CHAPTER I. 1891-1899. MYERS GRAND OPERA HOUSE FACTORY.
By Daniel A. Zazove and Ramon Campos.
The first time young George Safford Parker laid eyes on Janesville was in March of 1888, drawn there to enroll as a student in the Valentine Brothers School of Telegraphy. He proved to be an able student and graduated after a short time. The Valentine students wanted to use fountain pens, as opposed to dip pens, to copy the final version of the telegram. The main problem with these early eyedroppers was that there was no provision for the steady flow of air into the chamber as the ink flowed out. The pens alternated between no flow of ink at all or abundant flooding.
Afterward, he completed his studies and committed as a telegrapher to work for the Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad out in Dakotas. Not long after that, he went back to the Valentines’ School, this time as a teacher and Principal’s assistant.
Geo. S. Parker first pen.
To supplement his meager salary as an instructor, George obtained permission to sell John Holland pens to the Valentine students. But these pens were easily broken, due to the fact that the feeds were made with a long, thin tube which extended into the pen barrel. Once broken the pens would not write or would flood.
George S. Parker handmade his first pen in 1888. It contained a simple improvement; a notched feed carved lengthwise and divided in two at the end to allow ink to flow back into the chamber thus improving the flow and avoiding flooding. After repairing some John Holland pens for the students, he decided to make his own pens using some simple tools. Eventually, he stopped selling these pens and just ordered barrels and caps from H.A. Goodrich Co. He paid a premium price for Goodrich to stamp “Geo. S. Parker” on the barrel. He assembled these Parker pens at his residence (first at 8 Milton Avenue and then at Myers) using the broken John Holland sections and nibs.
“Mr. Valentine gave me the opportunity of helping out my rather meager salary by selling fountain pens. I bought the pens of the John Holland Company of Cincinnati –very imperfect pen they were, at that. Always being more or less of an inventive turn of mind, I set about to improve the Holland pens. I bought a file; a little scroll saw and other paraphernalia necessary to make a feeder that would work better than the imperfect Holland pen at that time.
Consequently, after fixing over most of the Holland pens, the idea struck me -if I had to rebuild the Holland pens, why not make a Parker Pen? I, therefore, took up by correspondence the matter of getting some rubber rod and other material from a rubber company. During my spare moments after teaching and office hours, I bought the holders and made the feeder myself. The pens worked very nicely. I then took a patent out on this device and continued to sell pens in the school but replacing the Holland pens with my own.”
In December of 1888, George Parker applied for his first pen patent for a grooved underfeed with an independent and removable capillary upper feed tongue granted as US416944. This early patent was improved by US423804 granted on March 18, 1890, which replaced the outer upper groove by an orifice which slowed the rate of drying.
William Fink Palmer.
In 1890 as George Parker begins to envision his future as a pen maker, he asks his father for a loan of $500, but was refused. That’s when he meets William Palmer, a director of Northwestern Investment and Improvement Company and an insurance agent. The first time we see their collaboration is in November 1890, with the filed patent US455023, consisting of a double use feed as overfeed or underfeed. One-half assigned to each of them. In this patent, the “Lucky Curve” device was not yet intuited.
Mr. Palmer would remain as President of the Parker Pen Company through February 11, 1904 when he and George Parker would exchange officer-ships. Both William Palmer son, Bernard, and his son-in-law, Horace Blackman, would go on to play important roles in the company as collection manager and sales manager respectively.
Factory in the Myers Grand Opera House building.
In March of 1891, Parker Pen established a factory on the upper floor of the recently rebuilt Myers Grand Opera House building, located at the corner of Milwaukee and Bluff Streets. Their first order for rubber rods was placed with the American Hard Rubber Co. The gold nibs were supplied by Davidson of New York City.
Incorporation of the Parker Pen Company.
