Our Tools Built America®
The AMES story goes back to 1774, when Captain John Ames began making America’s first shovels. We’ve been building America ever since, through wartime and peacetime, boom and bust. And we’ve had our share of adventure along the way—we’ve dug for gold, gone on expeditions to Antarctica, and built at least two of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
And just like America, we’re still working every day to build the next great wonder.
1773 – 1804: Captain John Ames Original Account Book
A record of the AMES company from before America became a country, through the early 1800s.
1774: Founding of AMES
Captain John Ames begins manufacturing the colonies’ first metal shovels on Town River in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The sites of his forge and adjoining land are now the West Bridgewater War Memorial Park.
1784: The Oldest Shovel
The oldest shovel in AMES archive collection at Stonehill College in Easton Massachusetts.
1803: Land Purchase in Easton, MA
Oliver Ames, youngest son of Capt. John Ames, purchases a forge, nailmaking shop, house and several pieces of land in Easton, Massachusetts for $1,600.
In Easton, MA
1810: Trip Hammer Patent Signed by President Madison
Original trip hammer design patent issued on April 25, 1810 and signed by President James Madison.
1817: First Back-Strapped Shovels
Oliver Ames manufactures the first back-strapped shovels, later modified for easy transport by soldiers in wartime.
1824: Wood Handle Shovel Manufactured
The first wood handle shovel was manufactured in 1824 by AMES.
1837: AMES Shovels breakground for B&O Railroad
AMES shovels are used to break ground for the B&O Railroad in Baltimore, Maryland. This is the first of many occasions in which AMES shovels, hoes and other tools are used to help expand the horizons of transportations.
ground for B&O Railroad
1840 – 1870: AMES Shovels Instrumental Throughout Oregon Trail
Settlers, primarily from the Ohio Valley region and Missouri, battle the elements to migrate West. The main route is the Oregon Trail, leading to the Oregon Territory. The trail begins at Independence, Missouri and ends at Oregon City and the Willamette Valley. The average wagon train endures about six months of confrontations with mountains, rivers, prairie land and desert to reach its destination. AMES shovels are instrumental in the settlers’ efforts to challenge mother nature and to stake their claims in the new territory.
Throughout Oregon Trail
1861: Lincoln Asks For AMES Shovels For Civil War
President Abraham Lincoln personally asks Oakes Ames, son of Oliver Ames, to supply shovels for the Union cause during the Civil War. By the time the war between the states ends and the Resurrection Period begins, pent-up demand for shovels and other civilian needs creates a tremendous boom.
1868: Oakes Ames takes charge of Union Pacific Railroad
Westward expansion calls the nation to an all-out effort to complete the transcontinental rail link between the East and West Coasts. President Lincoln asks Oakes Ames to take control of the Union Pacific Railroad. Oakes and his brother Oliver both serve terms as President of the Union Pacific. AMES shovels are used by both crews as rails are laid across prairie, mountains, desert and salt flats and culminate with driving of the Golden Spike to unite the two links at Promontory Point, Utah.
charge of Union
1870: Oakes Ames Invents Handle-Bending Machine
Oakes Ames invents the handle-bending machine, a much more efficient method for creating the famous AMES bend. A revolutionary shovel design in its time. The AMES bend made shoveling faster and easier.
1879: 60% of World’s Production of Shovels
AMES shovels total 60% of the world’s entire population of shovels.
Production of Shovels
1886: AMES Shovels Used in Installation of Statue of Liberty
The now world-famous symbol of freedom, the Statue of Liberty, is presented to the United States by France and dedicated on October 28 to commemorate the alliance of the two nations during the American Revolution. Transported to New York Harbor and set in its place by hundreds of laborers using AMES shovels, the 152-foot figure raised on a 150-foot pedastal, is the work of Auguste Bartholdi.
in Construction of
Statue of Liberty
1904: AMES Shovels Build New York Subways
AMES shovels are used in the building of the New York subways, opening up revolutionary new avenues of transit to one of America’s greatest cities.
New York Subways
1903 – 1914: AMES Shovels Used in Digging the Panama Canal
Following a failed 20-year attempt to build a canal similar to the Suez, the ambassador of Panama signs a treaty in 1903 giving perpetual rights to the Panama Canal to America. The digging begins with AMES shovels leading the way. On August 15, 1914 the US Cargo ship “Ancon” makes the first transit through the new Panama Canal.
Used in Digging the
1914 – 1918: AMES Shovels Used by Soldiers in The Great War
The Great War breaks out, calling America to arms in an overseas battle of epic proportions. AMES shovels play an integral role in the country’s battle plan as soldiers, in order to shield themselves from the newly designed machine gun’s rapid fire, are required to dig complex systems of trenches. Trenches are cut through battlefield fronts to protect troops from deadly artillery and machine gun fire.
by Soldiers in The
1927 – 1941: AMES Tools Used in Carving Mount Rushmore
Sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, begins drilling into 6,200 Mount Rushmore in Black Hills, South Dakota. He will create a memorial in the growth and development of America. AMES shovels and other tools are among the implements used to carve out the 60-foot high busts of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. President Coolidge dedicates the memorial in 1927, beginning a 14-year labor of love that cost $1 million, but is today deemed priceless.
