After first spotting this item in the Lee Valley antique tool collection, we thought it would make a wonderful addition to the “Featured Patent” category of the newsletter. Alas, finding the patent proved elusive, so it was repurposed as the “What Is It?” item. Regardless of category, no one knew what the thing was. There are those of us who understand the mysteries of time in forgetting the purpose of a tool, along with the disappearance of its place in the order of daily life. Such is the case with the item shown. Its purpose remained unclear no matter how much research was done.
What is It?
This item is listed in the Lee Valley antique tool database as a furniture mover or lifter. I, however, got thinking it was a nail puller instead. I based this on the fact that the apparent travel was not generous and while the construction was of cast iron, it would be unwise to subject it to a large amount of force. That cast-iron form and ratchet mechanism would be susceptible to breakage. The mechanism, however, does work and can lift. The maximum lift or usable travel of the arm is rather short at 4 inches. The lifting point does not allow for much lateral load, and under heavy usage could tip. Those who changed a tire with the jack provided in the 1950s and 1960s will remember the feeling as one raised the vehicle high enough to actually remove and replace the tire. There was always a thought that at the highest point, the whole shebang could collapse and the vehicle could roll down the road sans a wing.
After much searching, I was able to identify this tool as a carriage or buggy jack. I have no information on the company that produced it – the Brady Company; however, there are numerous references to other items made by this company. Accessory items such as this one are successful because the primary item remains popular. The gasoline engine heralded the decline of horse-and-buggy transportation in North America. It has been well documented that whip makers and probably many carriage makers were driven out of business due to the popularity of the horseless carriage. The reality is that after the 1920s, this tool would have disappeared.
D.S. Orr has been a collector, user and student of woodworking and metalworking tools and practices for more than 40 years. Now retired, he has devoted even more time to these endeavors.