Monday Oct 02, 2023

Among mill’s patents was one to roll up TP

The roll spins. A pile of toilet paper grows in billowy folds on the bathroom floor.

For a kid, there’s something satisfying about the cascade, the chaos. For Nicholas Marcalus, rewinding provided the rewards.

Marcalus, the founder of Marcal Paper Mills, racked up roughly 50 patents — the last one at age 80 — including an automatic web roller that could cut and rewind tons of toilet paper from a mother roll.

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Born Dominico Macaluso in 1893, Marcalus emigrated from Sicily to Paterson, where he took a new name, in 1905. He got his start in machine tooling and mechanical design there, and became a gifted innovator. 

By the age of 20, Marcalus was a manager at Hunt and McCree Electric Machinery Co. in New York City. The company soon manufactured his first invention, an automated device that removes the outer skin of black pepper.

View of the Marcal Paper Mills plant in Elmwood Park, NJ. June 8, 1989

Marcalus had found early success. He was nonetheless keen on making new machines his own way. He left Hunt and McCree in 1915 and opened a small business making wireless telegraph equipment. The Nicholas Electric Company was short-lived, however. The government banned sales of amateur telegraph devices to prevent espionage when it entered World War I.

Marcalus returned to the workforce at Sperry Gyroscope Company. He worked under Dr. Elmer Sperry, who in 1908 had patented a gyrocompass system that was adopted by the U.S. Navy in 1911; Marcalus helped apply the technology to aviation. He also went to night school to get a formal education.

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