This Month in Delaware…

Fleetwood saw
Fleetwood Scroll Saw, Circa 1875 (DHS collection)

The Trump brothers, Samuel and Charles, file the first patent for what would become one of their most popular and best-selling treadle-powered scroll saw models, the “Fleetwood,” which they manufactured  right here in Wilmington. This first patent was issued on July 23, 1872 and, by 1874, the brothers were firmly established at their factory on Beech Street, south of Maryland Avenue. Originally conceived as a small, table-mounted saw for toy parts, the Fleetwood soon won accolades and an international audience when it was exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition and was the only foot-powered saw to win a prize.

The Fleetwood was designed for delicate fret saw work on a variety of materials, including wood, bone, ivory, shell, and sheet metals, and lent itself perfectly to the Victorian craze for intricate, fanciful decorating. It was also marketed as an all-purpose, easy-to-use machine for all kinds of people, even amateurs, ladies, and girls according to one advertisement from the time. Its compact proportions and the graceful, scrolling design of the cast iron stand even made it more resemble fine parlor furniture than a piece of machinery.

The Trump brothers would go on to improve the original design, taking out three more related patents in 1875 and 1876, and continued to expand their business at the Wilmington factory. In 1880, the firm became known as the Trump Brothers Machine Company and added nuts and bolts to its product line in 1882. By 1912, the company had expanded into textile machinery and marine engines, and also manufactured gun parts during World War I.  The Trump Brothers Machine Company went out of business in 1925.


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