools.com). However, the Lewis Bros. Black Diamond came before Walters officially used the name.
Lewis Bros., Limited was a Montreal-based hardware wholesaler started in 1876, that expanded quickly with offices in Toronto and Winnipeg. In 1910 Lewis Bros. introduced its “Black Diamond” tool brand (including axes) with the modest tagline of “The Best Quality Tools Made In The World“.
The company was purchased by K. C. Irving sometime in the 1940s as he bought up multiple hardware businesses in eastern Canada. By the 1950s the Lewis Bros, Chinic Hardware, Thorne Hardware Limited, and F. Wragge Limited business had all been merged. Operating under their original names but sharing things like catalogs and products including the Black Diamond tool line.
While the Black Diamond brand was being used in the 50s after the mergers, it’s not likely axes were still being produced at this time. Most of the Canadian hardware industry no longer bothered as axe sales and profits plummeted after the introduction of the chainsaw.
Like most Canadian Hardware businesses, the combined Irving-owned operation has shrunk and consolidated since the “golden age” in the early 1900s. However, it’s actually still going strong in Eastern Canada by the name of Source Atlantic.
Although they only trace their roots to Thorne, one of the other names in the merged business.
Details of the Lewis Bros. Black Diamond Axes
The brand was launched in 1910, with axes as part of the lineup. Early advertisements showed paper labels only – although that doesn’t mean they weren’t also stamped (see below).
We don’t have exact dates for when the stamps were used, but they are relatively scarce. The only known printed image of one of these axes that includes the stamped logo is from a 1919 catalog(3), and they likely stopped stamping heads by the late 30s or 40s like most other hardware brands (if not sooner).
The Black Diamond logo has the name “Black Diamond” in the middle of a diamond shape, with a modified version of the tagline “The Best Axe Made in the World” running above and below the name within the diamond. It doesn’t include the “Lewis Bros.” name – which is in part why it is never correctly identified.
It’s also unclear who produced the Black Diamond axes for Lewis Bros., but there is a note in Axe Makers of North America claiming they were made by Welland Vale in St. Catherines (who made a lot of other hardware store brands).
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- Thomas Fischer Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
– Hardware & Metal Jan 8, 1910
– Hardware & Metal April 21, 1917
- Bruce County Museum Archives
- Lewis Bros. Catalog No. 50 (1919), Worth Point
- Montreal Collector
- “Axe Makers of North America” by Allan Klenman (second edition – editor: Larry McPhail), 1990