QUIMBY S. BACKUS
Backus (wonderful name, what?) is credited with a number of bitstock and other patents.
Born in Bridgewater, Vermont in 1838, he attended public schools and then the
Brandon Seminary. At the age of 18 he was trained as a machinist in
Woodstock, VT and then worked at the Howe Scale Co. in Brandon, working on parts
for the first Howe Scale. He then worked as a tool maker in the gun
manufactory in Windsor, and in railroad shops in Rutland. At some point he
formed a company in Windsor to manufacture bench vises--the Backus Vise Co.
The acquisition this company in the early Millers Falls empire is summarized by
Randy Roeder in his
history of the Millers Falls Company. Randy has recently written
a very authoritative and complete biography of Backus, the first part of which
can be found here.
Backus' most common brace patent
is for an adjustable angle bitstock tool (#132790, Nov. 5, 1872) that features a
distinctive chuck that is also found on braces. The chuck was also
patented on the same date (#132791) and rates a "B" on Ron Pearson's rarity
scale. The angle bitstock is more common. Here are two braces with
the Backus chuck. They are both marked, "Q.S.Backus / Pat Nov. 5, 72 /
Holyoke, Mass" on the chuck. The upper brace is marked "No 8" on the lower
bow and has rotating cocobolo wrist and cup handles. The lower brace is
marked "No. 7" and both handles are stained hardwood and fixed in position.
The adjustable angle bitstock on the right is an example of Backus' first
brace patent. It rates a Pearson "C" for rarity.
One of the more unwieldy looking braces was Backus' patent for
bit stock wrenches (June 24, 1879, No. 216,776). This was awarded during
his New York City tenure. The original patent is for a chuck on short
extension that could be chucked into a regular brace or drill. This
example is a dedicated brace wrench. Pearson "B" for rarity.
The original concept was for this chuck on a short extension. Here is an
example. It is an uncommon find.
The brace below
is marked with his final patent filed when he was in New York City (No. 233464,
Oct 19, 1880--Pearson "B"), and a final brace patent issued when he returned to
Winchendon (No. 234517, Nov 16, 1880--Pearson "B"). The patents are for
jaws that are spring operated. The earlier patent uses and internal coiled
spring, while the latter has external strap springs on the outer sides of the
In later years Backus moved to Philadelphia, and then to Williamsport, PA, where
he manufactured steam and gas heaters of his own design. He returned to
Brandon, VT in 1895, moving his heater manufacture to that town in 1902.
He was a senator from Rutland in the Vermont legislature in 1902, and made an
unsuccessful run for Governor on the "Independent League" ticket in 1908.
Quimby Backus died at his home "Quim's Home" in Brandon, VT on Dec. 27,
1912 at the age of 74. He left his wife (Lavinia) of 54 years, and a son
and a daughter.
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