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The Evolution of Nappanee’s Main Street

I don’t know about you, but I love old pictures. I guess that is the reason you see so many in the history Corner. I keep thinking of the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Today I have four pictures for you to look at. Maybe you will see some detail I missed. We have already looked at pictures of the East side of South Main Street. Today I am showing the West side of South Main. South Main has always been the heart of the retail center of Nappanee. I’m not going to even try to name all the different stores and businesses that were located on South Main. The pictures I have to show you span approximately 50 years. Starting with a picture from the Book “THEY CALLED IT NAPPANEE, A HISTORY 1884-1974.” This is a great book put out to celebrate Nappanee’s centennial. I know that I have learned a lot reading this book.

 

The first picture has the title, Nappanee, 1878. 1878 is just a couple of years after the town was platted. This picture has the camera pointing north looking at the buildings on the west side of Main Street and the intersection of what is now Market and Main Streets. Porter’s Saloon is the large building on the northwest corner. Notice the outside stairway leading to the “Auditorium”.  This building has had many different businesses located inside. Hardware stores, (someday I want to do a study about Nappanee’s various hardware stores) this saloon, a public school, and a place for stage shows. Along South Mai,n the first building next to the intersection was originally the shoe and broom shop of Dan Metzler. In this picture you can make out the “DRUG STORE” sign under the covered walkway. This drug store was the business of a Mr. Lake who moved his store inventory from Locke to Nappanee. Dan Metzler was one of the three neighbors that platted the town on Dec. 12, 1874. His “Broom shop” was the first shop/store in the area that would become Nappanee.

Next to the broom shop is an empty lot. I will be talking about this location later. The next building appears to be empty but would make a very nice general store for someone. Notice the buggies in the street and the five little girls and one boy standing on the boardwalk, keeping perfectly still to have their images recorded in this historic photo.

Picture number two is also of South Main but from a different direction. You’ll notice that now the cameras is located in the intersection and is pointing more to the south and we can see all the buildings in the first half block. Again, we have a number of people, men or boys this time, lined up for their 15 minutes of fame in front of the building that has a “Restaurant – BAKERY” sign out front. Too bad they didn’t tell the photographer their names. Any guesses as to the word following MOUNTAIN ________? Could it have been “Tonic,” As in Mountain Tonic – For Sale here – sample bottle free. I’m thinking that we will never know, unless the newspaper had started by the time this picture was taken and the store did some advertising. The Nappanee Weekly News was first published on March 27, 1879, so maybe there is a chance we could find out.

The empty lot that I mentioned in picture one is now the FARMERS & TRADERS BANK. This is the first version of the building, not what we know today. In approximately 1917 a new stone front with columns was added. This bank is the one that Samuel Coppes purchased in March, 1891 after he left the Coppes Brothers partnership company. Samuel purchased the bank from Mr. Daniel Bechtel and Son. I don’t think I have ever thought of it before this, but what do you actually purchase when you purchase a bank? Does the purchaser get the building & solid contents, along with the bank’s name and reputation? What about the customers’ accounts, and the safe deposit boxes?

What is your guess as to the time of the year that this picture was shot? About the only indicators I can see are the clothing being worn and the condition of the dirt in the street. What do you see?

Picture number three is a postcard with the title “SOUTH MAIN STREET, NAPPANEE, IND.” A whole lot of construction has taken place on South Main Street. This is after 1917, because of the new bank front, but also notice the new brick building on the corner. Most everyone knows this building as JOHNSON’S DRUG STORE.

An item in the Dec. 23, 1908, Nappanee Weekly News has this title, “FIRST TO OCCUPY NEW BUILDINGS. COPPES PHARMACY OPENS DECEMBER 31. AN EXTRA FIND OUTFIT.” It seems that John Coppes built this building with the intention that his son Marvin would operate it in a positive manner. Marvin Coppes had recently graduated from Purdue with a business degree. The newspaper goes on to describe the building’s fine interior woodwork and fixtures being manufactured by the workmen at Coppes, Zook & Mutschler. Also, the door with “side panels and fancy lamps shades” were mfg. by the Geo. L. lamb factory.