On February 12, 1892 after operating for a year, the Parker Pen Company of Janesville was incorporated before William G. Brown, a notary public in Neenah Wisconsin. William F. Palmer was named as president, Celadon Bassett was named as Vice President and George Parker as Secretary-Treasurer. During this time George Parker was both running the fledgling pen company and working as an instructor at the Valentine School which allowed him to move into the Myers House Hotel where he lived until he married Martha Clemens in November of that year.
In the last days of May 1892, George resigned his position at the Valentine School to devote his full time to the pen business. A few years later, George S. Parker would recall these beginnings: «Starting in a single small room with a force of one, who was stenographer, bookkeeper, bill clerk, manager, and errand boy, all combined in one…»
During this time, it was always one of Mr. Parker’s duties to set up the chasing machine. This machine, hand-operated, did one cap or barrel at a time. They had six different patterns which were cataloged and when ordered the machine had to be changed to make that pattern. Mr. Parker, very strict about this machine, did all the adjusting himself. Another job that was always very carefully done was turning down the size of the feed rod. This was taken care of by Mr. Palmer and he personally set up the fixture and completed the feeds himself. The raw stock was provided from the American Hard Rubber Company.
This factory is the original «Home of the Parker Lucky Curve»; where the worldwide famous Lucky Curve pen feed was born.
Some milestones, business and technical improvements contemporary with the Parker Pen Co. in the Myers Grand Opera House factory:
November 24, 1892. George Parker married Martha M. Clemens, in Chicago. The two met at the Valentine School of Telegraphy. After they were married, the Parkers lived at 451 Court Street. For many years they traveled the world together.
December 14, 1892. George Parker files a patent application for an over and under feed US510439. This application depicts a bent upper arm precedent for the Lucky Curve Feed. In 1894 this patent was assigned to the fledgling Century Pen Company in exchange for shares.
September 15, 1893. Russell Clemens Parker is born.
April 24, 1894. Parker and Palmer subscribe to 49% of Century Pen Co. of Neenah through non-monetary contributions. GSP contributes patent US510439 and Palmer assigns «The Century Pen» trademark US9,337, to immediatly increase the capital stock from $1,000 to $20,000. James Nelson Humphrey, who signed the capital increase, was elected Century director; Parker became the company’s vice president. Change of Century registered office from Neenah to Whitewater. Parker Pen Co. undertakes to render such assistance as possible in the way of supplies at cost.
May 28, 1894. William Palmer, President of Century Pen Co. James Nelson Humphrey, who signed the capital increase, was elected Century director and also as the company’s new secretary; George Parker became the company’s vice president.
November 1894. First nationwide advertisement aimed at the final consumer, published in Ladies’ Home Journal.
April 8, 1895. Kenneth Safford Parker is born.
January 1, 1896. The first use of the «Lucky Curve» name according to its trademark registry.
June 1896. The underfeed pens were introduced in models #18 and #2X and were produced concurrently with overfeed nibs in other models. Later, in these last models, both options would be offered if desired.
December 1896. First ads mentioning «Lucky Curve» (Ladies’ Home Journal & Penmant’s Art Journal December 1896).
April 04, 1897. Palmer was replace as director and president of the Century Pen Co. of Whitewater. Parker, however, remained the company’s third director and became its Vice President.
July 1897. Parker Pen introduces, in #18 and #2X models, a new style holder with a taper inside the cap to correct the problem of friction eroding the cap when posting.
1898. Parker promotes a Beauty Contest under supervision of advertising managers Lord & Thomas, of Chicago.
January 1898. Parker introduces the Jointless pen: “No screw to break. No nozzle. No joint to leak. Perfection”.
November 1898, circa. Parker Pen acquired the ink and office supplies manufacturer Hull Manufacturing Company of Milton Junction, Wisconsin. Once Parker Pen relocates its factory to South Main Street, they commence to manufacture typewriter ribbons, paste and ink, that was formerly manufactured by the cited company.
November 1898. Parker Pen acquires the McKey Block later known as the Beverly Theater Building at 17-19 South Main Street for $9,500. The top three floors will be devoted to the pen business.
