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President Hoover Visits Nappanee

Hello, A little something different today at Bill’s History Corner.

Our boss had this picture in his collection for a long time, so long that he doesn’t remember where it came from. What we have is a photo of Nappanee people standing at the Train station listening to President Herbert Hoover as he makes a campaign stop during a trip through the Midwest on Nov. 4, 1932.

Hoover at the Depot

I’ve been looking at this picture for about an hour by now and have a couple ideas. Instead of me attempting to explain this picture, I’m going to suggest things that you can do if you are interested in finding more information.

First, you can now do Google internet searches, I did, and found several listings for this event. You almost never have an exact picture in your mind of what you will find on the internet. I find that I’m usually surprised by what stuff is on the net. You can read what President Hoover said from the train’s rear platform.  I’ll bet there were “newsreel” films of the stops along the way.

No doubt, the Nappanee News had reporters covering this event and pictures published in the local papers. In 1932, this was big news in Nappanee. This event was only 86 years ago, so it may be possible that some local people were at the event – if they remember the event- it will depend on how young they were, but this may lead to the discovery of some family photos taken this day. I do see a couple young children in the lower right of the picture.

I hope I have encouraged you to take a larger interest in your history. I don’t have all the answers. I also don’t have all the questions that should be asked. Your help would be appreciated. If you find any new information about this picture, I hope you will share it with us so we can post it for all to see. Remember my motto, HISTORY MAKES YOU SMART, HERITAGE MAKES YOU PROUD.

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A Busy Scene on the Other Side of the Tracks

rail yards

Today we are looking at a vintage picture of the factory area that surrounded the Nappanee Furniture Co., later the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. building A, and still later the Mutschler Brothers Co. I love looking at these old pictures with a powerful magnifying glass to see all the details. If you can enlarge the photo, you will see the name on the building closest to the tracks. This building is still at this location but now it has red steel siding covering the exterior.   At the time of this picture, there was also a train track spur along the building to make loading easier. Notice how busy the train tracks are. Looks like all these train cars stationary and are off the main line, which could mean each car is doing business with a company in Nappanee.  Some logs on train cars were likely destined for the Coppes sawmill, and at least one animal stock car is at the loading ramp at the stock yard pens. Several freight cars were possibly for the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. for shipping kitchen cabinets and other furniture to far-away customers. This many train cars gives the impression of a very busy Nappanee.

 During the partnership period from 1903 through 1913, these factory buildings were called “C, Z & M Co. Building A”. Having the different building sets named with letters allowed for less confusion. For example, instead of someone saying “take this load over to the big factory” which might cause confusion,  they could have said “Take this load to factory A” and that would have eliminated any confusion and unwanted mistakes.  The brick factory buildings that are now the Coppes Commons Buildings was “Factory B” and the one-story tin building that was (now, no longer there) behind “factory B” was “factory C”. Finally, the sawmill was named “Factory D”.

Other interesting parts of this photo are the stockyards at the center bottom and the Laughlin Bros Co. Onion Storage No. 1 and Onion Storage No. 2 buildings. The roof of the original Nappanee Furniture building has the name on the roof with either different color roof shingles or it is painted on. The building behind the original Nappanee furniture Co. building is the Uline Company building. Very difficult to see, but the words “Butter Tubs” is Painted (or shingled) on the roof of this building.

Behind all of these buildings are huge piles of lumber that is air drying. This is the lumber storage area for the Coppes Bros. and Zook sawmill. If you can zoom in well enough you can see a wagon and men working at one of the stacks directly behind the brick building of “Factory A”. The pile of lumber is more than 2 times as tall as the men. Behind the piles of lumber is farmland.  The whole area that now encompasses Nappanee South of the tracks was still a very rural area when this picture was shot.

Has anyone thought about how or where this picture was shot? I don’t think drones were available back then. This picture was taken from the highest structure in Nappanee, by a photographer using a 1910 era camera and tripod while standing on the walkway of the Nappanee water tower.

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Pay Day at the “Green House”

Today we are looking at a picture of workmen lined up to receive their pay packet in front of the Green (painted green) office building at the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. Nappanee, IN. As you can see, the photo has “PAY DAY, C.Z.M. Co. Nap.” Written on the lower right corner.

