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Welcome to Bill’s History Corner. Part of my job as Historian is to find out things and answer questions. Questions usually include the words how, why, who, & when something happened. Typical questions are,

“When did the Coppes Bros. or Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. or the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. begin making kitchen cabinets?”

“How many Kitchen Cabinets did Coppes make compared to the huge amount the Hoosier Mfg. Co. is reported to have made?”

One question I think I can answer with this History Corner is, “when and from whom did Coppes purchase enamelware that was supplied with cabinets as premiums or free gifts when purchasing a Coppes Napanee Cabinet?”

Selling Kitchen Cabinets in 1903-1925 was a highly completive undertaking. Cabinets were sold at that time through existing furniture stores. Each Hoosier Cabinet company that was attempting to sell cabinets needed a gimmick to get people into the stores and purchase a new kitchen cabinet. Most all cabinet companies went with the sale price of one dollar down and one dollar a week. When one company started this method, other companies needed to do the same in order to keep up.

Coppes (and other companies) also gave items with the purchase of any cabinet. Sets of dishes, sets of brushes, pots & Pans, Knife sets, Food, and enamelware, were given as gifts when a cabinet purchase was made. Often a hand mixer or a glass measuring cup with the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler, Napanee Dutch Kitchenet name was given as a gift just for coming into the store and looking at a Dutch Kitchenet. I guess the thinking was “get people into the store and see a Dutch Kitchenet and they will be an easy sell.”

This brings me to the point of this History Corner. We found receipts for enamelware in the old boxes of receipts we have been going through. Around 1902-12 Coppes, Zook & Mutschler co. was giving enamelware as a prize when the purchase of a Dutch Kitchenet was made. I am sure the cost of the enamelware was added to the price of the cabinet, but it was advertised as a gift. Below is a scan of the 1912 No. 1550 cabinet with the enamelware displayed. (clock, knife set, scales & food grinder also)

The NATIONAL ENAMELING & STAMPING CO., from Milwaukee, Wis. was the company receipt we found. In the receipt dated 1/6/11 this order was for 30 doz. # 33 COOKEY (sic) CUTTERS; 30 Doz?  # 53 1/2 D N? (what was this); and 30 Doz?  # 30 MEAS CUPS. While this receipt is unclear as to the quantity of items, it does give a clue  when it tells the weight of the order.

170 LBS of “COOKEY CUTTERS” and “MEAS CUPS” means a huge number of small light weight items in the order. While I have seen enamel measuring cups in antique stores, I do not think there is any way to identify these cups as the ones given by the C, Z & M co. However, I think I will pick up the next enamel cups I find and study then more closely.

The next receipt I want to show you is also from the National Enameling & Stamping co. Dated May 4, 1911. This order is for “1- Venetian Ware Asst” at a cost of $2.80 + $1.00 shipping. I can only guess as to what this order was. My guess is the C,Z & M Co. was searching for other pieces of enamelware that may work as prizes when a purchase of a Dutch Kitchenet was made.

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The Coppes Washing Machine & Cabinet Color Chart – 1930’s

Welcome to another Bill’s History Corner. Did you ever get into a situation that you thought would end soon, but it did not? This is one of those situations.  I was excited to find this information of the Coppes Inc. Company attempting to add washing machines to their product line. “This is strange and different,” I thought. “A kitchen cabinet company selling washing machines.” Does that sound strange to you? 

In the late 1920s, the Coppes Bros & Zook Co. had a cabinet line designed for apartments. This line was promoted to new apartments, in buildings of all sizes, in any city. The company named this line “SPECIALLY DESIGNED UNIT SYSTEMS FOR ALL TYPES OF BUILDINGS.” Special catalogs were created too. This cabinet line was sold through the ‘BUILDERS DIVISION” of Coppes Bros. & Zook, Inc. Some of these kitchen cabinets had built-in refrigerators, (ice boxes). 

