( Smith M. Ballou )

by RI Toolmakers & Tradesmen
Jan 10, 2001 

     Pollak's book, Guide to the Makers of American Wooden Planes, 4th Edition, states that Smith M. Ballou "learned the trade of toolmaker with Ezekiel Smith and worked at that occupation in Smithfield, R.I. and vicinity." We now know that Smith M. Ballou, the oldest son of Maturin Ballou, was born in 1830 in Smithfield, R.I. Smith and his two brothers and two sisters were raised on their father's large homestead farm which fronted on the "Smithfield Turnpike." The Ballou farm was about two miles from the village of Lonsdale where by 1849 Ezekiel Smith had established a plane manufactory. 1 Smith Ballou went to work for Ezekiel Smith and learned planemaking. Ballou may not have served a formal apprenticeship under Ezekiel. He may simply have worked as a factory hand at the plane manufactory. By the end of 1850, Ezekiel Smith had left the village of Lonsdale in the Town of Smithfield. Smith Ballou, twenty years old in 1850, took what he had learned from Ezekiel Smith and applied it to making carpenters tools. We do not know where or for how long Smith Ballou made the tools that bear his imprint. He is listed as a "carpenter" in the 1865 R.I. Census, and perhaps by that date he had turned to house carpentry for his work. For most of his life, he lived on and farmed the 34 acres on the "Smithfield Turnpike" that he received in 1861 in the division of his father's land. When he died in 1913 at the age of 83, his occupation was given as "farmer." There are very few "S. BALLOU planes that exist today. We would guess less than ten. We have examined four of his planes and they are similar to what was being produced around 1850 by the more established planemakers."

     Ira E. Smith, the son of the planemaker Ezekiel Smith, in 1851 married Sarah Ballou, the sister of Smith Ballou. Ira and Sarah may have met because of Smith Ballou working for Ezekiel Smith. Ira E. Smith was also a planemaker, having learned from his father. Ira made planes under the imprint of "I.E. SMITH."


1. Both the village of Lonsdale and the site of the Maturin Ballou homestead farm on the "Smithfield Turnpike" are today part of the Town of Lincoln. Lincoln was split off from the Town of Smithfield in 1871.