Middletown, Connecticut, 1847 the tool makers that would become known as Wilcox Crittenden Co. was established when Eldridge Huntington Penfield (yup!) created the brass eyelet grommet to replace the rope grommets used by sailmakers.
In a property located at Main and Williams Streets, E.H. Penfield and uncle I.K. Penfield became the first company in America to produce metal grommets. The Penfields hired Walter Wilcox (1825-1903), cousin to Eldridge Penfield, to operate the hand stamping tool that fabricated the grommets. When E.H. divested his part of the business partnership, Wilcox put up an earned $250 to retain 1/4 of the business that was not yet nearly a success. Determined to cultivate more growth in the grommet business, Wilcox traveled up the cost from Middletown to Halifax exhibiting the utility of the grommets to every sail loft on the route. The business prospered as Wilcox added inventory specifically for the sail making trade and soon after patented an improvement on the grommet further streamlining sail making for greater efficiency.
In 1859, I.K. Penfield retired and sold his interest in the company. Wilcox and Hall was formed when Walter Wilcox partnered with Joseph Hall of Portland, Connecticut; patenters of iron grommets, iron clews and thimbles. In 1867, Joseph Hall retired with Wilcox again absorbing his interests. Along came young, Civil War veteran and brother-in-law to Wilcox, Cpl. Albert R. Crittenden in 1869 and Wilcox Crittenden & Company was incorporated. By this time however, steam was gradually and gainfully replacing sail. Thus the partners of the company followed trends within the need for additional products to coincide with advancing technology and Wilcox Crittenden added varying products such as shackles, thimbles, ring bolts, engine room signals and boat nails. Additionally, Wilcox again built upon his improvements with the grommet and fabricated a new style made of brass referred to as the spur grommet. The company soon grew into a giant becoming the largest manufacturer of marine hardware with the most diversified line in America.
Their recognizable logo of WC was used to designate north on their magnetic compass cards. See an example of a compass for sale at the Lannan Gallery here.
Researched & Compiled by Susan Donnelly