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S. Main St. Nappanee at the Turn of the Century

For this week’s History Corner, we are looking at three early pictures of the east side of South Main Street. The first photo was copied from a postcard and is dated 1915. The street had been paved with brick just five years earlier in 1909-10. Both sides of the first block between Market St. and Lincoln St. were filled with businesses. There were two banks, Hartman’s department store, and drug stores, etc. The block was full of buildings, several having second floor offices above the 1st floor business. At the Southeast corner of Lincoln St. and S. Main was the Nappanee Carriage Company building, an imposing three-story brick building with the city water tower and power station behind. On farther south is a grain mill and the railroad tracks.

The long building shadows that show up on the street tells me this picture was taken late in the afternoon when there was very little traffic on the street. I only see one horse and wagon with a load of what looks like grain. Also, notice the window awnings on most of the east side buildings. It appears that there are trees with leaves in the background, so this may have been during the summer or early fall months. Do you see the thing that looks like a gas pump? Well, that is what it is.

The next photograph doesn’t look like the same street – so many buggies, wagons, sledges, hardly a parking place left. It looks really cold with ice on the streets and people in heavy coats. Were the people in town for Christmas shopping or was this a typical busy Winter Saturday? Wouldn’t it have been great if someone had written the date on this picture?!

Photograph number three is labeled ONION DAY NAPPANEE. This is also South Main Street, south of Lincoln Street. See the train cars in the distance? For those of you that don’t remember, early Nappanee agriculture involved growing lots and lots of vegetables. The Nappanee Produce Co. is the building on the left side of the picture. Seems the soil around Nappanee was great for growing vegetables. To help celebrate the prosperity that Nappanee was experiencing, Nappanee held a festival/carnival that was called ONION DAYS. Onion days happened for several years, approx. from 1909 to 1913. We do not know which year this picture was taken. Look at the people. Ladies and young girls are decked out in white dresses, and most of the men are in shirt sleeves, some with coats. Wonder which Month of the year it was? Looks like we could say a “good time was had by all.”

Next week we will look at the West side of S. Main.

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1906 Nappanee Hardware Store Statement

Welcome to Bill’s History Corner.  For me, this is one of the more interesting invoices that we have in the Coppes paper collection. I love hardware stores, and this is from the HOWENSTEIN – BURBACK CO., successors. to HOWENSTEIN, BURBACK & RUSHER, dealers in HARDWARE, STOVES, SASH AND DOORS, PAINTS AND OILS, PLUMING, HEATING, ROOFING AND SPOUTING. This was a full-service store, located in downtown Nappanee in the same building that later housed the Martin Hardware store. This invoice covers the month of Dec. 1906. It looks like the store kept a running tab for the C, Z & M Co. business, then sent a “statement of account” at the end of the month. The actual paper invoice runs 17 inches long and fills two pages. We are only showing 25 % of the paper invoice this time.

The items on the list are typical hardware items such 10 bolts @ .20 C. – 6-2in screws @ .02 – 1 tin pail @ .15 – 1 hand saw handle @ .10 – 8 doz. Cup hooks @ .27 – scoop shovel @ .80. What is difficult to see and understand is the column on the right side. The company charged each item into the correct business accounts. HBR charged some items to the sawmill, others to fact “B”, some to “Grist Mill.” The personal items purchased by Frank, John, or Albert were charged to their accounts. The total amount of purchases this month was $49.29 paid for by the company and then split into the right accounts.

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A 1907 Purchase of Drawing Instruments

Welcome to this week’s Bill’s History Corner. I think it is interesting when we find information of the personal nature about the principal members of the Coppes, Zook or Mutschler Families. We literally have thousands of old business receipts from the company in the first part of the 20th century (1903-1920). Don’t know how it could have happened, but several boxes of receipts were misplaced or lost until we discovered them while digging in the factory’s junk. What a find, and are we grateful, obviously. Most of the business receipts were destroyed or we would have found other hordes of receipts. Stay tuned. Who knows what we will find.

