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Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history

14. Notable people,   pp. 249-261

Page 256

Palmer studied to be a teacher, but later graduated from the Albany Medical College with a
specialty in surgery. In 1856, he came to Janesville to practice medicine, then served as surgeon
of the famed Iron Brigade during the Civil War. He supervised the construction and operation
of the Union Army Hospital at York, Pennsylvania, the largest hospital in the United States
at that time. He also served as medical inspector of the 8th Army Corps. Palmer resumed his
medical practice in Janesville after the war. He served as surgeon general of Wisconsin for 10
years, held the position of professor of clinical surgery at the College of Physicians and
Surgeons in Chicago, served as vice president of the American Medical Association, and helped
establish the Oakwood Retreat Association, an insane asylum in southern Wisconsin. Along
with his distinguished medical career, Palmer was an important investor in many Janesville
businesses, including the Janesville Cotton Mill. He served as president of the Merchants and
Mechanics Savings Bank and was active in the political life of the city, serving as mayor. Also
important behind the scenes, he was instrumental in convincing Abraham Lincoln to speak in
Janesville before his election as president. (Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography 1960:278-279)
Parker, George
George Parker developed one of the most important twentieth-century industries in Janesville,
the Parker Pen Company. Born on an Iowa farm, Parker came to Janesville in the mid-1880s to
study telegraphy in preparation for a railroad career. To pay for his schooling, he became an
agent for the John Holland Pen Company of Cincinnati. These pens easily malfunctioned and
Parker often found himself making repairs. Concluding that he could do better, he designed a
pen he called the "Lucky Curve" and began producing them in Janesville in 1888. In 1891, he
formed a partnership with W. P. Palmer and, along with C. Bassett, incorporated the Parker
Pen Company, which eventually occupied several buildings in downtown Janesville. In 1920,
the company built its own factory, and by 1930, it employed over 300 workers. Throughout the
twentieth century, the company has employed over 2,000 workers, producing high-quality pens
and inks. The company, still in operation today, remains a major employer in the city.
(Alexander 1949:137; Parker Pen Company n.d.:1-2)
Richardson, Hamilton
Hamilton Richardson was typical of early settlers who achieved success in several business
enterprises. A native of New York State, Richardson moved to Michigan in 1835 to work in a
store there. In 1842, he came to Milwaukee where he worked in a large store. After a brief stay
in Racine Richardson arrived in Janesville in 1844 where he operated a hardware store. He
also invested in a large flour mill, but this was unsuccessful. In 1851, he went to California,
where he provided goods and services to the miners of the Gold Rush. He returned to
Janesville in 1856 with enough money to invest in real estate and other businesses, including the
Janesville Cotton Mills, the Doty Manufacturing Company, and the First National Bank. He
also held many public offices, including postmaster, county board supervisor, and state senator.
(Rock River Valley II 1926:405-407)
Hamilton and Caroline Richardson House (1871), 429 Prospect Ave.
Notable People

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