MOORE CORPORATION LIMITED History
Telephone: (416) 364-2600
Fax: (416) 364-1667
Sales: US&dollar2.77 billion
Stock Index: Toronto Montreal New York
Moore Corporation Limited was built upon the design and manufacture of a simple counter salesbook. As the world's largest maker of business forms throughout much of its history, Moore has continually redefined the business-forms industry, from the time its founder, Samuel J. Moore, launched the industry through the dominance of computers today.
Samuel Moore emigrated to Canada from his native England as a young boy in 1861. He worked in the printing business throughout his teens; by his early 20s, he was the co-publisher of a Tory newsletter called The Grip. When Moore met John Carter, a local sales clerk, who described his idea for a salesbook using a piece of carbon paper to standardize sales slips and provide a record of transactions, Moore seized upon the idea, acquired rights to produce the salesbook, and hired Carter as his first sales representative. With the motto, "Let one writing serve many purposes" and an initial investment of only C&dollar2,500, the Paragon Black Leaf Counter Check Book went into production in 1882 at the Grip Printing & Publishing Company. Moore reduced production overhead by 75% the following year by purchasing two automatic printing presses, and in 1889, bought the operation that manufactured the presses, Kidder Press Company.
Moore already had begun to look beyond the Canadian market. He predicted that the United States, offering a large population and no language barrier, would become his primary market, and so it did. Within two years of the introduction of the Paragon salesbook, Grip established a factory in Niagara Falls, New York. Business was so good at the world's first factory devoted exclusively to the manufacture of salesbooks that the owners doubled plant capacity in 1886 and again in 1888. Moore named the United States organization Carter & Co. to honor Paragon's inventor.
Europe presented another opportunity for growth, but it took Moore two years of negotiation. In 1889 he reached an agreement with the British-based Lamson Store Service Company that gave it the rights to the salesbook patents and manufacturing techniques for all of Europe and Australia.
Demand for the salesbooks continued to grow so dramatically that the company was left short of boxes for packaging and shipping. Moore's eye for efficiency settled on the night watchman, whom he assigned to produce boxes in his spare time. Soon the company had box orders from shoe stores and other local merchants; in 1909, box-making became a separate business, called the F.N. Burt Company.
Moore also pursued other entrepreneurial notions. A young man brought Moore an idea to make souvenir silver teaspoons that tourists around the world could collect. Moore raised enough capital to form a company and established the Niagara Silver Company, later renamed William A. Rogers Limited, and maintained an involvement with the company.
In 1902 Moore was one of the founders of the Metropolitan Bank, of Canada; he was elected president in 1907. At that time, banks issued their own paper currency, and Samuel Moore's likeness and signature appeared on the bank's C&dollar5 bills. In 1914 when the Metropolitan Bank was absorbed into the Bank of Nova Scotia, Moore was appointed to the board. Over the years, Moore became president, chairman, and then honorary chairman of the Bank of Nova Scotia.
In 1925 one of several companies controlled by Moore, the Pacific Manifolding Book Company, forged ahead of competition by developing a single-use, disposable carbon paper. Inspired by a customer who owned a large California poultry business and complained that carbonized paper was too messy, the Speediset business form consisted of slips glued together at the ends with a carbon between them. This form allowed customers to use carbon paper without putting it in place. The original Speediset is still in use in more modern form.
Web-fed lithography, a major development in the printing industry in the mid-1920s, brought Moore and other paper-producing businesses into modern times. The web press's high speed allowed mass production and more precise product standardization. As a result, Moore created a machinery division to produce equipment for the exclusive use of Moore companies.
In the mid-1920s Moore controlled a network of nine separate companies that had become known as the Moore Group. The group was involved in boxing and printing, salesbooks, and other endeavors. Income from the salesbook and related sales counter products still made up 98% of the Moore Group's business, but change was on the horizon.