Refrigerators and kitchen cabinets seem to go together. Washing machines and kitchen cabinets do not go together. I don’t get it. What was their thinking? Anyhow, the company seemed to go into the washing machine sales business in a large way. Having a dedicated over-the-road sales couple and advertising in a major department store is what I would say is a large attempt at selling washing machines.

I have a picture to show you and some advertising, at the end is where this History Corner takes an unexpected turn. Hang on.

Mr. and Mrs. A.W. Klinker with their comfortable trailer home equipped with a Coppes Napanee Water Flex Washer

I suppose they set up at County fairs and such. Or they could make personal appointments to show the Flex Washer. Life on the road, take your wife and job along.

L. S. Ayers was a huge department store chain with stores is major cities. Having this quality of store handling Coppes Washing Machines was a major coupe is the sales world. How many washers were sold and how long the connection lasted I do not know. These three newspaper advertisements were the only ones I could find.  Some of the advertising pictured the washing machines that were wrapped in white porcelain, which looked much better, while at the same time period some machines were still in the black paint.

The 3rd advertisement is where this History Corner takes a turn in a different direction. The ad. is still promoting the Coppes Washing machine, but also in small print at the bottom is something else related to the Coppes Company.

Besides the Coppes Washing machine on sale for 454.98, this ad says “COPPES-NAPANEE Built-In KITCHEN ENSEMBLE     Factory List Price………..112.90

Anniversary Sale Priced     69.50

7 – Ft. straight – line Kitchen of fine Quality,      Coppes – Napanee construction. Includes 2 wall cupboards and all bases. Does not include sink, work top or instlation. All fine kiln dried hardwoods.

Tongue and groove construction. Choice of 18 colors, 5 of bakalike [bakelite] hardware.

8Ft Kitchen, List Price 143.80   ——  79.50

                                                                                    9ft Kitchen,  list Price 159.15   ——   89.50

This Newspaper advertisement is one of the first, if not the very first one, to promote the newer style of kitchens being developed by Coppes – Napanee. Coppes was still producing and selling the Dutch Kitchenet cabinet style in 1939 but were looking to keep up with the market place. The newer style kitchen was catching on fast with the American family. Keeping up with the marketplace may have been the reason for the washing machines added to the product line. I think we all know what became of the company as they began developing the newer “straight line” kitchens.

Here is the Coppes, Inc. choice of colors chart, made available in the late 30s. Which is your favorite?

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Printing Receipts From the Archives

Welcome to this week’s bill’s History Corner. This is the place where I talk about aspects of the business that we all lovingly refer to as the Coppes factory. Does that love come from a family member having worked at the factory, or maybe you have one of those wonderful DUTCH KITCHENETS that made Nappanee famous. Or possibility you lived close enough that you could hear the factory whistle morning, noon, and night.

Warsaw Is just down the road from Nappanee. In 1881, Warsaw was also just down the tracks. Wonder which was the faster method to travel to Warsaw in 1881: by train, or horse and buggy? In 1881, J. C. Mellinger ordered two types of cards printed at the R. WILLIAMS & SON, Dr.  -Proprietors-  NORTHERN INDIANIAN STEAM PRINTING HOUSE, INDIANIAN BUILDING, BUFFALO STREET, WARSAW, IND.

The 1st receipt is for “500 Notes (bound)”  (was this like a bound & printed note pad?)  = $3.50.                  

The first receipt is dated Aug. 23, 1881 and also signed Aug. 23, 1881. It reads “Received Payment. Reub (?) Williams & Son  BQW” (a clerk?).  Interestingly, these notes were ordered and paid for the same day. That means that likely the “Notes” were something the printing co. had on hand, maybe made from paper cut-offs that they sold to the general public. Does not seem like the printing co. had time to set up type and then print 500 notes in one day.

How did this transaction take place? Was J. C. Mellinger in Warsaw for some business and stopped at the printing co. and purchased the “Notes” on a whim? In 1881 THE NAPPANEE NEWS was in business with the News Paper and stationary supplies. Why not shop in Nappanee, why go to Warsaw?