Pay Day

The office building was constructed in 1898, several years before the partnership started. This picture got me thinking about other photos we may have of the office building. At the end of this history corner you will find other pictures of the Coppes Bros. & Zook office. Enjoy.

Two things about the photo help date it. First the “C.Z.M. Co.” which stands for Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co.: the partnership between John & Frank Coppes, Dan Zook and his son Harold Zook and Albert and Charles Mutschler that lasted roughly from 1903 through 1913. On Nov. 15, 1912, Dan Zook died and the C, Z & M Co. partnership split up, with Albert and Charles returning to the buildings that were originally the Nappanee Furniture Company (now Mutschler complex). Harold Zook continued to be associated with the Coppes Bros. with the new 1913 name becoming Coppes Bros. & Zook, the same name as before the partnership but now with Harold instead of this father Dan Zook as the associate. Most likely the partnership split was as friendly as it could be. These men were related to each other, and they knew they would be running into each other often in the small town of Nappanee. Also, they were smart men and knew that a good business relationship would be good for both companies.
Charles Mutschler was married to John & Frank’s niece Della. Della was Samuel Coppes’ daughter. Harold Zook was the stepson of Elizabeth Yarian. the daughter of John & Frank’s older sister Eliza & husband Benjamin Yarian. After the death of Daniel Zook’s first wife, Elizabeth became the 2nd wife of Dan Zook in Nov. 1885.

You should pay particular notice to all the trees and other plantings in the picture. The C, Z & M Co. was responsible for the beautification of Market Street. The company hired landscape architects (1908-09) to design the plantings in front of the factory and the majority of the street. The three principal members of the company had houses along East Market St. so it was for their benefit the most.

The other important item in this photo that helps date when the picture was taken is the large building behind the closest brick building. The first building in the photo is the 1884 “Coppes Bros. Planning Mill & Box Factory”. The rear building in the photo is the building that was constructed to provide workspace to build the furniture line that was promoted by the new partnership (bedroom sets, dressers. Commodes, etc.). The modern showroom, the stables & wagon garages, and the infill building between buildings A & B was not constructed at this time. This rear building was named “Building B” and was constructed in 1902-03. With all those factors in mind, I would date this “pay-day” picture 1913-15. I like the style of dress then, where everyone seems to need to wear a hat of some kind.

Here are five other pictures of the office building for you to compare.

Green House one

Office Green House

Green House Office for Coppes

Coppes office

early office photo

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Coppes Kitchenetes in the Big City

During the 1920’s and early 1930,s, Coppes Bros. & Zook had a factory/sales program of furnishing apartments in large apartment buildings with a Coppes kitchen. They did this in several of the large cities in the mid-west and east to New York City (Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Detroit, New York City, and smaller cities in between).

In the Coppes collections are photographs of large buildings with dates and locations, notations, and other pictures of the kitchens that the builders installed in these same buildings. To illustrate what I’m talking about I will show you three pictures of a building in Detroit and two pictures of a building in New York City.

McCormick Apt. 1

The first is a picture of the McCormick Apartment Building in Detroit, Mich. From the look of the old cars I would date this picture about 1920-25. Looks like a newly constructed apartment building.

McCormick Kitchen


The next photo is of the Coppes Kitchen that was installed in each apartment. Not much of a kitchen by todays standards, a wall mounted sink in the center of the wall, an ice box to the left side (large hinges and handles are the giveaway). On the right side is a typical Coppes floor cabinet with a gas burner and oven setting on top. To complete the kitchen there are four wall mounted cabinets. Not much counterspace for the cook to use in meal preparation. A dining table or additional storage cabinets would have been a huge help. My guess is that the building architect designed the size and shape of the space and Coppes Bros. & Zook used some of their existing cabinets to best fit into the space. There is one other building’s kitchen picture in the Coppes Collection that shows 3-4-inch-wide filler strips along the walls to completely cover the wall space instead of making a custom size larger cabinet, don’t see that in this kitchen.

McCormick 3


The third picture is one I took from Google maps. It is the same building from almost the same camera location but taken within the last ten years. Makes me wonder if any parts of the Coppes cabinets are still in the building, or have they all been replaced?

