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Coppes Bros. 1884 Logging Patent

In 1884, the Coppes Bros. sawmill was going full blast. Thousands of logs were brought to the mill location every year, either by train car or if more local by horse and wagon. Loading the logs onto the Coppes log wagons is the subject of this US Patent by John D. Coppes. This US Patent dated June 3, 1884 and given Patent Number 299,746, is short and concise, describing how the “SKID HOLDER” is intended to work. Basically the “SKID HOLDER” is part of a ramp that is connected to the wagon bolster and leaning against the top of the wheel that will facilitate the rolling of logs on to the wagon. This metal “SKID HOLDER” holds the wooden ramp/skid in position so the heavy logs will not fall if the ramp slips and falls to the ground possibly injuring a worker.

patent drawing

How many wagons the Coppes Bros had and used for hauling logs to the mill in the 1880’s is anyone’s guess. We have ledgers from this time period, but so far, we have not deciphered the exact jobs the many employees had. We do know and can say with confidence that the Coppes Bros Co. had horse and wagon teams at the sawmill (just don’t know how many) and also during busy periods advertised in the Nappanee News to hire outside drivers to use their teams and wagons to haul logs to the mill.

How did they actually load logs on a wagon?

We need to imagine what it would take to load a wagon with logs. First, the process needs to be portable, the forest or woods where the logs were cut was never at the same place. These “SKID HOLDER” ramps could be transported from location to location. If there were a relatively small number of logs to be loaded at one location, the “SKID HOLDER” system would work well. If another location had a huge number of logs it may be to their advantage to construct a temporary loading platform at that location. Remember this was the 1880s, and logs were moved by muscle force from either man or horse. Rolling a heavy log up the “SKID HOLDER “ramp onto a wagon bed would take a team of men working closely together. Each man had a hook tool that grabbed on to the log and allowed the men to roll the log with greater leverage.  I can’t imagine how they loaded logs two or three high on one wagon. I’m thinking of the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler log parades that were part on the Onion Festivals in the years 1908-1912.

We have pictures of wagons that were loaded three high with big logs with the driver sitting on the top log. . .  But that needs to be the subject on a future History Corner. Stay tuned.

Using Google Patents

Searching for a patent is so much easier now with the Internet. We used to have to go to regional libraries and search through patent books in hopes of discovering a patent. Then we would write to the actual Washington D. C. patent office and request the correct paper forms to order copies of any patent (also paying for them). It was a long process. I use a computer program called Goggle Patents. With it I can search the entire US patent office records. By typing in a couple items that I know in the search line, the Google Patents program will search for patents with those actual words. For example, if I have an item that has a name and the patent date on it, I’ll list the name and date in the search line and strike the enter key. If I’m lucky there will only be a few hundred patents for me to search through. The more information and the more accurate information you can enter into the search line the better off you will be. Go ahead and try it – open the google program on your computer and type in the words Nappanee patent. You will be surprised how many patents were issued to people from Nappanee.

As a side bar, John Coppes assigned one half of this Patent to his brother Frank. The witnesses that signed the text portion were Conrad D. Volknann (was Volknann the early spelling, then changed later to Volkman (Conrad was the first person to purchase a building lot in Nappanee and a blacksmith in the 1880s, he likely made the SKID HOLDERS) also William F. Peddycord (then, Nappanee’s postmaster).

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Pay Day at the “Green House”

Today we are looking at a picture of workmen lined up to receive their pay packet in front of the Green (painted green) office building at the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. Nappanee, IN. As you can see, the photo has “PAY DAY, C.Z.M. Co. Nap.” Written on the lower right corner.

Pay Day

The office building was constructed in 1898, several years before the partnership started. This picture got me thinking about other photos we may have of the office building. At the end of this history corner you will find other pictures of the Coppes Bros. & Zook office. Enjoy.

Two things about the photo help date it. First the “C.Z.M. Co.” which stands for Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co.: the partnership between John & Frank Coppes, Dan Zook and his son Harold Zook and Albert and Charles Mutschler that lasted roughly from 1903 through 1913. On Nov. 15, 1912, Dan Zook died and the C, Z & M Co. partnership split up, with Albert and Charles returning to the buildings that were originally the Nappanee Furniture Company (now Mutschler complex). Harold Zook continued to be associated with the Coppes Bros. with the new 1913 name becoming Coppes Bros. & Zook, the same name as before the partnership but now with Harold instead of this father Dan Zook as the associate. Most likely the partnership split was as friendly as it could be. These men were related to each other, and they knew they would be running into each other often in the small town of Nappanee. Also, they were smart men and knew that a good business relationship would be good for both companies.
Charles Mutschler was married to John & Frank’s niece Della. Della was Samuel Coppes’ daughter. Harold Zook was the stepson of Elizabeth Yarian. the daughter of John & Frank’s older sister Eliza & husband Benjamin Yarian. After the death of Daniel Zook’s first wife, Elizabeth became the 2nd wife of Dan Zook in Nov. 1885.

