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The Vitreous Company is “Tops” for Coppes

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Bill’s History Corner. Today I’m going to talk about the Vitreous company. Nappanee’s Vitreous Company made the porcelain tabletop work surface that was on every Dutch kitchen Cabinet. Exactly when the Coppes Co. began using the porcelain tops is still in question. 

Vitreous Comes to Town

In approx. 1919-20, the town of Nappanee raised funds to help the Cleveland, Ohio Vitreous Metal Stamping company to set up a branch factory in Nappanee. The Coppes Bros. & Zook, along with the Mutschler Bros. Co , were the major backers for this new company move. The Dutch Kitchen Cabinet output from the Coppes factory was using 1,000’s of these Porcelain top work surfaces each month. It is still unclear if the Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. began purchasing porcelain work surfaces from the Vitreous Company while the Company was still in Cleveland or started using the Vitreous product only after they moved to Nappanee . I’ve been researching that, but so far, no luck.

One interesting note I have found is from a 1916 Coppes Bros. & Zook catalog stating that “Aluminum tables boiled in a paraffin preparation, closing the pores in the wood so that it will not absorb moisture, consequently will not warp, swell or shrink.” Also “Porcelain tables may be had in place of the aluminum.” So apparently, the aluminum tabletops were still the standard in 1916, with the option of switching to a porcelain top if the customer wanted.  Wonder how much extra it costed.

Vitreous on Parade

I have a couple pictures to show you. In the 1949 Nappanee City Parade, the Vitreous Company had an ingenious float. On one end is a small band, and on the other end are the requested pretty girls.  I have two snap shots of the float. I think it was built on a company forklift truck. Look at the pictures closely. Can you see the driver of the float? In one picture, one end of the float is lifted high in the air. It seems like the float would be able to travel forward or backwards along the parade route. Maybe it switched directions. Only trouble with that is no one would know unless they saw it turn around.


I also have this photo of six vitreous employees at a 25 years of service party. I have no idea who these people are or when this picture was taken. It just points out the importance of identifying your pictures. Your pictures may be wonderful and important to someone in the future.

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H. Toms Furniture Co. – Dealer of Dutch Kitchenets

Hello everyone, and thanks for coming to Bill’s History Corner. This is the place where we discuss all things about the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Company, or any other name the company went by.  The company names changed as people died or left the company. 

Today, I want to tell about a new sign we acquired. This one is from H. TOMS Co. FURNITURE , from RICHLAND CENTER, WIS. Also, we were lucky enough to acquire a companion sign.  Interestingly, the H. Toms Co. was also group of undertakers. I think this combination of furniture and undertaking was more common than you might realize. After all, who was going to build the coffins that would be needed but the furniture/cabinetmakers?

It is our opinion that the Coppes Company supplied these standardized ( we now have two that are identical, but different store names) “NAPANEE DUTCH KITCHENET” metal signs to the stores that were having a Dutch Kitchenet sale in their stores. The store would be responsible for having the store name printed, and, in this instance, that would be the H. Tom’s Co. FURNITURE.

I think I have mentioned it before that we have a ledger in the Coppes collection from 1924 that I named The Shipping Ledger. It has listings of all the items sent (mailed or shipped by rail) to different stores across the country. At that time, Coppes & Zook Co had several over the road salesmen promoting the DUTCH KITCHENET CABINET. These salesmen would call or telegraph back to the factory with any orders they may have secured, or maybe they wanted the company to send promotional items to a store to help convince them that having a DUTCH KITCHENET CABINET sale would be a great thing. The free giveaways included, at different times, hand mixers, measuring cups, sets of dishes, cutlery sets, etc. Even the small porcelain-top kitchen tables were sometimes given with a purchase of a Dutch Kitchenet. The free giveaways were the exact thing that the other major Hoosier Cabinet manufacturing companies were doing. Coppes needed to complete with all the other selling ideas that other companies were practicing. 

I found this newspaper advertisement in a Chattanooga, Tennessee paper. It is not from the H. Toms Furniture Store, but it illustrates another selling idea that Coppes used. They would have a salesman familiar with selling Coppes cabinets in the store during the 3-5-day period of the sale.

The final item I want to show in this History Corner is an item I found on the internet. When you Google “the H. Toms Furniture Store,” what you find is this. It appears they were also sometime selling the Hoosier brand of cabinet. The H. Toms building is the one on the left side.

