From Sea to Sparks

The first steps in a new career require patience as it takes many years of experience to gain the skills and knowledge needed to be successful. Although unknown challenges along the way can cause hesitation, determination helps reach accomplishments far greater than ever anticipated.

The story of Klein Tools’ founder, Mathias Klein, encompasses this lesson. Here’s a closer look at Mathias’ voyage for success – the beginning of Klein Tools’ 162-year-old tradition of high-quality, innovative products. Hint: He never could have expected the impact his work would have on tradespeople worldwide for centuries to come.

In 1848, Mathias set sail towards new possibilities in America. His 39-day journey was complete with violence, danger, storms and an iceberg scare, but when Mathias finally landed in New York he had a wealth of new experiences and was eager for success. His inability to speak English, however, made it initially difficult to find a job in the trades. After three weeks without work, he took a job as a servant at an inn, but after just a month, he left to sign on as a blacksmith on a whaling ship.

All aboard! Mathias’ first whaling journey set out in August, 1848. His primary responsibilities included forging and sharpening the crews’ knives, harpoons and other tools. After two years at sea, Mathias had not only saved money but also learned English, contributing greatly to his later success. Upon his return, Mathias found work as a blacksmith in Philadelphia. He established a comfortable life with a new family, yet remained ambitious for bigger opportunities.

In 1855, Mathias left Philadelphia for Chicago where a boom in the transportation and communication industries offered great potential for skilled workers. Two years later, he opened his own shop, serving as a locksmith, blacksmith, repairman and jack of all trades for the diverse customers that walked through his doors. Many of his customers were tradespeople requesting tool repairs, which were used to build the city from the ground up … and the rest is history.

On October 9, 1854, Mathias Klein received his American citizenship, just three years before forging the first pair of Klein pliers together for a telegraph lineman in need. For the next 60 years Mathias sparked a legacy of high-quality hand tools tradespeople have come to recognize as Klein Tools.

Mathias’ success story is filled with challenges, hard work and proud achievements – not all too unfamiliar to today’s tradespeople. Although a career in the trades isn’t easy, the fulfillment of a job well done makes it all worth it.

How did you get started in the trades? Share your experiences with us on social media.