R&I Industry Scrapbook Part 2

Copyright © 2004 by Davis Multimedia, Int'l. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in January 2004, Volume 29, No. 7 of The Engravers Journal.
By Kristin Huff
 

    

This photo of a ski engraver was one of the special purpose machines, circa 1963 from Scott Machine Development Corp. Walton, NY. The New Hermes ITF (circa 1962) was designed as an “industrial” pantograph. The basic design centers around a flat base which facilitates holding large, thin items in a flat position with full support underneath. The fixed-ratio New Hermes Model G (circa 1950) was intended for the retail field and had a number of special jigs available.
During the engraving of the Lord’s Prayer, the engraver had to remove the cutter whenever a dust particle settled on the pin because the dust particle would obscure his view. This British made Alexander Model 2SG (circa 1978) had a sliding gate mechanism for engraving on extremely large objects. The Francis Engraving Machine, circa 1880.

     The “industrial revolution” brought dramatic changes to the world, a trend which gained momentum as the world entered the 20th century and was reshaped by mass production and mass markets. Henry Ford was the first to perfect the production line, churning out cars and changing the face of the country. But horse-drawn carriages weren’t the only thing to be mechanized a century ago. Pantographs, which had been around in one form or another for hundreds of years, were about to shake up the world of engraving, which up to that time had been dominated by a small but fiercely independent group of hand engravers.
    But before we get to the role of the pantograph in the 19th and 20th century personalization markets, we must back up several hundred years to its invention. Perhaps you’ve been around in the industry long enough to have used one; before today’s computerized engraving machines existed, the pantograph was the only widely used method engravers had to engrave objects (besides doing it by hand). But to many people who entered the industry after 1980, the pantograph is probably a foreign object – a forlorn and lonely machine that’s sitting, covered with dust, in the back of the shop. The pantograph doesn’t get used as much these days, but there was a time when it was the only show in town.

Ben Werfel headed the newly created Hermes Plastics Inc., from 1947 until 1967, when his employment ended. Werfel later started his own engraving supply company, Beseme Products.

 

 

Mico Instrument Company, Cambridge, MA, produced this six-ratio standard engraver for light and medium duty engraving tasks.

 

 

 

The first salesman hired by New Hermes was Paul Kahn in October 1945. Paul went where ever he was needed in those early days.

 

 

 

The Eaton and Glover engraving machine, circa 1901. Photo courtesy of Rick Davies.

 

 

 


A Pantograph Is Born
    The invention of the pantograph in the 1630s is widely attributed to a German named Christoph Scheiner. Born in Wald, Germany, in 1573, Scheiner was a talented mathematician and scientist. He is said to have created the pantograph as a device for copying and enlarging drawings. The user was able to change the scale of a reproduction by changing the position of the arms in the linkage between the pointer arm and the drawing arm.
    In its earliest form, the pantograph was used as a copy machine – a series of arms that were connected to each other to form a parallelogram with pivot points that allowed the members to move in a fixed, parallel relationship to the opposing members. One arm contained a pointer, while the other contained a drawing tool. A pattern (or text) was traced with the pointer, and the other arm duplicated the movement on the piece that was to be copied.
    Although widely credited as Scheiner’s invention, the pantograph is rumored to have been around for a millennia. Some believe that even Leonardo Da Vinci used one to make duplicates of drawings, and that Michelangelo used one for copying busts. Much of the history of the pantograph has been lost to the ages, but it’s certain that through the years sculptors and artists used a pantograph to trace patterns onto canvas for reproducing paintings, and later, onto blocks of marble and wood, as a guide for carving statues.


George Berlant was hired as the shop foreman for the newly established Hermes Engraving Company, created to engrave 3.5 million phenolic identification tags for New York City school children. Berlant became vice president of engineering and worked at New Hermes from 1942 until 1986.

The “high base GT” was the backbone of New Hermes’ jewelry and trophy engraving machines during the 1950s. It featured engraving ratios from 2.5:1 to 6:1, and its pivoting pantograph was renowned for its tendency to cause distorted engraving.

