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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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Early Sawmill Labor Force

This week we are looking at a picture titled Coppes “Employees, Nappanee.” There isn’t a date printed on or associated with this photo. But just look at those smiling faces, someone must have just said a joke or else they are so cold they want to get the picture over with as soon as possible.


I think these 36 men represent the Coppes Bros. & Zook sawmill crew and the company’s teamsters. Around 1899, there were as many as 13-15 teamsters bringing wagon loads of logs to the mill in Nappanee. The Coppes Teamsters worked almost like what we would call “independent contractors” today. Each man oversaw the maintenance of the wagon or sled they used and the care of the horses in their charge. And by care, I mean feeding and watering morning and night and brushing and bedding down each horse each night. They also took care of things like having horseshoes replaced when they are lost or worn down. The company stable was the brick building to the east of Coppes Commons next to the parking lots. This is where the horses were housed, cared for and looked after.


The building that these men are in front of has the shiplap siding that was used on the sawmill buildings. I think this building is the 2nd sawmill building that was located behind the Coppes Commons buildings, south of Lincoln St. The log storage yard for this sawmill was where the parking lots are now located. That’s my reasoning for this group of men being the sawmill workers.

During times when there was an abundance of logs, the sawmill was operated 24 hours a day. Other times it cut back the schedule as needed. When the sawmill was working will, I would think a single log may take approx. 10-15 minutes to be cut into boards. 


Realistically there needed to be three crews working in and around the sawmill. One crew would be operating the mill itself, controlling the machinery and setting the carriage for each new cut. Another crew would be charged with bringing logs to the staging area where they can easily be rolled onto the carriage. This crew would need to keep up with the saw operators. In a 10-hour work shift, this crew may need to drag/haul/ push/pull as many as 40-50 or more logs from the storage yards, all the while being careful not to have a log roll over them. The third crew is the men that remove the cut boards and stack them in the yards for air drying. No forklifts for this crew, every green and heavy board was moved by hand. 


Notice how some of the men are dressed. Some with gloves, some with wide-brimmed hats (keeps the sawdust off their heads) and heavy shoes. Almost all have their shirts buttoned up to their necks if not their coat also. Was it the cold or were they just trying to keep the sawdust out? Whatever, it was hard tiring work, but this was also the business that the Coppes family of companies was built upon. For that we sayTHANK YOU and extend our gratitude to all former employees of the Coppes family of companies.

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Van Camp Hardware Flour Bins

Hello, Welcome to another issue of Bill’s History Corner. This is the place where we discuss all things about the Coppes factory. We will also try to answer questions that you have. With this week’s find, I think we can finally answer the question “where did the sheet metal flour bins and bread drawers come from?”

At least we have one example of the answer. As we are eager to do, because everything we find is a new discovery, we were searching through the boxes of old company receipts that somehow survived the various office moves and company cleanouts that former employees have told us about. I’m just speculating here, but I think several former employees at different times (and not necessarily acting together) stored or hid old factory records at various places in the factory so they would not be destroyed. I don’t know who these guys were, but we all owe them a big thanks for what they preserved.

Where the metal components of the Dutch Kitchenets came from has long been an unanswered question. For example, did the factory have its own sheet metal shop that made the parts that were needed? Flour bins and sifters, bread drawers, and various small shelf racks inside cabinet doors were some of the different metal parts needed to complete a Dutch Kitchenet. I can tell you as one that sorted through the trash in the factory that there were no scraps of sheet metal or broken tools that would have been used to make the sheet metal components. It has been my opinion that the factory didn’t make its own metal parts, but where did they come from? We can now answer that question with some certainly, but did the Van Camp Hardware & Iron Co. have an inhouse metal fabricating shop to build the parts or were they a middle man company?

The Van Camp Hardware & Iron Co., Indianapolis was one of the major providers. We found several receipts related to metal parts for Kitchenets. This batch of receipts is dated 1911 & 1912. The Van Camp Hardware & Iron Co. was huge. You can get an idea of the products and services they provided by studying the billhead. This time period in American history saw the development of several huge stores in Midwest cities, of which the Van Camp Company was one. I fully expect we will discover receipts from other hardware businesses as we keep digging into boxes of paper.

Let’s Look at the Receipts. . .