The 2nd receipt, shown above, is from 17 days later. On Sept 10, 1881, 500 Postal Cards at $7.00 were ordered. This time the payment received was dated 2 days later, on the 12th. The same “BQW” Signed the receipt. Were the “500 Postal Cards” the stamped postcards that were to become popular around the turn of the century? Also, if they were the printed stamped postcards, who were J. C. Mellinger & Co. going to send them to? Postcards cost one cent to mail in 1881. What, if anything, was printed on the cards? We have not found any such cards on the antique market. Inquiring minds want to know.

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Bill Solves the Cross Wood Puzzle

Hello everyone, welcome to another exciting Bill’s History Corner. I think I have answered a mystery that I have been worrying about for several years. In approx. 2010 I copied any Coppes-related news item from the Nappanee News and put them in one book.

One of the unusual items that has puzzled me was this item from June 14th, 1883.  The small news item read “Coppes Bros have placed into their box factory a machine for stamping letters on boxes. This firm spares no means to keep their work apace with the age of modern enterprise. The machine cost over $400.00.”    What did this mean: “Stamping letters on boxes?” was that letters like A, B & C? I could understand them wanting to put their name on the shipping boxes, but one letter at a time?  Why could a machine that stamped letters cost $400.00, when a workman could do the job with a hammer and set of letter punches?

Well, I can now answer that burning question. In the last box of business receipts, we found a receipt for a printing machine that printed on wood. This receipt corresponded with the date of the newspaper item, so I knew I was closing in on something meaningful.

The CROSS WOOD PRINTING CO. from Chicago advertised signs, wood printing presses and advertising specialties. Located at 23, 25, & 27 North Peoria Street. This receipt is for one “WOOD PRINTING PRESS” sold to Coppes Bros. of Napanee (note the one p) Ind. Two other receipts accompanied this one. A 2nd receipt was for blue and red ink. Another receipt was for making  “brass Dies” (like printing stencils or printing plates) – three each for the EXCELSIOR STARCH CO. AND THE MUZZY STARCH CO.

The obvious intention was to print the starch company names onto the wooden shipping boxes that Coppes Bros. was manufacturing and selling to these two starch companies. The skeptical old man in me is thinking what the financial incentive was for printing the starch company’s names on the wood. Certainly, the printed names would make the boxes more recognizable in stores and increase sales. Did the starch companies pay extra for the printed names? Inquiring minds want to know.

I also found several receipts from the EXCELSIOR STARCH COMPANY, Elkhart, Ind. I assume the printing dies resembled this picture on the receipt. Not really sure, we are still hunting for an empty starch box from either company.

J. C. Mellinger & Co. was purchasing Gloss Starch (soap) and Corn Starch from the Excelsior Starch Co., but what they were using the soap for is everyone’s guess. Did they take it home for home laundry use, was there a use for the soap at the factory and sawmill?  A couple of the excelsior receipts have a note written on the bottom, “Starch shipped in cars” which means the boxes were placed into the empty rail road cars that were to be returned to the factory for the next load of knocked down starch boxes. Coppes Bros. had two huge box cars specially made to carry the lightweight wooden starch boxes.  I would have thought the larger box cars would have warranted a couple photographs, but so far none have surfaced. This receipt (above) is for 4 boxes of No. 1 Gloss Starch = 168 lbs. @ 6 ½ Cent/lbs., =$10.92.

And 2 boxes #1 Corn Starch, 80 Lbs. @ 6 ¾ Cents/ Lbs. =$5.40.

Free shipping, what a deal.

I hope everyone has a clean and safe week.

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The Nappanee Telephone Company with Special Guest Historian

Today’s blog post includes some great insight from local historian, Martha Owen, of the Nappanee Public Library’s Evelyn Lehman Culp Heritage Collection. Martha is the Collection Manager at the Nappanee Center, which is a phenomenal local history museum housed inside our city’s welcome center at 302 West Market Street in Nappanee. We encourage you to make sure it’s on your itinerary when visiting Coppes Commons (or your must-do list as a Nappanee resident too!) In the meantime, you can access the collection’s online database of photos and historic walking tours of Nappanee HERE.