December 10, 1898. Judge Day, President of the American Peace Commission, affixed his signature to the Teatry of Peace at Paris, finishing the Spanish-American War, with a Parker Jointless No. 23.
CHAPTER II. 1899-1909. SOUTH MAIN STREET FACTORY.
By Daniel A. Zazove and Ramon Campos.
Factory in South Main St. 17-19. McKey Building Block.
The Parker Pen Company, which had been tempted by municipal offers to be located in other nearby towns, decided to remain faithful to its origin, and continue to settle in Janesville so, at the end of 1898, Parker acquired The McKey Building Block at 17-19 South Main Street in downtown Janesville.
By the Spring of 1899 Parker Pen had relocated to its new home, which was particularly well-suited to its needs; a new facility, located in the heart of the city with excellent lighting and the modern equipment required to timely fulfill all customer orders.
The building was a four-story brick with a floor space of 44×85 feet each. The first story was occupied by the Janesville Clothing Co. Parker initially occupied the top two floors, but soon expanded to an additional floor.
“Starting less than eight years ago in a single small room with a force of one, who was stenographer, bookkeeper, bill clerk, manager and errand boy, all combined in one goods have been such that they have been recognized by the intelligent, progressive and appreciative public to such an extent as to now make necessary the owning and occupying of a large four-story brick building as shown herewith.
We assure you that nothing would afford good than to have the pleasure of a personal visit with you in our new home that we might show you the many interesting processes the various parts of a fountain undergo before it becomes what is known to the world as the Perfect Parker Pen.”
This new facility was large enough to accommodate complimentary lines of business: the manufacture of inks, office paste mucilage and typewriter ribbons which were acquired by the purchase of the Hull Manufacturing Company.
On the side of this building had a large-scale ad, where we could read: THE PARKER PEN COMPANY HOME OF THE LUCKY CURVE FOUNTAIN PEN.
«We thought possibly some of our friends might like to see the interior, or a portion of the interior, of our factory, from whence all “Lucky Curves” come. (The writer of these lines –Geo. S. Parker-, also appears in the picture.) This is a busy place. Each workman devotes his energy to working on but a single portion of the fountain, and by doing this kind of work over and over, he becomes wonderfully skilled in his particular part. Any visiting customer is most cordially invited to come and see us and visit our factory and view the many interesting intricate processes an embryo fountain pen undergoes before it is ready to go forth into the world of trade and be known as the Parker Lucky Curve.»
Parker Pen installed a working pen manufacturing facility at the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair, the only live exhibition of its kind.
Some milestones, business, and technical improvements contemporary with the Parker Pen Co. in South Main St., 17-19. McKey Building Block factory.
June 1899. The Parker Pen Co. reports having more than 6,000 dealers.
1899. Parker promotes a Baby Contest under supervision of advertising managers Lord & Thomas, of Chicago.
January 1900. The Parker fountain pens begin to be fitted with the antibreak cap.
February 16, 1900. Decision in favor of Parker Pen in the case of Waterman v. Parker Pen U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
June 30, 1900. First ad in the Saturday Evening Post.
June 30, 1900. George Parker sails to Great Britain and Europe to open new markets and observe business conditions . The trip takes five weeks.
August 09, 1900. Bernard Morey Palmer, son of William Palmer, is employed by Parker Pen in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
November 1900. Parker Pen introduces the new model 30, with both cap and barrel covered in gold-filled metal, No. 021 jointless, a variant of No. 20 mounted with two gold bands in the barrel, and Jointless 026.
Summer 1901. Threaded end. Parker incorporates this option for fingers grip in screw joint pens. These pens could be made, optionally, with a smooth or threaded section.
January 1902. Initials and names can be engraved in Parker pens, either upon gold covering or upon the vulcanite itself.
January 1902. Parker Pen begins to offer membership certificates in the Lucky Curve Club.
January 08, 1902. Parker sale’s convention. Six top salesman, Pincher, Rider, Thomas, Weber, Colling and Rohn attend an elaborate dinner hosted at the home of George Parker.
