This terrific old hatchet is a relic from the Northern Railroad, a predecessor of the Boston & Maine Railroad which was in operation for a scant 40 years between 1847 and 1887. It is stamped N.R.R. for the Northern Railroad, along with its Nashua, New Hampshire manufacturer information and what must have been its railroad employee's name.
The hatchet resembles a small broad axe, with a skirt shape blade on its heavy, tapered head. The blade is 7-1/4 inches long, 5-1/4 inches across the widest part and a full 1-1/8 inches thick across the top. The oak handle is approximately 16 inches long.
CONDITION is wonderful -- the markings are very clear. The only "damage" -- which actually adds character -- is a very shallow flake on the cutting edge of the blade, where it clearly struck something extremely hard. There are NO cracks or splits in the blade, NO rust and NO corrosion or metal deterioration.
We can't be positive that the handle is original but it certainly appears so. The wood is sound and solid with no splits or cracks. It was whittled down to fit the head, and the whittling clearly is old.
MARKINGS: Strongly stamped NRR on the head. Beneath (under) NRR is a curved line in which the manufacturer's name appeared: ______ TOOL CO. Unfortunately we cannot read the actual name because the NRR stamping overtop has obliterated it, but the words "TOOL CO" are easily visible, as is NASHUA NH , clearly its place of manufacture.
Farther down the head is a number 3 which must refer to the weight -- 3 pounds -- which is what this tool actually weighs.
Also stamped in numerous places in the metal is E HORN . This must have been the name of the railroad employee who was assigned this tool. It is stamped 3 times on the opposite side of the head from the NRR stamping. Further, E HORN is also stamped just above the number 3 on the NRR-stamped side.
Our only explanation for the multiple stampings is that in those days, tools were expensive and hard to come by. A railway employee would be held accountable for losing one, and would have to replace it. Mr. Horn apparently did his best to keep track of a valuable hatchet.
BACKGROUND: The Northern Railroad was one of the very earliest railroads constructed in New England. In 1847, The NRR opened a rail line between Concord, New Hampshire and White River Junction, Vermont. Massachusetts Senator and American statesman Daniel Webster was one of the speakers at the ribbon cutting ceremony held in Lebanon, New Hampshire. In 1887, after some expansion, the Northern Railroad was acquired by the Boston & Maine RR, which turned it into their northern division.
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