Ever wonder how your favorite tools started? Many times tool companies here in the United States have some of the greatest American success stories tied to them. Hard work and ingenuity fuel these rags to riches companies, and Proto is no different. Proto began here in the USA in the City of Angels, Los Angeles California. The founders were Alphonso Plomb, Jacob Weninger, and Charles Williams, Proto actually began as PLOMB Tools. Plomb tools began their ascent into the hand tool industry by making punches and chisels from Model T axles with a hand held hammer as they heated their steel in a hand bellow coke forge. This little modest three-man blacksmith shop sold their very first products to master plumbers as well as retail hardware stores on the west coast of the United States.
John Pendleton changed Plombs history in 1917 when he became a partner and in turn brought his son Morris along, Morris began as a forge helper while he attended Pepperdine College. In 1922 the dynamic and brilliant Morris Pendleton became Plomb Tools General Manager in 1922.
A key figure to Plombs survival during the great American depression and a company fire in the 1930’s, Morris remained president until 1968 and Chairman of the Board until 1969. Morris Pendleton introduced the first line of combination wrenches to the American public. Their first wrenches quickly became the foundation that the Plomb reputation was built upon, and the design was based on the original by Mr. Alphonso Plomb.
In 1921 the company began to manufacture tools for the automobile industry’s auto mechanics and later in 1927 Plomb began the Automotive Jobber as a client. The year 1928 began with the purchase of Plombs very first acquisition of a competitor, Paschall Tool Co. This was the beginning of a trend in Plomb Tool to knock out local competitors by acquiring the tool companys that made similar tools. Into the 1940′s, PLOMB Tools went forward in successfully acquiring various tool companies including Cragin Tool of Chicago, IL in 1940. The purchase of Cragin Tool provided a branch plant for the Plomb Tool company. In 1941 the purchase of P&C Tool of Oregon became the facility to provide contract production as well as to continue to produce P&C tools until 1964. In 1942 the acquisition of Penens Tool of Cleveland, was perhaps one of the most valuable acquisitions made by Plomb, this purchase gave them the manufacturing capacity to receive the Wright Field contracts during World War 2. Although their were more mergers and acquisitions along the way, it was in 1946 that Plomb received five Army-Navy “E” awards and made its way into Latin America, as it began to establish its presence internationally.
The name change came later after Plomb Tools added Ball Peen Hammers to their tool line. Plomb had acquired Paschall brand Ball Pein Hammer’s with their purchase of Paschall Tools, once they started to manufacture the hammers with the Plomb name stamped upon them, a company named Plumb Tools sued and won. Plomb Tools held a contest within their factory ranks to change the company’s name, a woman won the competition when she combined the words “professional” and “tool”, making the infamous Proto, and the rest is history. Plomb tools had now become Proto tools.