About Us

A glimpse into our family history - OLDEST TACK MAKER

From a newspaper clipping dating approximately 1890 in a Historical Society of Old Abington, MA scrapbook

David B. Gurney is the oldest living tack maker; he has seen the industry grow from infancy to its present proud proportions, has watched the gradual perfection of the intricate machinery, from a simple pair of tongs to the present acme of success.
Mr. Gurney is one of the oldest residents of Whitman and is well known in trade circles in New England.  He has been identified with the prosperity of the town, and his business has been such that he could assist in the development of Whitman at the same time that he did all of his mechanical schemes.  He has several times been nominated as secretary of state on the prohibition ticket.
I have been a reader of The Globe for years, “ he said the other day, “and I do not recall any idea which has so attracted my attention as that of the oldest workman in any specialty.  I am over 80 years of age, and have watched the growth of the tack business from its inception, so that I consider myself one of the pioneers in this line of work.
If one could go into my factory today and see the machinery in motion, they would hardly think that but a few years ago we were turning little slips of iron by hand and heading a tack with a hammer.  I used to make tacks by hand before a tack machine was even thought of.”
We used to cut the tack wide on one side and to a point on the other.  These were picked up one at a time and headed with a hammer in a pair of dies.  A single person could made about 5,000 per day.”
I can recall with interest the consternation which existed in tack-making circles when the introduction of a machine was first discussed.  The men thought that their livelihood was to be destroyed, that machines were to take the place of hands, and it was a dismal company that watched the first tack machine in operation.”
In the year 1821 my father first introduced a machine for making tacks, some other manufacturers have made a similar claim, but I think that we can substantiate our claims.  This was run by hand power, and I assisted my father in running it, as boys are now employed by tack makers in placing plates in the steel clamps.”
From this one machine which he introduced thousands are now scattered over the country, and thousands are furnished with employment.  The same principle is involved in the machines of today as was introduced in the Blanchard machine, which I ran for a number of years.”
My father made several of these machines and took them to Taunton and Fall River, one at a time, to sell.  I can imagine how the young men of the present day would look toting these cumbersome machines over the road for a prospective customer.”
In 1850 I took my father’s business in hand, and have since conducted it.”
Gurney Quality
Since 1825, D. B. Gurney Company has skillfully crafted the finest quality specialty cut tacks and nails in the world.  Whether you are aware of it or not D. B. Gurney tacks and nails may already be a part of your life – in your footwear, furniture and upholstery, basketry, storage trunks, canoes, or even in your craft or restoration projects.  We continue to craft our products to the same caliber and quality as when we first began; one that manufacturers, businesses and craftspeople have all come to depend on.
The world has changed - we haven’t.
  • We have been in business long enough to not only provide Hob Nails to the Civil War Soldiers, but be able to produce the same nails today, on the same machines, for Civil War Reenactments.
  • Many great shoe companies began as part of New England’s history.  Such companies getting an early start included Bostonian Shoes, Regal Shoes, International Shoe Company, FootJoy, Florsheim Shoe Co. and countless others.  Factory after factory began lining up small towns such as Whitman, and Brockton Massachusetts. We supplied many products to these new companies.
  • Early production of American automobiles included a full pound of tacks in each vehicle.  We manufactured for such companies as Fisher Body, Hudson Motor Car, Ford Motor Company and General Motors.