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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 models from Bradley and its competitors since the 1910s. The early Bradley stencil machines were available as horizontal and in circular machines and in many type sizes (½", ¾", 1¼" and 1½") 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 a circular aligned model introduced in 1903. The first two models use a stencil size of 7/8, and ½ inch. 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 1912 Diagraph produced three models of stencil machines. The big Diagraph Jumbo with 1¾" and a common models with 7/8, and ½ inch. To be more price competitive, the popular models 7/8, and ½ inch models were also available in open housing versions.

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


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Sales continued to grow and in 1928 Brigham purchased Diagraph Stencil Machine Corp. from Remmers. After the death of Andrew Jackson Bradley, Brigham saw an opportunity to expand sales by purchasing the Bradley Stencil Machine Co. in 1938, 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.

The company was reorganised around 1948. It is now known as Diagraph-Bradlay Industries Inc. However, it can also be read that Industries Inc. is a division of the old Diagraph-Bradley Corp. 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 1¾ and 1½" letters, the size was reduced to 1½". 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", ¾", ½" and ¼". Their best-selling machine during WWII was the Model S with ¾" stencil type.

Around 1982, the »Bradley« part of the name was dropped from the company name.

ITW acquired Diagraph in May 2001 and Ideal in 2002. Today, Diagraph's manufacturing facility is located in Marion, IL and its corporate office is located in St. Charles, MO. Diagraph manual stencil machines are now being built in small numbers, but with more rounded stencil typeface and some other design changes.



Sources:

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

The book of St. Louisans; Leonard, John W., St. Louis, The St. Louis republic, 1906

trade magazines:

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


 
 
Models of Diagraph Stencil Cutting Machines
Machine Name die (punch) size weight: lbs / kg text lines market launch
Diagraph Stencil Machines, 1903
Diagraph Jumbo 1 ¾ inch 254 / 115 4 lines ca. 1912
Diagraph, Housed 7/8 inch 115 / 52 4 lines 1903
Diagraph, Dial Type 7/8 inch 89 / 40 4 lines 1903 ?
Diagraph, Housed ½ inch 115 / 52 6 lines 1903
Diagraph, Dial Type ½ inch 89 / 40 6 lines 1903 ?
Diagraph-Bradley Stencil Machines, 1938
Diagraph-Bradley (Jumbo) 1 ¾ inch - 4 lines -
Diagraph-Bradley (Jumbo) 1 ½ inch - - after 1944
Diagraph-Bradley (Jumbo) 1 ¼ inch - - after 1944
Diagraph-Bradley 7/8 inch - 4 lines -
Diagraph-Bradley ¾ inch - 4 lines after 1944
Diagraph-Bradley ½ inch - 6 lines -
Diagraph-Bradley ¼ inch - 10 lines 1954
1956 use of "Aircraft Aluminum Alloy" announced for lighter weight, Speed Model
Diagraph-Bradley 3/8 inch - - 1957
Modern Diagraph Stencil Machines, 1980s ???
Diagraph Jumbo 2 inch 254 / 115 4 lines -
Diagraph 1 inch 90 / 41 4 lines -
Diagraph ¾ inch 90 / 41 4 lines -
Diagraph ½ inch 90 / 41 6 lines -
Diagraph ¼ inch 90 / 41 10 lines -
Diagraph 1/8 inch 90 / 41 - -
Many dates are approximations drawn from Diagraphs historical adverts.

The early Diagraph machines were available in two versions - with and wihtout housing (dial type) to be cheaper. The Jumbo model was always an open, dial type version. Some machines from the mid 1950s on are sold under supplier brands like Garvey and Universum.
 



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