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Sun May 27, 2018


The year was 1832. Oneida Castle, a small village in central New York was the setting. A young hunter and trapper named Sewell Newhouse worked in his father's blacksmith shop to craft guns and traps for his own use which quickly became the envy of every Indian in the nearby reservation of Oneida. Fashioning parts from worn-out scythes, axe blades, and blacksmith scraps, Newhouse worked his mechanical genius in to a thriving business trading traps for furs with the Indians.

When the Oneida Community, the first American experiment with communal living moved to the banks of the Oneida Creek, Newhouse became a convert and joined. When the Commune members failed to find farming profitable enough to sustain them, Newhouse taught all members, children as well as adults, to manufacture steel traps. Local sales were strong; the community really began to thrive when the traps were taken to Chicago and sold to the Hudson Bay Company as well as other buyers of Hardware. It has been said that fur was such a lucrative trade that much of our nation's and Canada's growth to the west could be attributed to trappers who worked trap lines across the American west in the late 1800's. Indeed the reputation of steel traps reached around the globe as they became a benchmark for quality in Russia and Scandinavia. Business expanded, and factories were built in Sherrill, NY, and later in Niagara Falls, Canada.

In 1896, the same year that Oneida began manufacturing in Canada, the Animal Trap Company began manufacturing mouse and rat traps in Abington, IL. A few years prior, in 1890, John M. Mast of Lancaster, PA, had also created an extremely popular spring mousetrap which became the standard for mouse traps. He soon added rat traps to his line and was so successful that in 1905 he acquired the Abington, IL company and called the merged entity the Animal Trap Company.

In 1907, Oneida's secured control of the Animal Trap Company, dropped its name and continued to operate the trapping portion of their business in Lititz, PA and Niagara Falls, Canada. In 1924, C.M.Woolworth and two other relatives bought the trap business and revived the old name to Animal Trap Company of America.

In 1940, C.M. Woolworth saw that the war would dramatically affect demand for fur and steel traps. Within months he, along with other innovative individuals, transformed the enterprise into a war machine. Army cots, coat hooks, fastening devices for airplane parts, fuse plugs, wire springs for parachutes and bullet cores of several calibers were all manufactured in the Lititz plant. In 1943, Under-Secretary of War, Robert P. Patterson awarded the Animal Trap Company the Army-Navy "E" award for "Excellence" in the production of war equipment.

Following the war, management steered the company into a new era of diversification. A broad array of fishing and hunting products -- boats, rods, reels, bait buckets and tackle boxes as well as decoys and gun cases -- were designed and marketed. In the 1960's the Havahart® cage trap business was purchased. Innovation was championed by a new group of young managers directed by Richard G. Woolworth, son of the chairman. The company was renamed Woodstream Corp. and went public in 1966.

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