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Nappanee Loves a Parade!

Welcome to Bill’s History Corner, where we discuss all things about Coppes.

Today we are looking at pictures of parade floats. The town of Nappanee loved a good parade and still does to this day. The Coppes company, like many other businesses in Nappanee, participated by building a float for the parade. In the Coppes Commons collection we have photos of a George Lamb Company horse-drawn float,

a Mutschler Bros. truck decked out for a parade,

along with the “Vitreous on parade” float.

We also have two pictures of Coppes, Zook & Mutschler log wagons during one of the “Onion Days” celebrations in Nappanee.

Also, a picture of at least twelve horse & log wagons lined up for a picture. Was this picture during the “Onion Days” parade?

The Howenstein – Burback picture is of their parade float.

This Nappanee hardware store which was formed in 1899, was located in the building which later became Martin’s hardware.

The float from the McNeil & Higgins Company, Chicago (below), which is promoting the “None Such” brand of food products is a mystery, did they bring their float to Nappanee to participate in a parade or are we mistaken as to the location of this picture?

We have four photos of Coppes floats: two of the 1949 float pulled by a truck and one photo each of the 1921 and 1925 floats with several Coppes Napanee Cabinets on board.

If anyone has other pictures of Coppes floats or anything of interest we want to hear from you. We would like to make copies of your pictures and add them to our Coppes Commons collection.

If one picture is worth a 1000 words, then we talked a lot today. Thanks for visiting this site, come back next week for the next Bill’s History Corner installment.

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Following the Toilet Paper Trail

Hello, welcome to Bill’s History Corner. This is the place where I try to explain items/information we find about the factory that made the Napanee Dutch Kitchenet.  This week I going to attempt some bathroom humor. As we are going through the boxes of old factory receipts, we find some very interesting things. This receipt got my attention, and then I tried to think about how I could explain it. Well, here is where bathroom humor meets Coppes, Zook & Mutschler.

This receipt is from the L.H. GARDNER PAPER CO. successors to LAUREN H. GARDNER MANUF’R OF TOILET PAPER, from MUMFORD, N.Y.  This first receipt is dated Feb. 26, 1906. Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. ordered three cases of CULL toilet paper, which weighted in at 520 pounds (the railroad thought it was 550 pounds). After a 2% discount for prompt payment, the cost of the 3 cases was $22.90. Wonder what the difference between CULL toilet paper and the best grade is?

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We also have the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. freight ticket for this order. A notation on the freight receipt is written as “1 Bx Broken open contents apparently ok”.  Looks like the C, Z & M Co. gave a .15 cents tip to the railroad Co., possibly for repacking the toilet paper. My inquiring mind wants to know: how many rolls of TP were in these three cases? I would never do this, but have you seen houses around Nappanee that were TPed?

The second receipt is from the same company and dated Jan 31, 1907. This order is also for three cases of cull toilet paper. This order weighed 460 pounds and cost $20.70. So far, these two receipts are the only ones we have found, there are sure to be others. A penciled notation on this receipt indicates that 1 case was sent to building “B” and 2 cases sent to building “A” for use. Interesting, none were sent to the office. Maybe they brought their toilet paper from home. And that concludes the bathroom humor for today.

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The Dutch Lady on the Road

Hello and welcome to another Bill’s History Corner. Keep those cards and letters coming. This week I was thinking of how I could write about something that would be interesting to everyone. I couldn’t think of any, so I’m writing about a store in Fort Dodge, Iowa. This should make at least one person happy.

Fort Dodge Showroom

A picture I want to show you today is a store’s showroom window. I assume it was on the street level so it would catch the attention of people passing by. The display in the window is two Coppes kitchenet cabinets with the Dutch Lady and a lot of signs.

The cabinet on the left side is a 1922 Model G, and the one on the right is a 1922 Model E. So, we can guess that the time period for this picture was the early 1920s. We know that the “Dutch Lady” found her way into Coppes advertising around 1916, but we still don’t know where she came from or who thought she would be a good addition. This window was a typical showroom window; we have several pictures of showrooms. Making use of existing stores was the main method that Coppes used to sell cabinets during this time period, and if the store had a picture store window, the better the sale.

