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History Detective Help Wanted

Just wanted to say a quick hello to all my regular readers, those in the West and those back in Pennsylvania. Here is a joke intended to make you smile: Seems an old man, one-room school teacher would always say this to his class about two weeks before Christmas, “ I want to thank those of you who have sent Christmas gifts to my house, I really appreciate them.”

If you read this space on a regular schedule, you know that I enjoy hunting for new discoveries. Well, this one has me stumped. I’ve looked at everything I can think of and then some other stuff just because I didn’t know what else to do.

I purchased this tin nameplate or medallion, (whatever you want to call it) at a local antique store last year. I think it would have been soldered on the Clothing Washing Machine. The most important part is the line MNFD. by J.C. Mellinger of Nappanee, Indiana. You likely remember the J.C. Mellinger name. As a reminder, J.C. was John & Frank Coppes’s brother-in-law. He was married to John & Frank’s older sister Lucinda. J.C. Mellinger was also the sawmill owner that John & Frank first began working with in 1876. Then when the business started to boom, the brothers purchased J.C. Mellinger’s share of the business. We know of some of the jobs that J.C. had after the sawmill business. He worked as a teller at the Farmers & Traders Bank and was a partner in a local brick-making company. I’m speculating that J.C. was looking for a business where he could invest some funds. The Washing Machine Company would explain my idea. I’m just guessing here because I have no information beyond this tin medallion.

So, I’m asking for any help, or suggestions you can offer. Have you ever seen a clothing washing machine with a label like this? I searched the Patents for this date and found nothing related to these names on the label. I searched EBAY to see if anyone was selling a washing machine like this one. I did a Google search, but only found some sites that tell about the old-style hand-powered washing machines and have lists of examples. But this is not what I was looking for. In 1891 the home washing machine was the plunger-type of machine: a long handle on a sheet metal device that was worked up & down in the laundry tub. Seems like there were 100s of different types manufactured.


Fast Forward

That was last night. As I sat here rereading this story tonight, I thought I may as well give it another shot. This time I tried Google Patents. Typed in Herrington, 1891 and voila, there was the Herrington patent for a CLOTHES-POUNDER. Now why didn’t I think of that before, maybe I did, don’t remember. So, here is a copy of the patent, which is number 460,966.

A portion of the text for this patent reads “In operation, the clothing or other articles to be washed are placed in the tub or suds box employed with the proper quantity of soap or other cleansing agent and the device lowered upon the clothes and vertically reciprocated.”  Don’t you just love the legalese and patent language that people used in the patent descriptions?

More questions. . .

Now the next task is to find out if this “Clothes Pounder” was ever actually manufactured by J.C. Mellinger. Now remember, this business did not necessarily happen in Nappanee. Nappanee is just where J. C. was living, I could see the situation where J.C. Mellinger purchased an ongoing business located in another city. But again, the existence of the name tags indicates that the “Clothes Pounder” likely, may have been produced. Something else to hunt for in antique stores. I just love this job.

During my searching for J.C. Mellinger information, I found this house picture with the caption “J. C. Mellinger House. This was a picture taken by Nappanee’s famous photographer John Keller and now in the Evelyn Lehman Culp Heritage Collection Photograph Collection. Thanks to the Nappanee center. I suppose that is Lucinda (Coppes) Mellinger setting on the porch. Anyone know where this house was located? Thanks for reading see ya next week.

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Site Beautification 1911

Hello and welcome to this week’s Bill’s History Corner. This is the place that we give up the secrets. Ha Ha, just kidding; any secrets we think we know were likely spread during the last century. What we do know, we know by studying the paper trail left by the Coppes factory. Somewhere during the last century, maybe several times, employees did not destroy (as directed) company papers. Rather, they stored them away in an unused area for someone to find in the future. Well, the future is now, and we have found boxes of company papers and company receipts from the approx. years of 1895 to 1920. Everything that the company purchased during those years is recorded in these boxes. I’ve said it before and I want to keep saying it; we owe a huge amount of gratitude to those employees who had the foresight to protect the company history the way they did.

