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100 years of Stanley Sweetheart (A Valentine's Day Tribute)


2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the Sweetheart Line of Stanley products, yep, 100 years. I'm not sure why but we plane collectors, Stanley specific, seem to revere the products that the Staley Works turned out beginning in 1919 and continuing in the USA until about 1933, longer in Canada. I have one of each size. The mystique of the SW logo is interesting and we all seem to pay more attention to the Stanley SW planes than others. But why? Well, my interpretation is pretty simple the post merger period of Stanley R&L/Stanley Works between 1919 and 1933 is considered by a lot of folks to be Stanley's golden era of development, production and internationalization. (is that a word?) Through their business practices of innovation, patent acquisition, competitor buyouts and hard driving corporate maneuvering, Stanley became, in no uncertain terms, "The Toolbox of the World". Indeed, every product that Stanley produced during the time bore the heart encircling the "SW".

So, are tools produced during this period better than those produced before or after? Well, after Stanley introduced the frog adjusting screw on the Bedrock planes in the 1890s and Bailey planes in about 1902, not much changed in the physical structure of the "bread and butter Bailey". In fact, in my experience, many woodworkers prefer planes made prior to 1919. The type 10 and type 11 which precede the first SW plane (type 12) by 15 years, are nearly identical in structure and again, in my experience, tune up and perform at least as well. I've also had the same experience with the type 16 Bailey planes (1933-1941), Perhaps the manufacturing process improved, or Stanley changed the steel in the iron. I guess the answer is known only to the decision makers at Stanley at the time. I do know that the marketing strategy seems to have been modified to improve Stanley's image and make them appeal to all levels of their potential customer base. Four Square products, introduced during the 1920s as a "homeowner" line, all carried the SW trademark, at least the early ones, clearly a "mark of quality craftsmanship" in the eyes of the consumer through the advertising of Stanley.

But what does it all mean? Well, according to Stanley lore the individual responsible for the whole thing was a fellow by the name of William H. Hart. An innovative, business savvy young buck born in 1834 in New Britain, the second son of George Hart and his second wife Elizabeth F. Booth. Raised and educated in New Britain William seemed the kind of kid who was destined for success. He married Martha Peck, (born 1837), on September 19, 1855 . That would make Martha 17 or 18 and William 20 years old. Their marriage would produce a six sons and a daughter.

In 1854 at age 19, William joined the Stanley Works on the production line making tools and hardware. Hart apparently made such a significant impression that after just a few months on the job he was appointed Secretary-Treasurer. (Perhaps he was one of the few in the company that could "cipher" well enough for the required tasks). During his short tenure, he also invented a process for cold rolling steel, which apparently also impressed the bosses and in 1856, before his 21st birthday he was elected to the Board of Directors.

"Before joining Stanley Tools in 1854, 19-year-old William H. Hart worked in the railroad industry as a freight agent and assistant station manager. Those skills would come in handy during his time in Stanley Tools. When Hart first started at Stanley, he rose through the ranks quickly. He became the Treasury Secretary after joining the company and won election to the board of directors by the time he was 21.

Later on, he would become President of Stanley Works and would remain there until he retired in 1915. Hart was instrumental in opening new facilities and expanding throughout the country. He expanded production facilities in New Britain throughout the 1870s and 1880s to keep up with demand. He also helped the company reduce costs by increasing mechanization throughout the company.

Hart was also instrumental in how technology changed not only the company, but the country. Stanley Tools held many different manufacturing patents…including creating a hinge that used ball bearing in 1889. Hart also made sure to diversify the company’s holdings and produce a larger, fuller product line. He opened a new plant in Niles, Ohio in 1909.

William H. Hart – Later in Life

The company’s expansion was nothing short of extraordinary from the beginning of the Civil War to the end of World War I. In 1872, the company’s net sales reached $480,000. Hart stepped down and retired in 1918. But, not before the company he helped turn into a powerhouse made profits over $11 million a year. Hart passed away in 1919" (

One may assume that after Hart's passing, Stanley felt that the best way to honor the fellow was to create a marketing strategy based on his legacy. I've not found any specific reference connecting Hart and the "SW" trademark in my research, but I do know that the "SW" stands for the newly formed company, (Stanley R&L + Stanley Works,the merger of which Hart oversaw) and that the heart surrounding it allegedly for William Hart, though the spelling was modified. That strategy was clearly a success, carrying the company from the good times of the Roaring 20s, through the darkest days of the early Great Depression and almost 3 decades into the 21st Century. The SW trademark was not only found on plane irons, but just about every tool produced by Stanley during that period. In fact, one of the few tools I have that belonged to my father was a Stanley Brace and Bit with the early SW trademark.

As a frequent seller on eBay I can tell you that the "mystique" of the SW trademark carries into the sales of planes to this day. SW marked planes sell much more briskly and at a bit of a premium. Mr. Hart's contribution to the company continues, now however, reaching beyond Stanley. Not an entity to miss a marketing opportunity, Stanley/Black and Decker reintroduced, a number of years ago, a new line of planes (and other tools) carrying the SW encircled with a heart. Interestingly, they are not Bailey pattern but based on the Norris (of England) style adjusting mechanism.

The "SW" encircled by the heart continues to generate considerable consumer interest, even 100 years after its conception as a marketing strategy. Not many marketing campaigns can say that, especially in this day and age of electronic advertising and instant gratification.


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