January 27, 1902. Armand Frey, Berlin, -European manager- and G. Lowental, Paris -agent- visit Janesville as guests of Mr. And Mrs. Parker.
April 1902. Parker Pen adopts a system to reward employee seniority: five years $50, ten years $100, and twenty years $200.
April 1902. Parker introduces No. 023 Jointless Hexagon.
April 1902. John Gollner (Iwan Göllner), is employed by Parker Pen as general manager in charge of foreign sales.
April 19, 1902. The Parker Pen Co. reports having more than 8,000 dealers. American Stationer.
May 1902. Parker presents the Bell-Shaped «Lucky Curve» feed. American Stationer.
April 19, 1902. Parker spends $1,500 a year on paper gift boxes.
October 1902. A Parker vest pocket pen, called the Bulldog Special, was introduced in USA.
November 1903. They introduce their first fountain pen covered with solid gold (mod. 40), as well as the numbers #14 (sterling silver) and #16 (gold plate) both filigree pens.
January 16, 1904. The Parker Pen Co. and others (James Bunt, stock buyer, and Eugene W. Lowell, President Lowell Hardware Co.) lease 160 acres and embark on zinc mining in Grant County, Wisconsin.
February 1904. Parker Pen Co. has between sixty and sixty-five employees at the factory and offices, more ten or twelve men on the road all the year-round. During the year, they turn out an average of two hundred thousand pens.
February 11, 1904. Palmer and Parker exchange officer-ships; Geo S. Parker was elected president of the company and William F. Palmer secretary and treasurer. Until then, Mr. Palmer had been president, and Mr. Parker secretary-treasurer.
February 11, 1904. The Parker Pen Co. files articles increasing its capital stock to a total of $100,000.
March 14, 1904. The 1904 Louisiana World’s Fair Executive Committee approves the Parker Pen Co. concession. They will mount its exhibit in the Palace of Varied Industries.
May-June 1904. The Parker’s employees August Elser, Warren Clark, Joseph Flaherty, and Mande Winship left for St. Louis to take charge of the Parker Pen company’s display at the World Fair.
June 1904. In the second half of 1904, we see the «Lucky Curve banner» in ads. From February 1905, we will see the banner imprint on the fountain pens reproduced in ads and Parker Side Talks.
November 1904. The Parker Pen Co. is awarded with a Gold Medal in the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition.
December 20, 1904. John Gollner returns from five weeks of Europe tour establishing agencies in London and continental countries.
September 1905. Self-filler (click-filler) was first offered to the trade. There are no known ads in newspapers or magazines for this fountain pen.
October 1905. The Parker Pen Co. informs in Side Talks having more than 10,000 dealers.
October 1905. Parker introduces model No. 15. One of the prettiest in the Parker line of fancy pens. Mother Pearl and/or Abalon. Barrel with gold bands, and gold filigree on cap. They also introduce No. 28 in respond to a demand for “the largest pen you make.”
January 1906. Parker Pen experiments with galalith (known by John Gollner on his trip to Europe) as a substitute for hard rubber.
February 1906. Side Talks presents the #24 and #25 numbers, so far only plain, now offered they in a chased version too.
June 1906. William Fink Palmer and Geo. S. Parker invest in the Baxter Mining Co., in Darlington, Lafayette County, Wi.
September 1906. Parker introduces the Emblem pen, furnished with a solid gold band. They also introduce the #31, a large size pen with Sterling silver leaf and vine filigree on both the cap and the barrel, and the #32 in lady size, both similar to the #14 but with a more intricate filigree on the cap and barrel.
December 1906. Parker Pen introduces the new models #33, a gold filled filigree in barrel and cap crown, with its versión #34 mounted with Sterling silver, and #35, with both cap and barrel covered in gold-filled metal 18k gold plated overlay pen with a floral design. The number #36 was its Sterling silver version. Both pens was offered in two sizes, a Ladie’s and a Gentlemen’s pen.