And now, without further ado, we present to you this week’s “Bill’s History Corner!”– Jessica Flores, Media & Marketing Specialist, Coppes Commons.

Hello everyone, welcome to another exciting Bill’s History Corner. We are still sifting through the boxes of old company receipts that were found stored in the factory. What a treasure. 

This latest box is from 1908-1912. The Nappanee telephone was becoming an important business in Nappanee in 1911.

Martha tells us that the Nappanee Telephone Company was established in 1898, thanks to a campaign launched by local businessman, Claude Stoops, who had come to town in 1888 to open a jewelry store. With much talk about an exchange, Stoops appeared in front of the town board in June 1898 asking for a franchise for setting poles and stringing wires. Up until this time, only private telephone lines had been “rigged up” across town, one of which was between the Coppes Bros. and Zook flour mill and the office at the main furniture plant. It is thought that there was also a line from the Coppes Hotel (owned by brother, Samuel Coppes) to the train depot. Before this, daily records were transported by hand.

The initial installation of telephone company lines in 1898 consisted of 52 telephones with an ultimate capacity for 100 telephones. The 1st switchboard was installed in Mr. Stoops’ Jewelry Store and all the business was handled by one operator from 7:00 am – 9:00 pm. Then, with its exchange in operation, Nappanee Telephone Company made arrangements to connect to the Independent Company, stringing wires in October 1898 to Goshen.

By 1916, the phone company had experienced rapid growth with 720 telephones in service and over 12,000 feet of cable. There were 6 operators and 2 lineman employed, so the Telephone Company was able to provide 24-hour service. By this time, Mr. Stoops had given up his jewelry store and devoted all of his time to the Telephone Company.

Photo courtesy of the Evelyn Lehman Culp Heritage Collection

We have found a stack of receipts from the Nappanee Telephone Co. It appears that each prominent member of the C, Z & M Co. management team had a telephone in their office. In 1911 the rental for each telephone was $1.00 per month. Long distance calls were recorded by hand (probably at the telephone office by the operator). In the early days of the telephone exchange, long distance calls could only be made at the Coppes Hotel, which held the only toll station in town. 

Looks like the average cost for one long distance call was between .15 and .20 cents. The record does not record the length of time the call lasted, just the date, caller, to whom, place, the tolls for that call, and in the final column is either initials of the callers to indicate if the call was actually a business expense, or the building to charge the call to, or maybe a personal call. 

And here’s a photo of Nappanee’s first telephone, which now hangs in the Nappanee Center.

Photo courtesy of the Evelyn Lehman Culp Heritage Collection

Thanks again for the assistance provided by the Evelyn Lehman Culp Heritage Collection on this post!

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Getting to the Point with Bill

Good day, and welcome to Bill’s History Corner at Coppes Commons. This is the spot where I discuss topics related to the company that made the Napanee Dutch Kitchenet.

As you are aware, the company changed its name as personnel joined and left the company. The first name we were aware of was Mellinger & Co. This was John Mellinger, who was operating a sawmill in Nappanee (1875) along with the young Coppes brothers, John & Frank.  John & Frank were the “& Co.” of Mellinger & Co.  John Mellinger was the Coppes’s brother-in-law, having married older sister, Lucinda. In approx. 1880, another brother (Samuel) joined the two brothers after they bought out Mellinger’s share of the sawmill. This new company was named Coppes Brothers Co. In 1890, Samuel left, Dan Zook joined the company, and the name changed to Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. In 1902, the company had a major change: Coppes Bros. & Zook combined with Albert & Charles Mutschler at the Nappanee Furniture Co. to become the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. This company lasted till Dan Zook died in November of 1912, so we have another name change. Now the name is Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. (same as it was), but it is Harold Zook (Dan’s son) who was a company director now. This name lasted till 1936, when the company was incorporated, and the name was shortened to Coppes Inc. By this time, the 2nd generation of Coppes Men were running the factory.