Vaughan Seed Store Catalog

This week I want to discuss the Vaughan Seed Store, Chicago ILL. We know about this because we have found the receipts in those boxes, I was telling you about. The Vaughan Seed Store was massive. They could supply almost anything you could imagine in the plant line. Today there is still a large supply of information on the Internet about the Vaughan Seed Store. The first two scans I want to show you is from the Internet. These are scans from one of the vintage catalogs that Vaughan sent to customers. Color pages of flowers help sell merchandise.

Vaughan Store Receipts

We have several receipts from the Vaughan store during 1908-12. Here are some of the more interesting ones below. The first one is dated Oct. 21, 1911, just about this time of the year. The order was for 12 different types of flowers. I’m thinking these were bulbs to be planted in the fall for blooming in the coming year. I hope I’m correct about that. (I have been corrected, some bulbs, but some must have been live plants) To the left side is a pencil notation that says, “see Marvin” (Coppes). Apparently, Marvin Coppes planned on planting a lot of flowers. I wonder where he put them? By 1911 Marvin was 30 years old and was married for nine years, so likely he and his family had a home of their own. Two of each of these flowers would make a large flower bed.

The 2nd scan I want to show is also for Marvin Coppes but is in the following May of 1912. This receipt is for 1 Bu. (bushel) lawn grass Seed, Chicago Parks —$3.95; also   5 Lbs. White Clover (seed) —-$2.35 ; the third item is 100 LBS. V’s Lawn & Garden Fertilizer  —$3.00.  Looks to me like Marvin is making a new lawn, has he purchased a new home, maybe built a new home in the country?

The next scan I want to show was divided among Marvin, Ivan and Harold Coppes, children of Frank & John Coppes. This receipt is for red raspberry and black raspberry plants; Special offer Grapes; 12 of V’s “Best Hardy Roses”; 2 different Peach trees; three different Cherry trees; and two types of apple trees. I wonder where all these plants were intended for. Sort of gives you a different impression of these men, doesn’t it?

Early Landscaping

The last two pictures I want to show you are from approx. 1910 & 1912. The street in front of the factory was paved with brick, as was Main and the remainder of Market Street in 1909. Soon after this, the Coppes management decided to “beautify” the property. They brought in a Landscape Architect to make plans for the project. The results of that plan are shown in these pictures. First the plants are really small and planted close together and also close to the street. Later the plants (trees) are larger and there are none along the street. What happened?

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Purchase Premiums with the Dutch Kitchenet

Hello, Welcome to another edition of Bill’s History Corner. This is the place where we talk about the things we find about the Coppes Companies. We are still going through the treasure trove of company receipts that were saved by some former employees. I wish I could thank those employees in person.

Today we are learning where and who supplied the silverware that was offered as premiums when purchasing a Coppes Kitchenet. The general public that went to any of the Coppes sales stores would receive a prize of some kind. Often it was a measuring cup with the Coppes Kitchenet name embossed in the bottom. Other times it was a hand mixer – something to help the person remember the Coppes name. Newspaper advertising for Coppes Kitchenet sales offered other premiums with a cabinet purchase; sets of dinnerware, silverware, canister sets, steak knives and utensils and even a supply of canned goods.

We have just learned from whom some of the silverware was purchased with these newly discovered receipts. The Manufacturers’ Premium Co. Chicago, Ill. “PREMIUM SELLING and PREMIUM SERVICE” was one such company. From this receipt, we learned that C, Z & M Co. purchased 100 – Thurlow N. S. 26-pc. Sets and Leatherette cases at $248.00   – – Silver shipped from factory   Cases shipped from Chicago.      Building B Purchase OK.

This receipt was dated Aug. 9, 1911. Likely this silverware was planned as the premium gift during a sales promotion with a store somewhere in the U.S. Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. often gave premiums with the purchase of a Coppes Kitchenet. I wonder if this silver was an idea originating with the Coppes factory or from the sales store. I also wonder if the sale price of each cabinet was increased to compensate for the free gift.

