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Over a hundred years of trowels

by Leon A. Frechette

Have you every wondered what it would be like to handle a concrete project or install masonry bricks without some type of mason's trowel? It would be difficult to tackle such a project. Similarly, if the tool you were using wasn't worth the money you invested in it, you wouldn't be able to achieve a professional finish. I guess that's what happened to John Stine, a stone mason in Marshalltown, Iowa, around 1890. Dissatisfied with the quality of his trowel, he went to a local machine shop to see if owner Dave Lennox could build a better one. While Lennox incorporated many of Stine's suggestions into the new trowel, he turned the trowel making over to two of his apprentices—E.L. and J.C. Williams—who ran with the project.

Pleased with his new trowel, Stine showed it off to other masons who quickly recognized its advantages. To meet the demand of incoming orders, the Williams brothers opened their own machine shop and set out to produce additional trowels for the masonry industry. It took twelve years before the business really began to take off. Initially the boys concentrated on manufacturing and devoted only "leftover" time to selling. Luckily for them, a master salesman and promoter bought an interest in the company in 1905. Through his funding and numerous contacts, Marshalltown's name spread throughout the country and the Marshalltown Trowel Company was born.

Marshalltown TrowelThere are no known photos of the trowels produced in the early 1900s. At that time Marshalltown used line art in their catalogues; photos weren't used until the later part of the 1920s. Fortunately, after searching their archives for months, the factory came up with a photo of a concrete finishing trowel from 1927. As you can see, the basic concept hasn't changed much.

Through the years, the company's Marshalltown brand name pro line has expanded beyond hand tools for the masonry trades. They now offer hand tools for the drywall, plastering, and flooring professions as well:

1. In 1982, the company tapped into the consumer market by introducing a less expensive line, NU-PRIDE®, consisting of tools ideal for the homeowner.

2. In 1992, a third line, Quality Line Tools (or QLT), was established to offer value-priced quality for professionals.

3. In 1993, the DuraSoft handle was introduced and rapidly adopted by the industry.

4. In 1998, the PermaShape line—superior from first use and throughout the life of the tool—was released.

Concern for the environment has led Marshalltown to stop production of bronze products in favor of zinc because the manufacturing process for bronze creates pollutants. However, there is no cause for alarm; tools already on the market have no negative impact on our environment.

It's interesting to learn where some of their tools have been used throughout history; for example, during World War I, American soldiers stationed in France reported that masons building Pershing Stadium near Paris used Marshalltown trowels. Marshalltown tools were also used in the renovation of the Statue of Liberty and in the construction of both Hoover Dam and the Alaskan Pipeline.

In 2000, their tools have helped recreate history in Great Britain with the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London. The tuck pointing trowels were the unanimous choice of the Globe rebuild team.

Marshalltown products are available throughout the world—Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico.

As Marshalltown continues to design, test, and improve tools, they remain committed to producing quality hand tools and maintaining good business relationships with their customers. This excellent service has enabled them to manufacture and supply the world with hand tools for over one hundred years.

Copyright © 2000 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved. Information used in
this article, in whole or in part, was supplied by Marshalltown Trowel Company.

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