During these years (62), you can imagine the changes that the people in the company were witness to. Not only the growth of the company but small everyday fractures, the telephone, transportation, even the pencil sharpener, which brings me to the subject of this History Corner.

We found a Receipt from the OLCOTT MFG. CO. makers of the CLIMAX PENCIL SHARPENER. Apparently, the company already had a Climax pencil sharpener. This receipt is for the return of a worn or dull sharpener blade. You were to return the worn blade with $.50 cents for the exchange of a sharpened blade. Then you were good to go. I found a picture of a Climax pencil sharpener on the web from these years. I love the little drawer to catch the pencil shavings.

I wonder how the company learned of this type of pencil sharpener. Did an office supply salesmen come to the factory and convince them to try the Climax sharpener? Did they see an advertisement in a paper and send off to the Olcott Mfg. company to try one out?

Thanks for visiting Bill’s History Corner, keep those cards and letters coming.

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Rolling Right Along with Historic Receipts

Welcome to one more in the exciting series of exploring actual “History” in the almost world-famous, and much-loved, Bill’s History Corner. Hope you and your family are doing well, staying safe and doing your part to prevent the spread of Covid 19. I’m working from home and about to go crazy. I think I cleaned the shop three times already, reread every book I have at least once. But so far-so good.

Today, with Bill’s history Corner I want to discuss something vitally important to furniture builders. The Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. was mainly a furniture maker when the partnership began in 1903. As a review, the Coppes Bros & Zook Co., before the partnership, was a wooden shipping box maker, sawmill operator, flour mill operator, and retail/wholesale lumber seller. The Nappanee Furniture Co. brought into the partnership the furniture-making skill set. At the beginning of the partnership, the company catalogs had 100’s of wonderful designs for 3-piece bedroom sets, tables of all descriptions, commodes, and, in 1903, approx. nine different kitchen cabinets.

What did most of this furniture have in common besides being made with white oak veneers? What was the common link? What did most of the individual pieces of furniture have in common?  They all had CASTERS. Casters are the link – the little swiveling wheels that allowed the furniture to move, the same casters that today are usually flat on one side and don’t roll worth a darn.  Big casters, heavy casters, lightweight casters – furniture in 1903 needed casters. That was the style back then. Furniture needed to be moveable, not only to quickly rearrange the room, but to clean under everything.

Where have I come across this fantastic bit of information? you may wonder. I was digging into another box of the old business receipts from the early days of Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. and found this wonderful information. In 1903 & ’04 the C, Z & M Co. was purchasing casters by the barrel full from the M. B. SCHENCK CO. Manufactures of CASTERS for Furniture and Trucks. Meriden, Conn.

What a neat looking factory. This drawing makes me want to visit. Wonder if they gave factory samples to tourists in 1903?

You can see the straight pins that the C, Z & M Co. office staff used to keep papers together. This was pre-staples.

This receipt is by far the largest order that we found. We did find 10 separate order receipts and accompanying freight receipts from this company. In this one box of receipts, we found orders for 76,200 sets of casters. The most common size caster ordered was the “Rugby Casters,” which had ¾ inch by 3/8-inch wood wheels. This number of casters is staggering. These orders amounted to a little over one years’ production in the life of the C, Z & M Co. They could have put casters on 19,050 pieces of furniture before they needed to order more.

In the above receipt some of the details are interesting. The shipment started with the West Shore R. R. “Car #7661 Big 4” then switched to the B & O line which served Nappanee. The C,Z & M Co. noted in pencil an 8% discount for cash even when other receipts from this company expressly stated no discounts of any kind will be allowed. I wonder if the Schenick company allowed the discount?