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The Klingamans and Christmas Canned Goods

Welcome to another of Bill’s History Corner. This one was fun; it features canned goods. I have been having an interesting and informative (at least for me) email conversation with Ruth Smith. She was asking about her Grandfather (Charles William Klingaman) who worked at Coppes starting around 1918, possibly at age 14, and also her Great Grandfather (also named Charles Klingaman).

Ruth’s family legend has it that her Great Grandfather died of a heart attack one day while working at Coppes, but she is unsure about the date. While Ruth has visited the Coppes Cabinet Museum, she currently lives very far away. Ruth thinks her Grandfather’s picture should be in one of the early employee pictures we have under the glass in the museum. She didn’t find his picture when she was looking for him, but since has found his picture in one of the series of Coppes factory photos taken in 1936. You know the pictures- the ones taken in the different departments in the factory.

Ruth hinted that part of the problem is that she is not sure what her Great Grandfather looked like when he was a young man. This Illustrates the difficulties we have with hunting through the Coppes records. First, we do have some very old pictures, but as you would expect, there is no one alive today who can identify the people in the oldest pictures. Second, the Coppes factory was more focused on keeping the factory running each day rather than recording the names of the employees who were associated with the company.

We do have some lists of employee names in the earliest ledgers. These early ledgers list names and how much they were paid every two weeks. It is unclear what the jobs were that the men performed. We also have “employee seniority lists” from the 1960s. This is the period when the Coppes Inc. company was first sold away from the Coppes family and the new owners were laying off employees. Other than those two sources any employee names we come across are purely random. An employee’s name may be associated with an injury reported in the newspaper, or an employee name may be on a list of people that accepted a turkey as a Christmas gift. What I’m trying to point out is that the company did not keep the employee files or records that would be so helpful today.

On a related story, in the emails with Ruth, she pointed out that her Mother (Joyce Klingaman), who operated the printing press making advertising products and cabinet blueprints, recalls the Christmas gifts that were given during her time with the company. The printing press was in the “cow shed,” which was a building connecting our main building and the little green office building to the west. The cow shed no longer stands. She remembers that most everyone had a choice between a ham or a basket of canned goods of the type that were also given with the purchase of a Napanee Kitchenet Cabinet. She said, “all the farmers already had hams, we wanted the canned goods. They were wonderful quality”.

The brand of canned goods that Coppes gave to employees and buyers of Kitchenets was the “Richelieu” brand. Founded in 1862, the Richelieu company/brand produced a variety of products besides canned fruits. It is now one of the subsidiary brands owned by Sprague, Warner & Co. Over the many years the Richelieu company has been in business, their products have changed several times. Today the company is a very large player in the frozen pizza business. The first thing that comes up when you Google Richelieu is this picture of 25 of their colorful canned goods. 

The caption for this picture is “Richelieu fruit & vegetable cans (25), sealed metal cans w/colorful paper labels, made for a supermarket exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, de-acquisitioned by the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry… Sold in 2009 for $900.”

Do you have any of these cans? I am wondering if the 25 cans were full or empty when sealed for the display? Ruth also said her Grandmother (Florence Swihart Klingaman) worked at Uline in Nappanee making “BOMBS” during WWII. Later she also worked at Coppes in the mailrooms. Florence was also one of the employees who was laid off when the company was sold – three years before her retirement date .  So far Ruth’s Mother, Father, Grandfather, Grandmother and Great grandfather worked at Coppes. Ruth’s uncle Ted worked at Mutschler, so it was almost a total Coppes family.

Ruth said, “ I think that’s my grandfather standing behind the man in the center of the photo. You can’t see him very well. He had wavy red hair.”

Ruth’s mother, Joyce, is 90 years old this year. If you think your family may have a connection, send me your name and contact info. I’ll forward it to Ruth and maybe she and her mother will contact you.

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Finishing Oak Cabinets with Marietta

Good day, welcome to today’s Bill’s History Corner. We are still sorting through the boxes of receipts from the Coppes factory. I thought this might be interesting for you. Seems that the Coppes company purchased various finish products from the Marietta Paint & Color Company, Marietta, Ohio. This company advertised on their billhead as the Manufactures of PASTE WOOD FILLERS, STAINS & SURFACERS, PREPARED PAINTS, SUPERFINE COLORS, ETC. These receipts are dated 1903 and 1909, the time period when the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. was active.

