Markwell is a company with a long and fascinating history. It began in 1919 when two brothers, Lou and Abe Obstfeld, went into partnership making marking devices. Both brothers had a background in these industries and wanted to strike out on their own. As a matter of fact, this manufacturing of marking devices is the origin of the company name, Mark-Well. Their entry into the stapler business began when they discovered a stapler company, Acme, and contracted with them to make Markwell’s first fastener, the Model 176 Tacker in 1920. It should be noted that Markwell is still in business today.
In the 1920’s the brothers hired their first employee, William Drypolcher. William went to night school while employed at Markwell and successfully studied to become an engineer. In 1929 he filed his first patent application which was for a stapler that was later released by Markwell and would end up being called the “RTP”. He continued filing patents for staplers and stapler-related items, such as staple removers, through the early 1950’s.
newspaper advertisement from February 19, 1935. Note the mention of the RB-2 which is an RTP type stapler but clearly showing an illustration of the RX 45
That brings us to 1934 and a patent that was filed for Mr. Drypolcher on September 19. This patent wasn’t granted until four years later but Markwell didn’t wait that long to start manufacturing . The earliest advertisement for the Markwell RX 45 stapler was from February 19, 1935 – only five months from the patent filing date. It is entirely plausible that manufacturing took place as early as 1934.
1937 magazine ad
The RX 45 was advertised from 1935 to 1943. It is a light-duty desk stapler that can staple, pin and tack. Weighing 10 ounces empty and measuring 5″ L x 1.875″ W x 3.125″ H it is made entirely of nickel-plated steel. This all-steel construction coupled with a very utilitarian design made the RX 45 tough and dependable. This stapler was replaced after the war with newer model staplers.
I had mentioned above that Markwell’s earliest fastener, the Model 176, was made for them by Acme. Starting in the early 1930’s they arranged with the Boston Wire Stitcher Co, or Bostitch, to manufacture all of their staplers for them. This arrangement continued until 1994 when Bostitch informed Markwell that it would cease manufacturing fasteners for Markwell.
1943 newspaper advertisement
The RX 45 uses a proprietary size staple, coincidentally called the “RX” staple. They can still be found if you look hard enough.
The RX 45 didn’t get a cool name like “Staple Master” or “Pacemaker” like its younger siblings but that doesn’t take anything away from this great little stapler. If you find one today it is likely to work just as well now as it did 80 years ago.
Patent and Other Information:
- White and Leonard Stationery (1935, February), advertisement, The Salisbury Times, page 8
- Deming Drug Co (1937, March), advertisement, The Deming Headlight, page 16
- Jeffersonian Democrat (1939, February), advertisement, The Jeffersonian Democrat, page 10
- Olney Enterprise (1941, May), advertisement, Olney Enterprise, page 5
- Butte Bottlers Supply Co (1943, February), advertisement, Montana Standard, page 2
- Opland, Sam (2011, June). Markwell Manufacturing Co Inc Historical Notes. Retrieved from http://mrkwll.com/history/history.html
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