The next two pictures are of an apartment building, and it’s Coppes kitchen in New York City. Notice the bridge in the background. The address is 30 Sutton Place, New York City. If you like working on your computer, Google “30 Sutton Place” and look at the present-day building. There is one apartment in the building for sale at over 3 million dollars. Besides 30 Sutton Place, Coppes Bros. & Zook put kitchens in 25 Sutton Place.


Sutton Place Apartments

Coppes Bros. & Zook had a sales office in NYC to deal with the building demands for new kitchen cabinets. This particular building is huge by Nappanee standards, but typical in NYC. Don’t know how many apartments are in this building, and I assume each apartment got the same Coppes Bros. & Zook cabinets. The size of the kitchen is obviously larger in NYC which allows for more cabinets. It appears that in the middle of the main wall of cabinets are two cabinets that are similar to the traditional Coppes “Dutch Kitchenet” style cabinets with side cabinets on each end. Still not custom cabinets by a long way. They were filling the space with cabinets that they were already making. In the lower left corner of the photo, you can see another porcelain top from another cabinet on the other side of the room. The New York City building and the Detroit building were constructed close to the same time period, with the Detroit kitchen looking small and tacky and the NYC kitchen looking more inviting. Different designers, different building standards, different desires of the housewife, different standards of living, all these things could be the reasons for a larger and better kitchen in New York City. Welcome to apartment living in the 20s.

It’s time to invite questions and or queries on subjects relating to the Coppes history. I’m hoping you have several questions on your mind. Send them to me at   ,and I will try to answer them.  Maybe we will give a prize to the best/most difficult question? Stay tuned in to this spot.  Plus don’t forget my motto: History makes you smart, Heritage makes you proud!

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Get a Napanee Dutch Kitchenet For A Dollar Down and a Dollar a Week!

I have two goals this week. The first goal is to remind you to think about my Motto: History makes you smart —Heritage makes you proud. My second goal is to talk about the method that Coppes Bros., & Zook used to sell their Dutch Kitchenete Cabinets in the mid-1920s. I’m using pictures of newspaper copy that Coppes provided to stores to illustrate how well thought-out their methods were.

Coppes Bros., & Zook had over the road salesmen to sell the cabinets but the salesmen did not carry “salesman’s sample” cabinets. Instead, what each salesman did carry was a folder/book of newspaper copy samples and pictures of items that were intended to help make a sale.

Here is a copy of the sample newspaper advertising that Coppes offered to stores to use in a local newspaper. Just add the correct store name and location.

Dutch Kitchenete Ad

As the salesman approached a store with enough floor space and try to convince them to hold a Napanee Cabinet sale in their store, the salesman could show examples of the egg beater that each person would receive free just for visiting the cabinet display, also show a photo of a sample store window promoting a Coppes Kitchen Cabinet Sale. Large stores, smaller stores, city stores, country stores it didn’t make much difference. Each store had the potential to have a great Napanee Dutch Kitchenet sale. To help insure a great sale in each store the Coppes Bros, & Zook Company was prepared to offer heavy discounts on the cabinet price to the stores, even going so far as to offer further discounts and two free cabinets if a store ordered a full train car load of cabinets in preparation for the sale. Coppes also provided a “Coppes person”, sometimes a married couple to be in the store during the 3-4-5-day sale to help with selling the Napanee Cabinets. That alone would be a huge benefit to the stores.

We have, in the Coppes paper collections letters from several large furniture stores in bigger cities telling of the great success they had selling the Coppes Napanee Line of cabinets. It is not unusual for these letters to say they sold more than 100 cabinets in a 3-4-day period during their Napanee Dutch Kitchenet sale.

show window

Here is a photo of a sample store window display that a salesman could show to a prospective store owner. Notice the prominent display of the Dutch Lady in the window. All the smaller cards on the floor had a picture of the Dutch Lady on them along with a printed promotion about the cabinets. The Coppes Bros., & Zook Company supplied all the paper/cardboard advertising, including tin signs to tack on trees leading into town.

Besides the free egg beater that was given to everyone who visited the display, there were other free incentives with the purchase of a Napanee Dutch Kitchenet; an electric iron, sets of china dishes, universal cutlery sets. Other newspaper ads. offered canned goods and crystal glassware or an aluminum sugar scoop. How could anyone resist the sales opportunity presented to them? All of this for only one dollar down and one dollar a week. This sales scheme would keep the customers coming back to the store each week to make their weekly payment, and when they were in the store maybe they would see something else to purchase. Good for the store’s bottom line.


Newspaper ad 2

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Coppes Bros. Pursuade Lamb Bros. & Greene to Move to Nappanee

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

First thing, I want to tell you my current Motto, which I’ve borrowed from a You Tube video. The video features Knight Foundry, A Historic Water powered belt-Driven Machine Shop in Sutter Creek, CA.  At the end of the video they flash on the screen this saying which I’ve adopted. “HISTORY MAKES YOU SMART— HERITAGE MAKES YOU PROUD.” There are a lot of neat things on YouTube, also some stupid things. I would recommend watching this one if you like early machinery.

I want to start by thanking Dan Blucker (hope I have the name correct) for sending a great picture for us to use in the History Corner.

Lamb Factory Interior

The photo is of the interior finishing room of the George l. Lamb factory in Nappanee, Indiana.  Dan has a strong interest in this photo. His Grandfather, Francis Miller, is the man on the right. Dan said he still has an aunt that he was able to ask questions concerning the facts about the picture. They, Dan & his Aunt, think this picture was taken in the mid-1920s and published in a newspaper. They also think this factory was on South Madison street. In the actual picture, you can see examples of table lamps on shelves on the wall.

I can add a little to the story. The Nappanee Weekly News published a couple articles on the new company coming to Nappanee.

On Feb. 28th, 1900, this notice appeared.   

 FACTORY COMES TO NAPPANEE        — The George L. Lamb Brush Factory Comes from Goshen to Nappanee this week. The brush, easel, and novelty factory of George L. Lamb, of Goshen, is being moved to Nappanee this week. This is a good beginning for 1900. The enterprise has been secured to Nappanee through the prompt movement of enterprising citizens during the past week, and it surely marks the beginning of another prominent manufacturing concern for Nappanee. Mr. Lamb had been negotiating with citizens of Warsaw for removal to that city, but Nappanee’s offer was preferable to Mr. Lamb, and the business came here as stated above. The machinery for the manufacture of brushes, easels, fire screens, etc., has been moved into the old furniture factory building which he bought and which will be fitted with proper repairs. The two lots on which the building stands and which are owned by the Furniture Company are rented with an option by Mr. Lamb for their purchase during five years at $600. The town also pays the expense of moving here from Goshen and provides for working capital. ——-Goshen is sorry to lose Mr. Lamb and his industry but he goes back among old neighbors, having been a former Locke Township resident. —-

The George Lamb company was persuaded to move to Nappanee by the town fathers which included the Coppes Brothers, Samuel, John, and Frank. We do not know how large a financial incentive was part of the deal, but certainly more than just friendly encouragement. An empty factory building was found for the new business to move into. Often the last pages in several Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. catalogs were advertisements for the George L. Lamb business. Definitely, the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler company helped Mr. lamb come to Nappanee.

The Nappanee news also had this on Nov. 13th, 1901


– During the past two or three weeks the News has had opportunity to observe the comparative growth of the newest of Nappanee’s institutions, that of the manufacturing industry of Geo. L. Lamb. Murry’s printer has just completed two thousand catalogues for the factory mentioned. It is practically, the first catalogue ever issued by Mr. Lamb since engaging in the business, ——– From a half dozen employes his force has grown steadily but surely, until there are now twenty-two people on the pay-roll. ——-

Also, on April 21th, 1909 this news —

NEW INDUSTRY IN NAPPANEEWILL BE IN OPERATION ABOUT JULY 1ST. ART GLASS SPECIALTIES. WILL OCCUPY NEW THREE-STORY BRICK BUILDING – A BEAUTIFUL LINE OF SHADES AND NOVELTIES.  Lamb Bros. & Green is the name of the new manufacturing firm which has been organized in Nappanee for the purpose of making art glass and all kinds of art glass specialties, and to take over that part of the art glass business already owned by Geo. L. Lamb. Geo. L. lamb, David Lamb & H. B. Green are the members of the new company. ——-

Lamb and Green Building

George and David were brothers and H. B. Greene was George’s son-in-law. The “new three-story brick building” was the buildings on South Jackson St. by the R.R. tracks, now the large feed/grain mill. We have one aerial picture of the buildings with both names on the building.

