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A short history of the Marsh Stencil Machine Company

The beginning of the history of the Marsh Stencil Machine Company is linked to that of the Ideal Stencil Machine Company.

In 1911, a group of investors led by George Remnsnider founded the third stencil machine company in Belleville, Illinois - the Ideal Stencil Machine Company. One of them was 42-year-old self-made businessman John William Marsh. John W. Marsh was treasurer and first secretary of the sales department and later director of the Ideal Stencil Machine Company. During this period, the Ideal No. 1 machine (1911), invented by George Remnsnider, was launched against competition from Bradley and Diagraph with a huge marketing effort. This was followed by the Ideal No. 2 (1913) and No. 3 (1916) for smaller stencil sizes. The First World War increased the volume of freight in the USA to such an extent that the new Ideal company was able to sell its machines and establish itself. However, John W Marsh was unhappy that Ideal had not diversified further. Essential consumables that can compensate for slow periods in machine sales are inks, ink applicators and stencil board. Around 1917, he and his two sons, Walton Charles Marsh (Walt) and Eugene John Marsh (Gene), began planning the formation of a new company.

After the First World War, John W. Marsh, now over 50 years old, decided to start his own business. To this end, he sold all his interests in the Ideal Stencil Machine Company towards the end of 1920 and resigned from all his positions at Ideal on 17 January 1921. He then incorporated Marsh Shipping Service Inc. (formal date was December 21, 1920.), with himself as president, his sons Walt Marsh as general manager and E. J. Marsh as sales manager. A factory building was leased at 707 East B Street, Belleville, IL, production was set up and the first employees were hired. One of the first brand products was Marsh Stencil Machine Ink. Other products were ink applicators like the Marsh Fountain Brush and stencil (oil) board. All of this was done with the Marsh logo design, which is still distinctive today.

Around March 1922, the company was renamed the Marsh Stencil Machine Company. A folder was distributed to interested parties with documentation on the first Marsh stencil machine. Towards the end of 1922, the machine was shown to the public for the first time at the 19th New York Business Show.

The American Bakers Machinery Association, of which Diagraph Stencil Machine Corp. was a member, then sued Mr Stephen D. Hartog (the patent holder of the machines Diagraph manufactured) and the Marsh Stencil Machine Company for injunctive relief. However, Judge Crow found that Diagraph had taken unfair advantage of Mr Hartog by using his invention without adequately compensating him. The case was dismissed in early 1923.

The first Marsh machine advertised in late 1922 was the Model 75 (ca. 100 machines built), which cut ¾ inch type, soon followed in 1923 by the Model A which also cut ¾ inch type. A lot of development work went into making a better machine and ink applicators. Several patents were filled - e.g. George F. Fuchs (US Pat. 1.531.383, 1923) and Walt C. Marsh (US Pat 2.067.702, 1934). Later patents from the 1940s on were invented by Herbert W. Hempel (US Pat. 2.331.978, 1939) like many other inventions for Marsh. Hempel went on to become vice-president of the company.

In September 1923, the company was fined $1000 in federal court in St. Louis for false billing. In at least 10 instances, the company had billed lower-quality oil board as higher-grade board.

The company was growing and had a sufficient return on capital and in December 1925 John. W. Marsh purchased the previously leased factory building and land at 707 East B Street. Non-Marsh investors were gradually bought out until the company was owned by the family.

As with the Ideal company, John W. Marsh, Walt and Gene Marsh were savvy sales and marketing people with extensive experience in direct mail advertising. Major sales, such as the sale of machines to the US Navy in January 1925 or September 1929, were announced in the press and provided free publicity. Even the production of two-colour printing for direct mailings and the use of cartoons were worthy of a press release in December 1925. Of course, the design of the advertisements was new and well done.

Ideal and Diagraph-Bradley also adopted the cartoon look, although they never matched the quality of Marsh's advertising. From the 1940s, Marsh also used high-quality, full-colour illustrations and photographs.

Compared to Diagraph-Bradley and Ideal, Marsh did the most advertising. During the Second World War it was very patriotic. Some of the slogans seem uncomfortably funny today.