January 1907. A new building was planned at 200-204 East Milwaukee, to house both Parker Pen and the Janesville Gazette. This building will be finished at the end of 1908.
May 1907. Parker Pen Co. employees decided to have a Baseball team.
1907. Parker introduces the numbers 41, 42½, 43, 44, and the Bookkeeper, a double-nib fountain pen, specially designed to record creditor or debtor accounting notes in different colors.
November 20, 1907. The Baxter Mining Co., and the American Lead and Zinc Co., which William F. Palmer is its secretary-treasurer, and the Parker Pen Co. has interests, contribute to the initial public offering shares of the Consolidated Zinc Co., Chicago.
August 1908. The Parker Pen Co. introduces the Level-Lock clip; the Disappearing clip.
August 1908. The Parker Pen Co. reports having more 100 employees.
December 1908. the Company began to produce their model No. 45, one of the most beautiful fountain pens of the era, which had a cap crowned with a gold band holding a Galalith pearl. At the same time, Parker offered a new model designed for the college student market called ”The Cap with the Colored Crown”. The end of the cap was fitted with a little crown to match the College colors. It could be furnished with one, two or three discs, in red, white, green, orange, and purple and harmonize beautifully with the rich polished black of the fountain pen. Parker adapted its existing 2X pen to make this new model.
December 31, 1908. Parker Pen completes a new factory at Milwaukee and Bluff Streets (The Gazette Building).
CHAPTER III. 1909-1920. THE GAZETTE BUILDING FACTORY.
By Daniel A. Zazove & Ramon Campos.
Early in 1909 Parker Pen Co. relocated its facilities to the newly constructed Gazette Building at the corner of East Milwaukee and Bluff streets in Janesville.
George S. Parker opened the doors of this factory to dealers and friends with these words:
“Those of our friends that have not yet honored us with a visit at the home of the Parker may be interested in these cuts.
The cut showed represents a most interesting place. The writer wishes customer might take the time to come to the factory and to see many interesting processes through which a fountain pen undergoes in process of manufacture.
Many electric motors are employees such operate the multitude of machines some of which are almost human in a wonderful work accomplished by them. The workmen are selected with a special view of intelligence, ability and loyalty, the interest shown by the men making their work as perfect as may be is soon apparent to the visitor.
The next cut showing the fitting and order filling departments are also most interesting and worthy of inspection. Each employee specializes on his particular work and, thereby, became an expert.
Each pen is fitted and tested as much care as the it was to be the personal property of the workman fitted it. Each one realizes that, that subtle something, should go with the fountain, other than so much gold, rubber, and iridium, and that is satisfaction.
The main office is shown on the next cut. This shows the stenographic and accounting and billing department as well as the writer and his lieutenants. Whenever you get a letter from us with the initials M.B. –Mamie Borkenhagen-, E.G., N.R., A.M., etc., you can remember it when written by one of the vivacious young ladies shown in the picture. The picture also shows Mr. Gollner, our superintend. Also Mr. Anders, the responsible of the accounting department. The later is the man who tells you when our bill is due in such a nice way that you are glad to comply with his request for remittance.
The last cut shows the writer private office. H.M. -Helen Morrisey- is the young lady who is taking these words and by whose hands pass all orders received.
We extend a cordial invitation any our friends to come and visit the factory. To know pens are really made is very interesting and we are sure you will feel well repaid, and of your welcome you may well feel assured.”
Parker was not long in the Gazette building before they rented part of the garage next door and utilized the whole of the upstairs for manufacturing purposes. Parker remained in the Gazette Building until 1920 when they moved to Court Street factory.
Some milestones, business, and technical improvements contemporary with the Parker Pen Co. in the Gazette Building factory.
Early in 1909 Parker Pen Co. relocated its facilities to the newly constructed Gazette Building at the corner of East Milwaukee and Bluff streets in Janesville.
1909 June. Following the aesthetic of the Red Giants, Parker informs it’s customers that they are prepared to furnish other numbers in red holders.
