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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.

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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.

allisoncc-536emarket
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.

 

17 responses to “Allison Coupon Company”

  1. Mark Dill says:

    Great article. I will link to it from my site. I have Allison’s obituaries and a good amount of other information about him and his contemporaries on my site.

  2. Ted Meek says:

    My family has owned the building at 536 E. Market Street since 1967. It housed our family business which has ceased doing business after nearly 60 years. It is a great timber-frame building built to last. We are now exploring new uses for the property.

  3. Paul Jablonski says:

    For those interested, the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust – Allison Branch has a aircraft engine museum and archive on the west side of Indianapolis. In additions to collecting and displaying items that grew out of James Allison’s Allison Experimental Company. We are interested in any of the businesses that James Allison was involved with. I have just purchased two Allison Coupon Books: one from 1889 and the other printed for the Monroe City Ice Co. If you are interested in Allison lore, it is worth paying the museum a visit.

    I and others in the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust – Allison Brach would like to visit the Market Street building owned by Ted Meeks family.

  4. Candace Allison Ormiston says:

    Just a comment about Jim Allison’s middle name often being spelled AsHbury – which is incorrect (it doesn’t appear in this article). His middle name was Asbury. No H in there! He was named after his maternal grandfather, Asbury Black, father of his mother Myra Jane Black Allison. My grandfather was Jim’s youngest brother, Noah Cornelius Allison, known as Cornelius Allison. He worked at the Allison Coupon Company along with other family members. My grandfather was 4 years old when his father, Noah, died.

    Thank you for letting me add this information!

    Candace Allison Ormiston

  5. Paul Jablonski says:

    Candace Allison Ormiston, Please contact me as I am a volunteer with the Allison Branch of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust. We are interested in all aspects of James Allison and would like to establish or see a family tree of the descendants of Noah Allison and find out if any are living locally.

    Next year is the 100th anniversary of Jim Allison and Carl Fisher forming the Indianapolis Speedway Team Company which became the Allison Engineering Company. The aircraft engine business under Rolls-Royce and Allison Transmission are both business descendants of James Allison’s original company.

    I can be reached at pmjrolls@gmail.com

    Thank you,
    Paul Jablonski
    Project Coordinator, Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust – Allison Branch

  6. Scott Runyon says:

    I recently acquired two 1923 $20 Gulf Oil Products coupon books. Booklet reads Coupon Book Good For Face Value In Exchange For Gulf Oil Products
    At Service Stations & authorized Dealers Of Gulf Oil Corporation And Gulf Refining Company. Issued To ————— Lisense No.————–
    No. 2387 countersigned by RR Johnston division manager. Back says Allison Coupon Co. Indianapolis, Ind. Gulf logo in middle patented October 9,1923
    at the bottom. I have tried researching this but I keep running into dead ends. Hoping someone can give me some information on it’s value
    Inside booklet are .25cent coupons Philadelphia printed on side. Any help would be appreciated.

  7. Paul Jablonski says:

    Scott,
    As a Project Coordinator for the Allison Branch of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, I have been researching the Allison Coupon Co for the last 2 years. Allison Coupon Company books (full with all coupons) can routinely be found for sale on e-bay for $3 to $20. I have bought 5 or 6 in that price range. On August 28, 2014, there are two books listed on e-bay. There is a $10 (face value) Allison Improved Credit Coupon book listed for $10, but appears to be missing all the coupons. Hence, I would say not worth a $10 bid. This item has the image of the founder Noah Allison on the cover. Watch e-bay and you can get full books for similar price or less. Also on e-bay is a $3 face value book for “The Gottlieb Mercantile Co.” in Cokedale, Colorado. This is a company store for a mine. The buy-it-now price is $13.99. This book appears to have the coupons inside and worth a bid if you wanted it.

    The ultimate in Allison Coupon Co. books would be a full book with coupons printed for the Panama Rail Road Co. when the canal was being dug. I have only seen a single torn our coupon offered on e-bay for $50. Too much for me and I just scanned the screen image for my files.

    The best local business I have a coupon book for is the “Irvington Ice & Coal Company” on Ritter Avenue. The book is for 2,000 pound of ice with each coupon for 50 lbs.

    I hope this helps. Contact me if you need more information or additional discussion.

    Paul Jablonski
    Project Coordinator
    Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust – Allison Branch
    paul.jablonski@rolls-royce.com

  8. David A. Church says:

    While searching for an old Indianapolis address where my parents once lived for a short time I discovered my dad (Edwin L. Church) was employed as a printer for Allison Coupon Co. sometime in 1957. I was just wondering what type of products were being printed at that time. My research led me to this sight.

    Ironically and unknowingly 30 years later I would start working for Allison Gas Turbine as a Technical Illustrator.

  9. Paul Jablonski says:

    David Church,

    I am a volunteer for the Allison Branch of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust and have just assembled a graphic panel on the Allison Coupon Company for our museum. Here is some of the text from the panel. Note Wallace and Delmore are brothers to James Allison:

    By 1916 both Wallace and Delmore Allison had died and Delmore’s 19 year old son, John Allison and his sisters, continued to run the company. The business had lean times and also saw growth. Business flourished during the depression. In 1932, General Motors Acceptance Corp. began using the Allison installment payment books for credit auto purchases. World War II saw the printing of ration books where the coupons were designated for a limited amount of a commodity.