The first receipt I want to show is dated Jan. 26th, 1912.  This is for “1- SAMPLE BREAD BOX        XXX”. I think the XXX means that the Van Camp Company made one sample bread box at no charge, fully expecting a large order to follow. Someone has written on this receipt what must have been the estimated cost for each bread drawer at $.43c. The 2nd receipt is a follow-up order.

The receipt dated 8/12/12 is for   “2009 – BREAD BOXES     47 (each)    $944.23.”   There is additional information we can gather from this receipt. One example is this line, a discount for “Less FW (freight, ???)  $39.69, ” which means less by that amount of freight cost. However, there is also a B & O Rail freight receipt pinned to the back of this for “ 1 Car, Bread Boxes – $135.00”.  Seems like it took a full train car to ship the 2009 bread boxes. I don’t understand it. What was that discount for?  Also, C, Z & M Co. subtracted a 2% discount ($18.18) for prompt payment, even though it took  17 days to make the payment. Clearly, on the receipt, it states “TERMS, 2% for cash in 10 days”.  Wonder if this was standard practice with C, Z & M Co.: pay late, but also take the 2% discount for payment in 10 days, unless the company complains. Likely most companies would not complain for late payment. They may be happy just to get the payment.  There is an additional note indicating ½ of order sent/billed to C ( factory C, where they built kitchen cabinets) and ½ to B. I wonder what they made in factory B that used bread drawers.

The next two receipts go together, I think. They are also from Van Camp Hardware & Iron Co. and refer to “HOPPERS,”  which I think are the flour bins.

The first one dated June 5th, 11,  is for “1 – “9 ¼ X 9 7/8 HOPPER – 32 –32.”  Someone has written “Sample – for new cabt”. I feel for sure this is an example of the company ordering one sample to see if it will work. This sample cost $.32.  The 2nd receipt is for “500 – HOPPERS   –  32   –  160.00”.  On this receipt, someone has written “ small hopper for 1556 cabt” & also “C Purchase” meaning the order was going to building “C” and charged to the expenses of building “C”  where they were making the cabinet. The final picture I want to show you this week is a scan of a No. 1556 Coppes Cabinet. As you can see, the flour bin is mostly wooden with a funnel-shaped “HOPPER” and sifter at the bottom.  See ya right back here next week. Stay Cool.

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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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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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Ride “The Nap”

Nappanee News Keller bicycle AdToday we are looking at a portion of the Nappanee News from May 12, 1897 that I found in a box of paper goods from an auction. Someone had cut the paper up already, so don’t blame that on me. There are a couple interesting advertisements here. First is the Keller Cycle Mfg. Co. from Nappanee. BUY OUR WHEEL is the title of the ad. At this time the term “wheel” was the common word for Bicycle, either a high wheeler or a two-wheel model. A cut of a lady riding the “NAP” bicycle illustrates that it is easy for everyone to ride, and how much good fun riding will be.  In smaller print the extra lines are “ Snoaring is sheet music – Ride THE NAP and you – will have sweet music”. Interpret that however you want.

The picture below, from the Nappanee Heritage Center collection, is of the workman in front of the Coppes Planning mill and box factory taken around 1890. In front of the group of men is a boy, likely a Coppes youngster, standing next to a Bicycle that looks like a NAP Bicycle. On closer inspection there are actually two bicycles in the picture (one behind the other) one of the workmen appears to be holding the rear bicycle upright. Is the youngster standing there the owner of the bicycle?

Early Coppes Employees with children and bicycle

This youngster had to be a member of the Coppes family, as the workmen would not have let just any city boy crowd into their picture. John Coppes’s eldest son, Marvin, was born in 1881, and Irvin was born in 1883. Frank Coppes’s eldest son Harold was born in 1885, and Claude was born in 1889. So, who do you think he is? Also notice that there are a few children sitting for the picture. Were these children of the workmen or were they actual employees of the factory? The youngster with the Bicycle is dressed so much better than the other children.  I’m just full of questions! Do you think the two gentlemen standing on the right end could be John and Frank Coppes? And who is the well dressed man on the left end?

The other advertisements are for Henry Best Meat Market and the Farmers & Traders Bank. This was the bank owned by Samuel Coppes and Sons. Read more about the story of the Coppes factories on our History Page.

If you have any information or clues on the people pictured or the topics we’ve covered here, we’d love to hear from you! Just leave a comment on this post, or send an email to bill@coppescommons.com.