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Sun, 08.12.1838

William Purvis, Inventor born

William B. Purvis

*William B. Purvis was born on this date in 1838.  He was a Black inventor and businessman who received multiple patents in the late 1800s.  

Born in Pennsylvania, Purvis was one of eight children to Joseph and Sarah Purvis. His relatives, James Forten and Robert Purvis were involved in the abolitionist movement.  Purvis's upbringing is credited to his uncle who was working for the Underground Railroad.  

In his youth, William Purvis worked many low-paying jobs and did many experiments for his inventions.  However, despite holding 12 patents on paper bag manufacturing machines, his first business attempt was not successful. His first company, The Sterling Paper Bag Company, bankrupted in 1884.  He owed $100,00, and his uncle Robert Purvis repaid his debts.  Even though his company failed, he was able to sell his patents to the Eastern Paper Bag Company in Pennsylvania.  

Purvis did not give up his business career and inventions. On January 7, 1890, Purvis received a patent for improving the efficiency of the fountain pen.  His inventions included an updated fountain pen design, improvement to the handstamp, and a close-conduit electric railway system.   At the beginning of the 20th century, Purvis established the Union Electric Construction Company in New York and became the president of his company.  The company appeared on the stock market in May 1900, offering 40,000 shares for subscription at $5 per share.  

William Purvis remained unmarried and lived with his sister in Darby, Pennsylvania until he passed away on August 10, 1914.  



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