The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Simonds, Daniel

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SIMONDS, Daniel, manufacturer and philanthropist, b. in Fitchburg, Mass., 18 Sept., 1847; d. at Larchmont, N. Y., 5 May, 1913. He was a son of Abel and Jane (Todd) Simonds, and was a descendant of sturdy North of England ancestors, whose noble qualities were manifest in all generations of the family.

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The elder Simonds early located in Fitchburg, where, in 1832, he founded the Simonds Company, manufacturers of scythes. Later, he added also other edge tools and knives to his line of products, conducting a constantly growing establishment, in which his son was thoroughly trained in the fundamental details of the business. Daniel Simonds received a thorough education in the excellent schools of his native city, and at the Comer Commercial School of Boston, and began his business career in the employ of his father. He started as a clerk in the office, but, quite as much through his native force of character and thorough business capacity, as through his relationship with the founder of the enterprise, he progressed steadily to its executive headship. With the retirement of Abel Simonds in 1864, the firm became Simonds Bros. and Company, and in 1868 was incorporated under the style of Simonds Manufacturing Company, with a capital stock of $50,000. Immediately afterward a new and larger manufactory was built; and this marked the beginning of a constantly increasing business. Mr. Simonds was elected vice-president and treasurer in 1875, and president in 1888. Under his able guidance the business steadily increased, the capital stock being ultimately increased to $500,000, and the surplus so constantly augmented, that, at the time of his death, it totaled well over $1,000,000. In 1874 the Simonds Manufacturing Company entered an entirely new branch of the business, which was destined also to become their best known and most important: that of saw manufacture. In a greatly enlarged plant, erected expressly to accommodate this new line of manufacture, they made every kind of shop saw from the endless-flexible-band saw to the larger circular saws used in cutting up huge pieces of lumber. For this purpose, of course, the highest grade of steel is a necessity, since flaws developed in rolling, as the result of “pipes” or “air-holes” in the original ingot, are liable to be both destructive to the efficiency of the tool and dangerous to human life. For several years, therefore, steel of the highest grade was imported from England, where it was produced under the greatest precautions known to science, at the direct order of the Simonds manufactory. Later, however, by the discovery of a new method of producing perfectly uniform steel ingots, and eliminating the danger of “pipes,” the company acquired the rights, and erected a plant in Chicago, later another in Lockport, N. Y., where steel of the highest quality is still produced for the express purpose of rolling into saws. The excellence of the Simonds products soon created a wide demand for them, and led directly to the opening of branches in all the large cities of the United States, notably Chicago, New York, Portland, Ore., Seattle, Wash., San Francisco, Cal , New Orleans, La., also in London, England. In 1906 the Simonds Canada Saw Company was incorporated, with factories and principal offices in Montreal, and branches at St. John, N. B., and Vancouver, B. C, which represents the Simonds interests in all parts of the Dominion. In addition to this, the manufacture of high-grade files is conducted at the works of the Simonds File Company, at Fitchburg. Although tools manufactured at the Simonds works have always enjoyed a well-merited reputation for excellence of material and workmanship, it is true, nevertheless, that the greater part of the phenomenal growth of the company is to be credited directly to the energy and enterprise of its able and indefatigable president. Mr. Simonds was noted for his quick insight into situations, and an alert readiness to avail himself of every opportunity that presented. He was also a firm believer in efficiency, as applied both to the work of the office and also of the factories under his direction. Capable of the best efforts himself, he chose his assistants from the number of those upon whom he could depend implicitly. He believed in and practiced, however, a higher type of efficiency than that usually recognized among business “experts,” so called, or even considered by most of them. With the wisdom and insight of a truly great mind he discerned the fact — rather an evident fact, too, although so often overlooked — that the human machinery of his plants, the employees, are in need of precisely the same care, consideration, and solicitude as even the costliest and most delicate apparatus produced by the refined skill of the most advanced engineer. Nor, in the last analysis, can such a policy be called anything less than truly wise, as the constantly growing prosperity of the Simonds Company, and the uniform excellence of their products amply demonstrate. Nevertheless, this is an order of “wisdom” that cannot be understood, except by a mind animated by some sentiment other than selfish interest. Thus, it is not surprising to find that a man of Mr. Simonds' caliber was so alive to the full significance of his employees' welfare, both as employees and as human beings, that he regarded them, not as servants, but as friends, even as members of his own family, in a sense very real and vivid. He organized a system of life and accident insurance in his establishment for the benefit of his employees, also secured the services of a physician and a graduate nurse to care for them and their families in sickness, or when suffering from the results of disablement. He organized also the Simonds Recreation Club, which was formed to conduct healthful outings and sports among his workers. In addition to all this, he showed that his interest in his assistants was by no means perfunctory by the simple fact, as repeatedly attested, that he was unusually approachable, even by the humblest person among them, rejoiced, as it must seem, in being regarded as the friend and personal helper of each one of them. The result was, of course, that every man in his employ was willing to work to his fullest ability, heart and soul enlisted in the interests of the company headed by Mr. Simonds. At his death, also, the grief manifested in the company factories was no matter of routine obedience to orders; it was rather the sincere sorrow of each man in the force over the loss of a true friend. In addition to his own extensive business interests, Mr. Simonds was a director of the Fitchburg National Bank and of the Fitchburg Savings Bank, as well as an officer in several other local enterprises. He was organizer and first president of the Manufacturers' Club of Fitchburg, a member of the Fay Club of Fitchburg, the Union League Club of Chicago, and the Larchmont Yacht Club of New York. He was also a Master Mason, and a Knight Templar. He was a member of the Fitchburg Historical Society. Mr. Simonds was a member of the Calvinistic Congregational Church of Fitchburg, an earnest supporter of all its benevolent activities, and in his every walk a sincere and consistent Christian. His wife, Ellen Gifford, daughter of the late Eli and Abby Tracy Gifford, of Rockville, Conn., survives him. They had three sons: Alvan Tracy, Gifford Kingsbury, and Harlan Kenneth, who are continuing the business that their father built up.


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Eng by W. T. Bather, N.Y.

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