Try to picture an over-the-road salesmen with a Coppes Kitchenet in the back seat of their car, going door to door. Besides the two cabinets and the “Dutch Lady,” this window had several smaller signs pointing to the better points of a Coppes Dutch Kitchenet. Also, a 42-piece dinner set would have been given to each purchaser of a cabinet. A sign that is difficult to see and read is the “A. D. McQuilkin Co. ” sign in the lower left.

A.D. McQuilkin Co. Store Discovered

When I finally realized this sign was there, I was off and running, hunting the Internet for more information on this store. Among some of the interesting items I found on the Internet is this next picture of the street where the McQuiltin Co. store was located. The building on the right side with the sign painted on it is the McQuilkin store. The sign reads “The big store with the little prices”. Notice the horse and wagons in the street. This is a 1915 picture.

DesMoines Register Newspaper Ad 1923

Another item I found is this newspaper advertisement for the Coppes Co-Operative Sale. This paper is the Des Moines Register from Feb. 11, 1923, and lists 81 stores (including A. D. McQuiltin) that are having a Coppes kitchenet Sale at the same time. This is the first time we have known of a ‘Co-operative” sale. How did that kind of sale work? Normally when an individual store had a Coppes Kitchenet sale, as part of the contract, a Coppes employee who specialized in kitchenet salesmenship was in the store during the 3-4 day sale to help with the cabinet sales. How did that work when there were 81 stores in the same area? Inquiring minds want to know.

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A Peek Inside the 1952 House & Garden Book of Building

Hello, and welcome to another Bill’ History Corner. We recently acquired a 1952 issue of the House & Garden Book of Building. We mainly got this magazine because it had a Coppes Inc. advertisement in it.

What has been of great interest to us is the comparison between the Coppes advertisement and other kitchen cabinet companies in this magazine. This magazine is intended for people planning on building a new house and has 40 new house plans and sections on remolding and maintenance. It seems like a great place for a Coppes advertisement for kitchen cabinets.

I wonder what the advertising budget for Coppes Inc. was in 1952. From what we see in this magazine, that advertising budget was not very big. Here are some of the ads in this magazine. Decide for yourself if the advertising was the best they could have had.

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A Unique Find From Saskatchewan

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Bill’ History Corner. I have been having an interesting email conversation with a young lady for the past several months. Her emails started as so many other emails have. Basically, people are asking when their cabinet was made and which company made it? “What can you tell me about my kitchen cabinet?” Usually, I can give a positive answer, then sometimes I’m completely stumped. The most difficult questions are the ones with cabinets that have no markings and look as if any of 20 or so companies could have made it in their factory. I’m sure that I’ve said it before, but cabinet companies borrowed ideas from other cabinets that were already on the market. This is why so many look alike.

This History Corner does not have that problem with this story. The kitchen cabinet that I have been emailing about looks like no other cabinet I have ever seen. First, it was made in Canada, the country to the North, in case you have forgotten. Second, I thought it was a one-of-a-kind kitchen cabinet, and I think our email conversations bear that out. The drawers have hand-cut dovetails. The young lady’s initials are MB (I told her I would not use her name). The cabinet has the name of MB’s Great Grandfather,  G. HAMILTON + DONGOUGH (his town) + SASK (Saskatchewan) written on the back side.

dovetailed drawer from 19th c cabinet

Furniture that I have seen with a person’s name written on it is usually an indication that it was made by the person that signed it. So, from the beginning, I thought this cabinet was a one of a kind cabinet having been made by G. Hamilton. When I suggested this theory to MB, she was not so sure but has since found military records indicating that G. Hamilton was indeed a cabinetmaker before he entered the military for WWI. MB has started to piece together her family genealogy, which is very rewarding for anyone who does it.  This is what history she has shared so far.

 “My great grandparents did not have a lot of money, so it is definitely possible he built it. My Great- grandpa (Gavin Hamilton) was a farmer later on in life. I’m not sure what he did before 1933 (cabinetmaker). I think I mentioned this before, but he brought his family (including my infant grandmother) over from Saskatchewan to British Columbia in 1933 via horse-drawn covered wagon. He bought a plot of land just outside of Nelson, (about 30 acres and some of it lakefront) built a barn, cleared land for a farm and built a home [with] the help of the older sons. He then became a farmer for a living: mostly cows and chickens. He would have been about 50 years old when he was doing all of this! He was 40 when he started having children with my great grandmother when they had their 9th and 10th children (twins) he was 60 years old!   The property is still owned by my family. My mom’s cousin owns the upper 20 acres of the property including the original barn which until this past summer was still being used for cows and chickens. My mom and her sister own the original house together and we go up at least once per year.”

