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Allis Chalmers Factory Circa 1911

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

Both my father and grandfather worked their entire careers on the assembly line and as inspectors at the Allis Chalmers factory in West Allis, Wisconsin. A photo of my grandfather at work (he's on the far right) can be found below (Figure 1). I don't know the year, but I'm guessing sometime in the 1950s.

Allis Chalmers was a major manufacturer of farm tractors and heavy equipment for most of the 20th century. That's why this postcard is special to me. It depicts the Allis Chalmers factory circa 1911, well before my father and grandfather worked there, but many of these buildings remained in use during their working careers.

The street in the foreground is South 70th Street, and the one to the right is West Greenfield Avenue. Allis Chalmers went out of business for all intents and purposes in the mid 1980s, and this area looks much different today.

This postcard is postmarked Milwaukee, May 28, 1911, and is franked with a one-cent Franklin stamp. It is either US Scott 331 or 374 depending on the watermark. I suspect it is #374 given the date of the postmark.

I've come up empty handed researching the sender, Gilbert Jackson. I know he was a machinist because he is listed as such in the 1911 City of Milwaukee Directory. The address in the directory is the same as he writes on the postcard: 314 Reservoir.

But beyond that, I've come up empty. He is not listed in a City of Milwaukee Directory before or after 1911. Given that he is writing to his "dear friends" in Cincinnati, Ohio, I thought he might have been born somewhere in Ohio. I found a number of Gilbert Brown's on, including one born in Ohio, but none seem to fit the description.

On the other hand, the lives of the recipients of his postcard, "Mr. & Mrs. S E Whallon," are well documented.

Stanley Earl Whallon was born in Sharonville, Ohio in 1883. Sharonville is about 17 northeast of Cincinnati, which is where Stanley was living by 1900 per that year's census. He married Lillie Jeannette Hust in 1908 - that would be "Mrs. Whallon."

His occupation in the 1910 census is listed as "machinist," hence the connection to Gilbert, but in the 1910 Cincinnati directory, his occupation is listed as "fireman." A "machinist" and a "fireman" do not seem like complementary talents until you remember that a "fireman" need not be a firefighter. Stanley must have been a fireman working on some sort of power plant. I base that conclusion on his obituary, which appeared in the July 9, 1949, issue of The Journal Herald of Dayton, Ohio. (Lillie and he moved to Dayton in 1912.) When he passed away at age 66 in 1949, he was working as the district examiner of steam engineers for the state of Ohio. He was a Mason and a member of a number of professional organizations, including the National Association of Power Engineers, which was established in 1882 and remains in operation to this day.

Lillie passed away in 1977, living until the ripe old age of 93. She was active member of the Order of the Eastern Star, which is a Masonic appendant body.

But what happened to Gilbert Jackson? That remains a mystery for another day.

Figure 1 - Martin Kordus (far right) at work at Allis-Chalmers

Figure 2 - Picture side

Figure 3 - Message side

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