Filling Oak Lumber

As you can see from this receipt the company ordered “2- Bbls. No. 666 Extra Filler – 750-788 = 1538 LBS.   4 ¾   $73.06”.  For an explanation of what that line means let’s start with the 666 Extra Filler. During these years the C, Z & M co. was producing a huge quantity of OAK furniture. Oak lumber is an open-pore type lumber, as compared to a smooth-pore lumber like Maple. When the company would put on the topcoat clear finish on the oak furniture, the finish would pool into the open pores and the surface would appear uneven and rough. To solve this problem, the company had workers in the finishing department rub “EXTRA FILLER” on the surface and into the pores of the Oak furniture. This “EXTRA FILLER” did exactly as the name implies, it would fill the pores and, when dry, would make a smooth surface for the topcoat application.  

The wood filler that I have used is rather thick, thicker than old paint for example but less thick than a bar of soap. This makes me wonder; in 190, what kind of equipment did they have to move barrels that weighted 788 pounds? Likely it would have been a wooden barrel. Inquiring minds want to know.

Graining Ink

The 2nd scan I want to show you is also from The Marietta Paint & Color Co. dated Sept. 20th, ’09. This receipt is for “5-10 lb. (containers) No1 27– graining Ink — 50 lb. —- $.15/ lb.   = $7.50 with a 2% discount of $.15. ”  During this time period, quartersawn oak furniture was the fashion rage. The Coppes companies were producing oak furniture by the thousands of pieces. In order to highlight the quartersawn oak wood that was used in the furniture, the Coppes finishers brushed on “graining ink.” You can correctly think of the “graining ink” as thin black paint that was carefully applied to enhance the quartersawn look.

I would love to see this done. Did they use small brushes, almost as an artist would paint a picture? Would the finishers ever be bold enough to do the unthinkable and enhance a surface that wasn’t there to begin with? I think that would be called faking it.

Thanks for stopping by, see ya next week.

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The Century-old Mural Uncovered During Our Renovation

I’m sure you have heard it said, “one picture is worth a thousand words.” I want to show you 4 pictures of the factory, two are before demo, and two are after. In the first set of pictures, look for the garage door and small personnel door to the right of the picture. Use the doors as your reference point for these pictures. When I look at these before pictures, I can’t help but think “what were they thinking?”

The next pair of before and after pictures will take more imagination on your part, but trust me, the camera was pointed at the same angle. It helps if you think of each building as a separate box that was placed next to the box/building that was there already. A new brick wall ( on the right) was added where the old building needed to come down. It’s hard to tell that the wall is new with all the old-style windows, but this wall has the front door leading into the bakery and ice cream shop.

The walls to the left were exterior or outside walls (what you would see when inside the buildings). These walls were constructed against the brick exterior walls of the previous building.  These walls blocked the old brick of the building that was behind them. Once the blocking wall was removed it exposed the exterior wall that had the fancy name painted on it. What a find that was!

I suppose there were building codes or at least a standard building practice that determined the way buildings were constructed. I’m thinking fire codes or fire Insurance companies would have insisted on this style of construction.

I’m going to give you a bonus picture. In one of the pictures above you can see the top of a dust collector. The bonus picture is taken a little farther around the building, about where the Quilt garden is now located. This picture was taken during the demolition. You can see the sawdust collector and silo that stored the sawdust (sometimes burned in the boilers, sometimes hauled to the landfill). You can also see the wall to the right that I was describing that blocked the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. painted sign.

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1880 Receipt for a Steam Boiler

Here is another interesting receipt from our treasury of old Coppes paper items. On March 24th, 1880, the sawmill of J. C. Mellinger and Company of Nappanee Ind. ordered one steam Boiler from the Chicago company of “ROCHESTER MACHINERY M’FG CO., Dealers in PORTABLE & STATIONARY ENGINES AND SAWMILLS, wood and iron working machinery, saws, belting. Etc.”

steam boiler receipt

The description of the boiler is “one 35 horse power # 7 stationary tubular boiler with 2nd hand [?????] with fixtures complete with stack  –  including 1 – #15 Jasperator (sp) fitted to boiler. Also 1 Smoke Stack 40ft X22” + guy rods.” 

