Marble's® History

 

A Century of Sights

Arni Dunathan
 

Webster Marble arrived in Gladstone, Michigan in 1887 and five years later began manufacturing his first invention:  Marble’s Universal Rifle Sight.  Recession and the “Panic of 1893” delayed further sight developments until 1902 when Marble introduced his Improved Front Sight, followed a year later by his revolutionary Automatic Flexible Joint Rear Sight.

 
Front Sights

Improved Front Sight allowed shooters to see the bottom of their target
and discouraged aiming low.

Universal Rifle Sight
Marble’s Universal Rifle Sight was pictured on his first company letterhead.
 

Response to both sights was enthusiastic.  Newel Rowley of Farious, New York wrote:  “The rear sight came all O.K.  It is much ahead of the Lyman rear sight…and when used with your Improved Front Sight and Savage Rifle, it is perfection.”

 

By 1905, Marble’s tang sight was available in 37 sizes to fit Winchester, Marlin, Savage, Stevens, Remington, Colt, Hopkins and Allen, and Ballard rifles.  As Marble put it, “This sight may be very easily attached to any rifle by anyone.”

 

Marble quickly added more sights to his line:  a Standard post and bead along with the patent Triple Bead in 1904, Marble’s Reversible in 1906, the Simplex (a lower priced tang sight for .22’s) and an array of Sheard’s Gold sights in 1907, the Duplex with flip-up bead in 1913, the Vickers Maxim globe sight in 1916, and elegantly fashioned ivory and Pope’s Island Gold shotgun sights.

 
Flexible Joint Rear Sight
Marble’s Flexible Joint Rear Sight (right) incorporated five improvements Lyman (left) could not match:  five stanchion hinge, jamb nut stem lock, interchangeable discs, screw adjustable point blank stem, and a spring loaded joint.
Marble Arms Advertisement
Full page ads in major sporting magazines gave Marble’s sights world wide exposure and sales.
 
Marble’s Sporting Rear Sights with a white diamond adjustable sighting notch, double step elevator and a choice of Flat Top, Semi-Buckhorn, or Full Buckhorn uprights, it was the best selling rifle upgrade in the world.  For simplicity and economy, the Sporting Leaf Sight was unbeatable.  All three are still manufactured by Marble Arms today.

It was the most comprehensive line of rifle, pistol and shotgun sights in the industry.  Testimonials came from everywhere and Marble liberally sprinkled them throughout his advertising.

 

“After a season’s thorough test of your front and rear sights, I consider them the most decided improvement of the age…”  F. E. Scotford, Chicago, 1904.

 

Marble did not overlook traditional rear sights.  His little Adjustable Leaf Sight featured a removable notch piece with four different sight pictures and a fold down leaf.  It quickly became the most popular replacement for ladder sights on carbines.

 
Marble Arms Advertisement
Marble’s rear sights were best selling factory equipment replacements.  Today’s versions offer vintage styling with screw adjustable windage controls for even more precise targeting.
 
The Gladstone, Michigan sight maker has long been a supplier of original equipment sights to America’s gun makers, many of whom advertised Marble’s brand sights as extra cost options, making the company both the preferred maker of factory original sights and the sights that replace them.
 

Gun Sights have never been among Marble’s most glamorous products  but they have been its most enduring.  While knives, axes, compasses, and matchboxes have come, gone, and come again, sights have been the backbone of the company for more than a century.

 
Underscoring the importance of gun sights to Marble’s bottom line is the fact that more catalog pages were devoted to them than any other product.
 
Captain Jack
Sighting Department Head, Captain Jack, was the only Marble employee whose picture graced company catalogs.

For nearly 20 years, Marble’s Sighting Department was headed by “The celebrated rifle shot” Captain Jack who installed new Marble’s sights and targeted them free, provided the customer supplied the ammunition (unused cartridges were returned).  For non Marble’s sighted guns, the Captain charged a $1.00 service fee.  Captain Jack O’Connell held the job from 1905 to 1909 until replaced by Captain Jack Hemple who stayed on until 1924.

 

After Webster Marble’s death in 1930, the sight line remained unchanged until 1968, when Marble’s began selling scopes.  Featuring high quality Japanese optics and a novel “right side up” reticle (sighting post pointed down from the top instead of up from the bottom), they did not find favor with sportsmen and were discontinued in 1979.

 

The company’s sight business expanded in 1983 with the purchase of Poly-Choke, the industry leader in variable chokes, vent ribs, and shotgun sights.  As more and more hunters and shooters rediscovered the challenge and satisfaction of mastering iron sights, Marble’s was perfectly positioned to fill their needs.

 

Today, Marble Arms manufactures an impressive lineup of traditional and modern sights for every sporting arm and continues to supply factory equipment sights for most American gun makers.  As always, Marble’s products are all steel, all American, and all Gladstone, Michigan U.S.A.

 

 

 
 
Marble Arms Advertisement
 
Timeline
 
1887    Webster Marble moves family to Gladstone, Michigan.
   
1890    Marble founds Gladstone Exchange Bank and is President.
   
1892    Manufactures Universal Rifle Sight and incorporates as Gladstone Manufacturing Company.
   
1893    Makes first Pocket Axes; recession causes Panic of 1893.
   
1894    Marble returns to surveying and timber cruising.
1898    Patents Safety Pocket Axe and incorporates as Marble Safety Axe Company.
1899    Exhibits first products at Sports Expo in Madison Square Garden.
1902    Introduces Improved Front Sight; British Army adopts Marbles No. 3 Safety Pocket Axes.
1903    Patents Automatic Flexible Joint Rear Sight.
1909    New 24,000 square foot factory completed and lauded as “Finest of its kind in the world.”
1910    First Game Getter Guns shipped from the factory.
1912    Magazine advertising reaches 20,000,000 readers world wide.
1913    Theodore Roosevelt carries Marble’s compasses during Expandicao Scientifica exploration of Brazilian wilderness.
1914    WWI  U.S. Army trucks equipped with Marble’s compasses.
1916    British government buys Marble’s hunting knives for Army issue.
1927    Charles Lindbergh carries Marble’s knife, compass, and matchbox on first solo transatlantic flight.
1930    Founder, Webster Marble dies.  Son William becomes President; son Floyd is President of subsidiary Marble Card.
1957    Marble Arms is purchased by Bell and Gossett Inc.
1958    Marble Arms Corporation sells 500 Pilot Survival knives to U.S. Navy and releases proprietary manufacturing specifications.
1966    New plant built at present location
1984    Marble Arms purchases Poly-Choke
1998    Marble’s Peep Tang Sight is reintroduced with windage adjustment
2000    Marble’s adds Fiber Optic front, rear, and shotgun sights to the line
2003    Poly-Choke sold
2005    Marble’s #95 sight is reintroduced with windage adjustment
2007    Marble’s introduces the Improved Peep Tang Sight with interchangeable uprights
 
 
Safety Axes
 
 
 
 
Marble's Employees
 
 
 
 
Marble's Factory Worker