The business receipt I want to talk about today is an item that was purchased for H. (Harold) Coppes while he was in college in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Likely the class he was taking was a drafting or engineering class. Harold must have needed some drawing tools for the work in the class, so they/he ordered a set of drawing instruments (No. 625) from the Keuffel & Esser Co., Chicago, ILL. This was a very large company that imported or manufactured a wide range of tools like drawing instruments. The set of instruments that were ordered was priced at $37.00 but there was a 20 % discount given. Likely that discount is the reason the drawing set was ordered through the company rather than just H. Coppes, as an individual. So, Harold saved $7.40 in the transaction by purchasing a top of the line drawing set.  Below is a scan of the Nov. 7, 1907 receipt.

Did he need such a high-end drawing set to do the work in the class, or could he have been just as well off with a less expensive set? We will never know the answer to that question. What we do know is that later in 1916 Harold was the motivation behind a patent application for a flour bin used in a Coppes Napanee kitchenet. How many of the skills that Harold Coppes demonstrated later in his life did he learn by using that drawing set  purchased in 1907? I have scanned a page from a K & E catalog showing a Number 625 drawing set (below).  We could speculate all day about things like this- makes history interesting.


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Nappanee Silos

Hello every one. Welcome to another of Bill’s History Corners. Today we are going to go off script a little, well maybe not that much. We will see how this turns out. As you have realized, we are interested in almost anything related to Nappanee. The businesses, the industries, the retail stores, and the people that made up the great town of Nappanee.

One such industry in Nappanee that we are following was the Nappanee Lumber& Manufacturing Company. Locally called “Uline” because the owner and founder were Barney Uline and family. Mr. Uline was an early member of Nappanee. He had a general store in the town of Locke and moved everything to Nappanee. Later in Nov. of 1884, he traded his dry goods stock to Mr. Geo. Freese, Sr. for Mr. Freese’s BUTTER TUB FACTORY. Apparently, an even trade. Mr. Uline continued the mfg. of butter tubs, while Mr. Freese sold off the stock of dry goods and then devoted his time to the creamery business.

Mr. Uline’s business soon expanded to include a line of children’s furniture. We have several examples in the large showcase in the 2nd floor Kitchen Cabinet Museum. This line of children’s furniture was extensive. It included beds, dressers, tables, high chairs. Also, other products of the Nappanee Lumber & mfg. co. were ironing boards and folding card tables & chairs.

All this is interesting, but what I really wanted to talk about today was another product manufactured by the Nappanee Lumber & Mfg. Co. and that was wooden SILOS for use on the farm. In a written history of this company, the writer described a purchase that the Nappanee Lumber & Mfg. Co. made in early 1930. Apparently, the company was able to purchase many train car loads of a large size of cut timber. So large was this purchase that the company had difficulty finding space to unload all the train cars on their lot. As I remember reading it, the deal was too good to pass up, even if the company had no idea at the time what they could manufacture from the large sizes of wood.  There should be a saying about that kind of business opportunity.

So, the Nappanee Lumber & Mfg. co. began producing wooden SILOS. The train loads of large pieces of lumber was the beginning of another product line for this company. With some careful milling, the company made Silo wooden pieces that could stack and fit together and made an airtight seal which was ideal for use on farms. We have one 24-page brochure from the Silo building company. I have scanned a couple of the more interesting pages for you to see.

I think it would be interesting to find an existing wooden Silo from the Nappanee Lumber & Mfg. Co. I have no idea what we would do with it but it would be interesting to find. I’ve noticed that there are several youtube videos showing people knocking down farm silos that are no longer safe or serve a useful purpose. Very sad. Enjoy the scans and as you drive around the countryside keep an eye toward any farm silos. Seems like they will soon disappear from the landscape.

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The Nappanee Nine Baseball Team, 1888

baseball team

What fun they must have had – playing baseball with their friends, receiving the admiration of everyone in town. Someone should do a study of the baseball teams that played for Nappanee. All we have in the Coppes collection is this one 1888 picture with names. I suppose the only reason it was in the Coppes files was the connection with Frank Coppes and Daniel Zook.  Frank was the treasurer & Daniel was Manager.

The list of names, starting in back row left is Frank Coppes, Treasurer – Harry Felty, 1st base –  Wm. Stauffer, 3d or R.F. – Geo. Freese, 2nd B – Dan Zook, Mangr.