 

The Vigor Engraving Machine, New York, NY, circa 1964, was sold to jewelers by watch material suppliers.

 

 

The New Hermes Model GM-2, circa 1980. This Gorton heavy duty pantograph (circa 1976) was used here for 3-D machining of a turbine wheel. A close up of the tool head on the Francis Engraving machine, circa 1880.

    In the late 1700s, the pantograph advanced in functionality when it was adopted by the printing trade. Until that time, printers had to carve letters by hand (printing type); with the use of the pantograph, printers could create letters for printing faster and more consistently, thanks to Guttenberg’s invention of the concept of “movable type” in his printing press. When you think about how many letters there are in one newspaper article (let alone the whole newspaper!) you can imagine what a boon the pantograph was to printers everywhere.
    Thomas Jefferson is said to have used a version of the pantograph as well. In 1770, Jefferson was
devastated when a fire destroyed his family home, burning all his papers and books. He encountered another loss ten years later as governor of Virginia, when the British raided Richmond. Our nation’s third president was known for both the quality and quantity of his writing, and he meticulously recorded journal entries about the particulars of his days. Especially after suffering the loss of so much of his work, Jefferson was concerned with preserving it, and he spent many hours painstakingly copying his correspondence by hand. What he really needed was a copy machine.
    Benjamin Franklin to the rescue! In 1780, Franklin first brought the idea of a copying machine to Jefferson’s attention. Franklin had been dabbling with a copy machine concept of his own when he learned of one that had already been built by James Watt, an inventor who also created the steam engine. Watt’s creation was somewhat different from the pantograph as we know it today – it consisted of a slow-drying ink and damp tissue paper which worked by pressing the tissue to the paper, then again on a new page to create the transfer. Franklin sent Jefferson one of Watt’s machines in 1780, and Jefferson liked the machine so much that he made it portable and used it for more than 20 years.

An attachment from the Scripta Machine Tool Corp. of Fairfield, NJ., circa 1979, turned almost any pantograph into a reversing pantograph, allowing for mechanically reversing of the image for reverse engraving.

 

In 1954 Marcel Vitoux (French engineer and inventor of the Vitos Silk Stocking Mending Machine) approached Schimmel and proposed that his French company manufacture parts for New Hermes engraving machines. An alliance between New Hermes and Gravograph was born.

This Gorton heavy duty floor pantograph was manufactured by Lars Machine, Inc., Racine, WI, around 1980.

 

 


    In the early 1800s, Jefferson switched to a machine that more closely resembled today’s pantograph. Developed by John Isaac Hawkins, this new machine was comprised of as many as five pens that were held in place by a series of horizontal and vertical arms. Any movement of one pen was duplicated by the other four, so that up to four copies of a document could be made at once. As an early copy machine, it got the job done, and it was an advancement in the pantograph’s long journey toward the world of engraving.
    Another modern invention has its roots in the early days of the pantograph – the fax machine. Taking the copy machine concept a step further was Briton Alexander Bain, who in 1843 created a device that consisted of two pens connected to two pendulums, which in turn were joined to a wire that could reproduce writing on an electrically conductive surface. The concept took another step forward in 1862 thanks to Italian Giovanni Caselli. He built a machine that was part pantograph, part telegraph (called, appropriately enough, the pantelegraph) that was based on Bain’s invention but included a synchronizing contraption. The pantelegraph was used by the French Post & Telegraph agency between Paris and Marseilles from 1856 to 1870.
Werner Dannheisser joined Schimmel at New Hermes as a full partner in 1939 after Gene Kapp (Schimmel’s original partner) decided to leave. Dannheisser handled the company financial matters. A Gorton Model P 1-2 industrial pantograph from Lars Machine, Inc., (circa 1979) had a roll-indexing fixture that provided accuracy when machining an “0” ring groove.

This New Hermes Tennis Racquet Engraver (circa 1978) was one of their machines for niche markets.