You should pay particular notice to all the trees and other plantings in the picture. The C, Z & M Co. was responsible for the beautification of Market Street. The company hired landscape architects (1908-09) to design the plantings in front of the factory and the majority of the street. The three principal members of the company had houses along East Market St. so it was for their benefit the most.

The other important item in this photo that helps date when the picture was taken is the large building behind the closest brick building. The first building in the photo is the 1884 “Coppes Bros. Planning Mill & Box Factory”. The rear building in the photo is the building that was constructed to provide workspace to build the furniture line that was promoted by the new partnership (bedroom sets, dressers. Commodes, etc.). The modern showroom, the stables & wagon garages, and the infill building between buildings A & B was not constructed at this time. This rear building was named “Building B” and was constructed in 1902-03. With all those factors in mind, I would date this “pay-day” picture 1913-15. I like the style of dress then, where everyone seems to need to wear a hat of some kind.

Here are five other pictures of the office building for you to compare.

Green House one

Office Green House

Green House Office for Coppes

Coppes office

early office photo

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CZ&M Era Employee Photos Surface

Hello and welcome to Bill’s History Corner. Today we are discussing three photographs that were shared with us at Coppes Commons. We were allowed to make copies of the originals during the visit. That is great, it’s how we increase our library of information!

Bill and Stacy

The first photo shows a group of workmen posing beside what I think is building “C” at the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Companies factory in approx. 1903-08. Building “C” was the location where the C, Z & M Co. began producing the kitchen cabinets that made them famous. Building “C” was a one-story, corrugated metal clad building at the rear of the complex near the sawmill. Unlike the other company buildings that were built of brick, “C” may have been thought of, in the beginning of the partnership with the Mutschler Brothers, as a temporary building. Before the partnership, the Nappanee Furniture Company, managed by the Mutschler Brothers, were making kitchen cabinets and had beautiful illustrations in their catalogs, along with other furniture.  The Coppes Brothers and Dan Zook (at that time) had no experience building furniture. Their business experience was buying timber and operating a Sawmill, a Flour Mill, and a Box Factory.

Factory C

Stacy Huff, who owns the pictures, said her Great Grandfather was in the center holding his hat. All the men are holding their hats! Stacy’s great-grandfather, Thomas A. Rensberger, is the eighth man from the right. Does anyone have ideas or guesses as to anyone else in these pictures?

On Nov. 22th, 1912 Daniel Zook died. His death led to the friendly dissolution of the partnership with the Mutschler Brothers. Albert and Charles Mutschler returned to the original buildings of the Nappanee Furniture Co. and continued to produce furniture, eventually becoming a world leader in modern kitchen and school furniture production. Frank & John Coppes, along with Daniel’s son Harold, began producing the Napanee line of kitchen cabinets that would make them world famous.

The 2nd and 3rd pictures also have Mr. Rensberger in them, but the location is at the old original brick building of the Nappanee Furniture Company. I would be interested if any reader can tell me how I know the location is not at the Coppes buildings along Market Street.  The picture with only men in the group has 97 men in the picture. That is a huge number for just one of the buildings. I’m going out on a limb and suggest that this is all the men from each of the buildings: some from the Saw Mill, some from the buildings A, B, C, and some from the old Nappanee Furniture Co. buildings. Realizing that all the men worked for the same company, the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. from 1902 thru 1912.

The final picture of company employees has 21 ladies in the picture. This is unusual for the time and in Nappanee. This is the only (so far) picture that we have with factory ladies. (We do have a picture of lady office workers).  What were their jobs at this time? Again, I’m going out on a limb and suggest they had jobs as furniture finishers; applying stain and clear finish to the tables and other cabinets produced in the factory. It may have been early in the day, as all their clothing seem to be very clean (aprons?).  If you enlarge the picture and look at their shoes you can see stains on their shoes, but not on clothing.

CMZ workers with women

Comments on any of “Bill’s History Corner” articles welcome.  Anything you want to add is welcome!

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Early Employee Photo Mystery Continues. . .

We used this employee photo when we were highlighting the history of the “NAP” bicycle, which was made in Nappanee.

Early Employees of Coppes Sawmill

However, I had forgotten about this picture below!

