With Welch-Allyn in the news, I am reminded of the company’s humble beginnings. Few people today know that the company was started in 1915 with a loan from a feed store – $5,000 loaned to William Noah Allyn by George Gibbons, the man at the left in the photo above, shown at his Clark & Gibbons Flour & Feed Store in Skaneateles.
Five years later, Allyn had just enough money left to cover two weeks of payroll, with $25 to spare. He took the $25 to Chicago to the convention of the American Medical Association, and persuaded the convention manager to allow him to set up a card table for display of his otoscope and ophthalmoscope. The only space for the table was outside the men’s toilet, but, as it turned out, it was a spot every delegate visited.
The new instruments enabled even general practitioners to inspect patients’ ears and eyes, and Allyn’s demonstrations were convincing. He sold every instrument he’d taken to Chicago and returned with $350 in cash and $1,000 in orders for more. And the rest, as they say, is history.
For these stories, I am indebted to William G. Allyn who wrote and published Welch Allyn: An American Success Story in 1996. Here are a few more of his observations about his remarkable father.
“Most of his friends called him ‘Cap.’ He liked it, and it seemed to suit him even before he started Welch Allyn. The name originated when Noah was a young child, and stuck with him throughout his early adulthood, when he worked on the steamboats in Skaneateles during the summers.”
“Although he was generous and outgoing to everyone, he was unforgiving if someone double-crossed him or lied to him. Noah considered trust the basis of all relationships and could never relate to people who were dishonest.”
“He considered the secret to good health a big bowl of oatmeal in the morning, a long walk, and in later years, a drink of 20-year-old scotch in the evening.”
“Noah was an avid walker who faithfully trekked a minimum of five to six miles every day, rain or shine, whether he was in Skaneateles or at the family’s vacation home in Naples, Florida. People set their clocks by the time Noah walked past their houses.”