Hidden Heroes - Junius Irving


On a wall in the attic of 13 Cayuga St. in Union Springs, written in pencil, is the name Junius Irving. Junius (1870-1927) was the eldest of the four children of John and Lydia Parr Irving, whose family owned the home from 1907-1946. John Irving was a Cayuga Lake schooner master and esteemed artisan known for carving stone for the earliest buildings on the Cornell campus as well as many of the marble grave markers found in our local cemeteries. His obituary states that his ability at this trade earned him the friendship of Ezra Cornell.


As a traveling salesman of printing and book materials, Junius left Union Springs for Kansas City in the late 1890's with his Union Springs' neighbor and friend, Harold Graves. He was armed with an idea - one that would eventually achieve national scope. For several years, Irving had been intrigued with new loose leaf devices and was known to spend hours working with small bits of metal wire, a paste pot and other materials used in book binding. Night after night he would work at the idea of a book in which the leaves would be held together with three metal rings which could be opened to insert additional leaves. As a salesman, such a book would be very useful as it could accommodate changing products and prices.


Irving located a fellow Kansan, William Pitt, a pattern maker, machinist, and manufacturer of novelties. The outgrowth of that partnership was the establishment of the Irving-Pitt Manufacturing Co. in 1904 and the successful manufacturing of the first spring actuated three ring notebook in a small second story loft in Kansas City.


As its practicality became apparent, demand increased and the enterprise moved to its own three-story building by 1907. By 1927, the business had additional establishments in Chicago and New York City, employing over 1,200 employees with revenue exceeding $1,000,000. Agencies had also been established in all the principal cities of Europe, the Far East, South America, Australia and Canada making their products universally attainable


The young man from Union Springs and his idea had achieved millionaire status. He never forgot his roots, visiting this area often and, according to recollections by Allen Hammond, bought the home at 13 Cayuga St. for his parents. When viewing his signature on the attic wall, one has to wonder, did this plant the seed for needing a better means on which to record his name?


In 1927, while vacationing with business associates at his 400 acre estate on the St. Croix River in Wisconsin, Irving's canoe capsized and he drowned. Ironically, the boy raised on the shores of Cayuga Lake could not swim. Active pall bearers included his childhood friend from Union Springs, Harold Graves. Notable among the 23 honorary pall bearers were several judges and the mayor of Kansas City. Irving left, in trust for his wife, over $1.5 million dollars and the business, which was valued at $3 million. In 1929 the company merged with Wilson-Jones which would become part of ACCO, which today encompasses Swingline, Mead, Trapper Keeper and more. Junius' widow, Anna Elno Irving, passed away in 1944, leaving a checking account balance of almost $350,000 and a trust fund in excess of $1.6 million. In her will, she specified several close friends to oversee the disbursement of valuable paintings and household contents,. One of those selected was her husband's valued and lifelong friend, Harold Graves, who had continued in that role long after Junius' death.