Biography of John Wallace Mulliken

John Wallace Mulliken. It is said that the greatest incentive to ambition for young people who have not yet discovered their proper talents and place in life are stories of successful self-made business men. Any boy might be encouraged by reading something of the career of John W. Mulliken, one of Champaign’s leading merchants.

Mr. Mulliken has been a resident of Champaign County for over sixty years. He came to the county when a boy of six and he had practically no opportunities to gain an education. This was partly due to the fact that good public schools did not exist during his youth and also because of the necessity which early put him in the ranks of wage earners. When he was only eight years of age he entered the store of Walker Brothers in Champaign to learn the undertaking and furniture business. He remained steadily with this firm until 1877. This partnership later dissolved, and Mr. Mulliken was taken into the new firm, which later became known as Walker & Mulliken. Mr. Walker died in 1905, and at that time Mr. Mulliken took over the entire business and is now conducting it as a furniture store, having abandoned the undertaking business. He has given Champaign its largest and most complete furniture establishment. He carries over $40,000 worth of stock and is able to supply every demand that reasonable taste requires.

He was extremely young when his father died, and he has always taken a great deal of satisfaction in having undertaken the support of the family after it was deprived of the father’s care. As his work was better rewarded he borrowed $600 to buy his mother a little home. On this borrowed money he paid interest at 1% per cent per month. It required four years of strict saving and hard work in order to pay off the debt.

Mr. Mulliken has always had musical talent and has done much to cultivate it. Even as a boy he was able to earn money on the side by playing in an orchestra. His employer, Mr. Walker, would let him off from business, knowing the uses to which he was putting his time. He used to play the tuba or the “bass,” as it was called popularly, in the band, and in the orchestra his instrument was the double bass viol.

Mr. Mulliken was born in Steuben County, New York, March 9, 1849, a son of Albert and Susan (Cook) Mulliken, both natives of the same county. Albert Mulliken was a lumber dealer in New York and he brought his family to Champaign June 15, 1855. Here for three years he was line agent for the Illinois Central Railway, and then embarked in the agricultural implement business, which he continued until his death on July 23, 1864. His widow survived him many years. There were eight children, John W. being the youngest. William is now deceased. Francis G. died at Duluth, Minnesota, January 1, 1917. at the age of eighty-four. Sarah is deceased. Clarence, deceased, undertook at the age of twenty years to copy the courthouse records of Champaign County, and he soon afterward enlisted in Company G of the Twenty-fifth Illinois Infantry, and died during the service. Edmund F. was also a soldier in Company G of the Twenty-fifth Illinois, was mustered out with the rank of sergeant-major and is now deceased. Herbert, deceased, enlisted in the Seventy-sixth Illinois Infantry as band musician and served throughout the war. Helen, a twin sister of Herbert, is the widow of James C. Wright and lives at Champaign.

Mr. John W. Mulliken married September 10, 1876, Miss Josephine Danforth, a native of Union County, Ohio. She died in 1908, leaving two children, Albert D., an attorney at Champaign, and Phoebe, wife of Ellsworth Story of Seattle, Washington. Albert D. Mulliken married Pearl Mulberry, a native of Illinois, and they have two children, Wallace M. and Albert D. On July 10, 1911, Mr. Mulliken married for his present wife Jean Agnew, then a resident of Detroit but a native of Canada. Mr. Mulliken is a Republican in politics. He is a member of the Lodge, Chapter and Knight Templar Commandery of Masons, also belongs to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and was a charter member of the Knights of Pythias lodge, but has given up that affiliation.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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