Proto is known around the world as a juggernaut manufacturer of professional quality hand tools and accessories. Within the last 100 years Proto has evolved a great deal as a business but has kept its original vision of excellence. It is a fascinating story of business success through holding on to a commitment of innovation and quality even in the hard times.
History of Proto: PLOMB Tool Co.
Proto was founded in 1907 in Los Angeles by three Germen entrepreneurs, Alphonso Plomb, Jacob Weninger, and Charles Williams. Somewhat humorously they called the company PLOMB Tools because Alphonso Plomb had the shortest name out of the three founders, making it the easiest to put on the hand tools. Originally, PLOMB was known as the company that made and sold remarkably well crafted hand tools, including punches and chisels from old Model T axles. Over the first couple of years they grew a respectable reputation for quality and design. However, by 1930 the Great Depression hit and almost every American company was in jeopardy. If PLOMB Tools was going to survive they needed to design something unique. In September, 1933 PLOMB introduced the first line of combination wrenches to the market. Based on the original design by Mr. Plomb, it may have been the greatest innovation in Proto Company history. The combination wrench spearheaded the hand toosl production throughout the war and kept the company afloat during the hard-times.
By the 1940’s PLOMB Tools was a great North-American Success story. The company outlasted the Great Depression and became a leader in hand tools production during the war effort. However there were some complications. Due to a lawsuit from Plumb Hammer Company over ball peen hammers, the brand name had to change. PLOMB Tools held an internal contest among their employees to name the company from that point forward. The winner was a young lady from the factory who combined the first few letters of the two words that described the company since its founding, “Professional” and “Tool”. Thus, Proto was born.
Proto attracted Ingersoll-Rand (IR) as a parent company in the 1960’s. Though, Proto had been a customer brand as well as an industrial brand, its new parent company wasn’t a customer based company. IR gave Proto a focus on the industrial user and the means to pole vault them there. At the time Proto grew a name among industrial-users for being rather successful at targeting the need for best results.
In 1984 Proto caught the attention of Stanley Work’s, another world leader in hand tool manufacturing. Stanley was known in the 1970’s as a leader in the Do-It-Yourself market, while Proto was now built for the industrial user. However both companies knew they could help each other reach new markets. The current Stanley-Proto partnership was forged with the hopes of growing in quality for their customers. Both Stanley and Proto had very similar paths and the new organization led them to hard-to-reach markets around the world.
Where is Proto now
Since the merger Stanley-Proto has become one of the largest manufactures in hand tools worldwide. Though, they have kept their brands separate between a consumer and professional line. Over the last twenty-seven years the Proto line has developed a reputation of well-crafted tools for the professional user and promises to continue.
Today the Proto brand is no longer keeping the Stanley association in the logo. Although both brands are still tethered, the Proto line is going to be driven exclusively with the professional in mind. With the promise of innovation and quality, Proto sets its sight with new innovations to keep the Proto user as satisfied for the next hundred years as they did for the first hundred years.
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3 thoughts on “Proto – A History of Excellent Hand Tools”
Proto became part of Ingersoll Rand in 1963-1964 not the 1970s.
Good catch. It must have been a typo. Thanks for letting us know!
My father gave me Proto hand tools when I got married who sold Proto tools in Canada starting in around 1959 and retired and sold the business in 1982 I have been using them for the last 45 years. If you use them for what there meant for they will last a lifetime. I have open end wrenches, sockets,ratchets,pliers,adjustable wrenches ,screwdrivers all made by Proto Canada and still going strong. He passed away many years ago but would be very happy to know that his business is still going strong and still selling Proto products. I love these tools and will pass them down when I’m gone.
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