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Friday, 15 November 2013 09:32

New exhibit marks 125 years of signature company

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New artifacts have been added for the Rock County Historical Society’s Parker Pen 125th anniversary exhibit, says Meghan Walker, above, who is the marketing and outreach coordinator for the historical society. The free exhibit is open six days a week inside the Olde Town Mall, 20 S. Main St. in Janesville. New artifacts have been added for the Rock County Historical Society’s Parker Pen 125th anniversary exhibit, says Meghan Walker, above, who is the marketing and outreach coordinator for the historical society. The free exhibit is open six days a week inside the Olde Town Mall, 20 S. Main St. in Janesville.

JANESVILLE MESSENGER -- Even though Geoffrey Parker has not lived in the Janesville area for many years, he still considers it his home.

Parker, who lives in Florida, is the great-grandson of George Safford Parker, the founder of Parker Pen Co., which played an important role in Janesville’s economy for almost a century.

‘It’s still home to (me and my relatives), make no mistake about it, and we all come back, because it is home,” Parker said.

Read the current edition here: http://www.server-jbmultimedia.net/CSI-JanesvilleMessengerSunday

The Rock County Historical Society is honoring the 125-year anniversary of the company by moving its Parker Pen exhibit from the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum Center to the Olde Towne Mall, 20 S. Main St. in Janesville.

The exhibit, “Making Their Mark: 125 Years of Parker Pen,” opened Nov. 8 and will remain open for about a year. The exhibit is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday though Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Parker was in Janesville recently to help promote the exhibit and to meet with residents and former Parker Pen employees. Parker said he is pleased that the historical society is using the exhibit to recognize the company’s history.

“I’m very excited (about the exhibit). I’m here to welcome Janesville to the exhibit, and I’m also here to thank Janesville for the critical role it played in helping Parker grow,” Parker said. “That exhibit, I think, is an ideal way for Janesville to remember what it was that they built in Parker Pen. If the exhibit doesn’t do it, then I’m going to help them remember the role they played in the company.”

The exhibit features a display of Parker Pen products, historical information about the company, video recordings of former Parker Pen employees, music from the Parker Pen band, which was recorded at the University of Wisconsin-Rock County, and information about the Parker Pen tour guides, The Penettes.

Meghan Walker, marketing and outreach coordinator for the Rock County Historical Society, said the reason the exhibit was moved to the Olde Towne Mall is because there was not enough space at the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum Center.

“We do have some new artifacts coming in, so there’s just not enough room in the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum anymore ... “ Walker said. “It’s just more things. Our room (where the Parker Pen exhibit was located) didn’t allow us to have something like an interactive kiosk, but the bigger space will now have something like that. There will be more artifacts as well, more pens to see.”

Walker said the historical society receives a lot of items related to Parker Pen Co.

“We get donations from local people,” she said. “Since Parker Pen is such a worldwide company, we get donations from family members and anybody who wants to donate.”

The historical society has been working on the exhibit since summer, and it’s one Walker said many residents are looking forward to visiting.

“People are excited. I was on the radio (the other day) talking about it and just making sure to get the word out,” Walker said. “It’s going to be free and open to the public. So, we’re just trying to show Janesville that we are a community that has a lot of gems.”

Walker said the space where the Parker Pen exhibit was located in the museum could be used for a future exhibit.

“That room has been pretty much empty,” Walker said. “As to what it will be, I’m not sure that’s been decided quite yet.”

Walker said she hopes the Parker Pen exhibit will still be located somewhere after November 2014.

“I’m hoping that it will be able to stay,” Walker said. “Maybe it will return to the museum.”

Sue Braden, reference librarian at Hedberg Public Library in Janesville, said the library plans to host a program related to Parker Pen Co. next year.

Parker Pen Co. was founded in 1888. The company manufactured the most widely used model of fountain pens during the 1940s. The company later established manufacturing facilities in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Germany, India, Pakistan and throughout the United States.

Parker Pen was purchased by the Gillette Co. in 1993, which then sold its writing instruments division to Newell Rubbermaid in 2000. In August 2009, Newell announced that it would be ending operations in Janesville.

 

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