Albert M. Marshall

Albert Morley Marshall. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

Albert Morley Marshall (1851–1926) was born in Painesville, Ohio, the son of a successful hardware merchant. At the age of sixteen he went to Saginaw, Michigan, to work for Morley Brothers, the family hardware business. He stayed for 22 years, rising to be vice president and general manager. He was also founder and president of the U. S. Graphite Company and the Lufkin Rule Company. When the Panic of 1893 left the country in a financial mess, Marshall took a gamble. He sold all his interests in Michigan and purchased Duluth’s struggling Chapin-Wells Hardware Company and changed its name to Marshall-Wells Hardware. Under Marshall, the firm was soon shipping throughout the Midwest and Canada. Marshall-Wells manufactured everything from paint to appliances to tools under the “Zenith” house brand name. In 1901 Marshall-Wells opened branches in Canada and the Pacific Northwest; nine years after that it became the largest hardware wholesaler in the United States, the third-largest in the world. Marshall retired in 1918, handing the business over to his son Seth, under whose direction Marshall-Wells grew to operate over one thousand retail stores in the U.S. and Canada and reached annual sales of $100 million before closing its doors in 1958. Duluth’s Morley Heights neighborhood is named for Marshall and was originally developed as a residential community for company employees. Instead of building new, the firm purchased eighty houses from the DuPont company in Barksdale, Wisconsin, had them dismantled, shipped to Duluth, hauled up Woodland Avenue on sleds, and reassembled.

Story by Tony Dierckins. Originally published on Zenith City Online (2012–2017). Click here for more stories by Tony Dierckins.