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The Early Story of Bradley and Diagraph

The histories of the Bradley and Diagraph stencil machine companies are closely intertwined. Andrew Jackson Bradley invented (US Pat. 494.546) the first stencil cutting machine in 1893. The »horizontal« or »long Bradley« machine (all punches and dies aligned in one row) and in 1898 the later a circular aliened machine (US Pat. 612.892). The circular machine were greatly improved by the inventions of George Remnsnider 1908 (US Pat. 922.815) and Stephen D. Hartog 1909 (US Pat. 964.251), The circular aliend machine became the common design for all later machines from Bradley and its competitors since the 1920s. The early Bradley stencil machines were available as horizontal and in circular machines and in many type sizes (½, ¾, 1 ¼ and 1 ½ inch) and in two typeface designs. A Roman (a Slab Serif) and a Gothic (a Sans Serif) design. In the first year Bradley sold nine stencil machines.

Around 1896-7, Stephen D. Hartog, one of Bradley's first employees, presented an idea to improve the machines with interchangeable punches and dies. The costs of making such machines were lower and the ease of use would be improved. Bradley rejected the idea and Hartog left the company.

In 1896, Hartog filed a patent for a stencil cutting machine (US Pat. 561990) assigned to the «Eureka Stencil Machine Company». It's not quite clear if he filed the patent during his work for Bradley or after he left the company. But it is clear that Andrew J. Bradley felt that he was left out by Hartog. Hartog took his idea to Theodore William Remmers, a metal pattern maker in St. Louis. Remmers began making the necessary parts. But Hartog was unlucky financially and went bankrupt. His Eureka Stencil Machine Company did not went into the market. The only thing left is a line of the companies name in a patent register.

However, Remmers was able to interest several investors in the potential of Hartog's machine, and with the capital raised he founded the Diagraph Corporation on 20. August 1902. The Diagraph Corp. was affiliated with the American Bakers Machinery Company.

The first Diagraph stencil machine was introduced in 1903. Its new feature was the user changeable punches and dies. Some machines even had open an housing. As it turned out in a later lost lawsuit against the newly formed Marsh Stencil Machine Company in 1923, Remmers had unfairly used Hartog's invention without paying adequate compensation.

In 1913, James W. Brigham, the son-in-law of Remmers, joined the Diagraph Company. Soon after, Bringham began producing ink supplies for use with the stencils. Bringham later founded the American Oil Board Company to produce linseed oil impregnated stencil paper. Both the ink and the oil board were essential to the use of any stencil machine. In 1915 Brigham assumed full responsibility for Diagraph sales. The American Oil Board Company was acquired in 1916. In 1917 Diagraph produced three models of stencil machines. The Diagraph Jumbo with 1 ¾" and a 7/8" and a ½ inch model.

The period of the First World War brought an initial peak in production due to the high volume of government cargo.

Sales continued to grow and in 1928 Brigham purchased Diagraph Stencil Machine Corp. from Remmers and the other owners. In 1936, Brigham saw an opportunity to expand sales by purchasing the older Bradley Stencil Machine Co. with more factory capacity and established customers. The two companies were united after years of competition. The name was changed to Diagraph-Bradley Stencil Machine Corporation.

During the Second World War the demand for stencil cutters and stencil materials increased dramatically. Stencil machine shipments increased from 75 per month to 500, with almost all sales to the government. After the war the business declined and Bringham decided to diversify production with little success. As a side note, Diagraph also built parts for the B52 bomber.

Around 1948 the name was changed to Diagraph-Bradlay Industries Inc. In July 1948 the trade journal «Steal» announced, that the main plant of Diagraph-Bradlay Industries Inc. was moved to Hebron, Illinois. But headquarters remained in St. Louis. In Januar 1950 the trade journal «Manage» announced the Diagraph-Bradlay Industries is part of a group moved to Crab Orchard Management Club, an industrial area 6 miles away from Herrin, South Illinois.

The company was in poor financial condition and J. W. Bringham passed the business on to his son, James R. Bringham. Stencil machines and supplies remain the cash cows of the company.

J. R. Bringham later said: "What really saved us was the Korean War". By 1951, sales were almost back to World War II levels. In 1954 Diagraph-Bradley launched a new stencil ink applicator, the Rol-Flo. The applicator hat a latex roller fitting a frame that screwed into a plastic bottle holding the ink supply. The alcohol-based ink was not the same as the regular brush applied ink, so that all applicator sales automatically produced extra ink sales. These sales, together with later developments such as the Mark-X and further diversification of the product range, enabled the company to survive financially. James W. Bringham died 1965.

Side note: In the 1940s, the US government issued a regulation requiring overseas cargo to be labelled at least 2 inches in size. When it was discovered that the largest stencil cutting machines could only cut 1 3/4 and 1 1/2 inch letters, the size was reduced to 1 1/2 inch. As only Diagraph-Bradley had such machines, they had a slight advantage over the Ideal and Marsh products. But demand during the war was so great that Ideal and Marsh machines also sold like hot cakes. Much later, Ideal developed a true 2" machine, but it was only on the market for a short time. The Marsh company stuck to its 4 stencil type sizes 1, 3/4, 1/2 and 1/4 inch. Their best-selling machine during WWII was the Model S with ¾ inch stenicl type.

ITW acquired Diagraph in May 2001 and Ideal in 2002. Manual stencil machines are now built in small numbers.


Contemporary cases in sales management by Charles Futrell, Dryden Press, Hinsdale, 1981

Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents, 1896, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1897

trade magazines:

  • Office Appliances
  • Shipping Managment
  • Distribution Age
  • The Cotton

Attention: If you have access to very early Bradley stencil machines, and wish to have it as font, please contact me! I'd be very happy to get a stencil specimen or scan from you. I'm also looking for a specimen of a Diagraph Jumbo machine. >>> I will pay for your expenses and shipping and I will credit you. Thanks a lot.

Historc models of Diagraph stencil cutting machines
Machine Name die (punch) size market launch
Diagraph Machines
Diagraph Jumbo
-Gothic type
1 ¾ inch ca 1917
Diagraph size 7/8,
-Gothic Type
7/8 inch 1903
Diagraph size 1/2,
-Gothic Type
¾ inch 1903
Diagraph-Bradley Stencil Machines, 1937
Diagraph-Bradley (Jumbo) size 1 3/4 1 ¾ inch pre 1943
Diagraph-Bradley size 1 1/2 1 ½ inch pre 1943
Diagraph-Bradley size 1 1/4 1 ¼ inch pre 1943
Diagraph-Bradley size 7/8 7/8 inch ca. 1948
Diagraph-Bradley size 3/4 ¾ inch pre 1943
Diagraph-Bradley size 1/2 ½ inch ca. 1948
1956 use of "Aircraft Aluminum Alloy" announced for lighter machine weight
Diagraph-Bradley size 3/8 3/8 inch 1957
Modern Diagraph Stencil Machines, 1980s ???
Diagraph size 1 1 inch
Diagraph size 3/4 ¾ inch
Diagraph size 1/2 ½ inch
Diagraph size 1/4 ¼ inch
Diagraph size 1/8 1/8 inch
Many dates are approximations drawn from Diagraphs historical adverts.

Some Diagraph machines were available without housing to be cheaper. Some machines from the mid 1950s on are sold under supplier brands like Garvey and Universum.

All trademarks mentioned belong to their respective owners.


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