On January 1, 1929, the three largest members of the Moore Group formalized operations, merging into a public company, Moore Corporation Limited. The companies included under the Canadian corporate umbrella were actually based in the United States: American Sales Book Company, Ltd.; Pacific-Burt Company, Limited, later called Pacific Manifolding Book Company Limited; and Gilman Fanfold Corporation, Ltd. Eventually the remaining six Moore Group members came under the control of Moore Corporation. In its first year on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Moore Corporation Limited reported a net income of more than C&dollar1 million.
Later in 1929 Samuel J. Moore turned 70, and the stock market crashed. Facing an era of economic depression as well as his own aging, Moore turned his attention toward grooming successors to guide the company's future. That was the year he hired David W. Barr, who eventually became chairman; meanwhile Moore saw potential in Edwin G. Baker, whom he had hired nine years ago. When Moore made Baker president of the corporation in 1935, he established a tradition of promoting from within rather than seeking executives from outside.
It was also about this time that Moore instituted a separate research subsidiary to oversee research activities at all the divisions. Research would play an increasingly vital role at Moore and in industry in general.
As new president Baker secured the threads holding together the loose network of individual companies within the corporation, he also encouraged autonomy of each company's daily operations. In the United States, he divided the organization geographically, giving each region its own executive committee. This helped to establish close local ties as well as to provide a small-scale training ground for future corporate executives.
It was to the Moore Corporation that the U.S. government turned in 1936 when it needed a somewhat sizable business-form order: the first 40 million Social Security application forms and cards. This government connection proved important as World War II approached.
World War II brought demand for ration booklets, payroll envelopes, and various other forms that industry and governments had not needed before. This demand hastened Moore's maturation from a producer of salesbooks to a producer of all types of business forms. During the war, more than 150 Canadian and U.S. government departments used forms developed by Moore. By 1945, 80% of Moore's revenue was generated by business forms, not salesbooks.
The corporation reorganized to reflect the change. Many different Moore-owned companies that manufactured business forms had been operating under their individual names. In 1945, these firms were brought together under the common brand name Moore Business Forms. This division employed half of Moore's total work force. The corporation also realigned its management echelon to prepare for the postwar era. Baker became chairman of the board, and W. Norman McLeod, who had joined Moore with Baker in 1920, took over as president. Samuel Moore kept the title of honorary chairman until his death in 1948.
McLeod stepped up a campaign to specialize and diversify geographically. He increased the number of production plants in the United States from 10 to 40, but kept plant size small for greater control as the plants grew more and more technologically complex.
In 1955 McLeod moved to chairman of the board, and Thomas S. Duncanson became president. Duncanson had joined Moore in 1910, when the F.N. Burt division was acquired. His most significant contribution as president was to create a central division in the United States, headquartered in Chicago. This distinction divided the country into eastern, southern, pacific, and central divisions. Duncanson remained president until 1962, when he was elected chairman and W. Herman Browne was made president.
Browne initiated a policy to broaden Moore's international operations. He cemented the British connection by reaching a formal financial relationship with long-time associate Lamson Industries Limited. Through an exchange of shares, Moore acquired 20% of Lamson's equity. Included in the agreement was an exchange of directors and a ten-year pact to share technical information.
It was also during Browne's tenure that the U.S. government instituted Medicare. In 1966 Moore printed more than 25 million Medicare identification cards. The ever-present U.S. tax form, the W-2, also came from Moore.
David W. Barr, whom Samuel Moore had hand-picked so many years earlier, was named president in 1968. He professionalized sales representatives' training and followed through on the firm's internationalization, increasing Moore's interest in Lamson Industries to 52% in 1973.
Packaging took on a bigger role at Moore during this time. The packaging operation in England was assigned to a division called Decoflex Ltd., which also manufactured fashion bags for the clothing industry and currency containers for bankers. At home in 1974 Moore merged its Dominion Paper Box Company Limited with Canada's Reid Press Limited to establish Reid Dominion Packaging Limited.
