The company known as Sears, Roebuck and Co. is an American icon. In 1886, Richard Sears was working as a railroad depot agent in North Redwood, Minnesota, a small town about 50 miles west southwest of the Twin Cities. In an ironic twist of fate, one day, when a shipment of watches arrived at the depot, the local jeweler would not accept the shipment. Instead of returning the merchandise to the wholesaler who had shipped them, Sears contacted the other depot agents along the train line and offered the watches at a good price, selling all of them. He was so successful that he ordered more and continued selling. A year later, he quit his railroad job and moved to Chicago. There, he hired a watchmaker named Alvah C. Roebuck, and started a store. One year later, he put out a catalog featuring watches and jewelry, and five years later, Sears, Roebuck and Co. was formed as a corporation, which would become one of the most widely-known retail store chains in the country.
Forty years after opening the first Chicago location, Sears, Roebuck and Co. launched the Craftsman brand of tools, trademarking the name on May 20th of that year. The company hired Arthur Barrows to head their fledgling hardware department. Barrows wanted to develop a high-quality line of tools and market them toward the agricultural masses prevalent in the country at the time, but he needed a name synonymous with quality and craftsmanship. He make a deal with the Marion-Craftsman Tool Company to obtain the rights to use the name Craftsman on this new line of tools. Later, as the automotive market grew, Craftsman began chrome-coating hand tools and backed them with a lifetime guarantee, which still exists to this day.
In the fall of 1929, Craftsman introduced their first power tools, two electric drills
(a 1/2-inch model and a 1/4-inch version) which they touted as "powerful," "of rugged construction," "well balanced and easily handled". Because of the immediate popularity of the Craftsman hand tool line as well as the need for such power tools, the Craftsman drills caught on quickly. Within a few years, Craftsman power tools were recognized as helping to build some iconic landmark buildings, such as the Rocky Mountain offices of the United States Forestry Service, which was, at the time in 1938, the world's largest adobe structure.
During this time period, Craftsman tools also began branching out into lawn and garden equipment, introducing a rotary lawn mower with an innovative foot-operated automatic oiler that kept the bearings in the five-blade rotary mower lubricated. This mower sold in the 1934 Sears catalog for $8.95, less than half the price of comparable mowers at the time. The success of the Craftsman lawn mower led to an entire line of lawn and garden equipment.
During World War II, Craftsman power tools were used in numerous factories in the defense industry and in trade schools to pump out tradesmen and women to help in the war effort. Craftsman lathes, power drills, drill presses and even table saws were used to in the production of wartime goods.
After the war, Craftsman tools played a big part in the construction boom that followed. As the baby boomer generation moved away from home and needed housing of their own, construction tools such as the Craftsman circular saw
became commonplace on job sites. Later, even former presidents enjoyed using Craftsman tools. As a farewell gift to the departing president, the staff of outgoing President Jimmy Carter honored him with an entire Craftsman woodworking set.
Today, Craftsman carries an entire line of woodworking tools, some of which have been reviewed on About Woodworking, such as the Craftsman Professional Laser Trac 12 inch Compound Miter Saw, the Craftsman 28084 Stationary and Plunge Router Combo and the Craftsman 20 Volt Lithium Ion Cordless Sabre Saw. They even have branched out into innovative areas that other manufacturers haven't touched, such as when the introduced the Craftsman Digital Miter Gauge, a precise digital gauge that allows you to set miter angles on the gauge at precisions of up to one-tenth of a degree on its LCD screen.
For years, Craftsman tools were only available at Sears stores and in the Sears catalog. However, in 1997, Sears began selling the Craftsman line online, and beginning in 2006, after merging with K-Mart, the tools began selling in that discount chain's stores as well. Today, Craftsman tools can be found in other retail locations such as Ace Hardware stores.
Source: Sears, Roebuck and Co. (http://www.searsarchives.com)