Hubert Dalton (1866--1952) was English by birth and the first born of eleven children. He moved to the United States when he was 16 and found work in New York as a toolmaker and machinery salesman. His subsequent and very successful career as a businessman involved several companies including the Dalton Motor Car Company, the Dalton Manufacturing Corporation of New York (making lathes), the Dalton-Thibault Corporation of New York , the Armstrong Products Corporation (late 1920's) and the Willowbrook Corporation (a nursery business - Dalton had a love of hybridising orchids)
Lathe production began on Long Island, in New York, during 913 and remained there until 1925 when, having never made a profit, and being forced into liquidation, production was moved to a site occupied by a newly-formed organisation, the Dalton Tool Co. located at Sound Beach Ct. This new company enjoyed a well-equipped plant where castings could be poured and parts and accessories machined for lathes and other lines. Court records from 1933 show that Mr. Dalton refunded creditors some $365,000 from his own pocket, a deep one almost certainly filled by profits from his other interests including the extensive South Beach Plant (constructed in the early 1920s and first occupied by the Welte-Tripp Pipe Organ Company). The papers appear to show that, although production of lathes was officially moved to South Beach during 1925, the New York address was still being used - some New-York-built machines being discovered with their address details on the gear chart overlaid with a small tag giving the South Beach location. The youngest Dalton known (and hence the last machine built so far discovered) is Serial 7014, manufactured in 1929, though production may have continued for a little into the years of the Great Depression. After being vacated by Dalton, the South Beach plant was taken over (in 1931 or 1933 and complete with all the existing machine tools for the production of lathes) by the Swedish vacuum cleaner company Electrolux as their first American factory.
Production of lathes began, it is believed, with the "OT" Series, a 3.5-inch centre height machine of light build. The various models were then built in numbered "Lots", this being a feature of Dalton lathes - though some were assigned Model Type designations instead. Each "Lot" (they ranged from No. 1 to 6) or Model was assigned its own sequential set of serial numbers - a fact that came to light when duplicate numbers were found, but on different Lot Number or Models Types. All Dalton lathes, other than the Lot 1 combination machine, have "Dalton 6" cast into their bed or on a tag on the changewheel cover - this insignia simply being a reference to the number of spindle speeds and meaningless as to Model Type.
Dalton's ordinary lathes were of an absolutely conventional pattern and produced with swings of approximately 7, 8 and 9-inches; all were backgeared and had screwcutting by changewheels only - the jump to a gearbox-equipped lathe never being made.
Not, in the modern sense, a mass-produced item, Dalton lathes had a lot of handwork in their manufacture and, although some small items like leadscrew clasp nuts and changewheels can be swapped over, major items cannot. An experienced rebuilder of these lathes reports that, having put together over twenty of them - and accumulated a good stock of spare parts - he never found an apron that would fit another saddle, nor a saddle that would fit exactly on another bed. The tumble-reverse mechanism was individually assembled on each machine and the mesh of the gears set before the holes were drilled for the spring-loaded plunger. The very earliest Dalton lathe found (it's being rebuilt now, in 2013) has a number of parts machined from the solid rather than from castings, this discovery showing that, in all probability, a number of prototypes were made (and subsequently) before the pattern were ready for the foundry.
It is known that a number of Daltons were shipped to England during WW I (1914-1918) and when the Lusitania, a passenger liner, was torpedoed off the Irish coast by a German submarine there 200 of them in the hold. Most Daltons found in the UK are of the earlier type, Lot 2, 3, and 4 - but so far no Lot 5 and, it is believed, only one Lot 6. It seems that, once the conflict ended, demand for the machines fell away abruptly.
A summary of Dalton lathe production:
Lot 1 "Combination machine" (shown lower down this page).
Built from the very early 1920s until 1929 this was a large, special application machine aimed at the maritime industry and possibly employed on WW I submarines. They were available in a number of bed lengths from 48 inches up to 10 feet and incorporated a horizontal milling machine as well as a vertical milling and drilling spindle. Screwcutting was by changewheels only, no screwcutting gearbox ever being offered on any Dalton lathe.
Lot 2 and 3 B-4 lathes
Short-lived and subjected to a number of changes as production gathered pace, Lot 2 lathes had a 6-inch swing with a 30-inch bed but were quickly replaced in the year of their introduction by a more useful 7¼-inch swing Lot 3 version. The rarest of all the Dalton lathes, their Serial numbers are low with just five Lot 2 and six Lot 3 discovered so far (2012). As a consequence, it is believed that production might have been limited to a span of just eight to twelve months. A feature exclusive to Lot 2 lathes was a top-slide that fitted over a post cast as part of the cross slide, rather than being bolted on (a system also used on the Drummond M-Type). The post had straight sides and inside the top slide base was a bronze locking mechanism activated by a square headed bolt that protruded through the casting to the right rear. The assembly was poorly designed and failed to lock the slide securely under heavy cuts.
Lot 4 lathe B-4
In 1914 Dalton introduced the heavier Lot 4 lathe - a date that coincides with the first of Hubert Dalton's patents (for a spring clip used to retain the locking collar that kept the changewheels on their studs; it was known as the "threadless nut"). Designed for home shop and hobby use, the Lot 4 is (with many thousands constructed) by far the most common of all Dalton types so far discovered. Although similar to the Lot 3 lathe (with the same 7¼-inch swing and using a few carried-over parts) they were of a more massive build being approximately 20% heavier with stouter castings and an improved spindle. The Lot 4 was the first model to offer, as an option, a 36-inch bed. The earliest Lot 4 lathes can be recognised by the use of the same "rough casting" top slide as used on the Lot 3 while later ones were fitted with the better-looking and more robust "ground-all-over" type used on all models until the end of production.
Lot 5 lathe B-4
First produced during 1922, the second most common Dalton, the Lot 5, could be had with either a 30 or 36-inch bed and the established 7¼-inch swing. The lathe (it was an unfortunate, rather ugly-looking design) shared many components with the Lot 4, though with a much-improved specification including independent power longitudinal feed by a separate feed rod that drove, via a key, worm-and-wheel gearing inside the apron (though no small Dalton ever had power cross feed).