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Quality Control at Coppes Napanee in the 60’s

Welcome to Bill’s History Corner. Today’s Corner is written by guest writer, Dodie. Thanks for filling in.

Employee Monthly Progress Reports

Read the attached sample, how would you feel if you were being evaluated with this report?

employee evaluation

How would you like to have been a supervisor at Coppes, Inc. in 1964 and have to evaluate each of your subordinates on these five thought-provoking questions once a month?

Which of these five: Quality, Quantity, Human Supervision, Technical Supervision, Use of Equipment, would you regard as the number one priority or are they all equal importance?

This is a huge monthly observation for a Supervisor in every department.

So glad to see that the “Quality of employees work” section could have a “Normal number of mistakes” category, but sorry to see the fact that in the “Use of Company Supplies and Properties,” any employee could be marked as “Occasionally misuse tools, materials and machines. Sometimes careless”.

You should notice that the four different possible ratings in each section are not in descending order of workmanship. The supervisor needed to be very familiar with this “Progress Report”. Needing to do one of these reports for each employee every month would be a big job. We have found stacks of these “Monthly Reports” mixed in with employee records. I expect they intended to keep them all on file for the working span of each employee.

Coppes has a great reputation of providing perfect products and the employees have great pride in providing a quality product. 

*more information on Coppes Napanee and products being made today can be found on our New Kitchens & Restorations page.

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Our Fire Doors – More Than a Pretty Backdrop

For today’s History Corner I’m going to talk about something basic to the Coppes Commons buildings. Fire doors were at every doorway in the older factory portion of the Commons. Not only was a fire door at every doorway, but they were also on each side of each doorway. It was a simple idea: if a fire started in any one room the doors leading out of that room had a self-closing fire door on that side of the doorway to block the spread of the fire. Containing a fire to only one room would be a huge advantage.

I have no proof, but I can easily imagine Insurance companies insisting that fire doors be installed. Or if not, the Coppes company could only have limited fire coverage, sky-high rates, or go talk to some other company for their insurance needs. Any way you look at it, installing fire doors was smart business practice. The way the doors work is that they are mounted with roller wheels on an inclined track. When the door is opened (by hand) it is held at the top of the inclined track by a weight on a chain. This weight is equal to the amount of force needed to prevent the door from rolling closed. At the end of the chain is a temperature sensing device. Accentually it is two metal pieces that are soldered together with a very low melting temperature material. When the device gets hot because of a fire it separates and the door will automatically roll shut.

I have taken photos of two of our doors. The first picture is of the Manufactures label that is embossed into the metal surface. As you can see this door was produced by the RICHMOND FIRE PROOF DOOR CO. mfgrs. of INDUSTRIAL-ELEVATOR- KALALEIN(??) -and- TINCLAD FIREDOOR EQUIPMENT. RICHMOND, IND. It also has an underwriters certificate on a brass tag that is screwed on. I don’t know what the FM tag means, unless it was the installing company. Fire doors at Coppes Commons are approx. two inches thick. They are Made of hardwood that is covered in tin, and by covered, I mean the front and back flat surface and the top edge, the side edges, and the bottom are completely covered in fireproof tin.

fire door tag FM

The next picture shows a stencil with the Coppes Bros. & Zook name, still readable, on a fire door. Several of our remaining fire doors have been painted over, or are too rusty to read. I guess the stencil was to prevent shipping mistakes. These doors are heavy, and it would be a problem for someone if the wrong doors were sent to Coppes.

My third picture is a scan of an advertisement of the style of fire door we have in Coppes Commons. This is not the actual company that made our fire doors but similar in style and workings. You can see the inclined track, roller wheels on the top of the door. Also, the weighted chain with the temperature sensing device in front of the door.

fire door ad

Now you know as much as I do about fire doors. Thanks for visiting. Come back next week for more stimulating and thought-provoking stuff. 😊

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The New Employee “Personnel Test”

Today’s post was written by a guest historian, Dodie, who helps catalog our collection once a week here at Coppes Commons.


This was used to test the ability of potential new employees at Coppes Inc.