 


    After 1870, the fax and pantograph parted ways, each being taken forward in different directions. The pantograph took its next step forward as the industrial revolution unfolded, when the device was refined so as to utilize variable ratios and to have the ability to perform machining operations.
Early Engraving Machines
    As people began exploring the various uses of the pantograph, engravers picked up on the machine and adapted it to their needs. Until that time, pantographs had been used for tracing and copying on flat surfaces. In the mid-to late-1800’s, someone had the idea to replace the drawing tool with an engraving tool, and the modern-day pantograph engraving machine was born.
    Among the first pantograph machines to be used expressly for engraving was the Francis Engraving Machine, invented by Allan Everett Francis of Garrettsville, OH. In 1881, Francis received U.S. patent 238,882 for “new and useful improvements in engraving machines.” The Francis machine was small enough to sit on a table top, and it worked in much the same way as modern pantographs do, by tracing a grooved pattern with a stylus to reproduce and engrave a design onto a work-piece.
    The Francis pantograph contained parts that could be adjusted to accommodate varying thicknesses of objects that were to be engraved. It was also able to engrave objects at different ratios. The work holder could be swiveled in a circle to allow the easy positioning of the engraving. And one of the biggest advancements of the Francis machine was an attachment for inside ring engraving. Francis offered a variety of ornate photo-engraved zinc type fonts, which were bent into an “L” shape so as to enable the letters to be locked in place by the vise-like oak copy table.


One drawing from the March 15, 1881 patent for the A.E. Francis Engraving Machines. These two pages are from the Eaton & Glover, NY, NY, New Century Machine training manual, circa 1901.

    One of the most unique aspects of the Francis machine was the look of the engraving it produced. A steel graver (similar to a hand engraving tool) actually cut into the surface of the metal (as opposed to today’s method of using a diamond graver to scratch the surface) and created a look that was similar to the “hand engraved” or “bright cut” look that was widely accepted then. This cut was made by hand engravers by pushing a V-shaped graver through the metal; the ensuing cut was wide and brilliant. The Francis machine was able to duplicate this look by using a swivel that would allow the graver to be rotated in a circle. Manually controlling the swivel mechanism, while simultaneously using the correct pressure and positioning to engrave a piece, was a feat in dexterity and skill that took time and patience to learn.
    Used primarily by jewelers to engrave watches and rings, the Francis machine’s output closely resembled hand engraving. The Francis machine became quite popular, and the machine shown in figure XX was even rumored to have been used to engrave the casket plate for the coffin of one of the nation’s most infamous bad guys, John Dillinger, after he was gunned down by early FBI agents outside Chicago’s Biograph Theatre.
    Interestingly, the Francis machine was around for quite a long time, from the early 1880s until sometime around or after 1920. During those years Francis sold a lot of machines both to jewelers and to various funeral-related concerns, including undertakers and casket manufacturers. In our article titled “Don Knapp: Sixty-Five Years of Engraving” (Jan/Feb 1981), the late EJ subscriber Don Knapp reported that he began his 65 year engraving career using a Francis machine while working in a jewelry store in Howell, MI.
    Another early pantograph to become popular was from The Eaton & Glover Co., New York, NY. Invented by William T. Goodnow of Sayre, PA and William S. Eaton of Sag Harbor, NY, Eaton & Glover’s “New Century” Engraving Machine was another option for engravers who were looking to automate work and perhaps speed up their engraving jobs. Eaton & Glover’s machine was patented under U.S. patent 729,758, which was filed September 7, 1901.
    A New Century Machine manual, kindly sent to EJ by retired EJ subscriber Rick Davies, extols the benefits of using the machine (“Remember that it would take you MONTHS and YEARS to learn how to engrave by hand!”) and gives pointers on how to engrave with the new machine (“You will do a better job by going slowly at first.”).


Unidentified young man operating an Eaton and Glover engraving machine, circa 1901. Photo courtesy of Rick Davies.

 

Nobert Schimmel founded New Hermes in 1938 and began manufacturing portable engraving machines in the U.S. because there were none available. He also served as the first salesman, operating out of the office on 42nd Street in New York, photo circa 1983.

