January 1, 1908, was business as usual at the Little Giant Company in Mankato, Minnesota. While we take New Year's Day off as a holiday, the Mayer brothers were busy shipping the first 25 LB Little Giant ever manufactured to W.C. Mann of Ralston, Oklahoma.
98 years later, the power hammer marked with serial number 1 has come home in a sense, to the modern incarnation of the Little Giant company owned at the time by Sid and Mary Suedmeier in Nebraska City, Nebraska.
Serial number 1 in any of the 5 sizes of Little Giant power hammers is a sort of Holy Grail, a piece of elusive mythical history. How did we manage to lay our hands on this rusty little gem?
Tuesday, September 19, 2006, we received a telephone call from Jim Carothers, president of the Saltfork Craftsmen Artist Blacksmith Association. "I think I may have something you will want," is how the conversation opened. That was a capital understatement!
Many people have called saying they have a hammer that is #1 because that is the casting number for the frame of a Little Giant. It is a logical error. Something in Jim's voice belied an understanding of this Little Giant's importance. He said the serial number was stamped on the spine, in a spot that had been filed flat. This is characteristic of the serial numbers of very early 50 LB Little Giants, which was the first size manufactured. We have run into this on a very few 25 LB hammers also.
Next Jim informed us that the hammer was located south of Perry, Oklahoma, a mere 40 miles from the original shipping destination of Ralston. Jackpot! The photos Jim sent were verification of what we already knew - this hammer is the real deal!
Jack Powers had purchased this hammer in Ralston years before, and now was looking to sell it. He contacted Jim in order to advertise the hammer in the Saltfork Craftsmen's newsletter. Thanks to both of them for working to get #1 to us!
Sid sent a check to Jack the next day and picked up the hammer at Jack's horse training facility the following month. “The only thing I wanted to know was if it was the real thing. After seeing the serial number, there was no doubt,” said Sid. #1, which we have taken to calling Alpha, currently sits in rusty condition next to 25 LB #8876, also known as Omega. This hammer is the last frame ever cast and machined by Little Giant in Mankato, and has never been assembled. It was part of the remains of the company that Sid and Mary purchased in 1991. Since Omega was never sold, there isn't a date associated with it in the sales records. But Alpha has one heck of a birthday coming up; 100 years old in January. Our goal is to have both hammers restored in time for a big birthday party, then put both of them to work here in our shop. Other times they may be on display or put to use at conferences.
Stay tuned for updates as we put both of these hammers back into shape!