Seeking employment at Coppes – Inc. in May of 1964 could be a “mind-boggling” experience. After reading the first page of “Instructions” and seeing that a person only had twelve minutes to do the test, I wonder how many people passed and received employment.

Some of the questions are very easy – some need much more thought and discernment. I challenge you to read through to question # 50 and see how many you can answer correctly. Perhaps #17 and # 26 could cause a bit of THINKING!!

Good luck and have fun. Remember you only have 12 minutes.


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Nappanee Stockyards – Date Unknown

Nappanee Stockyards

What a busy place on this day! It may have been some type of special market day or maybe this was the normal amount of activity in early Nappanee – lots of farm wagons bringing livestock to the stock yards for sale. As you can see, the fenced in area on the right side of this photo is the unloading pen. One wagon after another would pull into the pen and unload. Notice that some of the wagons have what appears to be a smaller box pen in the back of the wagons while other wagons have boards across the top, apparently to keep the animals from escaping. I’m guessing, because of my many months on a farm, that the majority of animals being brought to market this day are likely pigs. Although, I can see after an enlargement of the picture, sheep in one wagon and a calf in another.

I think that the camera man was standing on top of a train car that sat on one of the side tracks. Almost every person in the picture is posed, as if the picture taking process does not happen often. The wagon in the bottom center of the photo looks like a freight wagon, certainly not a farm wagon. How he became in that position is fun to speculate about. Did he arrive early and then get caught in the traffic jam, or is he attempting to send his crate on the train? The overloaded wagon in the lower left is also a puzzle. Looks like the wheels are going to fold in because of the weight in the wagon. What does he have in his wagon? Can you find the boy on a bicycle?

This location is at the South end of Elm Street at the Rail Road tracks, looking North toward Lincoln Street and East Market Street. The farthest-away horses are close to standing on Lincoln Street. The church steeple at the top is an early church on the corner of Elm & East Market St. where the Calvary Baptist Church is now located. Another clue to the date of this photo is the street light at the corner of Elm and East Market Street. Do you know when Nappanee put up street lights? Also, I’m not sure (the trees may be in the way) but I don’t see any large two-story buildings on the West (left) side of Elm street that could be the Coppes Hotel. Samuel Coppes left the Coppes Brothers Company in 1890 for other business enterprises, one of which was the Coppes Hotel which he had built in 1891. This picture must be before 1891.

This raises another question in my brain: what is the oldest picture taken of a building, a location or person in Nappanee? Do you have an early Nappanee photograph you would be willing to share with everyone? There are several very early reprinted photographs in the Nappanee centennial book They Called it Nappanee.  If you have not seen this book, the Nappanee Library has a copy in the historical section. I learned a lot from reading it.

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The Dutch Girl Rides Again. . . . on a Parade Float

I found this picture at the Nappanee Library’s Heritage Room several years ago. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I could ever use it is a meaningful way. Then the History Corner started, and several pictures I collected have gotten a new lease on life.

dutch girl on parade float

This is a float for a 1921 Nappanee parade.  It is likely a 4th of July parade because of the bunting on the float, but there is no other indication of which parade it may have been. Someone had the foresight to write some information on the picture. Bertha Silberg is playing the role of the “Dutch Girl.” In 1921, the Coppes & Zook Company was producing thousands of the “Hoosier” cabinets every year. The 20’s was the peak production years for the Coppes & Zook Company’s Napanee Line of kitchen cabinets. We have one order ledger from 1924-25. This is the only company ledger we have in the collection that lists the number of cabinets sold and who (which store) purchased them. We found this ledger in the large piles of trash left behind in the old parts of the factory. We may never know where the other ledgers went, but we sure would like to find them.

Likely we will never know exactly how many “Hoosier” type kitchen cabinets were manufactured during this time period. So far, we have collected names and information on 50 different companies that made and sold kitchen cabinets that could be called Hoosier kitchen Cabinets. Not all of the companies were in Indiana, (ohio, Penna, Texas) but they made cabinets that looked like the Hoosier cabinets that were so popular during this time period.

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Coppes Bros. & Zook 1920 Magazine Ad

Welcome to Bill’s History Corner.