2nd row – Ike Jacobs, C & Extra P – A??? Wilson, Sub – Warren Trywillinger, C – Anson Strohm, Sub.

Sitting, L-R   Frank Brown C – Herman Rosbrugh, P.

From what I remember from my younger days is that it should be NINE players on each team. I was usually sitting on the bench watching the better players. This list of players has two men listed as SUBS, where are the other team members? And which man has the best mustache?

I also am wondering how much financial support the Coppes Bros. & Zook Company gave to the support of the team. We have not learned as yet, but I would expect that several if not all the team had day time jobs at the Coppes Bros. & Zook factory. One baseball related entry in the early ledgers books that I remember reading is a payment of $5.00 to a visiting baseball team to pay for transportation to return home. Just one more example of the character of the men that lived in Nappanee.

History makes me smarter, heritage makes me proud. Thank you for visiting Bill’s History Corner.

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Spindle Carver Wanted in 1906

evening press receipt

Here is a Mar. 27th, 1906 receipt from the “THE EVENING NEWS CO. GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.” In which they are wanting payment [from Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co.] for placing an advertisement in their paper. The ad. read “Wanted – A spindle carver, thoroughly competent and responsible; steady work; state experience and wages expected.       Coppes, Zork (sp) & Neutschler (sp) Co., Nappanee, Ind.

This ad. appeared six times in their paper and cost $1.32. The company wanted an experienced workman to operate a “spindle carver” machine. Was this a new machine in the C, Z & M Co. operations?  Likely, the company did not have anyone experienced with this machine and decided to look in the “furniture capital of the world” for an experienced workman that the company would then try to lure away from his job to a new town. Wonder what the rubber stamp “PLEASE DO NOT REMIT IN STAMPS.” Is about? Have enough people tried to pay their accounts with stamps (postage?) that they needed to make and use a rubber stamp.

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A Short Trip Through 1911 New York City and Nappanee

We recently stumbled upon this very interesting video shot in parts of New York City in 1911. A 1911 film would be interesting on its own merit, just because it is now 106 years old, but I wanted to relate life in Nappanee to the film. The first thing I noticed as I watched this film was the huge number of people. People are everywhere, walking along, riding in cars on buses and trolleys, horse-drawn Hanson cabs. Everyone was on the move, going somewhere. The second thing I noticed was the buildings, tall buildings, close together.

Nappanee at the turn of the century

In 1911 Nappanee there were 12 automobiles putt-putting in and around Nappanee. Did the people living in Nappanee then even know about what was happening in other big U. S. cities?  Were they isolated from the rest of the country, did they feel isolated? Maybe a little, but there were opportunities to learn what was happening in the rest on the United States.

One reason people didn’t feel isolated from the rest country was the closeness to Chicago, where several newspapers were published every day. Anyone in Nappanee had access to the big city by train. I know, someone is now thinking that Chicago was not New York in 1911 but the news from New York City could quickly reach Chicago and then to all the small towns in the surrounding area, where newspapers were shipped.

Magazines were another method for knowing what was going on in the world. Mass publications had started, picture magazines, then news magazines were available to the citizens of Nappanee and delivered by the U. S. Mail or purchased at a Store. All of the magazines had advertisements for the latest items.

The first public radio broadcast was on Jan. 13, 1910. 1911 was the infancy of radio. Radio in the countryside didn’t really catch on till the 1930s-40s. So, I think it is safe to assume that Little old Nappanee did not learn about New York City from the radio in 1911.

What was Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. doing in 1911?

. . . They were producing a rather large line of furniture, along with kitchen cabinets, and operating the sawmill and flour mill. In another year, Mr. Dan Zook would die and the partnership would have a friendly breakup. Albert and Charles Mutschler would go back to the plant South of the tracks and continue making furniture and later concentrate on custom Kitchens. Dan Zook’s son Harold would continue with the Coppes Bros, but they would begin concentrating on producing the Dutch Kitchen Cabinets that made them famous. In approximately 1927 Coppes Bros. & Zook opened a sales office in New York City with a small staff with the intention of developing the kitchen market in NYC.