This package was priced at $688.00. The company received a $25.00 discount for paying in cash. At the sale, the company paid $363.00 in cash, with a 4-month “note” for the remaining $300.00.

Note at the bottom of the receipt is marked “Paid” and signed by H. C. Wormer Treasure & Manager.

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YouTube Video of the Week

This week’s Bill’s History Corner is a two for one event. I’m going to talk about two things at the same time. People often think I’m talking about several things at the same time, so this should be easy. First, I want to point you to the big world on the internet. You is one of those fantastic items. I’m amazed at the variety of YouTube videos. Some good, some very very bad.  Especially when you think “what was the person thinking when they did this”?

I want you to do a YouTube search. Go to the site, then type the words “It happened in the kitchen” in the search line. I’m sure you will get a lot of junk, but the “It happened in the kitchen” is an interesting 5-part series of kitchens in the 1950’s. I have no idea what else you will get to look at, but it might be interesting to you. Every time I do this, I get a different result. Good luck.  You can also cut and paste this line into the search box: 1940s-50s popular science kitchen of the future part 1 – 5

The D. Ricket Store, Nappanee

The other item I want to expound upon this week is the D. RICKET store, Dealer in General Merchandise located in Nappanee. I must admit this is the first time I have heard of the D. Ricket store. We found approx. a dozen receipts from D. Ricket in the latest box of Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. papers that we were looking through. There is not a street address. The years that these receipts cover is from 1899 through 1902.

The Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. and then the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. purchased large quantities of OIL from the D. Rickert store. For example, in Oct. of 1900, one receipt shows that the company purchased quantities of OIL in 3-gallon lots seven different times during the month. It has no mention of the type of oil, but the price was $.12 per gallon. I assume this oil was lubricating oil for the machinery.

One receipt has a mystery attached to it. On July 16th, 1902, the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. purchased “131 ¼ (pounds) Bbl Flour – 16.40”. Why would a company that owns and is operating their own flour mill need to purchase a barrel of flour from a general merchandise store? If you know the answer to that mystery, please let us know.

Like most of the Nappanee stores that did business with the Coppes Family of businesses, the stores would run a tab and not expect payment with each purchase.  What they would do is record the purchase on a running receipt and then turn the receipt in at the end of the month for payment. This meant that most any Coppes employee or Coppes family member could be sent to the store when an item was wanted. They would pick it up and say to the clerk, “Just charge it to the Coppes account.”

Frank Coppes purchased food items from D. Rickert, but more likely his children or Mrs. Coppes would be the person to pick up the purchase. From May 29th, 1899, till July 1st, 1899, Frank Coppes ran up an account totaling $13.51. Big spenders, weren’t they?  Some examples of their wild spending are on May 29th when they purchased BERRIES for .16. On June 5th they purchased ROLLED OATS for .10, and bread may have been .05 cents a loaf, because they purchased bread two different times for .05 and .10. For a complete listing of the purchases that were made see the scan below.

Another puzzle with these D. Rickert receipts is that each one has a hole near the center. This stumped me until I saw that one of the receipts had extra small printing under the company name. The extra printing said “M’f’d under Pat. No. 341,960  The Sample Account File Co., Fremont,”. Here is the patent drawing for that Patent.  See the scan below, as it explains the hole in the center of each receipt.

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Do You Recognize this Happy Homemaker?

Hello, and welcome to Bill’s History Corner. This week I want to tell you about a new picture we recently acquired. The photo is of a Mutschler Bros. kitchen display at the Merchandise Mart, Chicago on May 11th, 1952.


