Chapter 3: The Yankee
Out of this thinking came a small, bar top device which Bolen called the Yankee. You opened the top of the Yankee and loaded it with 100 or so kitchen matches. Then the top was locked back on. When you pushed down a lever about an inch of matchstick popped out of an opening in the top. You grasped the matchstick and pulled, and as you pulled the match head struck itself against an abrasive and emerged lighted, ready for use. The end of the lever which actuated the device also contained a cutter to nip off the end of your cigar.
Bolen kept his device to himself. He took the train to Chicago to find someone who would manufacture the Yankee. In Chicago he contacted the Coleman Hardware Company, which had a foundry in Morris, about 654 miles southwest of the city. The Coleman people suggested that Bolen take his model and drawings down to Morris to see the works manager of their foundry. This Bolen promptly did.
When a number of cast iron samples had been produced, Bolen set out to test the sales reception it would have. Morris, the seat of prosperous Grundy County, sits on the banks of the Illinois River. Through the town runs the old Illinois-Michigan canal, a busy waterway until 1933 when the river itself was opened to shippers. Like most small river towns Morris was populated by saloons: 23 all told in the year 1909 when Bolen's Yankee was ready for production.
Bolen's sales approach was simple and right down to closing the sale, wordless. He simply ticked the Yankee under his arm, marched into a saloon, and ordered a beer. As the beer was being delivered, he pushed down the handle of the Yankee, pulled out a lighted math and lit a cigar. When the saloon keeper expressed amazement at the device, Bolen would repeat the performance, again without words. By this time the Yankee usually sold itself. Within days, 21 of the saloons in Morris had purchased the Yankee and the word was out around town that young Bolen had hold of a good thing.