HICKOK, WILLIAM ORVILLE, was born at the residence of his maternal grandfather, Job Lockwood, near Warsaw, Wyoming county, N.Y., October 6, 1815. He was a scion of good English stock, a descendant of an old and honorable family of Warwickshire, England. The name has been spelled in various ways, almost as numerous as the possible combination of letters comprising it would admit, and this fact indicates a long family history. Had Mr. Hickok been inclined to boast of his ancestry he could have pointed to illustrious names in his line in this and many preceding generations, whose achievements and rank would have justified an honest family pride. It was his aim rather to prove himself worthy of his ancestors, and to add to the luster of his line by accomplishing something in his own career worthy the recognition and honor of mankind, and in this laudable ambition he was gratified, as a brief record of his life will show. The first American ancestor of the name was William Hickox, of Farmington, Conn., of the seventh generation preceding William O., the date of whose coming to this county cannot be definitely fixed, but it is somewhere between 1627 and 1633. In his boyhood Mr. Hickok displayed the possession of those talents which later gave him success and distinction. He met with an accident when five years old by being trampled down in the street in front of his home in Ithaca, N.Y., by a passing horse, the resulting injuries of which were so great that his life was saved only by a difficult surgical operation, and which left him an invalid many years and caused him physical limitations and adversities which he bore through life. His parents removed to Pennsylvania, but he remained with his maternal grandparents until he was fifteen years old, when he rejoined his family at Lewistown, Pa., where his father was conducting a popular academy and where he pursued a course of studies. It was thought best to put William O. in training for mercantile pursuits, and with this end in view he entered the employment of James Parker, in whose stores he soon won a reputation for intelligence, aptness and trustworthiness. In 1834 his father gave up teaching and enbarked in the book publishing business and William O. entered the bindery department as an apprenticeship, but in a short time was promoted on merit to the position of foreman. The work of Mr. Hickok in this country office is of the deepest interest, not only to the practical mechanical results and artisan, who delights in seeing valuable mechanical results produced, but equally also to the philosopher who makes a study of the development of human powers and talents. In boyhood Mr. Hickok had invented and constructed ingenious toys and had shown that he was gifted with remarkable talent in the way of invention and the application of mechanical principles. This talent was called into use in the office, when there were rude and imperfect appliances producing incomplete and unsatisfactory results, of improvements suggested by his fertile brain and executed by his skillful hand, there were many; and, indeed, through his whole connection with the book business there was a continued exercise of his invention faculties and an output of practical improved appliances. In 1836 his father removed the business to Chambersburg, Pa., where William O. continued in charge of the mechanical department and kept on improving the tools and machinery. He removed to Harrisburg with his father’s family in 1839. His father shortly after retired from business and William O. conducted a book bindery for a time, but losses by fire and other adverse business conditions led him finally to abandon the business. This failure of business plans appeared disastrous, but in reality proved to be the way of his final prosperity by leading him gradually into a field where there was room and occasion for his undeveloped talents. As early as 1846 he began in a small shop to manufacture bookbinder’s specialties and from this germ has sprung the magnificent plant of the "Eagle Works," the most extensive and the most complete of the kind in the world. In 1886 the business was incorporated as the Hickok Manufacturing Company, with Mr. Hickok as its first president.
It would be profitable to trace the steps and stops of this development, for it would reveal the history of human genius in its grown and fruitage. The production of a perfect ruling pen, and that which displays still more ability, the production of a machine to make the pen, which is as nearly perfect as any the human brain and hand have ever constructed, are among the achievements of Mr. Hickok, which have given him a world-wide fame and most honorable distinction. The cleverness and completeness of the productions of this factory places them beyond and above all competitors and assures the permanent and liberal prosperity of his enterprise, but which, coupled with his mechanical genius, enabled him to create an establishment which is a landmark in human progress and achievement. His combination of qualities and characteristics account for his distinguished success. Impaired health, adverse business conditions and other unfavorable elements often stood in his way, but his dispositions to thoroughness , his unswerving devotion to his aim, his careful and painstaking attention to details, his inventive genius and his indomitable energy and courage bore him successfully through all hindrances and made him master in the realm in which he worught. With these masterful elements of power were conjoined the qualities of heart which won for him the confidence and esteem of all who worked with him and under him, and made them all anxious to gratify him by the best services they could render. In public matters Mr. Hickok was interested and prominent. The element of prosperity of the commuity to which his business contributed was no less gratifying to him than his personal success. For six years he was the president of the common council, and willingly gave his ablest services to the public when his fellow-citizens desired them. His death occurred May 25, 1891, in his seventy-sixth year. His loss was felt by the community and all bore grateful tribute to his ability and worth. He was married in Harrisburg, Pa., September 10, 1840, to Miss Caroline L. Hutter. Their children were: Mary, Alice, Edwin Hutter, William Orville, Jr., Caroline Louisa, widow of Frank R. Schell, and George Herbert.