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A Packard

Abner Packard (1749 - 1796)

Conway, MA.

Carpenter, shop joiner and housewright.

RW Conway militia. Marched to Cambridge 1775, MA and battle of Bennington, VT.

Material and research by Tom Whalen. 

  Abner Packard 

 A Patriot Planemaker

  by Tom Whalen

Many wood plane collectors, myself included, have 18 century planes in their collection with stamped initials or a name stamp, usually with no location. Tom Elliott’s American Wooden Planes Fifth Edition book has hundreds of these types of planes listed that have been reported. The book rates most of these planes as “undocumented” makers.

 

One such plane in my collection, a yellow birch hollow plane with 18 century characteristics falls under the category as undocumented. The plane is signed A. Packard with no location. The plane was found in an antique shop in Northampton, MA about 15 years ago. The plane is in excellent condition with little signs of wear. The name stamp is large in comparison to most other wood plane stamps and is similar in size to some chairmakers hand stamps observed on early wooden chairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This plane was assumed to be a “one of” by a shop joiner or cabinetmaker until this spring when I acquired another A. Packard moulding plane at auction. The planes show fine workmanship. Is Packard the maker or owner of these planes?  One plane is stamped on both ends with the Packard name, and an indication that these planes maybe owner stamped.

 

With two Packard planes in my collection, it was time to conduct some research. The search began with the 1790 US Census for Massachusetts as its' always a reliable source for information from this time period. The Hampshire County records were selected as an initial focus point as the hollow plane was found in Northampton. Four Packard names were found, including one named Abel located in Cummington, MA. An internet search for Cummington turned up information on Ensign Abel Packard who relocated to Cummington from North Bridgewater Mass. (now the city of Brockton) Further research showed an extended family of Packard’s, over 50 people, living in North Bridgewater including an Ensign Abel Packard.

The Ensign designation on Abel’s name led me to the Revolutionary War Records for the town of North Bridgewater. Abel’s name was not listed in the records, but the names of 35 Packard men were listed, including Packard’s listed in other towns of Massachusetts.

 

But, it was found that Abel was blind when he moved to Cummington, not good for a plane maker. His sons Adam and Abel Jr. had no trade related occupations. I turned to a probate court search on all known A. Packard’s living in Massachusetts, twenty-one in total. The search proved successful.

Abner Packard of Conway Ma. appears to be the maker of the planes signed A Packard. The Hampshire County Probate records of Abner’s estate inventory dated August 10, 1797, list an inventory of shop tools including 23 joiners’ tools (wood planes) valued at $15.25. Are these planes the ones signed A. Packard? I believe so.

 

Abner was born in North Bridgewater Ma. on April 9,1749.  Abner and Elizabeth Salisbury were married in Braintree Ma.in 1773.  In 1774 Abner, Elizabeth and her Salisbury family members headed west, crossed the Connecticut River, and settled in Conway Ma.

 

The Town of Conway was established in 1767. In 1769 a Town Militia was formed.

Abner joined the town Militia in 1775.  After the ‘shot heard around the world’ was fired in Concord Ma on April 19,1775 the Conway’s Militia received orders to march to Cambridge Ma. to reinforce the town from British attack. Conway’s Militia were engaged in the battle of Bennington Vt. with British forces. Abner was involved in both engagements, by the wars end he attained the rank of corporal in Conway’s Militia.

 

Packard’s plane making activities were undertaken in Conway. The planes appear to be circa 1780’s. At various times, his occupation was listed as a carpenter, joiner and a housewright. Several Conway land deeds involving Abner lists his occupation as a housewright. Abner’s father Seth’s occupation was listed as a house carpenter, so it appears that Abner followed in his fathers’ footsteps. Abner was a founding member of the Baptist Church in Conway, erected in 1788. He played a leading role in the church’s construction.

Abner Packard died in Conway Ma. at age 47 on February 17, 1796.

Abner Packard Planes

 

The two complex A. Packard moulding planes in my collection; a bolection and a reverse ogee / astragal, were likely used by Abner working as a shop joiner. Both are yellow birch, 9 ¾” in length with 1/4” flat chamfers that turn down to a gouge cut on the toe and heel and have reliefs in front of the wedge slots. The planes are signed A. Packard in large letters embossed within a zigzag border. The bolection plane is stamped on both ends of the plane. Both planes are in mint condition, showing little signs of use. I believe that Packard’s planes were intended for his own use as a shop joiner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several other plane collectors were queried, and two additional signed A. Packard planes were documented. Noted plane collector and researcher Mike Humphrey has two planes with the A. Packard designation in his collection. A Packard non skew fenced rabbet plane made of birch 9 ½ inches length. The arms are riveted to the fence and held secure with thumbscrews on the plane body. Mike’s other Packard plane is a bolection, slightly different than mine at 9 7/8’ long with 3/8’chamfers turned down with a gouge cut with a relief in front of the wedge slot and is signed A. Packard on the toe and heel. The plane body is 1 9/16” wide, the cut is 1 9/16 “.

 

All the moulding planes have detailed layout lines, but Mike’s bolection plane is remarkably interesting as Packard went to great lengths to lay out the planes profile. It has very concise layout lines on the toe and heel establishing the cut of the plane, with additional layout lines marking the planes shoulders. With Packard’s attention to detail, it is possible that this plane could have been one of his first attempts at planemaking. The layout lines on this plane really gives collectors an insight on how planemakers plied their trade.

Above, bolection toe and heel photos showing detailed scribe layout lines. Mike Humphrey Collection.

 

The planes are in remarkable condition, showing no signs of wear. One must wonder where the planes have been these last 200 years.

Are there any other A. Packard planes in collections? We would like to know. Please Email Tom at:

agicook@msn.com

 

                                                                                       Freedom

Americans have always placed a high value on our freedom. Our freedom does not come cheap, tolls in blood and treasure tell our country’s past. No period is more important than America’s fight for Independence from England in the Revolutionary War.

 

One such family who served and sacrificed for our country is the Packard family from North Bridgewater Ma. The Packard extended family sent over 35 men off to fight for America’s freedom in the Revolutionary War. Abner Packard was one of them. They served in several capacities as militiamen and soldiers in the Continental Army.

We owe the Packard’s and everyone else who fought for our freedom in the Revolutionary War our depth of gratitude for all the freedoms that we enjoy today.  

Additional A Packard plane photos.

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