Old Tools Marked "Foreign"

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  • #555192


    I have a couple of old tools that are old, looking to me to be around WWI period.

    Both have no makers’ mark, but both are stamped “Foreign”.

    I read somewhere (can’t remember where) that this means the tools were made in Germany (I’m in the UK), and would date just after WWI. The “Foreign” mark being used in place of “Made in Germany”, which would not have been popular in the UK at that time.

    Does anyone know if this is true, or the real origin of the mark?



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  • #555210
    Larry Geib


    I don’t think that’s true. In 1887 Parliament mandated that items from Germany be stamped “made in Germany” it eventually became a mark of quality and sort of backfired on the intent. Don’t forget the close ties between britain’s House of Hanover and the Kingdom of Hannover until 1871. After that, Victoria didn’t do well with the Prussian arm.

    The Word “ foreign” stamped into the tool is probably due to the USA McKinley tariff acts of 1890-93 which mandated that all tools imported into the USA be so stamped for tax reasons. (Trump isn’t the first Republican to impose tariffs. Originally, the rate was 50%)

    I’ve also seen the mark on porcelain.

    as part of this and the retaliation all tariffs eventually engender, Disston opened saw operations in Canada around 1910. Almost all brass backed Disston Backsaws were made in Canada intended for Britain. USA backsaws are almost exclusively steel backed.

    Stanley opened its Canadian operations in 1907 for the same reason.

    Britain had retaliated with its own tariffs.

    I suspect the tools you got were so stamped by making it into Britain by way of the USA, possibly as part of the war effort. Either that, or the tools were made in Britain intended for the US market. Both are possible.

    The act also specified that after 1923 the actual country of origin had to be stamped. The word “foreign” was an interim device. So it dates your tools.

    Items from Japan were mandated to have Roman style lettering. At first it was marked “Nihon”, then “Nippon” , and finally “Japan”, as transliteration from the Japanese changed.

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