1. Emerson A. Bolen
  2. Kitchen Matches
  3. The Yankee
  4. The Northwestern Novelty Company
  1. Diversification
  2. Ice Cream
  3. Waldo Bolen
  4. New Horizons in Bulk Vending
  1. Landmark Machines
  2. Disaster
  3. Pat and Richard Bolen
  4. Nortwestern Today

Chapter 1: Emerson A. Bolen

The late Emerson A. Bolen, who founded Northwestern, was one of those imaginative entrepreneurs whose genius preceded the big corporation, the corps of professional managers, and the idea of the "team" which professional managements fostered. Born in Newark, Ohio, Bolen moved his family to Marion, Indiana, graduated from public schools without particularly distinguishing himself, and became a traveling salesman.

At this he was good. So good that in his early 20's he packed his satchel and a sample case and sailed off to South Africa as the sole representative of the Fireless Cooker Company and of a firm which manufactured illustrated blackboards. In later years his family like to josh "that dad made his living selling fireless cookers to cannibals." Whoever his customers were Bolen appears to have been quite successful.

He had his ups and downs, of course. He got himself drafted briefly to serve in the British Army during those desperate days of the Boer War despite his protest that the British could not draft an American citizen. When he wasn't selling cookers and blackboards he used his spare time as a volunteer teacher in a mission school. He might have well stayed in South Africa, except his heart was back home in Marion and belonged to a young lady named Jenny Fullhart.

After three years in South Africa Bolen started for home. He stopped off in London to convert his currency into gold and wait for a ship. Bolen's absent-mindedness, a trait still remembered around Northwestern and the town of Morris, almost cost him his three years' savings. While waiting for his ship Bolen wrote his friends at home to tell them of his plans for returning. The letters finished, he set out to find the London Post Office. As always, he carried all his gold with him.

Having posted the letters and with hours of waiting still ahead, Bolen decided to see London on foot. Later that day, patting his pockets, he discovered his gold was missing. Then he remembered he had laid the gold down on one of the high tables in the post office lobby while he fixed stamps to the envelopes. He rushed back to the post office certain he was wiped out. But his good fortune held. As he hurried in to the lobby a postal clerk came along to meet him. "We know what you're after" the clerk said as he handed over the gold.

Back in Marion, Emerson Bolen promptly married his young sweetheart. In time the Bolen's had three children: Marjorie, Charline, and Waldo.

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