Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Sylvester S Marvin
November 18, 1841 – May 12, 1924

Sylvester S. Marvin was an industrial baker mogul whose S S Marvin Co. bakery was one of the key concerns that merged to become Nabisco.

Sylvester S Marvin was born in Ogden, Monroe County New York on November 18, 1841, the son of Aaron and Lucy Stephens Marvin. He grew up on the Lockport family farm leaving there at the age of 13, when he went to live with his uncle Warren K. Marvin, who dealt in farm implements; there S S Marvin began his commercial training.

Thereafter the family moved to New York City and he continued his training at the Marvin Safe Company. Thereafter for a time he lived in St Joseph Missouri where he served as a collector on a Missouri riverboat.

From 1860-1862 he served with the 28th New York Volunteer Company K during the Civil War. Sergeant Marvin was wounded at the battle of Cedar Mountain. Only six members of Company K survived that battle without being killed or severely maimed.

Marvin arrived in Pittsburgh in 1863 at which time he established himself in the cracker business, and founded the house of S. S. Marvin Co., one of the largest concerns of its kind in the United States.

S S Marvin -Manufacturers of Crackers, Cakes and Bread; Liberty Avenue, was the successor firm of a business originally established at 9I Liberty street in I831 by John Davis, who was later succeeded by the firm of R. J. Davis, followed in 1866 by Messrs, S. S. Marvin and C. B. Rumsey under the present firm style (1889). Their products embrace every description of crackers, cakes and bread and in crackers, the business of the firm extends to every part of the United States. Employment is given to a force of 250 hands.

Marvin was called “The Edison of Manufacturing” for his innovations in the bakery business – by 1888 the largest in the United States – and the organization of the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco). in 1889 his factory employed about 250 people. Thereafter he founded the Pittsburgh Chocolate Company.

S S Marvin was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, a director of the Commercial Bank, and president of the Western Pennsylvania Exposition Society. He was a benefactor of the Western Theological Seminary (Presbyterian) and also augmented the pensions of retired Presbyterian ministers.

A life-sized painting of Marvin by William Merritt Chase was originally intended to be hung in the Carnegie Art Gallery in Pittsburgh. Having been sold at auction in 2004, it is now on loan and on exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art in Florida. With his white moustache and goatee, he somewhat resembles Col. Sanders.

Sylvester Stephen Marvin married Mathilda Rumsey of New Rochelle NY in 1870; They had two sons:

Walter Rumsey Marvin ()

Earle E. Rumsey (Nov 26, 1874-) – a graduate of Andover ’93 and Yale ‘96. He followed his father as an executive in the Nabisco and P Chocolate Co.

“Mrs. S. S. Marvin, whose husband is said to have made a fortune in the MARVIN. cracker business, has a comfortable home, prettily furnished, in Shadyside...” (The Social Mirror, 1888)

The Marvins were members of the Shadyside Presbyterian Church. In later years, S. S. Marvin’s leisure hours were spent in a charming home, "Merimont," at Bryn Mawr, Philadelphia. Following the Flood he helped coordinate food relief to the disaster zone. He died at his home "Merimont" in Bryn Mawr on May 12, 1924.

Marvin was 49 the year of the Flood.


rick hitchcock said...

I have the top (lid) from a box ss marvin royal fruit biscuit pitts. there is some pealing but the art work is just beautiful.

Gary said...

I have a Marvin's Cracker box with Pittsburgh on the front,painted with the ad, wooden with a lid about 4x24x16"tall. Inside the box is newspaper letters pasted saying William H Dayhoff July 15,1899. It is painted or rather brushed looking orange on the outside as well. Again the artwork is beautiful.

Vicomte Flesym said...

Thank you both for telling about these artifacts from Marvin's Crackers.