A native of New York state, Sylvester Stephen "S.S." Marvin was born to Aaron and Lucy Stephens Marvin on November 18, 1841 in Ogden, Monroe County, NY. He grew up on the family farm at Lockport, until the age of 13. At the age of 13, he went to live with his uncle, Warren K. Marvin, who was in the farm implement business, and it was with this uncle that Marvin got his first taste of commerce.
Marvin then moved to New York, NY, where he continued his business training at the Marvin Safe Company. He then moved to St. Joseph, MO, where he served as a collector on a riverboat.
Marvin served in the Civil War, from 1860-1862, with the 28th New York Volunteer Company K, and rose to the rank of sergeant. Sgt. Marvin was wounded at the Battle of Cedar Mountain. In fact, only six of the members of Company K were neither killed nor seriously wounded in the battle.
In 1863, Marvin moved to Pittsburgh and began a successful cracker business in the name of S.S. Marvin Co., which became one of the largest and most recognizable names in baking in the United States.
Marvin earned the nickname of "The Edison of Manufacturing" for his innovations in the baking business-by 1888 the largest in the United States. He created the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) with S.S. Marvin being the chief company in this conglomeration. In 1889, his factory employed about 250 people. Thereafter, he founded the Pittsburgh Chocolate Company.
In addition to baking, Marvin was involved in a number of other interests including the Chamber of Commerce; director of the Commercial Bank; and president of the Western Pennsylvania Exposition Society. He was a benefactor of the Western Theological Seminary and also provided for retired Presbyterian ministers to live the rest of their days in relative comfort.
In 1870, he married Mathilda Rumsey of New Rochelle, NY and they had two sons: Walter Rumsey Marvin and Earle E. Rumsey Marvin.
During his working years in Pittsburgh, the Marvins resided in Shadyside and were members of the fashionable Shadyside Presbyterian Church. In later years, Marvin and his family moved to Bryn Mawr, near Philadelphia and resided at a home called "Merimont."
Following the flood, Marvin, a member of the Pittsburgh Citizen's Relief Committee helped coordinate flood relief efforts.
S.S. Marvin died at "Merimont" on May 12, 1924.