The history of the monkey wrench is full of twists and turns. It isn’t as straightforward or clear as you might expect, especially for a modern tool that many of us take for granted! In fact, we may not even know exactly who invented the monkey wrench.
Tracing the Wrench Through History
Once you begin looking at the history of the monkey wrench, you begin to realize that it is actually quite a vague term. There were lots of different wrenches that were referred to as the “monkey wrench” throughout history. For example, there is evidence that at least some people called the carriage wrench by the name before our modern monkey wrench was even invented.
The term appears in other places too and appears to predate the invention of the monkey wrench we have today. This confusion makes it difficult to trace the actually tool. When looking at historical documents, you can never know really which tool its talking about. At some point, the name even seemed to refer to a category of tools, making the matter even more complicated.
Because of this, picking out the actual inventor is nearly impossible. We don’t know who invented the monkey wrench as we know it today, and who had a hand at inventing other tools that were just called monkey wrenches.
Jack Johnson was an African-American boxer who may have invented this tool. Some people claim that the “monkey” part of the tool name is really a racial epithet, which obviously make many people mad and uncomfortable. However, there is evidence pointing towards this not being true, even if Jack Johnson did invent the tool.
There is another theory floating around that Charles Moncky invented the monkey wrench. However, we have no evidence of a man named Charles Moncky living in America or anywhere else at the time (though that isn’t necessary required for him to invent a wrench). There are some people by that name living at the time, but none of them appear to be inventors or anything of that sort.
Many of the possible individuals were also children when the tool was invented, or born just after it was invented. While it isn’t impossible for a child to invent a tool like this, it is unlikely.
The inventor also could have been Loring Coes, who we know invented a tool in 1840 in Worcester, Massachusetts. This is about 37 years after the first instance of the term “monkey wrench”, however. With that said, Coes’s design did remain in production for 120 years as the “monkey wrench” among various companies.
His invention wasn’t a completely new tool either. Instead, it was a minor improvement on a tool that had been around for a bit. Other tools required two-hands to operate, while his only required one.
To Complicate Matters Further…
The wrench many of us refer to as the “monkey wrench” probably isn’t referring to the original tool using that name. Instead, in modern times, “monkey wrench” is used to refer to an adjustable wrench – which people would have recognized as two separate tools when the actual monkey wrench was invented.
The modern tool has been upgraded and changed many times, just like the original monkey wrench did throughout history. It is hard to pick an inventor for the monkey wrench because so many different people improved the design over the years. The modern tool looks nothing like the original one.
Therefore, choosing when the modern monkey wrench came into existence is completely subjective
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Pete has been working in the trades since high school, where he first developed a passion for woodworking. Over the years, he has developed a keen interest in a wide variety of DIY projects around the home. Fascinated by all sort of tools, Pete loves reading and writing about all the latest gadgets and accessories that hit the market. His other interests include astronomy, hiking, and fishing.
As the founder of House Grail, David’s primary goal is to help consumers make educated decisions about DIY projects at home, in the garage, and in the garden.