    The New Century machine had the capability of engraving inside rings, in spoon bowls, in the bottom of deep dishes and in all kinds of places that would be difficult for a hand engraver to work. Like the Francis machine, the New Century was also promoted as an invaluable tool for both jewelers and undertakers. The practice of engraving coffin plates was much more common at the turn of the century (around 1900 that is), when the Francis and New Century machines were in their prime. Both machines could be used to greatly speed up the process of engraving plates for the coffins that carried the area’s recently departed. The New Century’s user’s manual contained an entire section on the engraving of coffin plates, including an explanation of how to use the coffin plate holder that came with the machine.
    The Eaton & Glover machine can be called a “manual engraving machine” but it's not really based on the pantograph principle. Instead it utilizes a “gimbals” mechanism with other mechanical linkages to reproduce the design on the photo engraved zinc master copy type.
    Eaton & Glover helpfully included detailed descriptions in its manuals not only on how to set up, test, practice with and use the New Century, but it included sections on how to engrave and shade with various typefaces, how to hold pieces, and how to use the company’s patented “linograph” type, which entwined letters to form monograms. The makers of the New Century engraver promised benefits such as ease of use, consistency of engraving, and most of all, savings in money and time if the user bought the pantograph. Moreover, it warned ominously, if you don’t have the ability to do this kind of work, your customers will just go down the street to your competitor, and you can bet he will be able to do it for them. With that kind of incentive, who could afford not to buy one of the early machines?
Industrial Machines & Espionage
    By the early 1900s, the industrial revolution was changing the way the world worked, and engraving and pantographs advanced as well. New companies were being created to sell new types of pantographs, and this revolution took place mostly in Europe. The European machines differed significantly from the Francis and Eaton & Glover machines popular in the U.S. and Canada.
    For centuries, the pantograph had been mostly used for two-dimensional or “flat” purposes, meaning the tracer and cutter traveled in a basically flat, two-dimensional plane. But the European machines changed all that. Known as “heavy-duty” industrial engraving machines, they were literally heavy, weighing over 1000 lbs. The industrial machines were used mostly for large-scale applications, such as making molds for vulcanized tires, shoes, silverware, belt buckles, dials, cans, extrusion and coining dies.


The complete Lord's Prayer was engraved on the point of a pin in 1935 using a Gorton Pantomill.

 

Joe Flamm (left) (who also opened the first regional branch office) and Maury Kaufman (who later became the National Accounts Manager) were members of the original New Hermes sales force which began in 1945-46.

