Henderson County, Kentucky Personalities

Jacob Alles

Alles' Invention Keeps Desktops A-Rolling Along

New fathers are as prolific as Jacob ALLES. The Jasper, Indiana native is the father of the rolltop desk.

Hundreds of thousands of his designs house home computers and family bills from Jasper to San Jose. The first rolltops were made in Jasper - even though _ _ _ cy were designed on a Sunday afternoon in Austin, Texas.

Herman C. ALLES of Henderson, Kentucky, heard his father's story often while he was growing up.

"My dad was born in 1859 in Jasper and had a retail store there. When he was about 18 years old, he decided to go into manufacturing and started the Jasper Desk Company," Herman remembers.

"When he was about 20, he was traveling in Texas, in Austin, on a Sunday. It was when they were building the state capital building," he rambles, Jacob was out on the road selling things they made in the factory, Herman adds. He'd go by train to New Orleans, La., and Texas, all _ _ er, selling desks.

"He took up a knife and whittled this curtain for a rolltop desk.

"He picked up scrap lumber from the building and cut him _ _ _ some slates."

Jacob sent the prototype home to Jasper for the factory to reproduce. It was the birth of the rolltop.

Anyway, Jacob was the first person to make a rolltop with slats glued to a canvas backing, so that the top would slide up and down in grooves. Rolltop desks are still made that way today.

Despite his successful desk design, Jacob didn't remain in furniture manufacturing in the 1890s, he and his brothers opened Alles Brothers Furniture stores in Jasper, Mount Vernon and Henderson, Kentucky.

Jacob lived to be 96 and was active in the furniture business about 80 years, points out Herman. The owner of Alles Brothers in Henderson hasn't missed a day of work himself in years and has been working there for a little over 50 years. I started in 1935.

"It was my dad's idea to build factories in Jasper. It worked out, I guess, and Jasper's been a good town over the years.

By Sally Falk
Star Home Furnishings Editor
The Indianapolis Star
Sunday, June 15, 1986


Transcribed by Netta Mullin for HCH&GS