Dawson and Sons Company was the brainchild of the upstart Robert Dawson after the economic panic of 1873. He was a Union veteran of the Civil War and had spent the postwar years working as a coal miner in rural Appalachia. Being a bachelor, he saved a pretty penny and bought up shares in the stock-exchange for fractions of their old value. Eventually, the market recovered making Robert an extravagantly wealthy man. He started a family and eventually made his eldest sons co-owners.
The Gilded Age came and went, and, in his old age, he looked upon his large brood of twelve children with innumerable grandchildren and in-laws, and he pitied them, but did not know why. The future from that moment would not resemble the beautiful twilight of Turn-of-the-Century America. It would not offer his descendants the opportunities that allowed him to build his hammer factory, where he employed hundreds of men to make the essential tool of all builders, smiths, and craftsmen. There was something about the hum of machinery and men moving like clockwork for a common purpose that gave Robert a joy unrivaled by the luxurious balls he obliged to attend or host. Surely, he pondered, this achievement will ensure the greatness of my family, my city, and my nation? But his intuition hinted at terrible pessimism.
A bruised and bloody, fair-haired, young man lay unconscious in the doorway of the abandoned factory. His aggressors left him for dead, assuming the job was finished like amateurs, but his breath came slow and short. Then he coughed red saliva as his eyelids opened. His mind was reeling and his vision was blurry. He crawled inside the doorway to sit against a wall. He wheezed and moaned till he could tolerate the pain. The hustlers punched him with brass knuckles, doing a number on his gut, legs, and face. All of this violence was for collection on debts owed to loan-sharks.
Thomas Bell had a gambling addiction, and the thugs who he borrowed from were tired of his ill luck at the cards. Now he had a second chance to start over, since his enemies thought he was dead, but he was unaware of this fact and continued to rest. Eventually, he fell asleep and dreamed strange dreams about fire and smoke, but also of clanging metal. Then his eyes opened after a man slapped him across his face.
“Ow! Whad’ya want?” Yelled Thomas.
“This is my home, not yours.” Thomas’ vision adjusted in the darkness to see the outline of an old man with a gray beard.
“Okay bum, I’ll leave this place, but I’m awful sore.”
“Me? a bum? You’re the one who is bruised and bloodied, pal.”
“That may be, but at least I have-“ Then he remembered that he had nothing and his apartment had been ransacked before they kidnapped him. “-actually I don’t have anything to go back to.”
“Hmm, there is plenty of room in this place, I’ll grab you one of my extra sleeping bags.” So, Thomas spent the night in the old factory. The old man had a curious limp that he tried to hide. He didn’t seem to be a drunkard or drug-user, in fact he seemed like some sort of eccentric who secretly held brilliant ideas. But these were only the drowsy musings of Thomas before he passed out.
The next morning the old man awoke Thomas with a thermos of coffee and a plastic bowl with beans. “You know sonny, you need to have all the energy for the work we’re doing today.”
“Work? What are you on about old man?” Thomas said as he sipped his coffee.
“Finish your breakfast and I’ll show you.” He drank and ate, then follow the old man to a trap door in the far corner of the room. Inside was a ladder that went several feet down into darkness. They climbed and came to a tunnel with a small electric bulb at the end, which lead to a room filled with pipes and other equipment, all of which had been unused for decades.
“This is my workshop.” He pointed a table in the corner lighted by a kerosene lamp. On it were various machine parts, but also schematics scattered about.
“I don’t quite understand sir.”
“You’re not meant to. I was being honest when I said this place is my home. I bought the property with every penny, nickel, and dime I have ever saved. Here are my plans to revive this factory to former and greater glory.”
Thomas looked searchingly at the old man then at the table. Then he muttered, “We don’t have factories anymore they are all in China, my whole family lost jobs in buildings like these. Keep dreaming!”
“Oh, haven’t you read the news? Surely, you’ve picked up a paper recently?” Thomas admitted he had not, but the old man informed him of the rise to power of a certain individual who would put tariffs on imported goods, making domestic factories competitive again.
“Fine, I’m convinced. You need my help so let’s hear what I have to do.” The plan was explained in detail. The old man had just enough money to make the factory functional, but they would need investors, so Thomas had to use his persuasiveness, which came in handy during his gambling days, to win over patrons. But before that they had to fix the floors, walls, and roof to be structurally sound, then they would work on the piping and wiring. Thomas had no skill whatsoever doing construction or carpentry on this scale, but the old man claimed to have the tools for such enterprises as well as the skill. When he questioned the old man as to the origin of these things, he simply remained silent.
“Yes, we have finished remodeling the entire facility with current, and regulation approved, structural design.” Bellowed Thomas to a meeting of nationwide, potential investors.
One man in a black suit and red silk tie came to the podium and asked, “But without prior funding how did you accomplish this task in only six months?”
“With the help of the gods, how else could we have done it?” The crowd responded with a laugh, but Thomas did not join them. “We are under budget and ahead of schedule, but we need to get things moving to be producing by the next fiscal year.”
The meeting, and many others, were successful and gave the two partners of Hephaestus Tool Company enough capital to finish the job. The bond between the old man and Thomas had made them close friends, but the old man became a teacher to Thomas in arcane secrets of mechanics. Mechanics of the physical and metaphysical realms.
“You see sonny, I am immortal. I knew you would come and be my chief pupil. This is not a factory as the common people call it, it is an academy for craftsmen. It is the first in this new age where men may once again use their hands to mold the figures of earth into superior forms.”
“Master, I see these mysteries as you reveal them to me. I have learned much and I hope you can continue to teach me until my death.”
“I will teach you things long after your death, but for now it is no longer requisite for me to be on this Earth. I must go back to Olympus, back to my forge, and back to that cheating harlot Aphrodite.”
Thomas took one last look at the lame god who completely changed his life. The body descended to the ground in death as the deity ascended to the sky.
By and by Thomas Bell became sole owner of the property. The rest of the machinery and equipment as well as the workforce was put into place under budget and ahead of schedule. Production began with thousands of units of all varieties of tools, which all had stamped on them ‘MADE IN USA’. Thomas became a millionaire after a few years and a shortage of demand, but the new tariffs made his tools far cheaper than any others from the world. He expanded this factory, but also invested in others and became part of the Industrial Renaissance as this period was later to be known as.
Thomas made sure to build a small neo-classical temple on the edge of his property. Inside was a solitary statue in bronze of an old man with a limp and a hammer in one hand. It was dedicated to his deceased partner, but only he knew the truth of the matter.