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A Day in the Business Life of the Coppes Brothers Company

Welcome to another Bill’s History Corner. Sorry, no picture this week. I was beginning to think I was running out of new interesting things to write about, then I thought of the company ledgers that we have in the Coppes Commons collections. At random, I chose one old ledger and then one page that had several entries for one day. My idea is to discuss the entries for that one day. See if I can make sense of what I read and explain it to you. I need to make a disclaimer here, some of the names are difficult to read. I’ll use ??? when unsure.

The page I picked was June 30th, 1886 – summertime with lots of activity. There are 13 different transactions listed for that day.  The three Coppes Brothers, Frank, John & Sam were working together to run the company in 1886. They had recently built the 1884 box factory on East Market St. They were also operating the sawmill with retail and wholesale divisions and beginning to build the Flour Mill on South Main, certainly a busy time.

First transaction —  L. M. Best – by cull lumber – 3.00

L.M. Best paid $3.00 for Cull lumber. Cull lumber is lumber with defects like cracks, warps, etc. – lumber not good for very much. What L. M. Best planned to do with the  ”cull” Lumber is anyone’s guess. It should be noted that in the winter the sawmill sold firewood (side slabs, cutoffs, etc.) by the “load” for one dollar a load.

2nd transaction —  B. Uline – By resawing 955 ft. Ash @ $3.00. –   2.86

This is most likely Barney Uline, who at this time was operating the Uline Butter Tub factory, later to become Nappanee Lumber and Mfg. Co.  A line of children’s furniture, card tables & chairs was a later product of this company. Still later they produced wooden farm silos. The “@ $3.00” is the listed price for resawing 1000 ft. of lumber.  Mr. Uline only had 955 ft. resawed so the price was 2.86.

3rd transaction — Muzzy Starch Co.

                                By 200/1 – @14c  — $28.00   

                                By 370/2 –  @ “     — $51.80

                                By 300/3 –  @ “    —   $52.00

                                By  340/5 – @12c —   $40.80

                                By  500/6 – @ “     — $60.00

                                By  1200 /4 – @6c  — $72.00

By 100   Lenates?? @10c – $10.00             Total  = $341.60         

Muzzy Starch Company was one of the Elkhart companies that Coppes Bros. regularly shipped wooden boxes to from their new brick box factory on East Market St. What the first line means is that Coppes made 200 of the No 1 size boxes (1 lb. size??) at a cost of 14 cents each for a total cost of $28.00 for that size box. Each line is a different size of box. These would have been shipped by horse and wagon in 1886. Can’t read the word in the bottom line but maybe it is “Centers,” which would make more sense.

4th transaction — L. Babcock  by 150 lb  Chop.         $1.50

Chop (I think) is horse feed. Why the Coppes Bros. were in the business of selling horse feed is likely because they purchased chop in large quantities for the number of horses that Coppes kept as both workhorses and personal teams (my estimate is 20 – 30 horses at any one time in the Coppes stables). They may have had a surplus of feed or felt they could make some money by selling chop at a higher price than they paid when buying in large quantities. Or possibility they let friends have some chop at cost because they were good guys.

5th transaction — G + G + G + G   leo  ????   

                                7000 ft 3” = 24 ft sheeting

                                423 ft 3” = 20 ft       ‘ ‘                   @ 20.00 —- 7423 ft     =    $148.40

                                Less freight

                                B  &  G   # 2742

This one is more of a puzzle. I think that LEO is a freight train station west of Nappanee. The business was selling 3-inch-thick lumber that could be put down and used as strong solid SHEETING. Either in 24 foot or 20-foot lengths. The price was $20.00 per 1000 feet for a total price of $148.40. There was no freight cost because the train company provided a train car for transportation. That train car number was 2742.

You may be wondering how lumber is sold. Not by the piece, not by the length, not by the width, but a combination of these dimensions. The standard unit of sale for lumber is called BOARD FEET. One board foot of lumber is equal to a piece that has 144 cubic inches of material, no matter what the shape of the board. It could be long and thin or short and thick, as long as it contained 144 Sq. In. of wood it is equal to one BOARD FOOT.

