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On January 17, 1881 The Hartford Courant announced the formation of The Capewell Horsenail Company. Soon after the formation of the company, farriers realized that the Capewell horse nail was in a class by itself becoming the leading brand for horse nails in America. At the turn of the century the safety bicycle with chains and rubber tires and the rapidly developing gasoline driven horseless carriage gained wide acceptance. Some nail producers ceased operations at the time which added an increase in volume sales for Capewell.

   Throughout the years, Capewell has managed to survive difficult times thanks to its philosophy of service excellence and high quality. For the last century, Capewell has been the preferred brand for nails in North America. We have and will continue to improve the quality of our products and the service to our customers. In 1997, Capewell entered the horse shoe business with a full line of high quality drop forge horseshoes. In our third century of existence, we will strive to improve every day. We will work diligently to remain the leading brand in horse shoe nails and to gain the same respected position with our line of horse shoes.

History   On January 17, 1881, the Hartford Courant announced the formation of The Capewell Horse Nail Company, capitalized at $200,000 with half that amount in the name of George J. Capewell. With the universal dependence on the horse, the formation of such a company was not surprising. But this company was different. It was the culmination of years of effort by inventor George J. Capewell who was able to make horse nails by an automatic cold swaging process rather than the conventional method of laborious hot forging by hand.

   Nails were made by feeding steel wire or rod into the top of the machine where they underent different rolling, shaping and cutting operations. Georges - Capewell and Williams. These names dominate the companys history from 1881 to 1962.

Our Founders

George J. Capewell 
   Born June 26, 1843, in Birmingham, England, he was educated in Woodbury, Connecticut and went to work at fifteen for Scoville in Waterbury, Connecticut. At twenty he was Mechanical Superintendent of Cheshire Manufacturing Company. In 1870 he founded a business, manufacturing specialties of his own invention. In the centennial year of 1876, he began his major life work, the invention of an automatic process to produce horse nails. After years of frustration, failure, and the loss of thousands of dollars, a perfected machine was exhibited to investors in Hartford, Connecticut in the fall of 1880. The company was on its way.

   A 1900 article reported that Mr. Capewells tenacity of purpose has brought him to the top and it is Hartfords boast that he is one of the men who has done much toward making the city known the world over. A truly extraordinary man, he was universally respected and admired. He died on November 6, 1919

Dr. George C. F. Williams

   Born in Cheshire, Connecticut, February 26, 1857, he graduated with honors from the Medical Department of New York University in 1878. He practiced medicine in his hometown, but gave up a successful medical career in 1887 to become associated with Capewell. He became president of the company in 1912 and held this position until his death in November, 1933.

   Dr. Williams guided the Company through the very difficult years when the need for horseshoe nails was greatly diminishing. At his death in 1933, Capewell had survived enormous changes in its market.

Growing Pains    Growing Pains were little different from those experienced by most new companies --- competition, price cutting, low profits, and, in Capewells case, difficulty in collecting on amounts due from some of the twenty-nine investors who had initially subscribed to the Companys capital stock. In fact, Mr. Capewell drew no salary for the first few years.

   In 1887, headquarters were moved from 446 Asylum Street. The great engine was started up in a new plant at the corner of Governor Street and Charter Oak Place on June 26,1893.

   About this time it became apparent that the Capewell nail was in a class by itself. Instead of lowering prices in a price war, they were considerably increased with no loss of business.

   At the start of the new century, the handwriting was on the wall. The horse was no longer the primary mover of man and his goods. The safety bicycle with chain drive and rubber tires and the rapidly developing gasoline driven horseless carriage were gaining wide acceptance.

   Some nail producers ceased operations, which added to an increasing sales volume for Capewell. In fact, it was not until 1912 that annual sales tonnage would reach its peak. It is reported that in 1893 the horse population in the United States totaled 16,206,802 and that in 1909 the number was 20,640,000, although more and more were showing up in grazing regions. In a rousing speech, Dr. Williams concluded that while the banishment of the horse from the city streets maybe a consummation devoutly to be wished the horse will not pass."

Capewell Nails Receive Wide Acclaim   In 1904, the widespread use and great satisfaction with Capewell nails was reported. Commendations included the following: From King Edwards Stables, the most satisfactory nail made. From the Moscow Trotting Club, of which the Czar was President, the best trotters and runners in Russia are always shod with Capewell nails. From the Kings County Foxhounds, Ireland, in this trying terrain the steel was often left behind but since using Capewell nails the steel always comes home. From the Koyo Veterinary Hospital, Nirasak, Japan, Capewell nails are the best.

Fire Doesn't Stop Us   Capewells Burned blared the headline in a special Hartford Courant edition the morning of Thursday, July 2, 1902. Big Horse Nail Plant Practically Wiped Out.

   A sluiceway was built in the Capewell yard. Debris was shoveled in and nails were separated from cinders, ashes and pieces of brick. The nails about one-third of all damaged nails might be salvageable. The company was still in business.

