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Naylor Vickers in North America

The Sheffield, England, steel manufactory of Naylor, Vickers & Co. (later Vickers Sons & Co., but commonly referred to as simply "Naylor Vickers"), has long been known for the cast steel bells which it produced in the mid to late 19th century.  (See the History reference below.)  With the coming of the Internet, gathering and sharing of information has accelerated, yielding the realization that many of the Naylor Vickers bells are in North America.  As of July 2008, the distribution of bells known to have been supplied by Naylor Vickers, whether surviving or not, is approximately as follows:

   British Isles   478
   North America   171
   Australia/NZ     57
   Europe           12
   South America    11
   Caribbean         4
   Africa            3
   Asia             14
                   ---
     TOTAL         750
(For details, see the Inventory reference below.)

That 1/5 of their known production went to North America (and almost all of those to the USA) is rather surprising, considering that this export began very soon after Naylor Vickers began producing such bells.  Also surprising is the fact that some of these bells which are located in New England are hung on fittings of the style that is characteristic of the Hooper/Blake bellfoundry of Boston, Massachusetts.

However, the surprise disappears with the revelation that the company had already established a sales office in Boston before they began casting bells, and maintained it for more than 35 years.  There were also agents or offices in New York City and Philadelphia; together, these were at that time the three largest and most important cities in the country.

Boston office

Doing business as "Naylor & Co.," this office was in operation by 1850, with its business described as simply "steel".  In the city directories of 1865 through 1875, the subject of their business was described as "iron, steel, and bells."  The term "bells" was dropped sometime between 1875 and 1885, possibly because the production of bells by the parent company was declining.

Findings from city directories:

Because not all of the Boston city directories have been examined, it is not entirely certain where Naylor & Co. was located, or rather, when the office changed location.  Certainly it was located at 89 Milk street in 1850 and at 80 State street from 1855 to 1865.  By 1870, the office was at 6 Oliver street, and there was also a facility on Constitution wharf.  Those addresses were maintained through 1875 at least.  However, by 1885 (when "bells" had been dropped from the business description), the office was in room 23 of what was probably a general office building at 70 Kilby street, and by 1905 the company was gone.

For the same reason, it is not entirely certain how the principals of Naylor & Co. changed throughout the years.  The only one reported in 1850 was E. L. Benzon.  In 1855, they were Edmund L. S. Benzon, Edward B. Huntington, Wm. L. King, B. Schlesinger, and Geo. N. Vickers.  The last-named was George Naylor Vickers, eldest son of one of the parent firm's founders, and already a partner in that firm.  He had come to the USA in 1848, and appears in the 1850 directory in the hardware business.

By 1865, Edmund Benzon and George Vickers had disappeared, and "B." Schlesinger was revealed as Barthold Schlesinger; the latter remained a principal of the company throughout the rest of its existence, and was still living in Boston in 1905 (apparently retired).  Also, William L. King had been replaced by George P. King; probably they were related, because both had residences in the town of Roxbury.  George King remained a principal through 1875, but by 1885 he was president of the Norway Steel and Iron Co., which shared the office of Naylor & Co. at 70 Kilby.

Added to the principals in 1865 was Sebastian B. Schlesinger, who remained in that position through 1885, though by 1875 he had taken on the additional duty of consul for Germany and by 1885 his residence was in New York (City).  It seems reasonable to assume that the two Schlesingers were related.  Certainly their nationality might be taken as a reflection of the German connection which was so important to Naylor Vickers' manufacture of cast steel bells.

Edward B. Huntington remained a principal through 1870, but was gone by 1872.

Curiously, even though the firm's name was obviously derived from Naylor of Naylor, Vickers & Co., there does not seem to have been a resident Naylor associated with it at any time - only a Vickers for the first few years.

Findings from other sources:

Searching the World Wide Web for additional information on the various principals of Naylor & Co. (as well as the company name), one finds a number of other interesting details about them.  They are listed here in approximately chronological order:

Conclusions:

Naylor Vickers, having an established office in Boston when their making of bells began, were well placed to begin exporting their bells to North America as a sideline to their main business of iron and steel.  The only bellfoundry known to have been operating in or near Boston in the mid-19th c., that of Henry N. Hooper, described itself in the business directories as primarily "copper dealers", though sometimes it was also classifed under Bells.  Since New England was by this time a well-settled region compared to the expanding western frontier, the market for traditional bronze bells may have been relatively small - as much in replacements for cracked bells as for new ones.  So Hooper might not have been averse to cooperating with Naylor & Co. in the hanging of imported bells.  In fact, Naylor & Co. might even have cooperated in the production of the necessary cast iron fittings locally to avoid the necessity of importing finished goods with the associated high tariffs.  It might even be that this situation prompted Hooper & Co. to take a fresh look at their own bell business, resulting in the production of four large chimes in the 1860s.

New York office

The predecessor of Naylor, Vickers & Co. was Naylor, Hutchinson, Vickers & Company.  This firm had an office in New York City, but the history of that office and its successors has not yet been investigated.

Philadelphia office

The predecessor of Naylor, Vickers & Co. was Naylor, Hutchinson, Vickers & Company.  This firm had an office in Philadelphia, but the history of that office and its successors has not yet been investigated.

References

History:

Rev. David L. Cawley, bell historian, has written a long article (Microsoft Word document, 56KB download) about the steel bells produced by Naylor Vickers.  It touches briefly on the history of Naylor, Vickers & Co. and some of its principals in relation to their production of steel bells.  Titled "Colonel Tom and his Cast Steel Bells," this article was originally written to be a chapter in George Dawson's book, "Church Bells of Nottinghamshire."  In 2004, it was expanded to its present size and was published in The Ringing World, pp.709-11 of that year's volume.

Additional information about the business history of the firm can be found at Grace's Guide, a Website devoted to British industrial history.

Inventory:

George Dawson, bell historian, maintains "An Index of Known Naylor Vickers Bells" (Microsoft Excel document, 136KB download).  Since that is a working document, not a display document, you may have to make some formatting changes to improve its readability for your purposes.

Both of the above downloads are linked from the Webpage of articles about England by George Dawson.

Evidence:

Most of the supporting evidence for the narrative above comes from a series of entries in various Boston city directories.  Those entries are reproduced in exact detail on the accompanying page of Boston city directory data.  When directories for the intervening years can be examined, they will undoubtedly lead to refinements in the story that is presented now.

There exists a Deed of Partnership for Naylor, Vickers & Co., dated 28 January 1853 and signed in London, Boston and New York.  The partners were G.P. Naylor and Edward Vickers of Sheffield, England; W.L. King, H.B. Butenschon, and M.J. O'Connor of New York; and E.L. Benzon and G.N. Vickers of Boston.  A second agreement was recorded the same year on 1 November, adding Frederick Lehmann of Scotland.

Genealogical research shows that among these various principals, George Portus Naylor and Edward Vickers were brothers-in-law, Edward having married George's sister Ann (or Anne).  George Naylor Vickers was Edward's eldest son, and his two younger brothers (Thomas and Albert) would follow him into partnership in the family business in Sheffield the following year.


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This page was created 2005/12/26 and last revised 2013/04/03.

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