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Coppes & Zook Office Girls

Today we are looking at two pictures that were labeled “Coppes & Zook office girls.” As you can see, one of the photos is taken in a park-like setting, perhaps someone’s celebration day. Birthdays, anniversary, 4th of July, the list is endless. But, the real reason my writing about these women is that there aren’t any names attached to the pictures. Someone in this photo could be your ancestor. Do you recognize anyone? Can you put names with any of the pictures? Do you have a copy of this same picture in your photo album? Do you know when or where it was taken? I want to learn the answers to all those questions. I hope you can help.

The Coppes & Zook Co. name was used during two different time periods. The first time they used the Coppes Bros. & Zook co. name was from approx. 1890 till the partnership with the Mutschler Brothers began in 1902. This was the period when Daniel Zook was working with Frank & John Coppes. The 2nd time the company used the Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. name was after the partnership dissolved in 1912. In 1912 after Daniel Zook died, the Mutschler Brothers (Albert & Charles) returned to their former factory and Daniel’s son Harold, became the Zook in the company name, Coppes Bros. & Zook Co.

The company just was not large enough to need that many women working in the offices during the first time period (1890-1912). During this earlier time, the company operated the box factory, the grist mill, and the sawmill with wholesale and retail sales. During the 2nd time period of Coppes Bros. & Zook (1912-1936), the company expanded the manufacturing part of the business and logically would have needed more “office girls” to keep track of time sheets, inventories, ordering, sales, salesmen, payroll, etc. The company built the little “green office building” in 1899, and by then at least had a location for ladies to work. Women, for the most part, were not part of the factory force till the 2nd World War.

That previous paragraph is my explanation for why I think the pictures of Coppes Office ladies was taken sometime during the 2nd use of the Coppes Bros. & Zook name, from 1912 – 1936. Could well have been in the late 1920s when the kitchen cabinet business was booming and there were approx. 300 factory workers. If you know any of these women, please email us to let us know. Thanks, I Need to tell you this was all Dodie’s Idea, and it was a good one.

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The Mutschler Merger and Reader Photos

Welcome to this week’s edition of Bill’s History Corner.
This is what I like to see happen.

Mr. Mark Farmwald sent this picture to us a couple of weeks ago, while he was inquiring about information that he was interested in finding. Mark’s grandfather is the 4th from the right in the top row. This is a photo of the “Machine Room” at the Mutschler Brothers Co.  After being employed at Mutschler Brothers Co. for an undetermined time, Mark’s Grandfather purchased the Home Lumber Co. in Nappanee and renamed it “Farmwald Lumber.” It appears that the picture was taken by HOPERSON PHOTO, which I’m not familiar with. Does anyone know anyone else in this picture, or even a date when this picture could have happened? Farmwald Lumber and  Home Center began operations in 1973 with the purchase of the HOME LUMBER and COAL CO.

The C,Z & M Co.

Mr. Farmwald wanted to know if we had employee records from the Mutschler Brothers Company, because his Grandfather worked at Mutschler’s Co for an unknown time period. Sorry to say, but we do not have any employee records from the Mutschler Company.

As you may remember the Coppes & Zook Co. joined with the Mutschler Brothers Co. in 1912 to form the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Company. This combined company was the one that accelerated the production of the Kitchen Cabinets that would make the Coppes family of companies famous. Before this partnership, the Coppes & Zook Co. operated a sawmill, a flour mill and was producing wooden shipping boxes, but the shipping box business was slowing down.

When the Coppes & Zook Co. partnered with the Mutschler Brothers it gave the new company the manpower and expertise to expand their production capabilities. The Mutschler Brothers Co. was already producing a variety of furniture, including Kitchen Cabinets. The new C, Z & M Co. expanded the production of kitchen cabinets to meet the growing consumer demands. In an 1898 Nappanee furniture Company catalog, there are a couple of kitchen cabinets. This catalog is a record of the first kitchen cabinets produced in Nappanee.

