LeRoy Pennysaver & News - page 11

A couple of months ago, I
was contacted by Ted Johnson
who iswritingaguide towooden
machinist’s tool chests. He was
interested in theUnionToolChest
Companywhichhad relocated to
LeRoy fromRochester in1932. It
wasfounded in1892andoriginal-
ly manufactured drafting tables
and medical instrument cases
which resembled fine furniture.
Soon thecompanywasmanufac-
with felt lined drawers.
In the 1920s, it began manu-
facturing metal utility and tool
chests.When theparentcompany
went into receivership in 1931,
three former executives of the
Rochester company, decided to
move production to LeRoy. The
factorywas located in the build-
ing on the east side of Church
Street, along the railroad tracks.
The large stone building was
the former LeRoy Cotton Mill.
(Thismassivebuildingburned in
1949.)UnionToolChest became
UnionSteel Chest.
Unionpioneered thefirst fully
seamlessmetalfishing tacklebox
andcover in1947.Thecaseswere
manufactured elsewhere and
“trimmed” inLeRoy.During the
years thatUnionSteelChestwas
in LeRoy, it is estimated that 13
million tool boxes, utility boxes
and other types of metal boxes
were manufactured and distrib-
uted throughout theworld.
Manywereusedby the armed
forces during World War II. At
one time the company employed
about 125 men and women
from LeRoy and vicinity. In
1973, the company relocated
toChandler,Arizonaand four
years laterwas bought out by
competitors. The facilities
in Arizona were closed in
1984 and inventories were
The wooden tool chests,
which were manufactured
until 1951, havebecomecol-
lectors items,oftenselling for
one that Ihavewaspurchased
bymyhusband in an antique
shop in Rhode Island. It
was inprettygood condition
and he lightly refinished the
quarter-sawn oak and replaced
thegreen felt. I use it for
a jewelry case.
Originally it was used
by a machinist to hold a
varietyof precision tools
such as micrometers, in-
punches, dies, and gaug-
es. Looking through the
Union catalogue, I know
that I have an Improved
Style B with knobs on
the drawers. Usually the
chests have small re-
cessed rings forpulls,but
of theknobswasbroken,
andTedJohnson, sentme
a replacement, which is just the
right size.
One of the men who brought
Union Tool Chest to LeRoywas
Seeley Pratt’s father. Seeley
continuedwith thecompanyafter
his father’s death, andmoved to
Arizona. After thecompanywas
boughtout,he returned toLeRoy
and lived on East Main Street.
He was the “official” Union
SteelChest historian, andpeople
often contacted him when they
wanted information about the
tackle boxes or tool chests. All
of his notes and catalogues are
now in thearchivesandprovidea
lot of informationabout a former
industry inLeRoy.
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