One of the lovely Christmas window displays in Fulton during December 2000 was in the Musk Building on 4th Street. Among the many wonderful toys was a boat and rower with box marked Fulton, Illinois, Patent Novelty Company. The Fulton Journal, December 8, 1916, records the history of the company to that date.
“A splendid industry that has built up within the past ten years in Fulton is the Patent Novelty Company, engaged in the manufacture of advertising novelties and hardware specialties.
The enterprise was founded by C.L. Passmore in 1905, and among the articles of utility that was first made was a handle dustpan invented by Mr. Passmore. It was not long before the factory sold a million of the “So E-Z” dustpans in one year.
In 1906, Mr. Passmore sold out to Frank W. Dana for a nominal sum, and soon afterward L.A. Lemke became Mr. Dana’s partner and the business was expanded and a building was purchased on the corner of Tenth Avenue and Fifth street and machines installed and a japanning oven constructed.
In 1907 Edward H. Downs was added to the firm and the company incorporated with capital stock of $20,000. The business proved wonderfully successful and, finding lack of room in the Tenth avenue factory, the company purchased a block of lots on Eighth avenue, paralleling the C,B.&Q railroad, which enabled it to have a side track. A new factory was built in 1910 and many new articles added to the list of manufactured products. Several traveling salesmen were employed and the factory was enlarged, and in 1912 the large brick building on the northeast corner was erected. Business increased so rapidly that the company increased the capital stock to $140,000 and decided to build a new brick factory, which was commenced in July and is just completed. It is a model plant and the building cost about $20,000 with the new American Blower heating plant.
The new structure is ninety feet wide and two hundred and forty-two feet long, built of brick and steel and contains 26,000 square feet of floor space. The building is admirable planned and lighted for factory purposes, and scores of machines, operated largely by electricity fill the floor space. It is, in fact, a model manufactory with fine equipment and now rushed to fill orders to the full capacity with over ninety people employed. The line of goods made embraces fifty different articles, the greater part of which have a regular and increasing demand.
Frank W. Dana is president of the company; E.H Downs, secretary and treasurer.
There are nineteen people in the office force.
T. A. Landa has charge of the salesmen in the large cities.
S.C. Coman is general sales manager.
C. J. Harned, manager of sales in the premium department.
Miss Catherine J. Dugan has charge of the bookkeeping and collections department, and has proved highly efficient.
George H. Reimer is superintendent of the factory.
S.H. Wilson is foreman of the metal stamping department.
Sika Poel is foreman of the finishing department.”
According to Wayne Bastian in his book A HISTORY OF WHITESIDE COUNTY, the Patent Novelty Company produced toys as early as 1908 when the Little Nemo Popgun and Mocking-Bird whistle were made. In 1927, the assets of the O.K. Toy factory of Sterling were purchased and moved to Fulton. In 1929, 410,000 toys were manufactured and part of them exported to 14 countries. The new line included Whirling Maypole, Tick Tack, Twirlo and Ben Hur. The company developed new toys and produced them for years.
Such fun it would be to see both the catalogs and the toys produced here in Fulton!