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The history of the Bradley and Diagraph stencil machine companies is closely linked. Andrew Jackson Bradley invented (US Pat. 494.546) the first stencil cutting machine in 1893. The "horizontal" machine (all punches and dies aligned in one row) and in 1898 the later a circular aliened machine (US Pat. 612.892). But more usefull models were invented by 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 designs by Bradley and its competitors. 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 type designs. A Roman (a Slab Serif) and a Gothic (a Sans Serif) design. In the first year Bradley sold nine stencil machines.

Around 1897 Stephen D. Hartog, one of Bradleys first employees, presented an idea for improving 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 1898, Hartog founded the Eureka Stencil Machine Company and took his idea to Theodore Remmers, a metal pattern maker in St Louis. Remmers began making the necessary parts. But Hartog was unlucky financially and went bankrupt. However, Remmers was able to interest several investors in the potential of Hartog's machine, and with the capital raised he founded the Diagraph Company in 1900. The Diagraph company was associated with the American Bakers Machinery Association and was housed in the same building. Around 1920 the company changed its name to Diagraph Stencil Machine Corporation. As it turned out in a later lost lawsuit against the newly founded Marsh Stencil Machine Company in 1923, Remmers had unfairly used Hartog's invention without paying adequate compensation.

In 1913 James W. Bringham went to work on Remmers business. Soon after, Bringham began producing inks to be used 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 items for the useage 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 inch and a 7/8 and a ½ inch model.

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 buying the older Bradley Stencil Machine Co., which had more factory capacity and established customers. After years of competition, the two companies were united. The name was changed to Diagraph-Bradley Stencil Machine Corp. Many years later, the name "Bradley" was dropped from the company name.

During the Second World War the demand for stencil cutters and stencil materials increased dramatically. Shipments of stencil machines rose 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. Stencil machines and supplies remain the cash cows of the company. In 1950 the entire production line was moved to Herrin, Southern Illinois. The company was in poor financial condition and J. W. Bringham passed the business on to his son, James R. Bringham.

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.

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. Sources:
Contemporary cases in sales managementy by Charles Futrell,
Dryden Press, Hinsdale, 1981
news and adverts in vintage business magazines:
Office Appliances and Shipping Managment


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

Sources:
Contemporary cases in sales managementy by Charles Futrell,
Dryden Press, Hinsdale, 1981
news and adverts in vintage trade magazines:
Office Appliances and Shipping Managment


 
Attention: If you have access to very early Bradley stencil machines, the bigger ones with 1 ¼ and 1 ½ inch letter size — 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 and Bradley stencil cutting machines
Machine Name die (punch) size market launch
Bradley Machines
Bradley Horizontal ½ inch 1893
Bradley Horizontal ¾ inch 1893
Bradley Standard "Style F" ¼ inch ca 1917
Bradley Standard "Style F" ½ inch ca 1915
Bradley Standard "Style E" ¾ inch ca 1915
Bradley Standard 1 ¼ inch ca 1922
Bradley Standard "Style H" 1 ½ inch ca 1915
Bradley Standard "Gigant" 1 ¾ inch ca 1915
Bradley Model K ½ inch 1922
Bradley Model J ½ inch 1922
Diagraph Machines
Diagraph Jumbo 1 ¾ inch ca 1917
Diagraph size 1 1/2 1 ½ inch pre 1937
Diagraph size 1 1/4 1 ¼ inch pre 1937
Diagraph size 7/8 7/8 inch pre 1917
Diagraph size 3/4 ¾ inch pre 1937
Diagraph size 1/2 ½ inch pre 1917
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 1948 / pre 1943
Diagraph-Bradley size 3/4 ¾ inch pre 1943
Diagraph-Bradley size 1/2 ½ inch 1948 / pre 1943
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 2 2 inch
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.
 

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