Coppes Employees with Two Bikes

As we were explaining the NAP bicycle story I got to thinking, “What else do we know about this picture?” The answer to that question is, “not much.” Besides, this will give me a chance to ramble on about something. Thanks for looking and reading. Thanks, also to the Nappanee Center for this copy of the original picture from their collection.

We know the location: in front of the Coppes Bros. Planning mill & Box factory. This building was erected in 1884 by the Coppes Brothers Company (Sam, John & Frank) to increase the output of the Box factory that they had been operating on South Main St. at the location of the flour mill. Before John & Frank joined John Mellinger at the sawmill, (1876) John Coppes at 16-17 years of age had the steady job of hauling wagon loads of wooden boxes to Elkhart from the former Strohm Box Co. The Strohm Box Co., later purchased by a Mr. Spencer, is the company that the Mellinger & Coppes Bros. Co. would purchase in 1879, (4/10/1879, Nappanee news) and move (1884) to the East Market St. location.  John Coppes would marry Mr. Strohm’s daughter, Melinda, in 1878.

That’s about all we know for sure about this picture. That got me to studying the photo with a magnifying glass and wondering what we could make educated guesses about.  The people in the picture are obviously workers at the Coppes Bros Company. The box factory, the sawmill and the retail lumber business were operated close to this location, so these men may be workers from all the different Coppes Bros. shops. This is a very typical photo of the era where the employees gather in front of their workplace for a group picture.

As far as the date the picture was taken, here is what I think: If you have other suggestions I would be happy to hear from you. Because we were discussing the “NAP” bicycle in a different history segement, the two bicycles in the photo are fresh in my mind and are a strong, and maybe the only hint, as to the date. In my opinion, there were few young boys in Nappanee with families that could afford to have a “NAP” bike. I’m guessing that the two boys are the sons of John Coppes, Marvin & Ivan. Marvin was born on Aug. 22, 1881, and Ivan was born on Nov. 21, 1883. I was a young boy once, and I have asked several people their thoughts as to the age of the boy in front holding the Bicycle.  Our consensus is about 10-11 years old. As I said, Marvin was born in 1881 (if in fact this is Marvin), that would make the picture dated about 1891-92. As I stated, that is an educated guess.

Let us look at the other people in the picture. The first question is what are the children doing there? I’m thinking one of the younger boys that are standing could be an actual employee of the company. Look at the young man (third from left, in first standing row) proudly standing with the “MEN”. Jobs that were mundane, such as sweeping up, picking up trash, helping carry smaller items were jobs for young boys, also with smaller salaries. The reason for the other youngsters in the picture is any ones’ guess. Were they sons of the workmen, that brought their father’s lunch to them and stayed for the picture? Were they neighborhood children that hung around the factory because that was more interesting than anything else they could do. If the Coppes children could be in the picture, why not sons of the workmen?

On a similar note, we have, in the Coppes paper Collection, employment applications from the 1920s-30. In these applications are boys as young as 12-13 years old looking for permeant employment. Several were hardship cases where the child was the oldest male in the family and needed to become a breadwinner for his family.

Check out the two men standing on the right side of this photo – better dressed than most of the other men. Could these two men be John & Frank Coppes?  If the man on the right is Frank, he would be 32 years old, and John Coppes would be 34 years at the time of this picture. I don’t know if it is John and Frank standing there, but I would sure like it to be them. But that brings up another question: Where is Daniel Zook?  In 1890 Sam Coppes left the company and Dan Zook joined with John & Frank to make the company name Coppes Bros. & Zook Company.

Check out the well-dressed man at the left end, could this be the “Mr. Spencer, has been retained as superintendent of the factory” after the purchase by the Coppes Bros.

Also notice that everyone with the exception of Ivan has a hat on their head or in their hands, and only two pairs of glasses in the whole bunch.

What was the graffiti on the brick? Looks like the letters  “HU”, someone has tried to rub it away.

Does anyone notice the difference in the brick building from then to as it is today?

Click HERE to see a list of Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. employees from an 1892-3 Coppes Bros. & Zook ledger.  At this time (1891-94) the company was operating the flour mill, the sawmill, the retail lumber store, wholesale lumber sales, the shipping box mfg. co. and custom lumber milling (windows & doors, etc.). This ledger has lists of employees for the pay period every week. The number of employees differs from one pay period to the next. Only in a few examples does the ledger tell us the job that the employee had. For example, one Jno. H. Felty’s name was usually followed by “nailing boxes”.  In most cases, the names are listed under “LABOR”. Other reoccurring jobs were hauling boxes to Elkhart and sawing trees.

As always, if you have more information on the men pictured or listed here, we would appreciate hearing your stories! Please leave us a comment, or email me at bill@coppescommons.com.