The model pointing out the great things that make up a Mutschler Kitchen is Ms. Pam Martin.  (Do you know who this is?) The display is part of a cooperative promotion undertaken by Mutschler Bros. and Chambers Corporation, Shelbyville, Ind. The Chambers Corporation supplied the “Drop–In” gas cooking top and the Chamber’s “In-A-Wall” gas oven, working in conjunction with the Mutschler Bros. Company who supplies the “Portabuilt” kitchen cabinets.

As we know from other records, the Coppes Inc. kitchen factory also displayed at the Merchandise Mart, along with most all major furniture manufactures in the Unites States and Canada.

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The Mystery of Carrie Birhl and the 115 lb. Ham

Hello and welcome to Bill’s History Corner, where we discuss all things Coppes. This week we are still looking at receipts from the treasure trove of company records. Sometimes we find things that make us scratch our heads and sometimes we find things that make us smile. This is one of those smile items.

I love it when we find personal items; when Frank, John, Albert, Daniel, or Charles did something that is not related to company business. For example, when Dan Zook wanted a speedometer for his fancy new car, he went to Kauffman’s in Nappanee; or if Frank wanted a new suite of clothing, where did he go to purchase it?

The receipts we found this week are for HAMS – yes, the kind of tasty hams that grow on pigs. It seems that the Coppes personelle liked ham. So far, we found ten receipts from the H. H. MYER Co. of Cincinnati, OHIO. H. H. Myers Co. is/was a meatpacking house. PARTRIDGE BRAND is the brand name of their line of products. Here is a postcard picture of the H. H. MYER Co.

The  1st receipt I want to show you, dated 8-31-1911, is addressed to Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. Nappanee, Ind. and is for 9 CANV 12 # (pounds) hams at a cost of $18.90.  I assume that is canned hams. We also have the B & O train freight receipt for this shipment which weighed 115 pounds. That’s a lot of ham. Were they planning a company party? Possibly a company picnic? Were they giving a ham to retirees?  Inquiring minds want to know.

The 2nd receipt I want to show is dated 9-15-1910 and addressed to C,Z & M Co. in, SYRACUSE, IND.  This order was for six “Burlap Partridge Hams” and one “Burlap Select Partridge Wide Bacon” at a cost of $16.25. This shipping crate weighed in at 100 pounds, as you can read on the B. & O. RR freight receipt. I’m thinking that the six Burlap Partridge Hams was a kind of smoked ham that did not need refrigeration.

If the Syracuse address is confusing you it is because of PICKWICK PARK on the lake. Several of the influential families of Nappanee, Including Frank, John & Daniel, had summer houses on the lake in Pickwick Park in Syracuse. So, this order was sent directly to Syracuse. How it was divided is unclear.

The 3rd receipt I want to show is like the others, this one is for 5 -12-pound HAMS. But someone has written on the receipt “Please pay this will find out how to divide”. This receipt is also addressed to C, Z & M Co. and at the SYRACUSE address.

The last Part of this story is this piece of paper. Sorry, it does not have a date and I cannot find a direct connection to any one of the H. H. MYER  receipts. So, there must be more order receipts somewhere. At first this paper looks like a bunch of jumbled up writing, but when connected with the receipts for hams from the H. H. Myer Co. it makes better sense.  

At some point, the company must have ordered 10 large hams and divided them between these 8 people. Carrie Birhl got 1- 11 1/2 # ham at a cost of $2.12, less .05 which was the share of the cost of freight. Who was Carrie Birhl? How was she connected to the company?

The other hams were divided among Irwin Coppes, J. D. Coppes, Frank Coppes, C. Mutschler, D. Zook, Marvin Coppes, and A. Mutschler. It appears that Frank Coppes got 3 hams, 2 @ 12 ½ # and one @ 10 ½ #. He also paid for that larger share or at least was charged for a larger amount. 

All this begs the question, what was the reason they purchased hams from a Cincinnati company instead of purchasing locally? Surely there were local butchers that could provide fresh meats, or was the purpose to purchase preserved meats that would not need refrigeration? As I said inquiring minds want to know. Boy, that is a lot of HAMS. I’m getting hungry for a nice ham sandwich. Thanks, be sure to come back next week, maybe we will find they purchased eggs from Cleveland. That was a joke. Hope it made you smile.