The size of this last order is staggering. The railroad freight receipt lists this shipment as “77 Brl Caster” weighting a total of 30,000 pounds.  The freight cost was $101.94 for this one shipment. Wonder where they even stored the 77 barrels when they arrived. Hopefully not in an attic.  We also have what appears to be the form where the C, & M Co. employees weighted each barrel to check if the order was short. The average weight of these barrels was 375 pounds, what a job.

Come back next week for more exciting “HISTORY” here at Bill’s history Corner.

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Sheet Metal Receipts for Hoosier Cabinet Work Surfaces

Hello, welcome to Bill’s History Corner. This is the place where I talk about the history of the Coppes Bros. Company or the Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. or the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. This company changed their name when personnel joined or left the company. If you have been following along on this journey, I would think you have a good understanding of that process. I have talked about it several times. I’m still working from home, attempting to keep my family safe. I hope you are safe also.

Today, I have on my History Detective Hat as I attempt to explain some more of the company receipts that we have uncovered. In this most recent box we have dug into, we have found 18 receipts from the National Sheet Metal Co. of Peru, Illinois. All the receipts are from 1909-1911. This company supplied the “Sheet Zinc” metalwork surface that C,Z & M Co. put on the kitchen cabinets. It still amazes me the sheer volume of material that the company needed to make the cabinets that they produced.

As you can see from this company receipt above, the sheet metal was shipped by the case. The number of sheets of zinc in the cases is unknown for most of the orders. That is only because the paperwork was not kept with each receipt. We have one receipt that does have all the paperwork. The receipt dated 2/28/10 is for 3 cases of metal in three different sizes. This order weighted 1327 pounds before packaging and 1497 pounds when it reached the Baltimore & Ohio railroad company freight office. The cost of the RR freight was  $2.94. Seems very inexpensive to me for 1497 pounds of freight.

The paper above is from the company checking or inspection team. Every item that was shipped to the company was inspected, counted, and recorded so there would be an accurate record of the purchases. On this inspection record, you can see the number of sheets in each case (79, 174, & 83) the gauge of the metal (thickness) the weight of the case and the size of the pieces of metal. Commonly called ZINC, the National sheet Metal Co. called this material “N Z” or “Nicolene”. The C,Z & M Co. purchased this material the three common sizes, which fit the cabinets produced during that time. Also, it seems obvious the company needed machines that could fold (bend) the metal on each side to fit over a wooden subframe. Later the company would change to using a porcelain work surface metal top.

If I use my calculator, I think I can estimate the number of sheets of metal ordered during this time. Need to remember we likely do not have all the receipts from this company during this time. The 18 receipts that we do have were for 40 cases of sheet metal, the total weight for the 40 cases was 18,681 pounds. Using the one receipt that counted the number of sheets in a case, I can find the average weight per sheet for the different sizes.  The average weight per sheet is approx. 4 pounds. When I divide 18,681 total pounds shipped by 4 pounds per sheet, the number of sheets ordered in this time in approx. 4670 sheets of zinc. It is an easy conclusion to jump to that the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. produced approx. 4670 of the kitchen cabinets during these three years. (1909-1911)

Thanks for visiting Bill’s History Corner, hope to see you again next week.

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Highland, Michigan

This Coppes Bros. & Zook cabinet was originally purchased by my grandfather, Ulysses S. Beach.  The original shipping label is still intact and legible on the back.  There is also a stenciled label which identifies the cabinet as a Model “4015 White.”  I assume that the “40” refers to the size of the cabinet since it is 40 inches wide, while the “15” may refer to some specific combination of features.  So far, however, I cannot find any Coppes catalog, literature or ad which refers to a Model 4015.  There is no built-in flour bin and no screw holes or other indication one was ever present.  The square Coppes Bros. badge just above the curtain/tambour suggests this unit was built between 1925 and 1930 (per the “Date Your Coppes Napanee Hoosier” page on this site).  Other than new casters the cabinet is still in original condition and now occupies a place of honor in the kitchen of my home (built in 1891 by my great-grandfather)