    Early heavy-duty machines were capable of enlarging a piece in a fixed ratio (usually 2:1 or 8:1). Users were usually working off a hand-carved wooden model or cast, which was much smaller than the final piece needed to be. In order to get the mold to its proper final size, the engraver would have to first enlarge his hand-carved piece using the pantograph. Then, he’d enlarge the new, larger piece, following with an enlargement of that piece. This process would continue until the desired size of a piece was achieved. (Quite a difference from typing in the proper size you want a piece to be and clicking a button!)
    Germany was a leader in creating large industrial pantographs, and several companies flourished there. Friedrich Deckel of Munich, Germany, whose machines were so well-built and precise that they are still in use today, was known as the oldest German manufacturer of industrial pantographs. Another German company, Kulhmann, was similarly well-known for producing quality machines that were a must for heavy-duty industrial applications. Kuhlmann’s started out as a watchmaker’s shop in the German town of Wilhelmshaven in the late 1800s and converted to a precision mechanical shop in 1888 (working mostly for the German Navy). Kuhlmann’s first production of engraving machines began in 1905.
    But industrial machines were not only produced in Germany. British companies Alexander, Taylor Hobson and Newing-Hall produced them too, and these machines were well-known for their rigidity and high precision. Only one American company, Gorton, out of Racine, WI, became a major player in the heavy-duty pantograph business. Gorton machines were so precise that one was once used to engrave The Lord’s Prayer on the point of pin! Stop for a minute and think about what a fine piece of work that is: more than 50 words engraved on the end of a .005" diameter wire (about twice the thickness of a human hair). The work was so fine that the temperature in the room had to be controlled meticulously; the heat from one light bulb shining on the engraving surface would expand the pantograph enough to obliterate the engraving. (To learn more about this amazing piece of work, see “The Complete Lords Prayer Engraved on the Point of a Pin” in the September/October 1975 issue of .)
War!
    Of course, the early 1900s saw more change than the invention of industrial pantographs and the industrial revolution. World War I erupted in 1914. At the time, shell casings were spun from brass on a metal lathe, one at a time, by hand. As you can imagine, it was a slow process and artillery shells for America and its allies were desperately needed. Someone along the line had a brilliant idea: why not link several arms together with a mechanical arm to do several cuttings at once? One worker could then produce 12 shell casings in the time it previously took to produce one. The U.S. Navy agreed this was a very good idea indeed and quickly adapted the 3-D pantograph for use in arsenals and for the production of parts for ships. This method spread quickly to aid in the construction of trains and trolleys.
    The World Wars touched every part of the world, and the engraving industry was not left out. Heavy-duty pantograph manufacturers Deckel (German) and Alexander (British) became embroiled in controversy when the First World War began. Legend has it that when the war broke out, the British company, Alexander, had a distributor selling its machines in Munich, Germany. With the onset of the War, the countries became enemies and it was neither legal nor patriotic to import British pantographs into Germany. So, the Germans appropriated (some might even say “ripped off!”) the Alexander machine design and began selling it under the Deckel name.
    Both companies continued to produce the pantographs, and of course, Deckel was not about to stop selling its copies of Alexander’s machines once the War ended in 1918. Indeed, Deckel continued developing and refining their pantographs and became one of the (if not the) biggest names in Europe selling heavy-duty industrial engravers. Then, in 1939, the Second World War began. When that war was over in 1945, Alexander returned the favor of the First World War by copying Deckel’s patented machines and selling them itself!
The New Hermes GTX Super series machines served as the backbone of the New Hermes line for many years starting in 1959. They were designed to accommodate odd-shaped, cylindrical and flat objects from very small to relatively large. The New Hermes GTX-3 Universal (circa 1968) much like the GTX-L Super, only larger, was designed to accommodate large items like a 15" diameter Revere bowl.

