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Old 11-08-2011, 12:37 AM   #1
gatewaysysop
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Default Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

I mentioned this in my vintage vise score thread, but that didn't seem to get much response, so I'm trying a separate thread to ask about the history of the Rock Island vises. I realize they are quite stout, but I don't know much about the company and have no idea how they stack up age-wise with my other vises.

Tried searching and didn't find much, so forgive my ignorance if I missed it (and please post a link!).

Any info from the vise gurus would be much appreciated!
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Old 11-08-2011, 01:16 AM   #2
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

I cant offer any help, im interested in knowing more about Rock Islands myself, id really like to stumble across one
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Old 11-08-2011, 01:19 AM   #3
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

I'm not much help , but I have 3 , a big 'un , and it's twin made for Sears and marked Craftsman , and a little 'un. I'll post some p/n's tomorrow
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Old 11-08-2011, 07:59 AM   #4
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

This is all I have, so if you have anything else post it up and fill in the blanks. I'd like to learn more about them.

1906- The Rock Island Tool Co., Rock Island Ill., recently organized, has taken over the business of the Jacobson Machine Mfg Co., Warren, Pa., and will manufacture a full line of vises and other tools. The company states that it expects to build next fall, but is at present occupying temporary foundry and machine shops and is in the market for foundry equipment, machine tools, electric motors and power plant equipment.

Another announcement:
The Jacobson Machine Mfg Co., of Warren, Pa, has completed all arrangements with a new corporation organized in Rock Island, Ill, incorporated as the Rock Island Tool Co., providing for the complete transfer of the Jacobson Machine Mfg. Co. vise business. The Jacobson people have built up a good trade on these automatic vises, and as they are taxing their capacity with gas and gasoline engine work they consider it advisable to divide the business in this way. The Jacobson Company will retain a considerable interest in the new concern, and as those engaged in the management of the new company are accustomed to manufacture of this kind the Jacobson vise business will be well take care of. The new concern expects to be under way by April1.

At some point they were bought by the Birtman Electric Company. Vises from this era had a label attached that read BIRTMAN ELECTRIC COMPANY, ROCK ISLAND DIVISION, ROCK ISLAND ILLINOIS.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg ad 1910 Rock Island anvil vise.jpg (58.7 KB, 106 views)
File Type: jpg $(KGrHqF,!h8E3ON43oGoBN8jyC8IMQ~~0_3.JPG (70.6 KB, 136 views)
File Type: jpg ad 1907 Rock Island.jpg (33.6 KB, 137 views)
File Type: jpg ad 1909 Rock Island coachmaker and machinist.jpg (22.4 KB, 122 views)
File Type: jpg ad 1920 Rock Island Autovise.jpg (60.6 KB, 111 views)
File Type: jpg Jacobsen Machine Mfg Co Vise Warren Pa.jpg (39.4 KB, 118 views)
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Old 11-08-2011, 10:37 AM   #5
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

Visually, later Rock Islands are distinguishable from Reed vises only by the shape of the sides of the dynamic jaw. Otherwise, they're identical - including the forged-in jaws.

I don't know if that speaks to RI buying Reed's old manufacturing tools when they switched molds in the 50's or what.

I've just always found it interesting.
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Old 11-08-2011, 11:07 AM   #6
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

Here is my Rock Island model 577. I still haven't gotten around to the restoration due to an ongoing floor jack project.

If you look closely at the pics you can make out the outline of a missing metal tag from one side of the vise. I am sure there must be others but, for me, this is the only model Rock Island vise that I've seen that I know is supposed to have the Britman Electric Company label.

http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/s...ht=rock+island
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Old 11-08-2011, 12:18 PM   #7
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CRTDI View Post
Here is my Rock Island model 577. I still haven't gotten around to the restoration due to an ongoing floor jack project.

If you look closely at the pics you can make out the outline of a missing metal tag from one side of the vise. I am sure there must be others but, for me, this is the only model Rock Island vise that I've seen that I know is supposed to have the Britman Electric Company label.

http://www.garagejournal.com/forum/s...ht=rock+island
I have that vise in excellent condition with the metal tag intact and fully legible. I can shoot a picture of it when I get a chance.
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Old 11-08-2011, 08:38 PM   #8
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

Lots of good info in this thread, really appreciate the replies and especially the pics!

As far as age, does anyone know when the jaws became forged-in? Mine has removable jaws, similar to my Prentiss. Does that help to date it at all?
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Old 11-12-2011, 06:49 PM   #9
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

I've got one of these in my basement right now.