This is the cabinet that we have been discussing.

Early Hoosier Cabinet

As you can see, it needs some work. MB is planning on repairing/restoring/fixing it but does not want to lose the original color or character of the cabinet. Notice that the work surface appears to pull out like a genuine Hoosier cabinet, so likely Mr. Hamilton may have seen a Hoosier cabinet in his work as a cabinetmaker. I’ve suggested she add some color where needed and basically leave the rest alone.  It’s her cabinet, she can decide what to do.

Another very interesting aspect of this cabinet is the interior tin work. The flour bin is on the left side, and there are tall containers for tea and coffee with sugar in the center, shelves for spice jars and spaces for cups or other cooking utensils. This tin work is different from any that I have seen. It does look familiar, but I can not place it yet. Still working on the tinware, maybe in the U. S. patents, is where I remember seeing tinware like this. I do think the tinware was commercially made and that Mr. Hamilton may have ordered it from a mail-order company- Sears, possibly. It does look like the three-part tin portion would pull forward and out of the cabinet, for cleaning and filling.

tinware inside a custom Hoosier cabinet

What would you do if you inherited an old family piece of furniture with that much history that needed some repair, how much would you fix it up or leave it alone?

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A Lightbulb Moment at CZM – 1909

Hide Leather & Belting Co.

This week we are looking closely at a couple receipts from the Hide, Leather & Belting Company from Indianapolis. This batch of receipts are from the 1909 -10 period. Coppes, Zook & Mutchler Co. ordered extensively from this company. We have receipts for large orders at least every month of this year.  The sales receipt lists the company products as the following, “Mfg. of the Volt and other oak tanned leather belting, also rubber belting, hoses, and steam packing. Also, agents for Rainbow packing, Eclipse, Gasket, and Dodge Wood Split Pulleys, and Buckeye Electric lamps, Shafting and Hangers, Steam, Water and Air Hoses.” I would think that the C, Z & M Co. had a need for most of this companies’ products.

The 1st receipt I want to show you is a straightforward purchase of a length of “VOLT” style belting. The receipt is for 68 ft. of 10-inch-wide Dble Volt belting with 1 foot added for the lap joint, making it an endless style of belt. This belt weighed 98 pounds and was shipped by railroad from Indianapolis. I’m assuming the term “Dble” means double thickness, making this a very large and strong belt for driving a mainline shaft from the power source.  The price of this belt is listed as $67.62. The company received a 2% discount on this order. Next to this receipt is the Railroad Company shipping receipt. We do not know when the order was placed, but the receipt was typed up on May 11th, also shipped by the rail company on the 11th, arrived in Nappanee 3 days later on the 14th and then the receipt marked PAID by Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co on May 27, 1909.


On March 18, 1909, the C, Z & M Co. ordered 100 – 115 / Volt 40-Watt Tungsten (lightbulbs) at $110.00. There was a $30.80 discount on this order, making the total cost for 100 bulbs $79.20. So far so good, but for some reason, the factory that manufactures these light bulbs also sent a shipment of 100 of the same kind of light bulbs. Both shipments are on Hide, Leather & Belting Co. paper, so clearly someone made a mistake. What did C, Z & M Co. do about this mistake? First, they contacted the Leather company asking for a credit Memorandum on the number of bulbs they didn’t order. They received the credit on the order and a business letter from the company explaining the mistake (click images to enlarge).

What the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. did with the 100 extra 40-watt light bulbs is explained in the penciled in notations on the receipt. The Nappanee hardware store of Howenstein & Burbach was contacted, and the bulbs were sold to the hardware store.

We have found several business receipts from the Howenstein & Burback Co. to the C, Z & M Co. It was likely that the hardware store kept a running charge account for the C, Z & M Co. We have found receipts where there is a purchase and charge every business day, some days more than one. It would have been so handy for someone to walk to the hardware store and pick up whatever was needed at the time. Then at the end of the month, a bill was submitted to the company. This is typical of business life at the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Company in 1909.

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Runners for a One Horse Open Sleigh?

Wright invoice

Today we are looking at a receipt from Feb. 1st, 1912. The Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. purchased one set (2) sled runners from the concern of JOHN J. WRIGHT, BREMEN, IND, MASHALL COUNTY.

“2 PCS. SLED RUNNERS, 4×4 x 5-10 AT $1.80” was how the invoice read.

To better understand what this actually was we need to know that the C, Z & M Co. was using large horse-drawn sleds in the winter when the ground was frozen to bring logs to their sawmills. These “runners” were 4 inches square by 5 feet 10 inches long. Most certainly these “runners” were steam curved in front and would be fixed with a steel wear plate to make them last longer. Notice that this invoice was signed “O. K.” by JDC (John D. Coppes)

Update 1/2/20

Since publishing this post, we shared it with our friends “down the road” at Historic Bremen, and they shared a little more information about John J. Wright. Take a look at these great photos and captions they provided!

Wright building
“Wright’s Bent-wood Factory” (pictured here in 1888) was built by John Wright on the corner of W Plymouth and S Whitlock Streets in 1869. Products include bent-wood material for building carriages, houses, fencing, etc. The Wright’s Bent-wood factory was Bremen’s largest employer in 1890.
John J. Wright
John J Wright was one of the foremost businessmen of Bremen in its early days, coming to town in 1868 and starting a box factory and wood bending works (bentwood was used in the manufacture of carriages and furniture) and a dry goods store with an opera house above.
Note: the same photo was used in his 1911 obituary and noted as having been taken for his 50th anniversary in 1904.
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Wherein Bill Investigates a Little-Known Nappanee Company From the 30’s

Welcome to another Bill’s History Corner. This week I’m going to introduce a company that I know very little about. How is that for a teaser? The company is the Nappanee Water Filter Co. From the little I have been able to discover, this company was in business during the1930’s, with company headquarters located on S. Clark St. I have not found much information in the Nappanee Weekly Newspapers. I’m assuming this was because of the Great Depression, but I’m just guessing about that. One small undated Newspaper snippet reads as follows:

“Harry Greene and A. E. Jervis sold their interest in the Nappanee Water Filter Company and the Specially Manufacturing Company to J. E Gall and have started a partnership in the old building in the rear of 1452 S. Clark Street where the factory headquarters was located several years ago. A lease has been taken on the old saw mill formerly operated by Coppes Bros. in the East part of the city and on Tuesday of this week the New firm Known as the Nappanee Roof Paint Company began the making of paint there.   

Later on the company will begin the making of water filters but for the present intend to confine their activity to the making of roof paint.”

I think that this Harry Greene is the same Person that was a cashier at the Farmers and Traders Bank in 1909. He was also the son-in-law of George Lamb of the Lamb Bros and Greene Mfg. concern that started making the wonderful art glass lamps in Nappanee. The other two gentlemen mentioned in the story are still a mystery.

As you can see, the NAPPANEE WATER FILTER Co. receipt (dated Jan. 14, 37) lists the company products as BATTERY AND DOMESTIC WATER FILTERS and NAPPANEE WATER SOFTENERS, ASPHALT [??????] ROOF PAINT – ASPHALT ROOF PAINT, PLASTIC ROOF CEMENT, at a location on Nappanee St.

This receipt makes it appear that the Nappanee Roof Paint Co. and the Nappanee Water Filter Co. were once again joined into one company. Does anyone know more about these companies? If you have information to contribute, please contact us.

The reason for starting this History corner is the fact that a Nappanee Battery Filter was donated to the Coppes Hoosier Cabinet Museum. Here is a picture of the filter and the sign I put on the display.

“This is an example of the BATTERY WATER FILTER manufactured by the NAPPANEE WATER FILTER CO. This company was located in various buildings in Nappanee during the 1930’s (one of those was the old Coppes Saw Mill building). An office was at 50 Nappanee St. in 1937. This company did little advertising, consequently very little is known about the company. One receipt from this company lists their products as “BATTERY and DOMESTIC WATER FILTERS and NAPPANEE WATER SOFTENERS, ASPHALT ROOF PAINT, & PLASTIC ROOF CEMENT.

Donated by the family of Virgil Welty, originally from Nappanee. His children are Vavon Welty – Goshen, Merritt Welty – Boise, ID, Ellen Welty Nussbaum – Ohio. Virgil worked as Head Mechanic at Elkhart Packing Co. where this Battery Water Filter had been in use. It was given to him for his faithful years of service.”