Taking the World by Storm: New Hermes
    The advancement of the pantograph was not only taking place in Europe. While the major industrial machine manufacturers were gaining speed and refining their machines, two German immigrants were about to affect the lives of engravers everywhere by creating a machine that “any unskilled operator could use.”
    For centuries, virtually all personalization on jewelry, watches, household items and other small objects was performed by hand engravers. Hand engraving was a highly skilled profession, taking years to learn and perfect. Traditionally, hand engravers had closely guarded their art, revealing techniques and methods to apprentices only after several years of work. Hand engraving, while beautiful, was a very slow, painstaking process, and it also required that the item to be engraved was “engravable” – alloys such as sterling silver, 14K gold, etc. Turn-of-the century manufacturers Francis and Eaton & Glover started the personalization ball rolling but their machines were not exactly user friendly and they faded into oblivion before the evolution of the personalization mass market that developed in the post WWII years
    Enter Norbert Schimmel and Werner Dannheisser. Schimmel fled Nazi persecution, coming to the United States with his wife in 1938. In Germany, Schimmel had gained mechanical experience and worked in the shoe machine business. When he arrived in the U.S., he met Gene Kapp, another German immigrant, who owned a European machine that was designed to engrave fountain pens. Kapp approached Schimmel with the idea to manufacture and sell a similar machine in the United States, which was then just emerging from the Great Depression.
    Schimmel took time to research the engraving market and found that there weren’t any similar lightweight machines available in the U.S. The two formed a partnership in 1938 and created the New Hermes Corporation, choosing the name “New Hermes” because their first choice, “Hermes” (the ancient Greek God of commerce and industry), was already taken by a well known typewriter manufacturer.
    Kapp left the company after about a year, and he sold his shares to Schimmel. Times were very tough then and reportedly, when Schimmel needed some capital to sustain his new venture, he turned to another recent German immigrant, Werner Dannheisser. The two men contracted with Helmuth Waldorf to produce their first engraving machine, the Model G. This early machine was lightweight and portable, and it operated on a fixed 5:1 pantograph ratio. Most important, it was easy to operate. Schimmel believed that for the engraving industry to flourish, and for New Hermes to sell its products, engraving had to leave the arena of a few elite engravers and become a trade that any unskilled operator could master. They achieved this goal with the early New Hermes machines, and after establishing an office in New York, the pair began selling in earnest. Schimmel took over the sales aspect of the business while Dannheisser handled the finances.
    Word spread about the New Hermes machines, and the company landed its first big sale with a contract to sell 250 machines to the Woolworth “dime-store” chain. As part of the deal, Schimmel agreed to travel to the various Woolworth stores and teach employees to use the new machine. New Hermes began to acquire other accounts, and as time passed, they worked to modify and improve their pantographs. Before long, New Hermes machines were available with special adapters for engraving inside rings, flatware and pens, and for holding jewelry. They also created a machine that actually had two separate pantographs so as to be able to engrave at two different ratios.
    New Hermes was really starting to gain steam when, in December of 1941, the United States entered World War II. Dannheisser was drafted into the Army, and across the country the production of all non-essential items stopped to allow resources to be applied toward the war effort. The materials and need for engraving ground to a halt – a circumstance that might have killed off a lesser company. Since jewelry was considered a luxury and most industrial materials were rationed according to a war department priority scheme, Woolworth’s stopped selling most jewelry and then returned all of their leased pantographs to New Hermes.


