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Anyone Ever Hear Of Allisons' Perfection Fountain Pen?


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#1 AAAndrew

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 02:55

It's not on the list of US makers. 

 

I was looking up a steel pen marked "Shirley's" from Indianapolis, and found this as well. 

 

fpn_1519088823__allison_perfection_fount

 

 

I started digging. 

 

Turns out in 1891 James A. Allison was a jeweler in Indianapolis

 

fpn_1519089616__1891_directory_entry_jew

 

 

 

In 1892 he decides to add Paul Wirt fountain pens to his merchandise. 

 

fpn_1519089626__1892_directory_entry_pau

 

 

Perhaps he realized that he could probably make these himself, and by the next year, he's advertising his own pens. 

 

fpn_1519089634__1893_directory_entry_fou

 

 

 

By 1899, it's just fountain pens and fountain pen repair. 

 

fpn_1519094717__1899_directory_entry.png

 

 

 

In 1912 he's still making pens and repairing them. 

 

fpn_1519094733__1912_directory_entry.png

 

 

By 1916 he's no longer advertising, but he's still listed as making pens in 1922. Unfortunately, there's a gap in the directories. I haven't nailed down when he stopped making pens, but hope to soon. 

 

Now I'm curious if anyone has seen one of these or knows what they look like. I suspect it was a local pen made for the local market, and probably why it was not in the list. But he did make fountain pens for at least 30 years. I would have thought something would have survived. I'll reach out to the Indiana historical society and see what they may have.

 

In the meantime, I thought I'd share. 



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#2 AAAndrew

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Posted 20 February 2018 - 16:49

Turns out that old James A. Allison is not so easy to research. There was another James A. Allison living in Indianapolis at the same time who was just a bit more high-profile. He started Allison Engineering which became Allison Transmission. He also helped found the Indianapolis 500. He died a multi-millionaire (when that meant something), and his second wife (of two weeks, and his former secretary for eight years) was sued by his first wife (of 27 years) in a massive, and messy scandal that fills the papers in 1928. His huge home, on 77 acres in downtown Indianapolis, was a showplace, he owned large real estate holdings in Florida, and his estate was estimated at around $6,000,000 in 1928. 

 

So, whenever I try to look up James A. Allison, small-time pen maker, I'm flooded by references to James A. Allison, big-time "capitalist" (that's how he's constantly referred to in the papers), engineering, pioneer in automobile design, auto racing, and airplane innovations. 

 

I'll post what I find. 



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#3 JakobS

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Posted 21 February 2018 - 18:41

According to this wikipedia article, he is one and the same man, though they do not provide quality links for much of the information provided. 

 

I am also finding a number of articles connecting the "capitalist" to the "pen maker" with a general google search of Allison Perfection Fountain Pen. Sounds like he had a "Waterman" moment by being frustrated with the quality of writing instruments he was using when he was CEO of the Allison Coupon Company, and decided to make his own.

 

Here's a wild quote about the making of his estate, "An entire species of tree went extinct when the only forest that it grew in was harvested to mill wood for Riverdale’s Great Hall. During the last winter of construction" 


Edited by JakobS, 21 February 2018 - 18:53.

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#4 AAAndrew

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Posted 21 February 2018 - 20:55

An interesting entry, but I at first glance, the Wikipedia article just looks wrong. The James A. Allison who made the fountain pen was also a jeweler first, and then had a store making and repairing fountain pens. If the article is right, then in 1891, at the age of 19, James A. Allison is both the vice-president of Allison Coupon Company, which was large enough to have as its address 17-19-21 Georgia St., and running a jewelry store in a building on the corner of Illinois and Ohio Streets? 

 

So, it doesn't pass the smell test, but is there any proof? 

 

Ah, directories to the rescue again. From the 1906 Indianapolis directory. According to this, he also was a laborer, and sawed wood for a living. Busy guy!

 

fpn_1519246128__1906_allisons.jpg

 

 

I guess we can't believe everything in Wikipedia! (shocking, I know!)  :D

 

The rich one was an interesting guy. Now I want to find out more about the not-rich one. How common is it that we find someone manufacturing fountain pens for 30 years and no one has heard of him? Or maybe it's just me who's never heard of him. 