Barr became chairman in 1976, when Richard W. Hamilton, who had been with Moore 35 years, moved into the presidency. A year later, Hamilton approved a total acquisition of Lamson. The internationalization plan begun 20 years ago was now complete; Moore owned Moore Business Forms de Mexico; Moore Business Forms de Puerto Rico; Moore Formularios Limitada, in Brazil; and Moore Business Forms de Centro America, in El Salvador. In addition, ties were established with Formularios y Procedimientos Moore in Venezuela and Toppan Moore Company, Ltd., in Japan.
Internationalization was not the only concern at Moore during this period. At the same time Moore executives were concentrating on their new foreign operations, they also turned their attention and funding to research: computerization was taking over world industry, and big money awaited companies that could adapt their services to complement the new machines.
During the computer era's infancy, Moore developed Speediflo and Speediflex continuous-feed forms. Among the other advances Moore introduced in the 1960s and early 1970s were a carbonless paper; an optical character recognition tester; the Mooremailer continuous envelope producer for high-speed addressing systems; and the Speediread form with colored highlight lines for easier data reading.
New products meant more divisions. Moore formed a response graphics division in 1974 to develop special products for the U.S. direct mail industry, and acquired Minneapolis, Minnesota-based International Graphics Corporation in 1977.
Despite its pioneering start, Moore has sported a cautious reputation. Thus, when Moore announced its decision in the late 1970s to enter the small computer systems market, the financial community expressed surprise.
Moore executives did not jump into this extremely competitive field with eyes closed--they had considered the idea for years before acting on it. In the 1970s it had become clear that, although the business-forms industry was still growing, it was not booming the way it had been. An annual overall market increase of 15% was not unusual in the 1960s. By the early 1970s, the industry's yearly growth was down to 9%, falling to 3% or 4% in the following decade. Even though in the 1970s Moore held 25% of the U.S. business-forms market and continued to gather profits from around the world, the company was accustomed to soaring net figures; the time for change was ripe.
The corporate decision-makers concluded that, since 70% of business forms were designed for use with a computer, a natural addition to their product line was the computer itself. The company hoped to sell its computer systems to small companies. Researchers identified nearly one million companies as potential buyers, and Moore had already had 40% of them as customers at one time or other. Now the company wanted to show each customer that Moore could tailor software to fit that particular business's payroll, inventory, and general accounting needs. As a further commitment to computer sales, Moore opened retail branch offices. These branches sold all types of computer supplies and were designed to service customers after they bought systems.
The microcomputer market proved to be too much for a newcomer like Moore, however. After losing about &dollar30 million in the course of a few years, Moore abandoned the retail computer business, selling or closing its 44 MicroAge stores. Moore recognized, however, that in the age of the computer it must be prepared to supply customers with both paper and electronic information forms, and under chairman and CEO M. Keith Goodrich the company has accordingly embarked on a rapid expansion of its electronic products. These fall into three categories--direct marketing, business communication services, and database management services--which by 1992 should represent a combined one-quarter of corporate sales and one-third of net income.
Moore has always been in the business of helping companies to formalize their business information and communications. For most of the 20th century, that had involved the use of paper; in the future, perhaps it will be accomplished exclusively by means of electronic images; in either case, Moore Corporation Limited remains in the business of business forms.
Principal Subsidiaries: Moore Business Forms & Systems Ltd.; Moore International B.V. (Netherlands); Moore Belgium N.V.; Moore Business Forms, Inc. (U.S.A.); Moore Business Forms Limited(U.K.); Moore France S.A. (99.9%); Moore Portuguesa Limitada (Portugal); Moore Business Systems Australia Limited; Moore Paragon (Central Africa) (PVT) Ltd. (Zimbabwe); Moore Nederland B.V. (Netherlands); Moore de Mexico S.A. de C.V.; Moore Business Forms de Puerto Rico, S.A.; Moore Formularios Limitada (Brazil); Formularios Moore de Guatemala, S.A. (56%); Moore Business Forms de Centro America, S.A. de C.V. (El Salvador, 56%); Formularios Moore de Costa Rica S.A. de C.V. (56%).
Further Reading:The Story of Moore, Toronto, Moore Corporation Limited, 1982. A special announcement, Toronto, Moore Corporation Limited, 1986.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 4. St. James Press, 1991.