At The Helen Jeffris Wood Museum, The Rock County Historical Society (Visit June 26, 2013)
Having heard a great deal about it, last week ( June 26, 2013) I went to the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum to see the Parker Pen Exhibit. The museum is part of the Rock County Historical Society’s “campus” in Janesville, which besides the museum has several other historic buildings, the most well-known being the Tallman House. (Its claim to fame is “Lincoln slept here”.) I have visited the Tallman house many times since it is on the school field trip roster for the Janesville public schools, but not recently. I have added it to the “My need to visit” list.
The particular visit I want to describe to you was the special trip I made to see the Parker Pen exhibit. I had a summer jobs there back in 70-71-72, and several of my antecedents also worked for Parker through the years.
The Parker Pen Company was started in Janesville in 1888. Its home and headquarters were located in Janesville until 2009. By then the company was no longer publicly traded, and its parent company, Newell Rubbermaid, severed all ties to Janesville. As you can see, for more than a century this worldwide company influenced the town of Janesville, providing both blue collar and white collar employment, right along side GM (also now gone overseas).
The exhibit about the company is a work in progress. Small and confined to a single room in the museum, it is full of memorabilia about the company. Plans are already underway to expand the exhibit and move it downtown to the Olde Town Mall on Main St. Janesville residents who visit will find much that is familiar, as did I. Not just the pens themselves, but also the advertising slogans, the logos and the ads. But there is also much that was new to me, and I read every label and pored over all the pictures and artifact.
I also got a chance to talk with Laurel Fant, the curator. She told me that the Society is looking for former employees and others with stories to tell about Parker Pen for an oral history project. They are also looking for more artifacts.
Across the hall, was another exhibit, this one about Pickard Porcelain and a third about Pauline Pottery. It was evident to me that Janesville was quite a hub for entrepreneurs once upon a time.
Please stay tuned in to this particular topic. I am hoping that the exhibit for The Parker Pen Company will expand greatly in the next few years.