Today we have a scan of a page from “THE FURNITURE WORKER” dated December of 1920. As you can read, Coppes Bros. & Zook Company was starting a large advertising campaign in several magazines.

furniture worker

Coppes Bros. & Zook was aiming their ads. at furniture dealers, pointing out how easy it will be for them to have a huge sales event by having a Coppes Dutch Kitchenet sale in their store. This was the method that Coppes Bros. & Zook used to sell cabinets. Any store with enough floor space was a candidate for having a Coppes Kitchen Cabinet sale. Coppes would send a Coppes employee to the store during the sale to help with selling the cabinets. Each family that came into the store just to look at the new kitchen cabinets was given a souvenir, usually something with the Coppes logo on it.

Also, interesting is the notice of two upcoming Dutch Kitchen Cabinet displays at different Furniture Expositions in Chicago at the Western Furniture Exhibition building and at New York’s Furniture Exchange.

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Early 20th C. Nappanee Map

Today we are looking at a map of Nappanee, date unknown. Hopefully, your computer will allow you to enlarge it to see some of the details. Sorry about the light glare. This map is from my personal collection, one that we were lucky enough to find on eBay. As you may have determined by now my family has a long history with the town of Nappanee. Maybe you can find an ancestor’s name on this map. Good luck hunting!

As far as the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler companies were concerned, or later when the company was just Coppes Bros. & Zook (Frank & John Coppes and Harold Zook) they had a large property footprint in Nappanee. You know by now that the name of the company changed as the personnel changed in the company.

There isn’t a printed date on this map so it will take some educated guesses to determine the published date. To begin the process of guessing the date it will be important to know the dates of the Coppes company name changes. The last of the major name changes was in 1936 when the Coppes Family members purchased the remaining company stock from Harold Zook and his mother. The name of the company became “Coppes, Inc.” after 1936, and continued into the next century. So here are the clues that I found that help date this map.  There is the property that is named “Mutschler Bros Co.” that could only be formed after the breakup of the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. in 1913 after Daniel Zook died. The Coppes owned property has the name of “Coppes Bros. & Zook Co.” on it, so the time for this map was between 1913 and 1936.

To narrow the published date more closely than that you will need to look for other sources of information. The Nappanee News should be a major help determining a more accurate date. You will need to look for property transfers and development properties. There are several areas on this map that are marked as “additions” such as “Hartman’s Add” or “Metzler’s 3rd ADD”. You will notice Barney Uline’s property in the South West portion, later you will know this area as the “Apple Orchard”.  Also, the Factory of Lamb Bros. and Green Co. along the R. R. tracks to the East, these buildings that are on South Jackson St. are still there. The Coppes Bros & Zook Company has their name on four large properties on this map. The area of the original factory, (now Coppes Commons) the Mill Property on South Main St., The area on South Jackson St. where the 3rd sawmill was located, and a lumber storage area on the South side of the tracks. Likely there were numerous other properties connected with the Coppes Companies over the history of Nappanee. Remember that John & Frank and also the Mutschler Bros. built houses with the intent of creating housing for company workers to live in when they came to Nappanee to work for their respective company. For a number of years, there was a housing shortage for factory workers in Nappanee.

If you find other clues as to the date of this map, we would love to hear from you. You can contact me with questions or comments at  thanks.

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World’s Largest Lumber Ledger

Welcome to Bill’s History Corner

Don’t forget history makes you smart, Heritage makes you proud.

Today I have a treat for some of you folks. If you that like to connect history with your own family, maybe you can do some of that with today’s History Corner.

In the piles of trash that were left in the old parts of the abandoned Coppes factory, we found several ledgers. One of those ledgers listed the timber purchased from local people. Maybe your ancestors will be on the list, I don’t know, but I’m going to give you a chance to find out. Click HERE for an alphabetical listing of SOME OF the people in this timber ledger. Most of the purchases took place in teens and the 1920s.  We are up to page 123 out of ???????.