ROCK ISLAND No. 50
3 1/2" jaws.
Other side of vice is cast with ROCK ISLAND, ILL

No removable jaws sadly but bought by my grandfather likely sometime in the 40's or 50's.
If he bought it used, it could pre-date those figures.

Sadly still missing the secondary swivel clamp ball/rod lock but IIRC someone on GJ can make on for me.

Can post pic of the vice if interested.
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Last edited by jjjrmx5; 11-12-2011 at 07:06 PM.
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Old 12-14-2011, 04:11 PM   #10
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

Were these painted yellow originally? That 574 I just picked up has yellow paint on the inside, but the outside appears to have been dark gray?
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Old 12-14-2011, 06:42 PM   #11
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

I've seen several RIs with the remnants of medium green paint on them.

jack vines
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Old 12-14-2011, 08:13 PM   #12
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

My 595 has what was clearly red paint on it. Looks to be original, but that's only a guess of course, given its age.
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Old 12-14-2011, 08:36 PM   #13
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

Think this one may end up hammertone black as I already have a can of that & the vise I used it on was sold a while back...
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Old 11-01-2012, 10:09 PM   #14
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

I just picked up a Rock Island 505A yesterday. It appears to be in fairly good condition.
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Old 11-02-2012, 12:25 AM   #15
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

My only Rock Island has the old cast in jaw inserts. The tops of the jaws have a distinctive ridge that circles down and around. I have seen several of the older Rocks that have this ridge on them as well.
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Old 01-07-2013, 11:07 PM   #16
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

Here is my Rock Island 574. It is all done except it needs a main nut.
https://picasaweb.google.com/1153980...762/RockIsland
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Old 02-17-2013, 12:13 AM   #17
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

574:
Before



After




594:
Before:

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Old 03-24-2013, 04:07 AM   #18
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

I have seen a 6" Rock Island vise that looks identical to the Reed equivalent.

Were those companies the same once upon a time?
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Old 06-28-2013, 03:14 PM   #19
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bl00 View Post
This is all I have, so if you have anything else post it up and fill in the blanks. I'd like to learn more about them.

1906- The Rock Island Tool Co., Rock Island Ill., recently organized, has taken over the business of the Jacobson Machine Mfg Co., Warren, Pa., and will manufacture a full line of vises and other tools. The company states that it expects to build next fall, but is at present occupying temporary foundry and machine shops and is in the market for foundry equipment, machine tools, electric motors and power plant equipment.

Another announcement:
The Jacobson Machine Mfg Co., of Warren, Pa, has completed all arrangements with a new corporation organized in Rock Island, Ill, incorporated as the Rock Island Tool Co., providing for the complete transfer of the Jacobson Machine Mfg. Co. vise business. The Jacobson people have built up a good trade on these automatic vises, and as they are taxing their capacity with gas and gasoline engine work they consider it advisable to divide the business in this way. The Jacobson Company will retain a considerable interest in the new concern, and as those engaged in the management of the new company are accustomed to manufacture of this kind the Jacobson vise business will be well take care of. The new concern expects to be under way by April1.

At some point they were bought by the Birtman Electric Company. Vises from this era had a label attached that read BIRTMAN ELECTRIC COMPANY, ROCK ISLAND DIVISION, ROCK ISLAND ILLINOIS.
A little update. Found online at the "Quad Cities" web page that Birtman Electric acquired Rock Island Manufacturing Company on January 12, 1930.

Additionally, some 23 years later they Birtman Electric got involved in the below

"Birtman Electric Company, Rock Island, is adding to America's arsenal of defense. A special assembly line in its plant at 1533 1st St. is turning out 3.5 inch rocket launchers in quantity. This is the weapon that on July 20, 1950, knocked out seven out of seven Communist tanks in its first Korean test, according to an announcement by Gen. Douglas MacArthur's public information officer."

Just wanted to post what I found.
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Old 07-13-2013, 07:58 PM   #20
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Default Re: Rock Island Vises - History/Info?

I also have a Rock Island vise # 677. It has a 12" opening with a 3/4" handle jaws are still good. I love this vise have owned it now for 20 years it was my dads and he salvaged it out of a junck yard in 1944. The vise weighs every bit of 75 lbs ( i think) its heavy as heck. From the litle bit I do know about it dad told me that it was made sometime in the 30's. It has a lot of value to me everytime I use it reminds me dad and all the pinched skin on my hand when the rod (handle) would bite my hand.
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