Aerial S Jackson St

Any of the products from the Geo. L. Lamb company are highly collectible today. Coppes Commons has a few Lamb table lamps in the large showcase in the museum.

The Nappanee heritage Center supplied this 1923 photo of the Lamb Bros. and Greene Company, with a list of names. The list of names appears to start with the upper left person. The comments are interesting.

Lamb Bros. Name List

Lamb Greene Employees


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CZ&M Era Employee Photos Surface

Hello and welcome to Bill’s History Corner. Today we are discussing three photographs that were shared with us at Coppes Commons. We were allowed to make copies of the originals during the visit. That is great, it’s how we increase our library of information!

Bill and Stacy

The first photo shows a group of workmen posing beside what I think is building “C” at the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Companies factory in approx. 1903-08. Building “C” was the location where the C, Z & M Co. began producing the kitchen cabinets that made them famous. Building “C” was a one-story, corrugated metal clad building at the rear of the complex near the sawmill. Unlike the other company buildings that were built of brick, “C” may have been thought of, in the beginning of the partnership with the Mutschler Brothers, as a temporary building. Before the partnership, the Nappanee Furniture Company, managed by the Mutschler Brothers, were making kitchen cabinets and had beautiful illustrations in their catalogs, along with other furniture.  The Coppes Brothers and Dan Zook (at that time) had no experience building furniture. Their business experience was buying timber and operating a Sawmill, a Flour Mill, and a Box Factory.

Factory C

Stacy Huff, who owns the pictures, said her Great Grandfather was in the center holding his hat. All the men are holding their hats! Stacy’s great-grandfather, Thomas A. Rensberger, is the eighth man from the right. Does anyone have ideas or guesses as to anyone else in these pictures?

On Nov. 22th, 1912 Daniel Zook died. His death led to the friendly dissolution of the partnership with the Mutschler Brothers. Albert and Charles Mutschler returned to the original buildings of the Nappanee Furniture Co. and continued to produce furniture, eventually becoming a world leader in modern kitchen and school furniture production. Frank & John Coppes, along with Daniel’s son Harold, began producing the Napanee line of kitchen cabinets that would make them world famous.

The 2nd and 3rd pictures also have Mr. Rensberger in them, but the location is at the old original brick building of the Nappanee Furniture Company. I would be interested if any reader can tell me how I know the location is not at the Coppes buildings along Market Street.  The picture with only men in the group has 97 men in the picture. That is a huge number for just one of the buildings. I’m going out on a limb and suggest that this is all the men from each of the buildings: some from the Saw Mill, some from the buildings A, B, C, and some from the old Nappanee Furniture Co. buildings. Realizing that all the men worked for the same company, the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. from 1902 thru 1912.

The final picture of company employees has 21 ladies in the picture. This is unusual for the time and in Nappanee. This is the only (so far) picture that we have with factory ladies. (We do have a picture of lady office workers).  What were their jobs at this time? Again, I’m going out on a limb and suggest they had jobs as furniture finishers; applying stain and clear finish to the tables and other cabinets produced in the factory. It may have been early in the day, as all their clothing seem to be very clean (aprons?).  If you enlarge the picture and look at their shoes you can see stains on their shoes, but not on clothing.

CMZ workers with women

Comments on any of “Bill’s History Corner” articles welcome.  Anything you want to add is welcome!

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The Globe Iron Works & Daniel Zook

Welcome to this week’s installment of Bill’s History Corner!  Today we’re going to discuss a piece of old paper related to the Coppes Co.

Globe Iron Works Receipt

In 1903, the company joined the Nappanee Furniture Company to form a new enterprise named Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. This partnership lasted until Dan Zook died in 1912. At that time, the partnership broke up and the company name returned to Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. – not with Dan Zook, but with his Son Harold Zook. This company name lasted until 1926, when the Coppes Bros purchased Harold Zook’s share of the company. Then the company name became what it still is, Coppes Inc.

