When Mark Spiller moved to Maine from New Brunswick in 1890 he was already an accomplished axe maker who hailed from a family who had been making edge tools since 1815. In 1902, he went to work for Emerson & Stevens in Oakland specializing in tempering their hand-hammered axes. Mark’s son Norman got into the family business too as the 1911 Oakland Directory attests:
In 1926, the Spillers struck out on their own, bought some land on the Messalonskee Stream, built a new factory site there and began making axes as M.D. Spiller & Son Co. Mark concentrated on tempering the axes that his son Norman forged.
1937 saw the company change its name to Spiller Axe & Tool Co, Inc. as Norman’s son Harold entered the business. However, Mark did not slow down now that his grandson was working in the shop at his side. He still came to work every day well into his mid-80’s doing all the axe tempering and hardening for the 700 axes the shop churned out per week.
[From a story in The Portland Sunday Telegram 2/21/37]
The axes made by the Spillers are still some of the most collectible of those made in Oakland. The Maine Easy Cut, Chopper’s Choice, Premier and Victory Axe are among the great brands made by the company.
The Spillers actively marketed their business. Holdings in the Oakland Historical Society are replete with examples of advertising copy for the company like this brochure depicting all of the types of axes made by the company:
A display card for Spiller Axe & Tool:
And maybe the most interesting find at the Historical Society were the intricate copper plates used for typesetting pictures of the Spiller axes and labels.
Mark Spiller passed away at age 93 in 1945. His son Norman and grandson Harold continued the business until 1965. This ended more than 150 years of axe making by the Spiller family.
Brant & Cochran pays homage to the legacy of axe making in Oakland with its line of T-shirts depicting reproductions of labels used on Spiller axes.
You can pick up a T-shirt with the Maine Easy Cut logo
Or maybe a Chopper’s Choice?
Both of these are available in our on-line store. Get one here.
Thanks to the Oakland Historical Society and Oakland Public Library for opening up their archives to us. Stay tuned for more on the axe makers of Oakland!