    In 1962, John Allison and his partners sold the Allison Coupon Co. to the Cummins American Corp. out of Chicago – not related to the Cummins Diesel Engine Co. In 1973, the Allison Coupon Co. merged with Cummins-Chicago, a manufacturer of document perforators and the name changed to Cummins-Allison Corp.
    New products were developed:
    First computer printed Federal Tax Deposit coupon payment books for the Internal Revenue Service
    Coin wrap paper for automatic coin wrapping machines
    Payment book for collection of sales, use taxes, and income withholding by state governments.

    In 1988, Joseph H. Thomas, former president of Cummins-Allison’s Data Systems Division, became president of the company’s Allison Coupon Division.  In 1995, Mr. Thomas and the management team of Richard Lippitz and John Mentzer partnered with the head of Kodiak Business Forms to purchase the Coupon Division and renamed it Allison Payment Systems, LLC.  In 1997, Allison Payment Systems and Mr. Thomas acquired Kodiak Business Forms.  By 2001, Mr. Thomas and two of his sons, Joseph P. Thomas and Kevin Thomas, and three other senior managers bought out the other owners, and again, as in the beginning, creating a new family owned business.

    By 2000, the business had expanded significantly into monthly transactional billing statement services, targeting the Financial and Healthcare markets, in addition to its traditional payment books. The transactional billing business is so large that the yearly cost of just US postage is greater than $100 million.  The company motto is:
    “Timely Products, Timeless Quality”
    A fitting tribute to the business started by Noah Allison in 1888 and still thriving 126+ years later! Allison Payment Systems is located in Park Fletcher and thriving in 2014.

    Paul Jablonski
    Project Coordinator
    Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust – Allison Branch

  10. David A. Church says:

    Thanks Paul for the interesting history. But I still would like to know specifically what my dad (a printer for Allison Coupon Co.) would have been printing in 1957. I don’t know how long he worked there, but the city directory of 1957 shows he did.

    David A Church
    Indianapolis, IN

  11. Joe Melhiser says:

    Candace. My Mother passed away this year at 93. Her Aunt (Estelle Jarnet Bellew Allison) was married to John Allison (my great uncle by marriage) who had a printing company. John’s uncle was James Allison. I visited the Allison house on Meridian many times as a lad. Though we are not related by blood it was interesting to see an article from some of Uncle John’s family.

  12. Joe Melhiser says:

    Paul

    My Mother passed away this year at 93. Her Aunt (Estelle Jarnet Bellew Allison) was married to John Allison (my great uncle by marriage) who had a printing company. John’s uncle was James Allison. I visited the Allison house on Meridian many times as a lad. it was interesting to see an article about Uncle John’s business. I was told by my mother that the business almost failed but a family member helped it through the lean times.

  13. Bonnie Layton says:

    Hello,
    Joe Melhiser is my cousin and sent this wonderful link. My father John Bellew was adopted by Auntie Stella and Uncle John after he became very ill around 13, and his grandparents were having trouble caring for him. Unfortunately, they moved him to Indianapolis away from his sister Magnetta (Joe’s mother). He later worked for Allison in sales. He called on banks in the New York area for their payment book needs. In my father’s belongings, I might have some information about what they printed. I know, for example, that he mentioned that Allison printed the time payments for Cape Coral mortgages where my dad ended up retiring. That would have been around the time David Church’s dad worked there. I remember him saying the Allison Coupon Company was located downtown in a former paint factory (perhaps the one on Market Street), and the floors were slightly tilted (something to do with draining paint containers). He said he tried to talk Uncle John into piping in music for employees, but Uncle thought that was a ridiculous idea. Uncle John and Stella were very kind to my father and Magnetta. All of us remember them fondly. I have some Harvard Classic library books inscribed as being from James Allison’s library.
    Thank you for posting this information.

  14. John Bolin says:

    Hello I’ve just acquired a “Camp Coupon Book $2.00 no 344B” and I found next to nothing of it’s history can you please help me with this.. Thank you

  15. Candace A. ormiston says:

    Interesting to read all the comments here. My grandfather, N. Cornelius Allison, was Jim Allison’s youngest brother. After all these years searching the Allison and Black (Myra Jane Black Allison) families , I still am finding clues and stories about the family. I’m 80 now, so will have to give it up sometime, but want to offer any information to family they might like to have.

    Candace Allison Ormiston

  16. Tiffany Benedict Browne says:

    Thank you for your comment, Ms. Ormiston. I am also fascinated by Jim’s brother, Dell. By chance do you know anyone on that line? Thank you for sharing. – Tiffany

  17. Joe Melhiser says:

    Hi Candace

    I hope you are doing well. I need some information on John & James & Noah Allison lineage. I found some other Allison familes in the Indy area so I must be connecting 2 different families. Do you have some descendant info that you can share with me? I think John F as the oldest Ancestor. my email is joemelhiser@yahoo.com. My G Aunt was married to John Allison who eventually I understand was owner of Allison Coupon. I visited there home many times in my adolescence.

    Thanks

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