John W. Marsh, born on 16 November 1869, Marsh's first president, died in 1935 at the age of just 65. According to the December 1919 issue of Office Appliances, commemorating J. W. Marsh's 50th birthday, he began working at the age of 14 in a dry goods store for 20 years and in a stove shop for another 9 years before becoming sales manager and treasurer of the Ideal Stencil Machine Company, where he remained until 1920. He was a member of the Belleville Philharmonic Orchestra, its conductor from 1923 to 1935, and a respected citizen and musician in the community.

Over the years, Marsh has evolved and invented new technologies in the packaging industry. In 1988, Marsh Stencil Machine Company was renamed Marsh Company.

In the 1990s, however, the growing digitalization of the printing and packaging industry created major problems for many midsize companies in these fields. In 1996, to celebrate its 75th anniversary, Marsh published a book on its own history. Just two years later, however, the family-owned company was sold to Videojet Technologies Inc. of Wood Dale, Illinois, a Danaher Corp. company since 2002. The old Marsh factory in Bellville, Illinois, was closed.

On December 20, 2000, former employees formed MSSC LLC (Marsh Shipping Supply Company) in Collinsville, Il. to continue the production and support of manual Marsh stencil machines. Until 2006, MSSC actively used the MARSH brand on its website and in its advertising. It can be speculated that there may have been difficulties with the Videojet company or that the MARSH logo and trademark was only allowed to be used for a transitional period. Today, the Marsh name and trademark are no longer used by MSSC. The brand color has been changed from red to green and a new logo has been introduced that no longer allows any reference to the old Marsh brand. As a result, the company has lost its brand essence, which is all the more unfortunate since Videojet hardly uses the Marsh brand anymore in 2024 besides traditional inks and marker products.

Formally, Marsh ceased to exist in 1998. The old stencil cutting machines are still made by the small company MSSC LLC. The important oilboard or stencil board is still produced by MSSC or on their behalf.

Side note:
All four of the factories that made stencil cutting machines at the time, Bradley, Diagraph, Ideal and Marsh, were located within a very short radius of each other. Bradley and Diagraph were in St Louis, Missouri, and Ideal and Marsh were in the much smaller town of Belleville, Illinois. Both towns are separated by the state line and the Mississippi River, but are within sight of each other. The area has been shaped by many immigrants, especially Germans since 1835. This is evidenced by the German-born names of the people involved, such as Remnsnider, Fuchs and Hempel. The Marsh ancestors emigrated from England in 1844.


news and adverts in vintage trade magazines:
Office Appliances, Cotton, Shipping Managment, Business Week, D&W, ...
Making Their Mark in the World, The History of the Marsh Company Belleville, Illinois, 75. Anniversary, 1996 selfpublished by Marsh Company

Marsh Stencil Fonts

Looking for a font that looks like it came from a Marsh stencil-cutting machine?

Try this one: Vtg Stencil Marsh

models of Marsh stencil cutting machines
Machine Name
die (punch) size
weight: lbs/kg
weight: lbs/kg
weight: lbs/kg
size in inch
market launch
Model 75 ¾ inch - - - - 1922 - 1925
Model A ¾ inch - - - 21x16x10 Q4 1923 - 1940
Model M ½ inch - - - 21x16x10 1925 - 1940
introducing casted punches
Model R 1 inch 145 / 66 125 / 57 - 24x18x10 1940
Model S ¾ inch 100 / 45 95 / 43 - 21x16x10 1940
Model H ½ inch 100 / 45 95 / 43 - 21x16x10 1940
Model Q ¼ inch 100 / 45 95 / 43 - 21x16x10 ca. 1956
first electric machines, 1946 — 47
Model ER 1 inch - 150 / 68 119 / 54 - 1947
Model ES ¾ inch - 120 / 54 98 / 45 - 1947
Model EH ½ inch - 120 / 54 98 / 45 - 1947
Model EQ ¼ inch - 120 / 54 98 / 45 - 1947
ER, ES, EH, EQ electric models

All trademarks mentioned belong to their respective owners.


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