The company was founded in 1826 by Matthias Hess in Nuremberg, the mark of the company was branded with an ornate Hess h. To date Hess is recognised as one of the first toy manufacturers.
This company was one of the first companies which made toys and toy trains of pressed steel, in fact, long before automobiles existed, Hess produced toy trains without rails. Eventually the automobile came and Hess produced high quality toy versions with lead flywheel motors.
In 1886, son John Leonard Hess took over management of the company that he inherited in 1906. His initials JLH can be found in marks. By 1930, production was discontinued. Toys from the early years are now rare. The decorations of the toys were always good in spite of various techniques. Perhaps most famously were the Heßautos with flywheel drive.
Before World War I Hess also build battleship and submarine toys, at first only as a shift models, later with mechanics.
Karl Hess, the proprietor of Matthias Hess, opted to commit suicide during the economic difficulties at the beginning of the Second World War. Following the liquidation of the company the firm of Leonhard Tauber took over the offices.