When Bliss Charles Ames opened his machine-tool works on Ash Street in Waltham, Ma. in the late 1890s, he was joining an exclusive club of manufacturers* who, though they produced relatively few machines, made a significant contribution to improving the standards of quality and precision employed in American manufacturing industry. Amongst Ames's fellow high-class machine-tool makers* in Waltham were Stark, the American Watch Tool Company, The Waltham Machine Works, Wade and F. W. Derbyshire.Ames machine tool Serial Numbers can be found here
Ames quickly became well-known (as the B.C. Ames Co.) for a range of very accurate machine tools and precision measuring equipment; they did not produce a huge number of machines - not only was the specialised marked for precision bench lathes and millers relatively small but competition fierce. In the early 1920 an average of just one hundred No. 3 lathes were being produced each year, a number that fell to a low of only two or thee at the height of the depression in the early 1930s; sales picked up to nearly fifty a year during the middle to late 1930s followed by an explosion in growth during the years of World War 2 when, if the serial numbers are to be believed, as many as 806 left the factory between 1942 and 1943. What sort of company would have been interested in an Ames precision lathe? Tow examples are, L.S. Starrett, makers of high-class measuring and inspection equipment, had over one hundred in the Athol, Mass. Works and, during WW2, numbers were sold to H.L.Norden in Long Island, New York, where they were used in the production of Norden bomb sights.
The entire range of No. 3 and EH3 Bench Lathes, Bench Millers, Slotters and Shapers continued in production until 1957, when production of the lathes only appears to have been continued using dual Stark and Ames branding - the catalogs from that point on (if not the lathes) carrying the names of both companies.
Today the Ames brand name lives on in the precision engineering field being used on high-quality measuring and inspection equipment.
*Makers of American precision bench lathes included: *Levin, Bottum, American Watch Tool Company, B.C.Ames, Bottum, Hjorth, Potter, Pratt & Whitney, Rivett, Wade, Waltham Machine Works, Wade, Pratt & Whitney, Rivett, Cataract, Hardinge, Elgin, Remington, Sloan & Chace, W.H.Nichols, Crystal Lake and (though now very rare) Bausch & Lomb, Frederick Pearce, Van Norman, Ballou & Whitcombe, Sawyer Watch Tool Co., Engineering Appliances, Fenn-Sadler, "Cosa Corporation of New York" and UND. A fuller list can be found here, with accompanying notes and explanations about how they were set up and used.