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Laroy Starrett Biography

Laroy Starrett Image

STARRETT, Laroy S., tool manufacturer, was born at China, Me., Apr. 25, 1836, son of Daniel D. and Anna Elizabeth (Crummet) Starrett, and a descendant of William Starrett, who came to America from Scotland and settled at Francistown, N. H., about 1720. He inherited his taste for mechanics from both parents; his mother was a woman of considerable mechanical ingenuity and ability, and with the aid of her daughters made all the clothes for the family, weaving the cloth on a loom made by her husband, who was a natural mechanic. He was brought up on his father's farm, and when his father became embarrassed financially secured employment on a stock farm at Vassalboro, Me., and later on a milk farm at Newburyport, Mass., to help pay off the debt on the homestead. He operated a farm of his own for a time in Newburyport, Mass., and astonished his neighbors by purchasing the first mowing machine used in that part of the country. His inventive genius was first displayed in the construction of a meat chopper, for which he obtained a patent May 23, 1865. After arranging for its manufacture, he undertook to sell personally both the chopper and the patent rights for it throughout the state of Maine. The venture proved so successful that he made a contract with the Athol (Mass.) Machine Co. to manufacture his meat chopper and other inventions of his own, among which were shoe studs and hooks, patented Jan. 28, 1868, and now used with slight modification the world over. Deciding to establish a business of his own, he began the manufacture of a combination square, consisting of a try-square with a movable head that may be clamped in any desired position along the blade, in Athol, Mass., in 1880. First patented Feb. 26, 1879, his combination square has been improved in many details and has become a most useful tool in the building trade. Gradually he added steel rules, surface gauges, screw pitch gauges and other small tools to his list, and by 1885 the expansion of the business necessitated the acquisition of a second building. The success and growth of the business have been continuous until at the time of his death the plant at Athol, Mass., was the largest in the world devoted exclusively to the manufacture of small tools and hacksaw blades, containing over five acres of floor space and employing over 1,000 hands. The factories are equipped throughout with machinery of the highest class and with every up-to-date appliance for the accurate production of fine mechanical tools. In 1912 the company was incorporated as the L. S. Starrett Co. with capital stock of $3,500,000 and of which Mr. Laroy S. Starrett was president until his death. It manufactures a large line of carefully adjusted rules, measures, gauges, squares, protractors, slide rules, calipers, dividers, pliers, hacksaws, wrenches, screw drivers and levels, all of which were originated or perfected by Mr. Starrett himself. He received over 100 patents for his inventions, the most important of which, besides those mentioned, were a center try-square designed to find the exact center of a circle, patented June 29, 1880; a surface gauge, patented Mar. 21, 1882; a beveling instrument, Aug. 7, and Dec 4, 1883; screw thread gage, May 19, 1885; calipers and dividers, Dec. 27, 1887; micrometer caliper square, Mar. 5, 1889; micrometer gauge, July 29, 1890; bevel protractor, May 10, 1892. He was a member of the Home Market Club of Boston and attended the Methodist Episcopal church. He was married in Newburyport, Mass., in 1861, to Lydia, daughter of Henry A. Bartlett, and has had five children. He died at his home in St. Petersburg, Fla., Apr. 23 1922.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. XVIII (New York: James T. White and Co, 1922) 428.