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Saunders Norvell lived a bold and adventurous life. Born in 1864 in Canada, the family soon relocated to St Louis, where he was raised. He worked his way up through the Simmons organization, starting as a clerk in a hardware store and ultimately, after an extended period on the road as a ‘drummer’ (the then-current slang for a salesman, from ‘drumming up business’), he became a VP there. In later life he wrote of his adventures on the road, and even allowing for a little p…oetic license, he endured both hardship and hair-raising as he travelled the Western US and South America. In 1901, he became president of the St Louis based Shapleigh hardware company, adding his name to the company. He remained at Norvell-Shapleigh through 1910. In 1914, he moved to New York City, where in 1924 he became President of the Remington Arms Company. A man of many talents (cartoonist, columnist, marketer and manager), Mr. Saunders was a man of boundless energy and good character.

Given his genius for sales, and his reputed excellent reputation with the hardware stores that carried his products, it should come as no surprise that he put his own name on some of those products. This is the label on the inside of the lid of a box that once contained a drill brace and a set of bits – all long since lost to time. The box itself has seen much better days, and although I have all of it, this top section of the hinged kid has become detached… But, since I paid fifty cents for it, I still consider it a bargain. The vibrant colors, the folksy admonishment not to try to ‘bore an inch hole with a half inch auger’ and the bilingual English and German text make this piece of ephemera a little treasure in my eyes. Found in Central Texas, probably not far from where it was sold some time in the early years of the nineteenth century, the German language was probably aimed at the German farmers who comprised a significant portion of the population.

 

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