A New Hermes Glass Engraving machine, circa 1974, allowed the user to engrave glassware.

 

The New Hermes' Mini-Grav (circa 1986) was a new concept in niche machines. Weighing less than 5 lbs., it was used for on-site or promotional engraving of small jewelry and gift items.

An inspection of assembled ITM New Hermes pantographs at the Gravograph facility in La Chapelle St. Luc, France in 1986.

 


    But Schimmel was not deterred by the war, and he applied himself toward finding something to do that would benefit both the war effort and his company. He found his answer in children’s identification tags. The New York City Board of Education, fearing the city might be the target of a German bombing, decided to have dog tags made for all children enrolled in the city’s schools. Metal was scarce, so the government mandated the tags be made of plastic. The Bakelite Corporation of American received a contract to make 3.5 million phenolic ID tags, and they commissioned a newly-created New Hermes subsidiary, Hermes Engravers, to engrave them.
    Schimmel’s easily-operated machine turned out to be very beneficial in those dog-tag days. Hermes Engravers rented space at Broadway and 12th Street and set up hundreds of engraving machines, quickly hiring and training people to use the machines and engrave the tags. The job lasted throughout the war years as lost tags had to be replaced and children entering school needed new tags.
    While Hermes Engravers was humming along, engraving ID tags as well as other, war-related jobs (they engraved, for example, Purple Hearts for the Quartermaster Corps in Philadelphia), the production of New Hermes engraving machines had halted almost completely. In 1946, once the war was over, New Hermes had to start over again to find and build a market for its engraving machines. Schimmel and Dannheisser again turned to the jewelry industry.
    Hand engravers were aging, and as they died, jewelers were increasingly turning to New Hermes machines for their engraving needs. But most jewelers had still never heard of New Hermes or its highly versatile machines.
    What’s more, some of the jewelers who catered to the carriage trade actually scoffed at machine engraving. To spread the word more effectively, the company decided to create a sales force, beginning with salesman Paul Kahn. As the sales division grew, word spread about the New Hermes pantographs and what they could do for engraving. The salesmen were helped by a breakthrough in New Hermes technology in 1947, when a “better way of engraving” was created: the scratch cut, later known as diamond drag engraving. Company legend has it that the method was discovered when a New Hermes salesman in the New York office forgot to turn on the rotating cutter motor during his demonstration, and the Pennsylvania jeweler who saw the resulting, brilliant scratch created by the broken carbide cutters exclaimed “That’s the look I want!” The non-rotating diamond-graver was born shortly afterwards.
    And, while few people realized it at the time, the advent of the diamond graver coincided with the unfolding of the postwar mass market for costume jewelry. Not only were more “common folks” able to afford mass-produced, mass marketed jewelry, the nature of the merchandise changed, from precious metal alloys to various plated base metals. This began to put the squeeze on hand engravers who had difficulty hand engraving the hard and/or “chewy” metals used in inexpensive jewelry.
    New Hermes worked to constantly improve its products and supply customers with the materials they needed. The company took a step forward in 1947 with the creation of Hermes Plastics (the subsidiary that would later revolutionize the engraving industry with the first flexible engraving stock, known as Gravoply, in 1963). The year 1948 saw the creation of variable-ratio pantographs. In the 1950s the first really practical inside ring engraver, the model RV, was introduced, and the company struck a deal with Frenchman Marcel Vitoux to manufacture parts of the New Hermes machines in France. Together, New Hermes and Vitoux, created what is today known as Gravograph-New Hermes.
    By this time, New Hermes had a foot in the then miniscule trophy and industrial engraving markets and was expanding into signage too. Before long, New Hermes was fulfilling engraving needs everywhere, and it grew to be, for all intents and purposes, the only big name in engraving machines in the U.S. The company was huge, primarily because Schimmel understood the United States engraving industry like few others. Not only did he understand it, he backed up his products with more marketing muscle than the industry had ever seen. Schimmel recognized the potential for the personalization market and he capitalized on it, shrewdly expanding into markets that didn’t even realize they needed engraving machines until the New Hermes salesmen told them so.
Much of the credit for New Hermes’ success goes to its people. At one point about 1980, New Hermes and its European affiliate, Gravograph, had over 200 dedicated employees. And whereas most of the competition had little or no sales force, New Hermes had dozens of reps covering every inch of the U.S. and Canada, plus at least one dealer in every major foreign country. Schimmel spent big on advertising and marketing and it paid off big.
Marketing Machine
    As we mentioned previously, the heavy-duty engraving machines were quite popular in Europe, but the only American-made machine of the sort was made by Gorton. At the same time, New Hermes was taking North America by storm with their small, lightweight machines that were perfect for personalizing trophies, jewelry and signage. Some say that New Hermes was so big that for every large, industrial machine sold by a company like Gorton or Deckel, New Hermes sold 100 pantographs. Why did the big machines remain largely in Europe while the smaller machines took off in the United States?
    A combination of factors was the cause. For one thing, the United States has always been much more focused on the individual and on individual accomplishments, which naturally lends itself toward the smaller personalization markets such as trophies, name tags and desk plates. While this market has grown in recent years in Europe, it never was and still is not the booming market it is in the U.S. Another factor in the success of the light pantograph in this country was New Hermes’ marketing strategy, which brilliantly allowed it to sell more machines than anyone ever thought possible.


Yves Jullien, president of Gravograph in 1986. This mystery engraving machine photo was sent to us a number of years ago. We don't know its name or origin. If you do, we'd love to hear from you. Pierre Vitoux, the son of Marcel, became chairman of the board of Vitos Industries (Gravograph) after his father retired.