Mutschler Kitchen

Here is a photo of a Mutschler Brothers Co. kitchen cabinet, produced after the partnership breakup in 1913. This Mutschler Brother’s cabinet was given to Albert Mutschler’s housekeeper as a wedding present in 1936.  Amazing things can be learned when people post their Coppes Kitchen Cabinets on our “Hoosier Cabinet Registry” here on the web site.  The Coppes family and the Mutschler family were related by marriage, so I can’t imagine there were any hard feelings between the two companies. Competition to make the better kitchen cabinets, yes, but no hard feelings.

Mutschler Employees

mutschler employees stitched

Here is a group photo of the Mutschler work force. Again, we have no names. Can anyone help us identify any of these men and the 3 ladies?

Farmwald Lumber Timeline

Here is a scan of an advertisement published In the Nappanee Advance News – Centennial Edition – Aug. 8, 1974. This advertisement may help make clearer the ownerships of the lumber company that was always located on South Main St, Nappanee. Thanks for reading.

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A New Kitchen in Seven Hours

Speedy Service

Hello everyone, thanks for looking at Bill’s History Corner. This is the place where I talk about and show vintage photos of the early Coppes factory. We welcome any and all comments. If you have something to add we want you to do just that.

Today we are looking at a two-page magazine advertisement explaining how homeowners can get a new kitchen in just 7 hours. All you needed to do was take your kitchen dimensions to a Coppes Kitchens Dealer and they would take care of everything. After you chose your style and color of cabinet, the dealers’ workmen would come and remove the old kitchen and install the new kitchen cabinets, all in less than 7 hours, or so the advertisement boasts.

A Blue Collar Kitchen

This is not the high-end kitchen cabinets that Coppes would become famous for but an economy style that was intended for people with not a lot of funds who wanted an updated kitchen. Notice that the sink was not changed. This would have saved a good amount of money on the newer kitchen. The name of this new style of Coppes kitchen is named “NAPPANEE PORTABLE UNITS”. This advertisement was aimed at homeowners and at kitchen dealers. Coppes told dealers that this was their biggest market for selling cabinets.

Changing with the Times

The first Coppes advertisement for a built-in sink cabinet was in 1937. While Coppes was still making the Kitchenet style of cabinet, they were at the same time transitioning into the built-in style cabinets. My guess is that this advertisement was produced around 1940. This was another example of the company seeing a need in the market and trying to develop a product to fill the need. Business 101.

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The “Old Crowd”

Welcome to this week’s Bill’s History Corner. This week we are looking at a photograph of Nappanee’s young people – possibly a group of young people at the M.E. Church in Nappanee. There are several prominent Nappanee names in this list. In fact, maybe some of your ancestors are here. In 1899, I would guess that almost everyone living in Nappanee had a connection with the Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. or the Nappanee Furniture Co. Except for retail stores and farming, the major employers in Nappanee were these two previously-named companies.

the old crowd 1899, group of young people from nappanee, indiana

In the front row are Lillian and Della Coppes, daughters of Samuel Coppes. Harold Zook is the 4th person in the 2nd row. Harold was Daniel ‘s son and one of the six partners, starting in 190,2 in the firm Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. (In 1899 Harold is close to finishing law school at Ann Arbor).  After the partnership with the Mutschler Bros. broke up, Harold became the Zook in the company named” Coppes Bros. & Zook” from 1912 thru 1936. In 1936, the remaining Coppes family members purchased Harold Zook’s shares in the company and then incorporated the company.

In the back row we have Bessie Coppes, daughter of Frank Coppes, next is Charles Mutschler (another partner in Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co.) In 1899, Charles was a 2nd-year student at IU in Bloomington. He married Della Coppes (front row) on June 19, 1901. A very busy person.

Again, I wish to acknowledge and thank the Nappanee Center for the use of this photograph.

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Young People of a “New” Century

“1900 Young People” is the title of this photo. You be the judge of their age. The almost-bald guy in the 4th row looks older than most of the others. This is another picture from the Nappanee center’s picture collection. We want to be sure to give them credit and a sincere thank you for allowing the use of this photo here at Bill’s History corner. Thanks to the Nappanee Center.

