Fort Wayne’s Entrepreneurial Roots Run Deep

By: Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

Fort Wayne has a rich history when it comes to entrepreneurship. Many inventors and business people called Fort Wayne home over the past 125 years. Here’s a look at a few, in chronological order:

  • Not long after the Civil War, brothers Joseph and Cornelius Hoagland owned and operated a small pharmacy on the corner of Calhoun and Columbia Street. With the help of a fellow employee, the Hoaglands developed a powder that revolutionized baking. The world-renowned formula became known as Royal Baking Powder. The company eventually moved to New York in the 1890’s and became the largest manufacturer of baking powder.
  • Isaac T. Packard, founder of the Packard organs and pianos became a household name in the late 19th The Packard Company became one of the largest known instrument companies in the United States, and employed over 400 workers at its peak.
  • Beer lovers will appreciate Louis Centlivre’s legacy who pioneered one of the largest breweries in the Midwest in 1862. The brewery operated near the current location of Spy Run Avenue and State Street.
  • The “Bowser Pump,” developed by Silvanus Bowser 1888, would become the blueprint for every gas pump across the nation. Bowser was first to develop a way to measure oil and kerosene coming through one of his pumps. His company grew exponentially after the invention of the automobile. It was at this time that Bowser was joined by the Wayne Pump Company, and pump production put Fort Wayne on the map.
  • Philo T. Farnsworth sketched out an idea for a vacuum tube that would revolutionize television. In 1938, he founded the Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation in Fort Wayne. RCA was ultimately able to market and sell the first electronic televisions for a home audience, a venture which made Farnsworth a millionaire.
  • After his military discharge in 1953, Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas went back to work at Hobby House in Fort Wayne.

Years later, Fort Wayne has maintained this robust entrepreneurial climate. In fact, last year the website Nerd Wallet rated Fort Wayne No. 9 on a top ten list of best places to start a business and # 10 in access to resources for entrepreneurs. We are proud to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.


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