Shirley Engraving Celebrates 100-Year Anniversary

Few companies stay in business a decade, let alone 50 years. That makes a 100-year anniversary much more than something to celebrate. Businesses that last a century have proven they can survive and provide consistent, quality service regardless of the changing times. They can witness generations of ownership, booms and recessions, as well as history unfolding.

This year Shirley Engraving has met this important milestone. Here’s the impact that 100 years of business has had for Shirley Engraving.

What is Engraving?

When most people think of engraving, they think of etching words onto award plaques for trophies or name plates. They aren’t wrong — but few realize that engraving includes a lot more than this. It’s very likely there’s more than one engraved item in the room where you’re reading this. The United States currency has been engraved since 1861.

Engraving can be done for both aesthetic and practical reasons. It’s commonly used to create text on jewelry or adding names to sports trophies. The most common use of engraving today is in the print industry. Shirley Engraving focuses on print, creating products such as announcements and invitations, business cards, envelopes, letterhead, finishing, and more. Engraving print material makes printed text look more elegant and professional. These products also tend to have more longevity than traditional non-engraved printing.

Engraved stationery is produced by etching an image onto a copper or steel plate. The plate is locked up into an engraving press which then inks up the plate and presses paper down into the etched image, thereby raising the ink up where it can be felt to the touch. This pressure allows for very fine, crisp lines and images which is what makes engraving so notable.

History of Shirley Engraving

Shirley Engraving is celebrating its centennial anniversary in 2020. The company was founded in 1920 in Indianapolis when the city was celebrating its own centennial anniversary. Originally known as Sabins Engraving, it was located in the Liberty Building at 107 S. Capitol Avenue. Today it has grown to become one of Indiana’s most successful engraving companies.

Lots of changes were happening in America during the company’s first decade in business.  In 1920 women were allowed to participate in national and state elections. It was the first election after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the constitutional right to vote. In 1926, Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford announced the eight-hour, five-day work week at his plant.

As the engraving company grew over time, it continued to evolve. In 1951 the company became Chamberlin & Son and in 1966 became Chamberlin-Shirley. With the purchase of Warmoth Engraving in 1968 and Quality Engraving in 1972, the company was finally named Shirley Engraving in 1976. The firm was run by Walter Shirley of Shirley Brothers funeral homes and his son, Philip Shirley. Philip would go on to become president of Shirley Engraving until 1986.

Shirley Engraving’s current president is DJ Margason. He went to work for Phil Shirley upon graduation from college in 1980 with a degree in Marketing. Margason flourished within the company, becoming VP in 1984. He finally bought the company in 1986.

In 2009 Shirley Engraving became part of the Priority Group. Priority Group is an integrated brand communications company, including many options for businesses.

Engraving is the oldest of the graphic arts. No matter what changes in the future, it’s safe to say engraving is here to stay. Leadership and employees at Shirley Engraving make choices every day to deliver error-free products and excellent customer service, with the goal of reaching the next centennial anniversary. It’s possible with support from the local community in Indiana and the help of loyal customers.

Shirley Engraving Company Highlights

Over the past 100 years, Shirley Engraving has witnessed and participated in a lot of interesting history. Here are some highlights:

  • Some of Sabins Engraving’s first clients included Eli Lilly, Citizens Gas and the Wm. H. Block stores.
  • Current president DJ Margason had an aunt, Alice McComb, who was the first bookkeeper hired at Sabins Engraving in 1923. They did not realize the connection until the early 1990s.
  • In 1953 Chamberlin engraved invitations for President Eisenhower’s Inaugural Ball.
  • In 2005 Shirley Engraving would engrave Inaugural Ball invitations for President George W. Bush.
  • Dubbed “The Little Automatic” Shirley Engraving still operates an engraving press that was built in 1928.
  • Shirley Engraving has become an integrated branding and communications company providing social stationery for an NFL owner, note sheets for a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea and service to over 300 very loyal and appreciated clients.
  • The invention of the electronics circuit board etching machine changed the engraving business immensely. In the 80’s it would take 2 or 3 days to make an engraving die for a large law firm. Now it’s possible to etch dies for several clients at once in less than an hour.
  • Even with new technologies, the actual engraving process on the press is the same today as it was in the 1920’s.
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