William Marples & Sons was a leading Sheffield manufacturer of a wide range of woodworking, gardening and specialized tradesman tools, renowned for their quality and dependability, from 1860 to c. 1972.
The Marples family has a long history of involvement in the Sheffield tool making trade. As far as I know, the only surviving member still producing tools in Sheffield under the family name is Joseph, doing business as Joseph Marples Ltd., a relatively small company that manufactures marking gauges, squares, bevels, spirit levels, brad awls, cabinet screwdrivers, pad saws and marking knives.
WILLIAM MARPLES & SONS CATALOGUES
These have been my primary references in composing this web page:
The Shamrock Logo/Trademark
As far as I can ascertain, the three-leaf shamrock trademark logo - along with the tool catalog number - was used by William Marples & Sons on tools, packing boxes, catalogues, brochures, correspondence, advertisements, etc. from the time the company was founded (1860?) until 1972.
'Shamrock Brand' Labels and Decals
These (sometimes slightly modified) were affixed to packing boxes and the wooden parts of most tools (for example, chisel, turnscrew and hammer handles) as illustrated below:
'Shamrock Brand' box top label
'Shamrock Brand' chisel handle decal (A)
'Shamrock Brand' wood turning tool handle decal (A)
I believe the foregoing decal (A) was the standard one from the company beginnings until sometime in the 1950s. It is the one I remember being affixed to the tools and their boxes that I purchased new in the post-WW2 1940s. Likewise, this was the decal style I found as remnants on pre-WW2 used tools I acquired. This is also the style of decal found on most tools illustrated in the 1959 General Catalogue, however, some chisels are illustrated bearing the following (B) style of decal:
'Shamrock Brand' chisel handle decal (B)
'Shamrock Brand' No. 1984 turnscrew
'Shamrock Brand' No. 317 boxwood handle firmer chisel
'Shamrock Brand' tool Stampings
Of course, decals soon wore off tools with use and it is unusual to find used vintage tools with their original decals intact -- in fact, used tools with even partial decals are somewhat uncommon. William Marples & Sons 'Shamrock Brand' tools were also stamped with the Shamrock Logo and the Company name -- mostly on the metal parts of the tool, but occasionally on the wooden parts.
Following are representative stampings found on 'Shamrock Brand' chisels of unknown vintage. I am not certain of the historical precedence of these stampings, however, the third stamping below may have something to do with the export of William Marples & Sons tools to America. The McKinley Tariff Act of 1891 specified that all goods imported into the United States must have the name of the country of origin inscribed on them. In 1914 the Act was amended to require "Made in ....." (country) be added. In 1921 the Act was amended for a second time specifying that the inscriptions be in English only.
W. Marples & Sons
W. Marples & Sons
W. Marples & Sons
The stamping is on the upper side of the chisel blade
'Shamrock Brand' No. 2270 spirit level
'Shamrock Brand' spirit level stamping
'MARPLES cartouche' - Made in England - logo
This style of logo - along with the tool catalog number - was evidently used by William Marples & Sons on many of the tools produced after the joint purchase of the company by C & J Hampton Ltd. (Record Tools) and Ridgeway & Sons Ltd in 1962. William Marples & Sons apparently continued to operate as an independent entity until its demise in 1972.
'MARPLES cartouche' - Made in England - No. 7715 Mallet
'MARPLES cartouche' - Made in England - stamping on a No. 7715 Mallet
Marples often included detailed information relating to their tools
'MARPLES cartouche' - Made in England - stamping on a No. 2154 Marking gauge
Group of vintage William Marples & Sons Woodworking tools
WILLIAM MARPLES & SONS - END OF THE LINE
In 1972, after moving from the Hibernia Works to the new Dronfield Plant in Sheffield, William Marples & Sons issued what I believe was their last Catalogue. Later that year Marples became part of Record/Ridgeway Tools Ltd.
The 1971/1972 catalogue - no longer with colored illustrations - listed a greatly reduced offering of tools (no gardening or specialized tradesman tools for instance). Some tools bearing Shamrock Brand Trade Mark and plain MARPLES cartouche decals and markings were illustrated. Whether or not these were left over decals to be used up, or as originally affixed to old stock tools to be sold off, or even re-use of old catalog depictions - I have not been able to determine.
William Marples & Sons traded independently from 1860 to 1962. In 1962 the C & J Hampton Ltd. (Record Tools) and Ridgeway & Sons Ltd. companies bought them out as joint owners with William Marples and Sons apparently continuing to operate as an independent entity. The history is quite confusing after 1972. In that year these companies merged and became Record/Ridgeway Tools Ltd. The AB Bahco Co. (Swedish chisel and woodworking tools) bought Record/Ridgeway Tools in 1981 and in 1988 named it Record Marples Woodworking Tools Ltd. In the 1990s the Company underwent several name changes: Record Tools in 1991, Record Holdings Plc in 1993, then Record Tools Ltd. once more in 1998 when it became part of the American Tool Company. The company has been owned by Irwin Industrial Tool Co. since 2008.