1909 July, Parker introduces the School and College pens with colored crowns appealing to students who are loyal to their School by displaying their College colors.
1909 December. Parker publishes the first Parker Safety ad.
1910. Parker has more than 70 employees.
Two new models were introduced with a Swastika design a good luck symbol from millennia of Indian Sanskrit culture. These fountain pens were finished in a sterling hammered overlay, model #52, and the #53 furnished in 18k gold overlay. These fountain pens were finished in a sterling hammered overlay, model #52, and the #53 Swastika furnished in 18k gold overlay.
March 10, 1910. Kenneth Parker sails for Germany to spend eighteen months in German training school.
August 1911. Parker introduces the Awanyu Aztec models. The design features an 18k gold-filled surface delicately hammered by hand with symbols and the head of an Aztec Indian depicted on the barrel and cap. The fountain pen was manufactured in sterling silver –model 59–, and 18k. gold -model 60-. There were «half» versions -models 57 and 58-, with the caps in exposed hard rubber crowned by a band with Aztec motifs in silver and gold, respectively.
August 1911. Parker Pen presents the disappearing Level-Lock clip.
1912. Parker introduced mod. #39, a magnificent pen with a cap and barrel covered with 18K heavy gold plate. Beautifully worked with a pattern of forget-me-nots, each set with semi-precious stones and pearls. The end of the cap was made flat, so it can be engraved with initials or a seal. There is a second version, mod. #54, without stones.
March 1912. They begin to manufacture full-length Safeties. All the regular safety styles could then be supplied with regular-length barrels.
September 23, 1912. Kenneth Parker resumes his secondary studies at the Howe Military Academy, Indiana.
1913. W. F. Palmer was again elected to the board of the Century Pen Co. and becames their vice-president.
June 1913. Kenneth Parker travel to Europe.
August 1, 1913. Kenneth Parker remains in Stuttgart, Germany, to study languages.
September 1913. Introduction of button filler fountain pens.
1914. George son’s Russell Parker comes into the Parker business. Soon he was put in charge of the Production and Purchasing Department, and Vice-President.
1914. With the introduction of the button-filler system and the internal rubber sac, Parker began the production of holders fully manufactured from brightly colored Galalith which they commercially called Ivorines.
March 1914. George Parker, Martha, and Virginia leave for a European and Mediterranean trip. Kenneth will join the trip from Europe. They will visit Madeira Islands, Gibraltar, Algeria, Monte Carlo, Italy -Rome, Naples, Genoa, Pompeii- Egypt, Germany, and Denmark, among other countries.
May 20, 1914. George Parker arrives alone in New York by the Oceanic ship from Europe. Martha and Virginia will remain there until the end of July. Kenneth remains in Europe “six months longer”, local press reported.
1915. Kenneth Parker enrolls at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island.
1916. William Palmer is replaced on the Century Pen Co. Board. After 1916, neither Palmer nor Parker was on the Century Pen Co. board nor served as officers, although they will remain as shareholders.
April 16, 1917. Kenneth Parker leaves Brown University, as a second-year student, and enlists in the United States Naval Reserve Force in Newport, Rhode Island.
November 6, 1917. Kenneth Parker army instructor in the new rifles used by National Guard.
1918. New York Wholesale Division opened.
June 1918. Kenneth Parker is transferred to Pensacola, for advanced training in night flying, bomb-dropping, and what he calls «big boat flying».
December 12, 1918. Kenneth Parker, while instructing a student in spins, crashes his Curtis N-9 into the waters off Bahia Pensacola after an uninterrupted spin of 5,800 feet. Both, miraculously, suffered only minor injuries.
February 1919. Kenneth Parker, discharged with honors, working in Lord and Thomas advertising agency in Chicago. Lord & Thomas had been retained by Parker for many years.
March 1919. The ground was broken for Court and Division Streets factory.
September 1919. Kenneth Parker accepts his father’s offer of the position of Parker Assistant Advertising Manager.
November 1920. Court and Division Street factory is completed and ready for occupancy.