BICENTENNIAL: Four who made a difference: Office Products/Services

Keywords Bicentennial

Harry Alpert


Harry Alpert has been described by his son, Joseph Alpert, as “the Bobby Knight of the scrap business.” Born in 1913, Alpert joined his father-in-law in the J. Solotken scrap firm in 1936 after graduating second in his class from the Indiana University School of Law; it was the depths of the Great Depression and clients couldn’t afford to pay their attorneys. Although encouraged by his father-in-law to get back into the practice of law, Harry Alpert ran the family scrap business for the next 63 years. During World War II, Alpert would travel to Washington, D.C., to work with the federal Office of Price Administration on the all-important task of securing scrap metal for war munitions. Alpert also required his son to work outside the business for five years before assuming a management role in the family firm.•



Samuel Merrill


Samuel Merrill established commercial printing and publishing in Indianapolis in the 1850s. Born in Vermont and educated at Dartmouth College, he moved to Vevay, Indiana, in 1816. He served as state treasurer from 1819 to 1834 and oversaw the transfer of the state capital from Corydon to Indianapolis; in 1824, he moved to the new capital city. Merrill served as the first president of the State Bank of Indiana, and his portrait is on the State Bank’s $1 bank note. During the 1840s, he was the president of the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad company. In 1850, he purchased an Indianapolis bookstore, set up printing equipment and established the book publishing firm of Merrill, Meigs & Co. The firm went through several name changes before it became the well-known Bobbs-Merrill Co. Samuel Merrill died in Indianapolis in 1855 at age 62.•



Robert W. Poorman Jr.


Robert W. Poorman Jr. helped build two of the largest commercial printers in Indianapolis. Born in Cleveland and a graduate of Brebeuf Preparatory School, Poorman dropped out of Ball State University to follow his entrepreneurial spirit. He got a job at IndyType, a small local print company and bought the firm by the time he was 25. He eventually paired with Bob Shepard to build Shepard Poorman Communications, one of the largest print companies in the state. Poorman sold his interest in Shepard Poorman in 1998, but returned to the business four years later to team with Dave Harding to found HardingPoorman Group. Poorman died in Indianapolis in 2014.•



Oscar K. Van Ausdall

1884 – 1960

Oscar K. Van Ausdall began business in 1914 in Fort Wayne as a distributor for the Thomas Edison Co., which held patents on the original wax cylinder dictating machines. The contract involved a handshake agreement between Van Ausdall and the noted inventor of the incandescent electric light bulb and included the entire state of Indiana as a sales territory. The company expanded its product line in the intervening years and moved to Indianapolis during the early 1940s. Carl F. Farrar joined Van Ausdall as general manager and partner in 1949, and Van Ausdall & Farrar since has become the state’s largest office equipment dealer. Van Ausdall died in 1960 and is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.•

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets in {{ count_down }} days.