The formula for finding board feet in one piece of solid lumber is (Bd Ft = T(in) X W(in) X  L(ft)  )

6th transaction. —  Jonathan Yoder   by Oak logs  2174 ft. @ 7??   =   $15.21

I think I got this one. The company purchased Oak logs from Mr. Yoder amounting to $15.21

7th transaction. —  Frank Walker    by 7450 Clear Shingles  @ $ 2.90     =    $21. 60

This one is easy. Mr. Walker purchased shingles that were priced at $2.90 per 1000 for a total cost of $21.60. Clear shingles was a product that the company was reselling. The Coppes Bros. purchased train car loads of shingles at a bulk price and then sold them at a retail price. This is Business 101.

8th transaction. —  O. E. Fales      by 10,000  10” Clear Shingles  @ 2.50  2.40       =$25.00   $24.00

Why Mr. Fales was offered a lower price than Mr. Walker and then finally paid a still lower price for the shingles that he purchased is a mystery. Possibly this lot of shingles was in poor condition or maybe there was such a thing as “friends and family pricing.”

9th transaction. —  B. Uline   by sawing 1200 ft.   Ash, Reed, @ $3.00   =  $3.60

This is the 2nd time today Mr. Uline sent lumber to the sawmill to have sawing done. Business must be good at the butter tub factory. I would like to know more about what the company was cutting. Were they sawing Ash logs that Mr. Uline had or cutting lumber into smaller more useable sizes? As for the word that looks like “Reed” maybe this is a mistake on my part and they were writing, Ash Red???. Anyhow the price was the same as earlier in the day, $3.00 per 1000 ft.

10th transaction. —   Bowser house      By 702 ft Cull Oak s1s   @ $12.00

The Bowser House was a Hotel in Early Nappanee. Possibly the “Cull Oak” was planned to be used as a wooden fence around a stable or back yard. The letters “s1s” is a lumberman’s term meaning the lumber was surfaced smooth on one surface. There are any number of reasons oak lumber could be classified as “Cull” lumber after it was sawed. Could be a bad or uneven color, have cracks, or twists, all of these defects are impossible to see while the lumber is still a log.

11th transaction. —   Chas. Teal     By Screen Moulding               40

I’m guessing on this one too.  I think “Screen Moulding” is the small strip of wood nailed around the edges of screen on screen doors or windows. The spelling of the word moulding is an older used style, today the word is spelled Molding. Wonder how much you could get for $.40?

12 transaction. —  Jacob Weygand    By Matching 829 ft. Beech @ $6.00

There is not a final cost recorded for this transaction, that may mean this is just the order to make the Matching 829 feet of beech. It will take some time to fill this order. I think that “Matching” in this instance means making a Tongue and groove wood joint on each piece of this lumber so it could be used as flooring or possible a grain bin where you do not want any cracks between the wood.

13th transaction. —   B. J. miller & Co.        By s2s     88 ft Bass     @ $3.00

Again, this transaction may be the order from B. J. Miller & Co.  The “s2s” is another lumberman’s term meaning smoothing 2 surfaces smooth. Bass lumber is a very soft wood often used for hand carving. Wonder what they were going to make?

I was looking ahead a few days to see if I was correct about the last two transactions being ordered today for pickup in the future. I did not find any other transaction for these two accounts in the next 10 days. So, it is unclear what they did.

I did find an entry in this book that I have got to tell you about. It does not seem like the Coppes Bros. were drawing a regular paycheck. There are several examples where each of the 3 brothers withdrew cash from the business like it was their own bank account. Often listed as by cash, either for personal items or business items, or nothing noted. On July 2nd, 1886 this is the entry,  S.D. Coppes – by cash – Per Della & Lille (2 of Sam’s Daughters) – .08    Do you mean to tell me that Sam Coppes, the man that would soon purchase the Farmers and Traders Bank & also build the Coppes Hotel, did not have 8 cents to give to his daughters?

There is so much fantastic information in these ledgers that we have to make them available to the public. That is our plan, to purchase a scanner and upload the pages to the web for you to look at. When we do that is still up in the air, but stay tuned, as they say.

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A look back at the Onion Festival Parade

Welcome to another Bill’s History Corner. I wish we could go back in time. If we could, one of the places I’d want to go to is the Nappanee Onion Festival. This picture was taken at one of the Onion festivals from 1908 to 1913. I don’t know which one of the Festivals this picture comes from, as there were several onion Festivals during this time period. Perhaps a study of the Nappanee News would give an indication of the exact date of this Parade.