   Mike Davis, the publisher of EJ, was one of those New Hermes salesmen. He started with the company in 1965, and explains the genius behind New Hermes’ penetration into all kinds of markets.
    “This happened a hundred different times,” says Davis. “I’d go into a town and call on the local jeweler. The guy would say, ‘Gee, I’ve had this machine for 20 years and I hardly ever order anything. I’m the only jeweler in town. How do you make a living selling these machines?’ Then I’d go down the street to the trophy dealer, and it was the same thing. ‘Gee Mike, I have the only trophy shop in town and bought my machine(s) some time ago. I really don’t order very much from you. How do you make a living?’ Then I’d go over to the optometrist. They had a New Hermes machine for engraving the temple stem on eyeglasses, and I sold it to them. ‘How do you make a living?’ they’d say. Then on to the GM plant, who needed tags for their production equipment. ‘Boy, they’d say. There aren’t any more plants like this for hundreds of miles around. How do you make a living here?’ And on I’d go to the hospital, the military base, the local mom and pop trophy shop . . . you get the picture.”
    So many people believed that the engraving market was limited to engravers and trophy shops, and that just wasn’t true. That’s where New Hermes’ strategy really was genius. For every obvious engraving market that you can see, there are many, many others that you don’t see. And New Hermes sold to them all: museums, hotels, nursing homes, restaurants, race tracks, wineries, square dancers – you name it.
    Every time a new market showed promise, New Hermes either developed or packaged equipment to tap into it. As plastics engraving came into vogue, New Hermes introduced a whole series of flatbed machines well suited for badges, nameplates and signs. They also had special machines designed for engraving such items as bowling balls, tennis rackets, bicycles, skis, eye glasses and pens.
    For their core market, the jewelers and later the trophy shops, New Hermes introduced the GTX-Super in 1959, a machine which could engrave practically anything from a tiny ankle bracelet to a tankard, tray or award plaque. The GTX Universal, introduced in 1968, would do everything the GTX-Super would do, plus 22'' wide trays and 15" bowls.
    New Hermes was not, of course, completely without competition. Other pantograph manufacturers tried to get into the game, with limited success. H.P. Preis, out of Hillside, NJ, produced a medium-duty machine, capable of doing both light and heavy work. Scripta Machine Tool Corporation (a French company), with an office in Fairfield, NJ, produced industrial machines that were heavier than the New Hermes pantographs, but were not as high-end as the Deckel and Gorton machines. Scripta marketed their pantographs to people who couldn’t spend the money or didn’t need something as large as the heavy duty machines.
    Other companies that threw their hat into the pantograph ring included Mico, located in Cambridge, MA, and Green Instrument, in Boston, MA. The Scott Machine Development Corporation, out of Walton, NY, competed with New Hermes in the area of plastic nameplates, badges and signage. And Vigor, a European company, worked the jewelry field. Even the Japanese got into the game at one point with their Kantograph line, which was basically a copy of the New Hermes equipment sold in Europe and Asia. None of the pantograph-producing competition understood the mass market like New Hermes, and none flourished with as much success as did New Hermes in its pantograph-selling heyday.
    Part of the reason the competition floundered was that by the time they got rolling, New Hermes already had such name recognition and had permeated so many markets that the others simply could not compete. But the other companies also didn’t have New Hermes’ marketing savvy. The heavy-duty machine manufacturers, for example, would make pantographs to order for each customer, changing the basic design to fit each client’s needs. Typically they catered to industrial companies which had a very specific need to manufacture parts. While this was a great strategy for industrial customers, it was not a very practical way to earn money and grow as a company. This methodology was certainly not suited to the burgeoning post war personalization market.
    New Hermes did nothing of the sort when they sold machines. They offered customers an array of models, and if the client didn’t find what he was looking for, he was out of luck. However, New Hermes machines were so versatile that they could hold and engrave just about any piece of jewelry, trophy, plaque, bowl or tray with little or no improvisation.
    There was, no doubt, an element of luck in New Hermes’ meteoric rise to engraving market dominance during the post war years. The trophy market remained tiny until the rise of participant sports. For example, after the War, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) and Brunswick Corporation began a competitive rivalry building blowing alleys literally in everyone’s home town. Then it didn’t take the bowling proprietors long to figure out that the easiest way for themselves to prosper was to set up leagues with competing teams. The logical outcome of all those competitions was to hand out awards. New Hermes was standing by only too happy to supply the equipment to engrave those awards
The Future Rolls In
    The marriage of the pantograph to the engraving industry took hundreds of years, starting as a copying device and working its way to the heavy-duty and lightweight machines that dominated the industry for most of the 20th century. But although New Hermes became the undisputed leader in pantograph production throughout the world, the company was about to come face-to-face with some serious competition. By the 1970s, New Hermes had grown so large and dominant that they didn’t see the computer revolution that was staring them in the face – even when it started to steal their market share. The computer revolution was coming . . . and New Hermes didn’t realize it until it was almost too late. Check out the next installment of our “R&I Industry Scrapbook Part 3 in March, when a little hippie start-up in San Francisco began beating New Hermes at their own game. It was a change that would alter the lives of engravers forevermore.
We would like to thank Herb Windolf for his invaluable contributions to this article.

 

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