Edited by AAAndrew, 21 February 2018 - 20:56.


“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928



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#5 JakobS

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Posted 21 February 2018 - 23:51

Well, you have to remember that all his business adventures are being mentioned as him being a partner in their development, and not the sole developer, except for the Allison Manufacturing Co. which was established to make the Perfection Fountain Pen. Also, the Allison Coupon company site and the intersection of Illinois & Ohio are only ~ 5 blocks away from each other. But, as I mentioned before, a general search for Allison Perfection Fountain Pen brings up a number of websites that mention him being the same person. The Indiana Historical Society might be a good legitimate place to inquire to weed out better primary sources as they also state he is the same person.

Edited by JakobS, 21 February 2018 - 23:52.

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#6 AAAndrew

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Posted 22 February 2018 - 00:25

If he was the same person, I'd be very surprised. To me it sounds like an extraordinary claim, which would require extraordinary evidence. I'll reach out to a contact I have in the Ind. Hist. Society and see if I can find out something more concrete. 

 

One more piece of evidence against them being the same is that in the rich Allison's obituaries in the newspapers of the time don't mention it at all. 



“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928



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#7 Greenie

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 20:00

I hate to assume so much from the image in the ad.

But the pen shows the triple knurled/rope base of the section and "urn shaped" section typical of a Wirt pen of that era.

And the overfeed is also typical of Paul Wirt.

 

We should entertain the possibility he was selling pens made by Wirt, but under his own imprint.



#8 AAAndrew

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Posted 05 March 2018 - 20:43

Could be, or he just copied them after selling them for the first year. Was Wirt known for branding their pens with other people's names? I know steel pens did this all the time, but I hadn't heard of a fountain pen maker doing it. 



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#9 Greenie

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 02:28

Many fountain pen makers sold to others for rebranding.  Earlier on, Hicks pens were branded Tiffany, or lesser known, LT & Son, another New York Jeweler.  I would imagine that the early pens, like this, would be rebranded for local jewelers.  I have a BCHR Sterling middle joint labeled for a Baltimore jeweler.  Later,  the "big box" department store brands were all made by major manufacturers, and not always the same brand over time.  I have Macy's that is clearly a Mabie Todd Swan a Rexall that is clearly an Eagle, a Lakeside (Montgomery Ward) by Century.  Waterman made pens c 1910 sold under the house brand of the Heacock dept store in Manila, so even top makers were involved.

 

Whether or not Wirt did this in the 1890s might be harder to determine.  

 

However, that section shape was atypical for the era, and makes one think of a Wirt pen.  Most short straight cap pens of the era has tapering sections, not ones that flared out like the shape later used to set against an inner cap with the introduction of screw cap ("safety") pens to prevent leakage.



#10 AAAndrew

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 10:48

there's a lot curious about these pens. Allison is mentioned as the "manufacturer" of these pens in many places. He advertises Wirt pens the one year, and the next he claims to be a pen manufacturer. And he made these pens at least until 1922. 

 

Here's an example of a fountain pen made by a manufacturer for a stationer and re-labeled. They state so in the ad. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/18040478/1915_mayer_self_filling_fountain_pen/ 

 

As for the ad, I'm not sure it's a good piece of evidence for what his pens looked like. He used that same ad for all the years he advertised in the directory. He may have had it made when he was selling Wirt pens, so it shows a Wirt silhouette, and then never bothered changing it. "Just run the ad again." would have been easiest. 

 

We need to find one now to see if they really look like that. 



“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

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#11 Corona688

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Posted 14 March 2018 - 23:48

Looking over this thread again, I'm not convinced that Perfection is anything but the name of that shop - not the brand or the pen. The one source that refers to it as a pen was not the seller, and may be in error. Given that, maybe it really was rebranded (or unbranded) Wirt stuff.

And, to immediately contradict myself, according to this glossary, he was out of the business by 1905 to make headlights. But the pen itself was invented for, or at least during his stay at the Allison Cupon Company owned by his father.

This biography suggests he started business very very early in life, which wasn't unusual in the 19th century. And his father died when he was 18, instantly turning him into a major business owner.

Edited by Corona688, 15 March 2018 - 00:11.







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