Hand & Sons

John E. Hand & Sons Co. records, 1865–2002.
46 boxes, 7 volumes, plus 9 flat file drawers, and 18 rolled drawings (19.08 linear feet).
Abstract

The collection documents the business activities of the John E. Hand & Sons Company from its institution in 1873 to 1997, when the company was sold. The collection boasts a wide breadth of material that includes legal documents, financial records, patents, correspondence, contracts, reports, catalogs and other ephemera, photographs, and engineering plans. Together, the records provide a thorough account of the firm’s operations.

About John E. Hand & Sons

The John E. Hand & Sons Company was founded in Philadelphia in 1873, quickly gaining a reputation as competent manufacturers of nautical instruments and compass adjusters. In fact, John Enos Hand, the company founder, is recognized as “the first man in America to adjust a compass aboard an iron ship.”
The Hand Company built navigational equipment for all varieties of floating vessels, and operated a chain of retail outlets with “service stations” in numerous port cities, including Baltimore and New Orleans, until 1956. Service stations sold Hand instruments as well as other nautical paraphernalia and provided compass adjusting services. Additionally, John E. and his two sons, John L. and Bartram, were inventors, who patented design improvements for numerous instruments that were employed in the company’s work.
Commercial and private contracts dominated the firm’s business until the late 1930s when the United States military began preparations for World War II. Though the Hand Company never completely abandoned its involvement with private industry, after World War II, military contracts monopolized their business. The Company obtained contracts with the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines to develop new instruments, and to build military-engineered nautical equipment. Of note are the wrist compass, developed for the Navy beginning in the 1950s, and the Mark VII Model 5 Navy Standard Binnacle.
Though it moved numerous times, the Hand Company headquarters and factory remained in the Delaware Valley, occupying several buildings in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey. Maintaining its central office in Philadelphia well into the 1900s, the factory was moved to Atco, New Jersey around the turn of the twentieth century and subsequently to Haddonfield, New Jersey. It moved one last time in the 1960s to Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
In 1997, California-based Sunset Cliffs Merchandising Corporation purchased the Hand Company and all its assets for $100,000.

About the collection

The collection documents the business activities of the John E. Hand & Sons Company from its institution in 1873 to 1997, when the company was sold. The collection boasts a wide breadth of material that includes legal documents, financial records, patents, correspondence, contracts, reports, catalogs and other ephemera, photographs, and engineering plans. Together, the records provide a thorough account of the firm’s operations.
With the exception of catalogs, photographs and measured drawings, materials dating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are primarily administrative in nature. Financial records and correspondence, for example, detail the day to day activities of the business of making nautical instruments. Later documentation, in contrast, is more technical in content, allowing for a greater understanding of the engineering work completed by the firm at the time.
Researchers should note that there is very little material regarding the personal lives of John E. Hand or his family, however, a few documents are present in the following series: II. John P. Mays Records, VI. Photographs and Negatives, and VIII. Hand Family Memorabilia.

Subjects
  • Nautical paraphernalia — 19th century
  • Nautical paraphernalia — 20th century
  • Compasses
  • World War, 1939-1945 — Engineering and construction
  • World War, 1939-1945 — Equipment and supplies
  • United States. Navy — Engineering and construction
  • United States. Coast Guard — Engineering and construction
Types of material
  • Legal documents
  • Financial records
  • Patents
  • Correspondence
  • Reports
  • Catalogs
  • Ephemera
  • Photographs
  • Schematic drawings
Reference files
  • Hand, John E. Company
This entry was posted in Marine Engineering, Photo-rich Collection. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply