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[From Pana News-Palladium, June 5, 1997]

Albert Marsh, Inventor, Scientist

Albert Marsh
Albert Marsh as student at the University of Illinois
Albert Marsh
Albert Leroy Marsh, 1877-1944
Click here for a high-resolution image (7.93MB TIF)
In 1905, just eight years after his graduation from Pana (Illinois) High School Albert Leroy Marsh invented chromel. Made of four parts nickel and one part chromium, it is the first metallic combination to serve as a heating element. For this, Marsh was acclaimed as "father of the electrical heating industry." The patent was acquired February 1906.

In 1936, he was awarded the John Price Wetherill Medal for "significant and timely contribution to the science of automotive engineering" and "for outstanding discoveries in the physical sciences." The presentation was made by Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In 1941, The Sauveur Award for outstanding metallurgical achievement was bestowed upon Marsh, by the American Metals Congress.

Marsh had served as president and general manager of Hoskins Manufacturing Co. in Detroit, Michigan, a title he held at the time of his death at age 67, Sept. 17, 1944. Named president of the firm in 1915, he had once been its chief engineer.

The son of John A. and Ardena Marsh, Albert was born Aug. 16, 1877 in Pontiac, Illinois. He was the oldest of three children. The family moved to Pana in 1884. During the years Marsh attended high school, Lincoln and Washington schools conducted their own high school classes. Living on East Third Street, Marsh attended Lincoln, commonly called East School. He was described by the late Dr. Louis Miller as being a "tall, angular, nervous lad."

The fall after he completed high school, Marsh went to University of Illinois, Champaign. In 1901, Albert received his bachelor or science degree in chemical engineering. The same year, he and Minnie Haywood were married in Massachusetts.

Career Beginnings

The following two years, according to a Pana News-Palladium feature in 1956, Albert worked as an assistant chemist for Illinois State Water Survey. One year after, he was with an electric storage battery firm in Waukegan. (According to another account about his life, he is said to have taught electrical engineering for two years at U of I, and served as head of the Electrical Engineering Department at Scranton (Pennsylvania) correspondence School.)

The fourth year out of college, he spent his time doing technical writing. During his spare time he had been experimenting with nickel and chromium alloys. In 1904, in need of better place to work on his wiring project and more funding, he made a business arrangement with William Hoskins of Chicago; Hoskins was with Mariner & Hoskins, a leading firm of consulting chemists at the time. He hired Marsh at a small salary -- while giving Albert permission to work on the alloy project during his spare time. (When later formed as Hoskins Manufacturing Company, the business relocated in Detroit.)

Success

When perfected, the new alloy (described above) was 300 times stronger than other types at that time A 1943 HMC industrial article described chromel as having an even longer life, as the company continued experimenting and improving the product.

Toasters, dental furnaces and chromel wire for appliance manufacturers were the first focus of Hoskins. The first two were unprofitable and were later dropped. The company concentrated on manufacturing the chromel wire.

One of the earliest problems of Marsh as new president was labor relations, noted HMC's industrial article. As with his scientific experiments, Albert Marsh drew upon patience and common sense. An open office door invited employees to come with complaints and suggestions. He watched for good men, then took them into the organization. He tried his best to see that everybody got a square deal. While there were slim years, the better ones gave workers a generous share of the company's income. Also, the chance to buy stock in HMC was given.

A Time magazine (undated) article described Marsh: "Slow-spoken, tousled, deliberate Metalman Marsh wears polka-dot ties, is rarely without a cigar."

 


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