The Williams Brothers Begin in 1890, Jesse and Lester Williams started a small machine shop on East Church Street, repairing bicycles and automobiles, and fulfilling occasional tool orders for local contractors. One local plasterer asked that they customize some tools for him. The customer was pleased with the improved product and more requests trickled in. The Williams brothers made a few more trowels and put them on the market. Word traveled fast and they began receiving orders from outside of the state. Their small shop quickly grew into a manufacturing and mail order business, and the brothers thought they were doing quite well.
The men needed more space and they moved to South 8th Avenue in 1902. They built a two-story machine shop, blacksmith shop and automobile shop, as well as a boiler and engine room and office. They began specializing in trowels and referred to that part of business as “Marshalltown Trowel Works.” Sales increased. The brothers and salesman Albert Higgin officially incorporated “Marshalltown Trowel Company” in 1905.
MARSHALLTOWN relied on word-of-mouth advertising and sold directly to customers who found them. In 1909, however, Jesse and Al embarked on a large marketing campaign. They loaded a sales truck full of trowels and journeyed through the plains, over mountains, and across the country. The men actively pursued sales and created a network of distributors, collecting more orders along the way. Sales grew exponentially throughout the U.S. and Canada. To keep up with demand, MARSHALLTOWN invested in new buildings and machinery. Its workforce grew, and advances in production methods increased efficiency.
The World Wars introduced MARSHALLTOWN to new markets. In 1918, MARSHALLTOWN sent 18,000 trowels overseas for the US Army, in support of its nation’s wartime efforts. Soldiers assigned to work on European jobsites, including France’s Pershing Stadium, did so using Marshalltown trowels. When the wars were over, many immigrant builders and plasterers returning to Europe took their MARSHALLTOWN trowels with them, insisting on using only the best tools available, even though they often cost more than the European brands. Orders flooded in and MARSHALLTOWN experienced unprecedented demand.
Modern communications and transportation modes made it easier for goods and sales orders to cross the ocean. By 1930, MARSHALLTOWN was the largest exclusive manufacturer of masonry tools in the world. The company earned the Presidential E Award in 1975 for outstanding performance in export sales. Six years later, it received the E Star Award for its continuing contribution to the nation’s balance of trade.