Search billions of records on

Biography of Edward Phelps Allis (1824 to 1889)
From Dictionary of American Biography
Daniel H. Weiskotten
Click Here to Return to the Cazenovia/Fenner/Nelson Biography Page

Edward Phelp Allis (April 12, 1824 to April 1, 1889)
from Dictionary of American Biography 1958, pages 219-220

Written by William Bristol Shaw

ALLIS, EDWARD PHELPS (May 12, 1824-Apr. 1, 1889), manufacturer, born in Cazenovia, N.Y., the son of Jere Allis and Mary White.  His ancestors on both sides had been among the settlers of Hatfield, Mass., in the Connecticut Valley.  Young Allis was reared in conditions of comfort and prosperity, as the terms were understood in those times in rural New York.  he attended college at Union College at Schenectady, from which he graduated in 1845, during the presidency of Dr. Eliphalet Nott.  At first intending to prepare himself for law, he changed his plans soon after graduation from college, went to Milwaukee two years before Wisconsin's admission as a state, and engaged in the leather business.  In 1848 he was married to Margaret Watson of Geneva, N.Y., by whom he had twelve children.  he built extensive tanneries at Two Rivers, Wis., but in 1854 disposed of his holdings and for seven years confined his operations to banking and real estate.  In the first year of the Civil War, having an opportunity to buy a small iron-foundry in Milwaukee, he established the Reliance iron Works, which he built up in his lifetime into one of the largest industrial plants int he Middle West.  In 1869, when the city f Milwaukee was installing a water-system, the Allis Company by underbidding competitors, obtained the contract for piping, which it filled, although when the contract was awarded the company had no machinery for making pipe.  it then installed the necessary pumps and engines for the Milwaukee service and within a few years became known as one of the largest machine shops in the country.  its products were shipped in later years to Europe, Japan, South America, and Australia.  When the roller process was adopted by American four-millers the Allis works made the new machinery that was required in hundreds of mills throughout the country.  Sawmill and mining machinery and heavy pumps were also made at the Milwaukee plant.  The famous Corliss engines were built there, under the direction of a graduate of the works at Providence, R.I.  Before the owner's death, in 1889, the business amounted to $3,000,000 a year, with 1,200 employees.  All of this had been developed in a period of twenty-eight years, which included the serious business depression of 1873.  In those years Allis became a convert to the Greenback faith and was that party's candidate for Governor of Wisconsin in 1877.  He cultivated good relations with his employees and was prompt toe reward diligence and efficiency.  he became a patron of art and was known as a man of genuine culture.  In Milwaukee he was remembered as a pioneer who had contributed to the city's fame as an industrial center.  In his own lifetime the spindles of cotton-mills in New England, the home of his ancestors for seven generations, were <:220> driven by engines that were fabricated in his works on the western shore of Lake Michigan a region that was only one remove from a wilderness when he migrated to it in his youth.

[The ancestry of Edward Phelps Allis is given in Genealogy of William Allis of Hatfield, Mass., and Descendants, 1630-1919, by Horatio D. Allis (n.d); and in Memorials of Elder John White, One of the First Settlers of Hartford, Conn., and His Descendants, by Allyn Stanley Kellogg (1860).  An obituary appeared in the Milwaukee Sentinel, Apr. 2, 1889.]

W.B.S. [William Bristol Shaw]