Allison Coupon Company’s 69 (121) W. Georgia Street location (Hyman’s Handbook to Indianapolis, 1897)

James A. Allison is best known as one of the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he got his start in business in the now little-known company, Allison Coupon Company.

According to the 1897 Hyman’s Handbook to Indianapolis, the Allison Coupon Company was founded in 1888 by James’ father, Noah S. Allison; however, the company was apparently already operating prior to that since James quit school at age 12 in 1884 to join the business. The company had begun by printing coupon books for coal mine company stores, one of the first companies in the country to manufacture such products. They then expanded into other similar markets: printing railroad eating house vouchers, street railway tickets, restaurant coupons, and so on.

Upon his father’s death in 1890, James and his siblings became directors in the company, with James being named Vice President. By 1897, the Hyman Handbook stated the company as doing business across the country, and in Canada, Cuba, Central America, and other foreign countries. The factory in that year was located at 69 West Georgia Street.

Here is an 1899 advertisement from Seattle showing the type of product that the Allison Coupon Company was offering at the time.

Advertisement from the August 26, 1899 Seattle Trade Register (University of Washington Collection)

In the 1899 city directory, the company address had changed to 121 West Georgia Street due to the city-wide readdressing that took place around 1898. The company really did move by 1904 to a large new plant at 536 East Market Street.

The east Market Street plant (Hyman’s Handbook to Indianapolis, 1907)

Allison Coupon remained at the east Market Street location for many more years (until after the 1940 city directory). While the Allison family sold out in 1962, the company is still in the check/voucher/bill printing business, now known as Allison Payment Systems, and is located in an industrial park on the far west side of the city near I-465 and Sam Jones Expressway.

The original plant on Georgia Street was demolished in the 60s or 70s, and the site is now the west end of the Indiana/World Skating Academy. The newer plant building at 536 E. Market Street still stands; surprisingly, it is largely unmodified.

James A. Allison, however, had left the coupon company by the late 1890s to run his own company, the James Allison Manufacturing Co, making Allison’s Perfection Fountain Pens. The pens were an invention James had developed while working at Allison Coupon Company, and would be just the first invention and major business venture he would be involved with over the first decades of the 20th Century.