Like the pictures we often use, the people in this picture also has several connections to the Coppes Bros. & Zook and Mutschler Companies. The man in the front row in the dark suit is Albert Mutschler and when this photo was shot, he was the manager of the Nappanee Furniture Company. He would soon become a partner in the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. The lady who is the 4th from the left in the back is Elisabeth Ulery. In 1907 Albert and Elisabeth will be married.

The handsome man on the left in the 4th row is William Rosbrough. Above William’s left shoulder is his sister Nellie. Nellie will marry Harvey Coppes who is sitting in the 2nd row right.

Above William Rosbrough’s right shoulder is Samuel Coppes’s daughter Clara. Clara and William will marry. Check out those puffy sleeves and the mustaches. Do you think the photographer told them not to smile? Wow, what a happy looking group!

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Who are Helmlinger & Bauer?

Welcome to Bill’s History Corner, where sometimes I show you I don’t know what I’m talking about. This may be one of those times. I’m showing a picture today that we have in the Coppes paper collection, but I have no idea where it came from. Maybe if I would ask everyone involved with Coppes Commons, someone might remember obtaining this picture and giving it to the collection. It does have a price of $18.00 written on the back. So if you are the person responsible for this picture, a sincere Thank You.

The picture itself is of two buildings on a dirt street with several men, ladies and children standing very still. The sign on the one building is HELMLINGER & BAUER.

This is one of those times when I wish someone had written a complete history on the back of this picture. But wait. . . there is some information written on the back! In pencil, this is on the back.  “TAKEN BEFORE 1875 UNCLE GEO. HELMLINGER + ADAM BAUER STORE, BEFORE NAPPANEE AT LOCKE.”

I think everybody knows the story of Locke and Nappanee, but here is a recap if you don’t remember: Locke was a thriving small town approx. three miles north of where Nappanee is now. When the railroad came through the new town of Nappanee in 1875-6, several Locke businesses moved lock-stock, barrel and building to Nappanee. The railroad was the key ingredient. Because of the location of the railroad, Nappanee grew and Locke didn’t.

Now I’ve got to tell you there is no mention of a Helmlinger & Bauer store in the 1880 History of Elkhart County book. More information would be wonderful. What business was conducted at this store? See the man in the top hat, talking with two other men? See the man in the dirty apron standing to the left of the door? I don’t think he is a store clerk with that apron. But what do I know is that I count at least 10 and maybe 11 children on the porch. When I enlarge the photo as much as I can there is something in the store doorway that looks like a black bear’s face. I really don’t think it is a bear, but definitely a face, maybe a big long haired dog. While I’m thinking about dogs, the two ladies in the doorway of the building to the left have what looks like a black puppy’s head at their shoulder. Can’t read the sign over the door where the ladies are standing. Could be a school, the children look to be too close to the same age to be from one family, so in my mind a school makes sense. I think I can see a new bucket hanging in the store door way, That may be a clue as to the business, also I think there are ice skates hanging in the left window.

Boy, I wish I gould go to this store and shop for myself at 1875 prices! Does anyone know more of the history related to this photo?

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Keeler Brass

Welcome to another of the Bill’s History Corner where we discuss interesting topics concerning the people and history of the different Coppes companies. I found this receipt in the paper storage of the Coppes Commons collection. I think looking at this receipt closely will give you a better understanding of the volume of business that the Coppes Bros. & Zook co., Or the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. did.

This receipt is dated 3-31-09, so it is during the partnership between the Coppes Brothers, father, and son Dan and Harold Zook, and the Mutschler Brothers. In 1909 the company was operating a sawmill, a flour mill, wholesale & retail lumber sales and constructing many kinds of furniture as well as Kitchen cabinets. The Coppes Company was Nappanee’s largest employer.

The Keeler Brass Co. Manufactured brass furniture trimmings and all kinds of hardware for furniture. This order is for pulls (drawer pulls), knobs, catches and then more knobs.

The 1st line is an order for 480 Doz. # 1364 PULLS @ $13.00 per M (Thousand) for a total cost of $74.88

The 2nd line is an order for 600 Doz. # 1609 KNOBS @ $1.75 Gro. (gross = 144) for a total cost of $87.50

The 3rd line is an order for 200 Doz. #1489 Catch      @ .50 (per Doz.)                 for a total cost of $100.00   

The 4th line is an order for 200 Doz. #1606 Catch       @ .50 (per Doz.)                for a total cost of $100.00

The 5th line is an order for 240 Doz.  #1810 Knob      @ 41.20 gro.  (gross = 144) for a total cost of $24.00 

The 6th line is an order for 50 Doz.    #1805 Knob      @ $1.76 Gro. (gross = 144)    for a total cost of $7.29                                                                                                                                           2 % discount =     $7.87                                                                                                                                              Total cost + $385.80 


So, this one order to the Keeler Brass Co. is for 21,240 individual items, either knobs or drawer pulls or catches. That is a lot of drawer pulls or knobs. What we don’t know from this one receipt is how often they send an additional order for more hardware.                                           

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A Sound Idea

Hello, welcome to this week’s History Corner. There is an important topic which I want to begin speaking about. That topic is the idea of putting another steam whistle somewhere on the outside of the Coppes Commons property and making it possible to blow the whistle.

I personally do not remember the original Whistle that functioned at the Coppes factories, although I must have heard it many times in the 60s. From reliable sources, I understand that the Coppes factory whistle, which was two-toned, disappeared from the factory location approx. 15 years ago. People who had an interest in Nappanee’s history were watching it, then it disappeared. So far no one has claimed ownership, though I guess ownership of a stolen item may be a bit sketchy. At least this has been the story that people have told me.

We (I should say the owners of Coppes Commons and the Coppes Napanee Kitchen Factory) want to reintroduce the whistle to the factory, with the possibility of blowing the whistle at noon each work day and at special events. Here is where you can be of help. Please comment on this idea of reintroducing the whistle to Coppes Commons. Do you think this is a sound (pun intended) idea?

I found some drawings of whistles in an old 1906 tool & hardware catalog to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about. Sorry the book was too big to fit on my scanner, so the edge is cut off. The part that is missing said “Diameter of bell” 2nd line was “Diameter of pipe” 3rd line was “Price, Whistles with-out Valves” and the 4th line was “Price, Whistles with Valves” These were 1906 prices, WOW.

I wonder what distance you could hear one of these whistles. I was also thinking the larger sizes make the type of sound we readily associate with large ocean-going ships. While the smaller sizes make sounds associated with steam engines that we see and hear at tractor shows.

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A Look at the Coppes Grist Mill

Welcome to another in the series of Bill’s History Corner, where I try to explain or highlight an aspect of history as related to the old factory. Coppes Commons has had several different names, depending who the owners were at the time. Except at the very beginning of the company, the Coppes name was always the first name to appear. Such as the Coppes Bros. & Zook, or Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co.

During the 1880’s, the three Coppes Brothers; Frank, John, and Samuel, were working together. This is also the time of possibly the most important developments in the company. The three brothers had been operating the sawmill along with wholesale and retail lumber sales. To this already full schedule, they added manufacturing building components, such as window sash & frames, doors and frames, and other building components. The shipping box portion of the company was expanded into a new brick building in 1883. They had such a large business they had two extra-large railroad cars built expressly for the transportation of the lightweight wooden boxes.

In 1887 the company built and began operating the Grist Mill on South Main Street. The town of Nappanee had tried for a couple of years to have a Grist Mill built in Nappanee. There was a need for this kind of business in Nappanee. Farmers were raising wheat locally but didn’t have a good steady market to sell their product. Before the Grist Mill was built farmers would most likely sell their wheat through middlemen who would come to town and offer to purchase what was for sale, usually at a lower price than what was being offered in the cities. Either sell to the wheat buying middle man or haul your wheat to Elkhart or South Bend. Neither choice was great.

The pictures I want to highlight today are of the Coppes Bros. & Zook grist Mill 1897, ten years after it was begun. The first picture is of the loading dock with Coppes Bros, & Zook employees (this loading dock is still the one you can see today along S. Main). Several of the men obviously work closely with the finished flour as their clothing is more white than dark colored. I also see two hand carts, several full bags which could incoming wheat or other animal feeds such as “CHOP FEED” or “BRAN,” which was sold to local farmers. These bags are not likely milled flour, because as far as I know, the finished milled flour was bagged in 5, 10, and 24 ½ -pound paper bags. When the milled flour was sold in large quantities it was priced by the “BARREL”, which was 196 pounds.

I wonder if the man to the right in the clean suit is one of the Coppes Brothers? And how did he keep his suite so clean?  Notice the youngster on the right, is that his bike on the other end of the dock? Where have we seen youngsters with Bicycles in other Coppes pictures?

The 2nd photo I want to highlight is also of the Coppes Bros, & Zook Grist Mill. This picture which was likely shot on the same day as the Employees picture (has the same date). It is looking South at the mill from ground level with the railroad tracks in the foreground.

Some of the details I want to point out are that this is a four-story building with a cupola on the roof. There is a rail car beside the building for loading ground flour and shipping to distance customers. The power to drive the machinery comes from the boilers and steam engine in the low “engine house” to the rear, under the smoke stack. One side note is the fuel that was burned was mostly wood cut offs and scrap wood from the Coppes Bros. & Zook saw mill. I can imagine that it would take 2 men working full time to feed the lumber fuel into the boilers. A lot of hands-on labor in this business. You can see the small train track guard shack behind the crossed arms train crossing sign. You can’t see it this picture, but the first house South of the mill was built by the Coppes Bros. Zook for the dwelling of the “master miller” Mr. George Nold.

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Early Sawmill Workers Photo

Welcome to Bill’s History Corner, where I try to show some of the more interesting photos that we have in the Coppes Commons collections then try to explain as much as I can about the picture. Some of that explanation may be a guess on my part. If you have a different version, I want to hear your story.

These 36 men in this photo are identified as “COPPES FACTORY EMPLOYEES.” Someone wrote that on the bottom of the photo with a ballpoint pen, and on the back side is a taped-on card with six of the men identified. Those names are “2nd row from back, 5thfrom left: Benjamin Miller, end: Harvey Kraft.  Second row 4th from left: Sam Defreeze, 6th: Rufus Shank, 7th: Mr. Bleile, 9th: Chas Norris.   Can you identify any more of these men?

What can we determine from studying this photo? The first thing I notice is that these men are mostly dressed for outside cold working conditions. Everyone in the front row is holding his hat and several are wearing gloves. Most have their coats buttoned up to their necks and several of the men have a bulky sweater showing around the collar. I can almost guarantee you that every one of these men are wearing “long Johns” under all of that. There is a wide range of ages of men. The youngest may be in his early 20s, while the oldest appears past retirement age. Could men afford to retire during this era?

Only one of the men is plain dressed, indicating Amish or Mennonite. There are several mustaches and a few unshaved faces in the group, but only the one beard. As for an estimate of the time period I’m going with 1890. Here is the reasoning for my guesswork: I think the building that these men are posed beside is the recently-built second sawmill.  At the time, it was located behind the Coppes Factory South of Lincoln St. Notice that the wood siding is still clean and not weathered, no weeds or grass on the new site. Work on constructing this sawmill was started in 1888. Most other Coppes Bros. & Zook buildings were brick. I think these men are the crews that worked in and around the sawmill. The other large group of Coppes workmen at that time were the men in the Box factory.  This was all inside work, so I think they would be dressed differently. I think this group of men worked in the sawmill where sawdust was flying. They probably also moved logs to the mill and stacked the lumber after it was cut so it could air dry – hard work for everyone. Another possibility is a couple teamsters in the group, but I don’t see anyone dressed differently. What do you think?