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Shopping Local in Early 1900’s Nappanee

Welcome to this week’s Bill’s History Corner.

Shop Local is a term you hear a lot. Back in 1904-6 it was difficult to shop anywhere but local. As I was searching the latest box of business receipts looking for a topic for the next History Corner, I found some receipts from stores I had never heard of before.  J. W. ROSBRUGH, Dr.  SHOES AND MEN’S FURNISHINGS. was one such store, and if your last name were Coppes and you lived in Nappanee this store like most retail businesses in Nappanee would put purchased items on account. Sometimes it was called running a tab, but the bottom line was that the Coppes men did not need to pay for each purchase at the time of the purchase.

Some of the accounts are short, a month or two, others are longer. One is from Jan to Sept before the total was paid. Nothing exciting in the purchases that were made: shoes, ties, undwr (sic), shirts and collars. Marvin, Irvin, J. D. Coppes, Harold, & Claude, are the Coppes men that I have receipts for. Something that still puzzles me is the appearance that the company (Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co.) actually paid the amounts. Each receipt is stamped with the company rubber stamp marking each one PAID with the date. I have seen this practice on several other receipts from local business in Nappanee. Was there a company perk that let the company pay for personal items for most of the Coppes family?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Another Nappanee company I had not known about before is the NELSON ROOD & SON,  MANUFACTURES OF BUILDING BRICK AND DRAIN TILE. The only reason we know about this company now is because I found a receipt from when Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. purchased 800 Brick at $6.40 on Sept. 18, 1906. There is no location on the receipt other than Nappanee, Ind.

The next local business I want to talk about is  DILLMAN RICKERT, DEALER IN DRY GOODS, NOTIONS, HATS, CAPS, BOOTS AND SHOES, GROCERIES, ETC.  Apparently, this company was the best place in Nappanee to purchase “oil,” because the C,Z & M Co. purchased a lot of oil, often in 3-gallon cans or containers at $.36 cents for 3 gallons. Seems like every week there was a purchase of 3 gal. oil. Was this lubricating oil for the machinery, or something else? Around 1905 the store name was changed to D. RICKET & SON. 

One interesting receipt  we have from the Rickert store is mainly for groceries. This receipt is charged to Frank Coppes, seems likely someone from Frank’s family would go to the Rickert store when they needed something. The receipt covers the last part of the year 1906 from May 31 thru Dec. 1st.  On  May 31 they purchased Butter for .36; Xcelo for .16; eggs for .30; and onions for .15.  On July 10th they purchased 2 crates raspberries .$3.50; 1 crate of blk berries @$2.00; and sugar for $1.00 ( I’m thinking baking some pies). The purchases continued like this thru Dec. 1st, with what may be called the basics: eggs, sugar, butter.

There was only one purchase of bread @ .10, so there must have been a bakery that the family shopped at for baked goods. I imagine some families baked all their own breads and baked goods, but did the Frank Coppes family ( by way of kitchen help) actually cook all the baked goods they consumed?   Also, except for butter as the only dairy product purchased at the Rickert store, there must have been a Dairy store, or I wonder if there was home delivery of milk (Dairy products) in 1906 Nappanee? ( I can’t see the Frank Coppes family keeping cows in the back yard) How long these stores were in business is difficult to determine with the limited historical paper documents we have here at Coppes Commons.

The 4th Nappanee store I want to talk about is a store we have known for a long time: the SHIVELY BROS.  MANUFACTURES OF LIGHT and HEAVY HARNESS. HORSE FURNISHING GOODS. We have a pile of receipts from 1903 thru 1906 from this one box. It is obvious that the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. did substantial business with this store. In 1903, the main mode of local transportation was the horse or walking. Yes, the automobile was on the horizon but then (1903) the horse was the more important of the two methods. If someone wanted to travel a longer distance, there were the trains. 

C, Z & M Co. had as many as 12 horse/wagon teams working during this period. The teams would haul heavy log loads to the sawmill from many miles away. Each driver had the privilege of going to the Shively Bros. store to purchase needed items to keep his team on the road and healthy. Often this repair would be something to do with the harness, “making new feed box straps” or “new hame strap”. Seems the men purchased a lot of “sweat pads” for the horse’s comfort, also curry combs to keep the horse well groomed.  A healthy horse is a happy horse, I just made that up, but I can easily imagine the well-being and appearance of the horses strongly reflected on the men that drove them and cared for them.

I found this drawing of horse harness and thought this would be a good place to show it.

John and Frank Coppes along with Dan Zook had automobiles during this period, I was surprised how often the fan belt needed to be replaced, Shively Bros. did that work also.

One final interesting item in the Shively Bros. receipts was on Nov. 3, 1905. The listing reads “Repair on Watchmans  Clock” $.10.” The leather shoulder belt must have needed some work. This is the first and only mention (so far) of a watchman at the Coppes factory. It’s not surprising that the factory used a watchman, usually at night, when none of the factory workmen were on the job. In 1905 the Night Watchman would have needed to patrol several different buildings as he made his rounds, “Clocking in” at the key stations and recording the time on his clock to prove that he actually was at the location at the given time (and things were normal) as recorded on his clock. I think these Watchman’s clocks are fascinating, you can find them at antique stores.

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