North & Judd


North & Judd is the oldest of all the manufacturing concerns represented in the New Britain Industrial Museum collection and one of the oldest firms in Connecticut. It was founded in 1812 by members of the North family headed by Alvin North and his brother Seth. The family produced wire products under the name of Alvin North and Sons, originally by hand by women at home, and later, in 1830 on the first machine made for this purpose.

In 1848, Hubert F. North, son of Alvin, bought out his brother, O. B. North, and in 1855 Alvin sold his interest to Loren F. Judd and John A. Pickett. In 1863, Mr. Pickett sold part of his interest to Mr. Judd, and the name was changed to North & Judd and was incorporated that year.

The company lines then included harness and saddlery hardware, and the Civil War years brought great prosperity to the company. Over the years, the firm acquired a number of other manufacturing companies that expanded its lines to curry combs, bits and spurs, suspender buckles, upholstery nails, clothing, plastic items for the electrical fitting industry and metal T nuts.

North & Judd had a close and friendly relationship with William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody, who visited the company whenever he was in the area. The Museum has a large photograph of him with Indian members of his Wild West show on a visit in 1916. One of the purposes of the visit was to assign to North & Judd a patent on a horse bit with the cheeks of the bit in the shape of a pistol. A copy of a letter from Buffalo Bill is on file, telling the company to hurry with production of the bit as he had a large number of cowboys who were waiting for them.

Web strap hardware was added to the line in the l930s and a considerable amount of hardware in this line went into military canvas products, as well as a great variety of commercial applications. The company was one of the first to produce automobile seat belt buckles, several years before they became standard equipment by the auto makers. A major addition was made in the 1950s when the company acquired the Wilcox-Crittenden Company of Middletown, manufacturers of a broad line of marine and boat hardware. The company became a major factor in this industry until it was spun off in the 1990s. In the 1970s the company was merged into Gulf and Western, and then passed through the ownership of a couple of other companies until in 1998 it was acquired by the partnership of John Morris and George Ohanesian and the name changed to Buckles International, Inc., operating out of Meriden, Ct. The company no longer manufactures its hardware, but imports most of it and contracts to have some of its products made locally.