This invoice/statement is from “The Globe Iron Works”, Nappanee, Ind. Dated 1905-06, this invoice is to Daniel Zook for repairs related to Mr. Zook’s automobile. Apparently, the early autos needed a lot of care to keep them operating. From June 5th till Dec. 6th, there are 22 different line items on this invoice. The work that The Globe Iron Works performed ranged from a “patch on inter tube” to more serious machine work: “12 hr. work on shaft for car 6.00”. Notice that they charged .50 Ct. per hour of repair work.

The Globe Iron Works advertised that they were “Manufactures of engines and boilers, All kinds of Brass goods, Pipe and Pipe Fittings. All kinds of repair work.” The Manager of The Globe Iron Works was Conrad D. Volkmann, who is also famous as the first person to purchase building lots in the newly platted town of Nappanee in 1876. Mr. Volkmann grew his early blacksmith shop into a large family owned full service machine shop. The Coppes factories relied on the Volkmann shop for many repair jobs.

Do you have more information on the Zook family, the Globe Iron Works or any related topics? Let us know in the comments! We love talking history!

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The Stahly Cabinet Mystery Solved

Stahly cabinet
The “Stahly Cabinet” on display at the Coppes Commons Hoosier Cabinet Museum

Boy-o-boy did I make a mistake! I was telling everyone that would let me talk that I thought this early Hoosier Cabinet was possibly made by Mose Stahly and given as a wedding present to his sister Barbra and his brother-in-law, Dan Metzler. Dan and Barbra got married on October 5, 1862, and were living on the land that was the Southwest corner of the square in what is now Nappanee. Dan, along with Henry Stahly and John Culp, were the three neighbors that “platted” the new town of Nappanee in 1874.

Family legend has it that after the railroad came through Nappanee, Dan decided that the busy town of Nappanee was no place to raise a family. They sold their land and purchased 80 acres south of town and began to build a home.

Sadly, Dan Metzler died during the construction of the house, leaving his wife, Barbra, and eight children to complete the home. Likely, family, friends and members of their church helped finish the construction of the home.

My wife, Meg (Metzler) and I live on what little remains of the Dan and Barbra Metzler farm. Meg is the 5th generation direct Metzler descendant to live here, a place we consider a historic farm.

Mose Stahly had a cabinet shop in the area before Nappanee became a town and could have easily made the kitchen cabinet in question. In 1883, Mose sold his cabinet company. Later it was sold again and became the Nappanee Furniture Company. This was the company that Albert & Charles Mutschler were managing before becoming partners with the Coppes brothers & Zook Co. to for the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Company from 1903 – 1912.  I really wanted that story to be real. To have a family connection to the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. would be fantastic!

But all that changed when we got an email from a couple in Ohio with pictures of their kitchen cabinet. This new cabinet was a dead ringer for our kitchen cabinet that we were so proud of. And better yet, their cabinet still had a manufacturer’s paper tag stapled to the back! Their cabinet was made by The John Thomas Cabinet Manufacturing Company of Galveston, Indiana.

Galveston Centennial Book
This is an ad for the John Thomas Co. in the Galveston Centennial booklet.
Map of Galveston, IN
Galveston is located just Northwest of Kokomo in Central Indiana
John Thomas Cabinet
John Thomas cabinet from Ohio
John Thomas Cabinet Tag
Tag on the back of the Ohio John Thomas cabinet


















This email with these cabinet pictures highlights how important it can be for people to communicate with us. Thanks for sending the pictures and setting me straight! If you have any further information about the John Thomas Cabinet Co. or related topics, don’t hesitate to contact us here via the comments or by email at

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Early Employee Photo Mystery Continues. . .

We used this employee photo when we were highlighting the history of the “NAP” bicycle, which was made in Nappanee.

Early Employees of Coppes Sawmill

However, I had forgotten about this picture below!

Coppes Employees with Two Bikes

As we were explaining the NAP bicycle story I got to thinking, “What else do we know about this picture?” The answer to that question is, “not much.” Besides, this will give me a chance to ramble on about something. Thanks for looking and reading. Thanks, also to the Nappanee Center for this copy of the original picture from their collection.

