The History of Klein Tools

Mathias Klein

If any company has come a long way in 150 years, it's Klein Tools! Founded by German immigrant Mathias Klein in 1857, the company has evolved from a one-man metalworking business in Chicago to a global leader in hand tools. Around the world, professionals in the electrical, telecommunications, construction, mining and electronics industries trust the quality and workmanship of Klein tools to help them get the job done.

How has Klein Tools come so far? It's been a long journey, but thanks to the hard work and dedication of 5 generations of Kleins, Mathias' legacy is carrying on stronger than ever. Here are a few of our favorite highlights in the history of Klein Tools.

  • It was the year 1857 when Mathias Klein hand-forged the first official pair of Klein pliers… in two separate installments! As the story goes, a telegraph lineman brought a broken pair of pliers into Mathias Klein's Chicago forge shop. Klein forged a new pliers-half for him, and attached it to the older, remaining half of the tool. Soon after, the lineman returned… the second original half had broken! So Klein forged another new half to replace it, riveted the two Klein-made halves together, and there you have it: the first complete of Klein pliers was born!
  • During the 1860s, the Civil War brought an increased demand for telegraphic communication. This telegraph industry boom meant that more professional linemen – equipped with the proper tools – were needed. Thanks to his talent for crafting durable hand tools, Mathias Klein's business prospered, and continued to do so through the rises of the telephone, electrical, and railway industries later in the 19 th Century.
  • The 1910s saw American industry – and Klein tools – rapidly expanding. Up to this time, Klein Tools had been known for their signature product: lineman's pliers. As it turned out, that wasn't enough… so the company added an additional 100 types and sizes of pliers to their repertoire!
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  • In 1968, Klein Tools saw the need to expand their product line to include leather and canvas products, as well as occupational safety equipment. In the interest of growing the business in this direction, Klein acquired the R.H. Buhrke Company of Fort Smith, Arkansas.
  • By 1975, the time had come for Klein Tools to dramatically increase their forging production. In answer to their need for increased productivity, Klein Tools built a modern, multi-million dollar drop forging plant in Moran, Kansas.
  • In their never-ending quest to expand their product lines and market coverage, Klein Tools acquired the Vaco Products Company (of Jonesville, Michigan) in 1986. As a result, the Klein catalog grew even more extensive, with the addition of new hex-key wrenches, screwdrivers and nut drivers, as well as electrical terminals and connectors.