David C. Everest was born in Pine Grove, Michigan, and attended Gables High School. At age 16, a double tragedy struck. His father’s factory burned to the ground with a total financial loss and, soon after, his father died. Everest was forced to work to support his mother and sister. He started as an office boy but advanced fast. He worked first as a bookkeeper, then as assistant manager of paper companies. By 1909, he was sales manager of a machine company. While working on the jobs, he completed his high school education in 1899.
In 1909, at the age of 27, he was approached by the financial backers of a newly incorporated firm, Marathon Paper Mills Company, to build and manage the company. There were no employees, no equipment, no manufacturing plant, no definite plans, but lots of enthusiasm. The initial incorporation was for $750,000. Everest left a good job and joined them. The backers originally planned to produce newsprint, but he convinced them to enter the paper specialty field, which proved to be a wise choice; the business provided a stable demand.
Mr. Everest’s first big challenge came in July 1911 when flood waters brought thousands of logs smashing down the Wisconsin River from lumber mills upstream. Considerable damage was done to the mill, and the west end of the dam was dynamited to relieve pressure. The company was in danger of folding because of the costly damage, but it persevered.
Through the early years, Marathon sold much of its paper to Menasha Printing and Carton Company, which manufactured bread wrapper and paper pails for food containers in Menasha, Wausau and Ashland. Mr. Everest, a man of colorful quotes, stated frequently that “people will quit the eatin’ habit last.”
In 1927, Everest purchased the Mensasha Printing and Carton Company. Later, he added printing capabilities and its own ink plant, making the then Marathon company the largest printer in the world. Marathon’s extensive operations were spread over five states. During more than 46 years of Everest’s management at Marathon, there was never a work stoppage or strike. He often emphasized that the “interests of employees and stockholders are identical.”
Everest received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Lawrence University, and Northland College. He was one of the original founders of the Institute of Paper Chemistry in Appleton (now Institute of Paper Science and Technology, Atlanta). He received the Gold Medal from the TAPPI, an award never before given to someone who had not received a technical education. Everest was also made a Fellow of Great Britain’s Newcomen Society, an honor in the field of engineering.