Manufactured by the Battle Creek Machinery Company, of Battle Creek, Michigan whose slogan was "There is Pleasure in it ! There is Profit in it ! There is Health in it !" the "Marsh's Cylinder Bed Lathe" was probably introduced around 1877; the glowing testimonials printed in the firm's tiny publicity circulars are dated from 1878, with awards at the 1878, 1879 and 1880 Michigan State Fairs of "Special Premium" and "First Premium" prizes. The lathe was also exported and the company received references from, amongst others, Duff Last & Co. of London, James M. Lyon of Singapore, Francis & James Smith of Glasgow and H.P.Gregory & Co. of Sydney Australia. A single patent (shown below) appears to have been taken out, this being granted to Elon E.Marsh on October 15th. 1878. Unfortunately, the patent did not cover some novel improvement, it simply claimed to combine an already-known number of mechanical ideas into one machine.
The basis of this simple machine was a turn-finished steel tube - 4 inches in diameter on the No.5 lathe, but of unknown section for the No.3 - onto which slid the headstock, saddle and tailstock, each being "bored to fit nicely". The headstock was permanently retained - by one set screw - and the saddle and tailstock both sawn open along their bases and provided with set screws to lock them to the bed by "a single turn of the hand". The tailstock was kept in line by a guide groove in the bed, but the saddle, which had no means of being fed along the bed, was free to be both slid and rotated into position by the operator. It is interesting to compare the Marsh with the English round-bed Drummond screwcutting lathe, introduced some thirty years later.
The No.3 lathe was available on a typically over-ornamented stand described by the makers as: "… stiff but light and graceful. The entire structure is ingenious, mechanical and elegant in appearance" - but which, whilst it kept the lathe off the floor and provided a drive platform, can have contributed little or nothing to its rigidity. The ends of the lathe bed were clamped directly against the top inside faces of the stand legs - so removing the need for separate bed feet - although if the assembly was dowelled or spigoted in some way as well, or just relied upon friction for its location, is not clear. The flywheel ran on an axle supported at both ends, instead of being overhung on a single stud (as was common on cheaper lathes built for amateurs) and the foot pedal was full length - which made work towards the tailstock end of the lathe a good deal easier in comparison with those supplied with just a single, centrally-positioned pedal.
The lathe was built in (at least) two sizes; of the known Marsh model numbers the smaller was the No. 3 and the larger the No.5. Although earlier years may have seen a Model No.1, or a Model No.2, this is by no means certain - it being a common practice amongst machine-tool makers to avoid starting production numbers at 1 (11, 101 or even 1001 were popular) and to designate their smallest Models at something other than 1 - all ploys designed, of course, to give an impression of a firm rather larger and more successful than it really was.
The No.3 lathe, of 8-inch swing and 22 inches between centres, was designed as an amateurs' machine, able to turn both wood and metal; it was fitted with brass headstock bearings, a steel spindle and a 3-speed cone pulley for round belt drive. At an extra cost of 50 cents per inch, and to special order, beds able to accept up to 30 inches between centres were available. Various accessories were listed including a compound screw-feed slide rest ($10); circular saw priced ($6); a scroll saw ($6.50) and a moulding attachment ($10).
Supplied complete on its foot-power stand, also included with each new lathe were two sizes of T rest, a wooden tool shelf, one faceplate, two centres and a round leather drive belt; it weighed 175 lbs and cost, in 1880, $30.