   Plans were put into effect immediately to erect a new factory building to be 350 feet by 100 feet on three levels, as nearly fireproof as the most skillful engineering could provide, the whole structure to be made of brick and steel with concrete floors and roof throughout.

   The excellent inventory position at the time of the fire assured that very few sales were lost.

   By January 10, 1903, despite a lengthy delay in construction due to unusually severe weather, the concrete for the roof had been laid. The building was completed in the spring.

   The period from 1903 to 1912 resulted in ever-increasing sales. In spite of these successes, it had become evident that changing times were going to bring an end to this prosperity.

Day Care Pioneer   In 1918, Capewell attained national acclaim for its Day Nursery. In what was probably the only plant to have such an arrangement, working mothers brought their children each morning to a bright airy section of the third floor to be cared for by a nurse. Three meals a day were provided, with hand washing and the saying of Grace before each meal, and tooth brushing afterwards. A common practice heretofore had been to leave children unattended at home.

Sales in Earlier Times     Over the years Capewell has had many outstanding salesmen. Frequently they have worked under trying circumstances. The recollections of Harold Thornton, hired by Dr. Williams in 1926 to represent the company in the South, give some idea of how things were in an earlier time.

   I made my first sale to Hamlet Gin and Supply Company, one hundred pounds of horse nails. This sale gave me a sense of security; I was off to conquer the enemy. In 1936 I made my largest sale of 76,900 pounds, two carloads, which promptly became immersed in a great flood. I drove all night from Atlanta to Lousville, hired ten girls and tumbling equipment and tackled the pile, a maddening mess. Not one nail was lost. That customer still buys Capewell nails --- the extra effort to help them paid off."

   I was Capewells last horseback salesman. I remember selling in an area which had no bank, no railroad, no highway. Some hotels kept a stable of old plug horses to rent to us salesmen. The going rate for the horse, and for supper, bed and breakfast was $2.00. One week in the saddle and I could hardly walk. When a passable road was finally built to Sandy Hook, Kentucky, I drove my new Model 'A' into town."

Flood Doesn't Stop Us    Disaster struck again in March of 1936 when the Connecticut River sent over ten feet of water into the ground floor of the factory, completely inundating the nail machines.

   For Capewell, again, it was clean up and dig out. Water had to be pumped from the building as floor drains were clogged, and production stopped for some months.

   When Dr. Williams died in 1933, the reins of leadership passed on to his son, Staunton Williams. Negotiations were entered into with another major manufacturer of horse nails --- the Fowler and Union Horse Nail Company with a factory in Buffalo.

Transition and Diversification     The first real move to counteract the fall-off in nail sales came in 1939 when the company entered the metal cutting saw business, and immediately thereafter the forging business. Production started on hand and power hacksaws.

   With the outbreak of World War II, the drop forge equipment was used in the production of parachute fittings, a product whose importance was rapidly increasing. Next to the Nail Machine, development of the parachute Canopy Release was probably the most important accomplishment in the companys history.

   Capewell soon became the largest developer and producer of these items in the country. Meanwhile, with the German occupation of northern Europe, and with an effective blockade, Capewell became practically the sole supplier of horse nails for the free world. Consequently the Nail Division worked around the clock. In spite of this, nail orders, including those shipped under lend-lease to countries such as North Africa, Belgium, Holland and France fell about a year behind.

   With the end of the war, Capewell also produced an excellent line of claw and ball peen hammers, including on its list of customers one of the countrys largest chains.

   In 1970, the Boards of Directors of Capewell and Standard Screw Company (formerly Hartford Machine Screw Company) agreed to a proposal under which Standard Screw Company would purchase the outstanding shares of Capewell, and Capewell would operate as a subsidiary of Standard Screw. In 1972 the corporate name was changed to Stanadyne, Inc., and at that time Capewell became a division.

   In January 1981, Capewell was purchased from Stanadyne, Inc. by the George D. ONeill family of New York.

   Mr. ONeill, a private investor with many years experience as a business executive and corporate director, became Capewells board chairman.

Mustad and Growth   In 1985 Mustad International Group acquired the nails operation of Capewell and founded Capewell Horsenails Inc. For the last 15 years Capewell has being investing heavily in improving the quality of its nails and the service to its customers. Today, Capewell is the preferred brand of nails in the marketplace. In 1997, Capewell launched its line of horseshoes with the Capewell shoe receiving wide acceptance by farriers throughout the USA.

The Capewell Calendars  For many years, the Capewell Calendar adorned the walls of those in any way connected with the horse nail business. Scenes depict Travel in Colonial Days, The Sulky Race where the Capewell Always Wins, The Ride Thorough Central Park, The Charge of the Rough Riders, Scene on the New York Speedway and The Great Race of August 15, 1901 between Crescius and The Abbott at Brighton Beach. For the first time, the 1907 calendar showed an automobile with its driver clutching the wheel with both hands and his girl wistfully remarking, I think I prefer the horse, after all."

   Recently, Capewell has produced calendars illustrated by Will James, the famous cowboy artist and author of Smoky.