We know the location: in front of the Coppes Bros. Planning mill & Box factory. This building was erected in 1884 by the Coppes Brothers Company (Sam, John & Frank) to increase the output of the Box factory that they had been operating on South Main St. at the location of the flour mill. Before John & Frank joined John Mellinger at the sawmill, (1876) John Coppes at 16-17 years of age had the steady job of hauling wagon loads of wooden boxes to Elkhart from the former Strohm Box Co. The Strohm Box Co., later purchased by a Mr. Spencer, is the company that the Mellinger & Coppes Bros. Co. would purchase in 1879, (4/10/1879, Nappanee news) and move (1884) to the East Market St. location.  John Coppes would marry Mr. Strohm’s daughter, Melinda, in 1878.

That’s about all we know for sure about this picture. That got me to studying the photo with a magnifying glass and wondering what we could make educated guesses about.  The people in the picture are obviously workers at the Coppes Bros Company. The box factory, the sawmill and the retail lumber business were operated close to this location, so these men may be workers from all the different Coppes Bros. shops. This is a very typical photo of the era where the employees gather in front of their workplace for a group picture.

As far as the date the picture was taken, here is what I think: If you have other suggestions I would be happy to hear from you. Because we were discussing the “NAP” bicycle in a different history segement, the two bicycles in the photo are fresh in my mind and are a strong, and maybe the only hint, as to the date. In my opinion, there were few young boys in Nappanee with families that could afford to have a “NAP” bike. I’m guessing that the two boys are the sons of John Coppes, Marvin & Ivan. Marvin was born on Aug. 22, 1881, and Ivan was born on Nov. 21, 1883. I was a young boy once, and I have asked several people their thoughts as to the age of the boy in front holding the Bicycle.  Our consensus is about 10-11 years old. As I said, Marvin was born in 1881 (if in fact this is Marvin), that would make the picture dated about 1891-92. As I stated, that is an educated guess.

Let us look at the other people in the picture. The first question is what are the children doing there? I’m thinking one of the younger boys that are standing could be an actual employee of the company. Look at the young man (third from left, in first standing row) proudly standing with the “MEN”. Jobs that were mundane, such as sweeping up, picking up trash, helping carry smaller items were jobs for young boys, also with smaller salaries. The reason for the other youngsters in the picture is any ones’ guess. Were they sons of the workmen, that brought their father’s lunch to them and stayed for the picture? Were they neighborhood children that hung around the factory because that was more interesting than anything else they could do. If the Coppes children could be in the picture, why not sons of the workmen?

On a similar note, we have, in the Coppes paper Collection, employment applications from the 1920s-30. In these applications are boys as young as 12-13 years old looking for permeant employment. Several were hardship cases where the child was the oldest male in the family and needed to become a breadwinner for his family.

Check out the two men standing on the right side of this photo – better dressed than most of the other men. Could these two men be John & Frank Coppes?  If the man on the right is Frank, he would be 32 years old, and John Coppes would be 34 years at the time of this picture. I don’t know if it is John and Frank standing there, but I would sure like it to be them. But that brings up another question: Where is Daniel Zook?  In 1890 Sam Coppes left the company and Dan Zook joined with John & Frank to make the company name Coppes Bros. & Zook Company.

Check out the well-dressed man at the left end, could this be the “Mr. Spencer, has been retained as superintendent of the factory” after the purchase by the Coppes Bros.

Also notice that everyone with the exception of Ivan has a hat on their head or in their hands, and only two pairs of glasses in the whole bunch.

What was the graffiti on the brick? Looks like the letters  “HU”, someone has tried to rub it away.

Does anyone notice the difference in the brick building from then to as it is today?

Click HERE to see a list of Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. employees from an 1892-3 Coppes Bros. & Zook ledger.  At this time (1891-94) the company was operating the flour mill, the sawmill, the retail lumber store, wholesale lumber sales, the shipping box mfg. co. and custom lumber milling (windows & doors, etc.). This ledger has lists of employees for the pay period every week. The number of employees differs from one pay period to the next. Only in a few examples does the ledger tell us the job that the employee had. For example, one Jno. H. Felty’s name was usually followed by “nailing boxes”.  In most cases, the names are listed under “LABOR”. Other reoccurring jobs were hauling boxes to Elkhart and sawing trees.

As always, if you have more information on the men pictured or listed here, we would appreciate hearing your stories! Please leave us a comment, or email me at