Onion Festival

       The subject of this photo is the “C.Z.M. PARADE, NAPPANEE IND.” or the Coppes, Zook, & Mutschler log wagon Parade. I can see 7-8 wagons with full loads of logs being paraded through the mass of people. Each wagon has one man sitting on the top log driving the horses, while other men are riding. Another picture we have in the collection (may be the same festival) has parade wagons loaded with furniture made at the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler factories. Hope you can get a good look at this photo because there is a huge amount of detail going on in this picture.

       As usual, I have lots of questions and a few observations. My first question is how in the world did they load those big logs onto the wagons? This was an age before machines like the skid steer. It would have been a massive amount of work to construct ramps and roll each log on the wagon by hand. It seems that the standard dress for the men was coat and tie plus a hat. While women wore white, some with hats, some not. Wonder what time of the year this was. After the summer harvest?

You can see the upper floor of the Coppes Hotel over the top of the middle wagon. Near the intersection, where our post office is now, is the ramp of a Dare Devil that made a flying leap while sitting in a small padded box with wheels. Amusingly, the leap was successful every time. American flags and bunting adorn the building and wires. Wonder what the camera person was standing on and what kind of camera was used to get such a good clear picture. I also wonder if any of the people in the front rows had their toes crushed under the wagon wheels. If you were there then, where would you be standing? I think that I would want to be looking out of one of the 2nd-floor windows of the Coppes Hotel.

Side Note with a Request for Help: 

We are looking for information on former 1950s Coppes employee  Earnest Masterson. Apparently Earnest supplemented his income by building electric guitars. Any help would be welcomed. Just email Thank you!
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Coppes & Zook Demonstration Sales

Hello everyone, hope you had a pleasant holiday with family and friends. I know I ate too much, but that is over with and it is back to work. Today’s Bill’s History Corner incorporates some local history – if you consider South Bend and Elkhart local. I think that I have told you that Coppes and Zook Co. sold their Napanee Dutch Kitchenets through existing stores. Any store with enough floor space was fair game to host a Coppes Kitchenet sale. Coppes’ over-the-road salesmen were looking for areas that had families and a store with floor space. Coppes & Zook supplied almost everything else. They provided newspaper advertising copy for the stores to use as well as measuring cups or other items as favors to give to everyone that came to the store to just look at the Dutch Kitchenets. Coppes & Zook also provided tin signs that could be fastened to trees, and the 5 foot stand up Dutch Girl was sent to stores for additional advertising.  A salesman, familiar with the Dutch Kitchenet, was also sent to the store acting as an additional salesman during the 3-5-day sale of Dutch Kitchenets.

multiple dutch ladies

In the Coppes Commons Historical Collections we have letters sent back to Coppes & Zook from stores that had a sale of Coppes Dutch Kitchenets. Most of the letters have a central theme, which is, we are so pleased with the way the Kitchenet sale was handled that we want to have another sale of Dutch Kitchenets as soon as possible. Two of those letters are attached below. One from The Home Furniture Company of South Bend. Home Furniture held a Dutch Kitchenet sale in Nov. 1922, where they sold 50 cabinets in 5 selling days.

Home Furniture

The other letter is from the Chas. S. Drake Co. of Elkhart. The Drake Co. sold 52 Kitchenets in one day, and maybe could have sold additional cabinets if they had more on hand. Both letters point out how important the “Demonstrator” was to the success of the sale. The Home Furniture & The Chas Drake letters are but two of the many letters. Another letter from Steinkamp’s Furniture in Cincinnati, Ohio, informs us that during their January 1923 Kitchenet sale, which closed on Jan 31th (I guess the sale ran for the whole month), they sold 295 cabinets. Wow, that is at least 5 train car loads of cabinets.

drake letter

Add to this cabinet sales concept the additional plan of One Dollar Down, one Dollar a Week, which kept customers returning to the stores to purchase other merchandise. You can easily understand why stores all across the country were eager to have a Coppes Dutch Kitchenet Sale in their store.