This list has the person’s name, town or location, date of timber purchase and the page number where the listing is located. If you find a relative’s name on the list and want more information, email me to make an appointment to look at the book. This ledger is one of the larger and more fragile ledgers that we have in the collection. I will have it in the Coppes Commons Kitchen Cabinet Museum on the 2nd floor. We can have it out on the table in the office area so you can take your time looking. Bring your smartphone to take a picture of the page. Looking at the ledger will tell you the number/quantity of timber/trees and the species along with the dollar amount for the purchase. It will also make the historical connection with your family and the Coppes Factory. This ledger covers only a small amount of time in the history of the Coppes Company. Certainly the early sawmill was purchasing great quantities of timber in the local area plus from far-away timber stands that were shipped in by trains. The Coppes Company kept a large number of horses at the factory and teamsters on the payrolls just for the purpose of hauling logs the sawmill.

Good luck! I hope you will find a connection with your family and the timber ledger. Let us know if you have more questions! Email me at .

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Pondering a Coppes Bros. & Zook Photo Circa 1936

Today we are looking at the front corner of the Coppes & Zook factory in approx. 1930-35.

factory garage

I can determine the date by looking at the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps from that era. The Sanborn map from 1924 did not have the garage building connected with the main factory buildings, but the map from 1930 does show the connecting building. Also, the automobiles in the picture help with the date. Does anyone know the date on the cars in this picture? It’s before my time, but I think the car in the drive is a 1936 Chevy. Help me, am I correct?

The Sanborn Fire Insurance maps are wonderful if you are studying early factory buildings. I think the Sanborn insurance Company started producing the maps around 1870. They were intended to help their salesmen sell fire insurance to industrial customers. But now in 2018, these maps are a wealth of information, mainly about industrial areas across the United States. There are depository libraries across the U.S. that have collections of the maps. The Fort Wayne library has a set, and that is where we got ours. They can also be purchased online.

Sanborn Map 1931

Back to the picture we are looking at: this low building with the garage doors was where the company stored the wagons that were used to haul logs to the sawmill. The taller building to the rear is the stables for the horses. This stable building is still here and not changed very much. The front “garage” building was converted into the showrooms with huge glass windows along Market St. and also the 2nd and 3rd floors were added for offices.

In 1922 the sawmill that had been at the rear of the Coppes & Zook complex burned to the ground. This fire started the process of moving the sawmill to South Jackson St. This move allowed this area, previously a log storage lot, to be cleared and the “garage” building erected. I can’t help but wonder if this horse and wagon era wasn’t on its last legs in the 1920s. Certainly, using a horse to skid logs in a forest is environmentally friendly, but in 1925-9 how much did the company rely on Horses and wagons and not motor trucks? We do know the company shipped in logs on train cars. By 1925 I would think the company had already purchased and removed all the local timber that could be transported by Horse and wagons.

John and Frank Coppes grew up in the era when they depended on horses (for work and pleasure). We know that both brothers had great pride in the teams of horses they used for their personal transportation. My question then is, did the brothers allow their love for horses to influence their business decision about constructing this horse stable and wagon garage at the end of the horse era, instead of switching to trucks to haul logs?

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The Coppes Hotel

Welcome to another Bill’s History Corner. Today I want to show several pictures and talk briefly about a famous building that was a Nappanee and Northern Indiana landmark for many years. I’m referring to the Coppes Hotel, opened for business in Jan. 1892 and removed in 1965.
coppes hotel front view


The location of this building was on East Market Street, where the Key Bank is now located.

hotel from east

The Coppes Hotel was constructed by Samuel Coppes, the older brother of John & Frank Coppes. For several years the three brothers were in business together as the Coppes Bros. Company, operating their sawmill, retail & wholesale lumber sales, flour mill, and the box factory. In approx. 1890, Samuel left the Coppes Bros. Co. and, with his son Harvey, purchased the Farmers and Traders Bank in Nappanee. Soon after they let it be known that a new hotel was in the works.

coppes hotel with car

The Coppes Hotel Had rooms on the 2nd floor, a reception area and meeting rooms on the 1st floor. There was also a “lunch Room” where many cups of coffee and fresh pastries were enjoyed.