Carving Mount Rushmore
1929 – 1931: AMES Shovels Help Build the Empire State Building
Built during the Great Depression, the Empire State building is the center of a competition between Walter Chrysler of the Chrysler Corporation and John Jacob Raskob, the creator of General Motors, to see who could build the tallest building. In 1929 construction begins, with AMES shovels helping along the way. On May 1, 1931 president Hoover officially turns on the lights for the 1,350 foot Empire State Building’s lights – adding another jewel in New York’s crown, and one more notch in the AMES legacy.
the Empire State Building
1931 – 1935: AMES Shovels Help Build the Hoover Dam
As the Depression grinds on, thousands of men and their families come to Black Canyon to tame the Colorado River. AMES shovels in hand, it takes less than five years, in harsh and barren land, to build the largest dam of its time. Hoover Dam is 727 feet high, 1,244 feet long and 660 feet thick at the base. It weighs 5,500,000 tons and contains 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete. On September 30, 1935, President Roosevelt dedicates Hoover Dam.
Build the Hoover Dam
1933 – 1937: AMES Tools Help Build the Golden Gate Bridge
Following years of planning, proposals and heated political debates, work begins to meet the daunting task of spanning the vast Golden Gate Straight in San Francisco Bay, and AMES tools are there. Thousands of dedicated workers toil four years to create a structure with a 4,200 main span and a vertical clearance of 220 feet at mid-span. The Golden Gate Bridge is completed and opened on May 27, 1937. Today it remains one of the world’s most visited sites.
Help Build the
Golden Gate Bridge
1941 – 1945: 11 Million Trenching Tools For World War II
Japanese bomber squadrons hit American military bases in Pearl Harbor, leaving 2,403 dead and 1,178 wounded, and the country becomes fully committed to its second major overseas military effort. By the time World War II ends with Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945, AMES will have produced over 11 million entrenching tools, armor tank platings and shell casings for American forces, and will be twice awarded the Army-Navy “E” for Excellence in wartime production.
Tools For World War II
1950 – 1953: Soldiers in Korean War Use AMES Trenching Tools
The Korean War begins with North Korea’s communist-backed invasion of the southern, American controlled country. President Truman orders U.S. ground forces into Korea and authorizes the bombing of North Korea by the U.S. Air Force. As with every American war effort, AMES tools are instrumental in the construction and entrenching efforts of U.S. ground forces. The war wages until July 27, 1953 when a cease-fire is signed by Lieutenant General Nam II and Lieutenant General William K. Harrison at Panmunjom.
Korean War Use
AMES Trenching Tools
1956: AMES Tools Help Build I-80
Interstate system legislation that Congress began writing in 1944 is now signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Work begins just weeks later on what will become Interstate 80, the second longest interstate in the country. AMES tools play a part in the creation of 2,907 miles of east to west road system, beginning in San Francisco and ending in Teaneck, NJ.
Help Build I-80
1968: AMES Trenching Tools Used in Vietnam War
America escalated its involvement in the Vietnam War, and AMES is awarded an order to manufacture 275,000 folding lightweight entrenching tools for use by the Army. Made of high strength aluminum, except for the blade and hinge, the tool folds to a compact package for easy transport by U.S. soldiers.
Tools Used in
1972: AMES Shovels Used to Construct the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline
Construction on the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline is begun. When finished, the pipeline will transport crude oil from the Alaskan North Slope to the Port of Valdez in southern Alaska. AMES shovels are crucial to the success of this vast project.
Used to Construct
1984: AMES Lopper Launched into Orbit Aboard Space Shuttle Discovery
On August 30, 1984, NASA’s space shuttle Discovery is launched into orbit. On board is a specially designed AMES lopper. Chosen for a satellite recovery operation during the astronauts’ space walk.
1998: Founding Sponsor of Nations Garden
AMES is a founding sponsor of U.S.Botanic Garden’s National Garden located on the Capital grounds in Washington, D.C. The garden offers “living laboratories” for environmental, horticultural and botanical education.
2011: AMES Begins Community Garden
In the community of Camp Hill there are many people who would like the opportunity to garden, but they may not have the space to do so. AMES set about providing a means for people to garden, by providing 129 plots to gardeners in the area. Not only does AMES provide the land to garden, but also top notch gardening tools for all of your planting needs.
2014: AMES Wins IDEA Award
The company is awarded a Bronze Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) 2014 International Design Excellence Award (IDEA®). The award is for the Design Strategy category, for the AMES visual brand language revitalization. The IDEA Awards recognize international design excellence in products, interaction design, service design, strategy, research, concepts and student designs in categories ranging from automobiles and commercial products to medical equipment and home furnishings.
IDEA Award for
American Revolutionary War
White House Begins
Moved to Wash D.C.
War of 1812
Wrote Star Spangled Banner
Publishes His Dictionary
“Trail of Tears”
message sent by Morse
Mexican American War
Custer’s Last Stand
Introduced Model T
The Great War (WWI)
With the Wind” Released
Attack Pearl Harbor
on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Walks on the Moon
Building Oklahoma City
Pentagon Attacked by Terrorists