Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Frank D. Waterman's recollections of Waterman's early years

In my recent efforts to fill in the many missing pieces of Lewis Edson Waterman's biography, I've had to take a much closer look at Waterman's family than anyone has done to date. There's still a lot I have to publish, but right now I wanted to share a rather significant source that has been sitting in plain sight since 1942.

That source is Donald Lines Jacobus and Edgar Francis Waterman's The Waterman Family: Descendants of Robert Waterman of Marshfield, Massachusetts, from the Seventh Generation to Date, published in three volumes in 1939, 1942, and 1954. I managed to find a copy online through FamilySearch; the second volume, the most useful for our purposes, can be directly downloaded here. If you've done any poking around through online genealogy sites, all the information you'll find on L. E. Waterman and his branch of the Waterman family comes from Jacobus and Waterman, whether directly or indirectly. These volumes were carefully researched and compiled, with a significant contribution from Frank Dan Waterman, L. E. Waterman's nephew and designated successor. Nephew and uncle alike put great store by their ancestry, as is apparent from the subject-dictated biographies published during L. E. Waterman's lifetime, and by Frank D. Waterman's own family genealogical chart, published by him in 1928. According to Jacobus and Waterman, most of Frank D. Waterman's research data didn't make its way into the chart, but was left to them after his death in 1938 -- along with other material contributed during his lifetime (vol. 1, p. 5).

Jacobus and Waterman does fill in a few gaps prior to 1883. Notably, it confirms that L. E. Waterman did divorce his first wife, and specifies that, rather than selling books directly, he was "soliciting subscriptions for books and papers published by Fowler & Wells, New York City" (vol. 2, p. 46). It also lists L. E. Waterman's younger brother Daniel B. Waterman, who was mustered into service as a wagoner in the infantry on August 22, 1862 and was killed in Mississippi the following June -- but who is never mentioned in biographies of his non-serving brother. Perhaps most interesting, however, is the autobiographical material contributed by Frank D. Waterman, and especially these passages (pp. 49-50):
Frank had received a letter from his uncle, L. E. Waterman, apprising the young man that many years previously this brother of his father had borrowed, and had not yet repaid, two hundred dollars from the latter, for which sum no note had been given nor record made. In consideration of this fact his uncle induced Frank to come east and enter the fountain pen business. Frank knew something about the pens, for he had already sold some now and then to his acquaintances. He found the business in a very primitive stage of development. It was connected in the rear of a cigar store. There was no factory. The gold pens were purchased at one place, the holders ordered from another. Frank and his uncle sold the assembled pens to individual customers by office to office canvass . . .
The critical point in this company's infancy came when Bulwinkle, owner of a stationery store near City Hall, Brooklyn, ordered a fountain pen for a customer. A family conference decided the future policy of the company as to wholesale orders. The obtain the concession of a wholesale price the dealer had to buy a minimum quantity of six pens. Bulwinkle, their first wholesale customer, continued to buy Waterman pens until his building was torn down, several years ago.
John M. Bulwinkle was a well-known stationer, whose shop was at 413 Fulton Street, Brooklyn.

Back from the Los Angeles show, so now time for some discussion and commentary. As noted by those who have gone back to check the full passage, Frank D. Waterman's account simply doesn't add up. He gives an extended account of all his employment triumphs prior to joining his uncle in the pen business, noting a bit prior to the midpoint that he was then sixteen. But Frank D. Waterman was sixteen in 1885, so he most certainly could not have arrived in New York while the pen business was still at the cigar store, nor indeed before it got its first wholesale orders. I will try to check other records to get a closer idea of when Frank D. Waterman really did arrive in New York; his motives for placing himself at the origins of the business are fairly obvious, leaving open the question of how accurate other elements of the account might be.

ADDENDUM: According to Frank D. Waterman's memorial biography, he was invited to join his uncle in the pen business in 1888, and was thereafter given the "entire West" as his sales territory, for which he was based in Chicago.


George Kovalenko said...

Did you also notice that on pp. 83-84 Arthur A. Waterman is listed as the "first inventor" of the "middle joint" fountain pen, and that his family claimed "it was purely a coincidence that two Watermans were making fountain pens at the same time". I haven't figured out whether there might be some deep genealogical tie between LEW and AAW.

George Kovalenko.

George Kovalenko said...

LEW and AAW were related. They were cousins about 5 or 6 times removed. They are both related to the original Robert from the 1600s in the title of the book and his son John, but then their genealogical lines diverged.


David said...

Interesting that the A. A. Waterman family lore left out the fact that A. A. worked for L. E. before striking out on his own. No wonder that we are finding out so much by going back to original sources!