Beyond the bank building in what were four separate buildings, there is now one brick exterior covering the fronts of all of them. Beyond the alley is the Hartman’s store. Please notice that at this late date there were still railings to tether horses and not automobile parking spaces.

Here is another picture (color) postcard of the same South Main St., likely from the 1940s by the shape of the cars. Not much has changed with the buildings. The greatest change is because of the automobiles. New sidewalks with car parking and street lights to make it convenient for customers to get into the stores and buy something.

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A Short Trip Through 1911 New York City and Nappanee

We recently stumbled upon this very interesting video shot in parts of New York City in 1911. A 1911 film would be interesting on its own merit, just because it is now 106 years old, but I wanted to relate life in Nappanee to the film. The first thing I noticed as I watched this film was the huge number of people. People are everywhere, walking along, riding in cars on buses and trolleys, horse-drawn Hanson cabs. Everyone was on the move, going somewhere. The second thing I noticed was the buildings, tall buildings, close together.

Nappanee at the turn of the century

In 1911 Nappanee there were 12 automobiles putt-putting in and around Nappanee. Did the people living in Nappanee then even know about what was happening in other big U. S. cities?  Were they isolated from the rest of the country, did they feel isolated? Maybe a little, but there were opportunities to learn what was happening in the rest on the United States.

One reason people didn’t feel isolated from the rest country was the closeness to Chicago, where several newspapers were published every day. Anyone in Nappanee had access to the big city by train. I know, someone is now thinking that Chicago was not New York in 1911 but the news from New York City could quickly reach Chicago and then to all the small towns in the surrounding area, where newspapers were shipped.

Magazines were another method for knowing what was going on in the world. Mass publications had started, picture magazines, then news magazines were available to the citizens of Nappanee and delivered by the U. S. Mail or purchased at a Store. All of the magazines had advertisements for the latest items.

The first public radio broadcast was on Jan. 13, 1910. 1911 was the infancy of radio. Radio in the countryside didn’t really catch on till the 1930s-40s. So, I think it is safe to assume that Little old Nappanee did not learn about New York City from the radio in 1911.

What was Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. doing in 1911?

. . . They were producing a rather large line of furniture, along with kitchen cabinets, and operating the sawmill and flour mill. In another year, Mr. Dan Zook would die and the partnership would have a friendly breakup. Albert and Charles Mutschler would go back to the plant South of the tracks and continue making furniture and later concentrate on custom Kitchens. Dan Zook’s son Harold would continue with the Coppes Bros, but they would begin concentrating on producing the Dutch Kitchen Cabinets that made them famous. In approximately 1927 Coppes Bros. & Zook opened a sales office in New York City with a small staff with the intention of developing the kitchen market in NYC.

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Quality Control at Coppes Napanee in the 60’s

Welcome to Bill’s History Corner. Today’s Corner is written by guest writer, Dodie. Thanks for filling in.

Employee Monthly Progress Reports

Read the attached sample, how would you feel if you were being evaluated with this report?

employee evaluation

How would you like to have been a supervisor at Coppes, Inc. in 1964 and have to evaluate each of your subordinates on these five thought-provoking questions once a month?

Which of these five: Quality, Quantity, Human Supervision, Technical Supervision, Use of Equipment, would you regard as the number one priority or are they all equal importance?

This is a huge monthly observation for a Supervisor in every department.

So glad to see that the “Quality of employees work” section could have a “Normal number of mistakes” category, but sorry to see the fact that in the “Use of Company Supplies and Properties,” any employee could be marked as “Occasionally misuse tools, materials and machines. Sometimes careless”.

You should notice that the four different possible ratings in each section are not in descending order of workmanship. The supervisor needed to be very familiar with this “Progress Report”. Needing to do one of these reports for each employee every month would be a big job. We have found stacks of these “Monthly Reports” mixed in with employee records. I expect they intended to keep them all on file for the working span of each employee.

Coppes has a great reputation of providing perfect products and the employees have great pride in providing a quality product. 

*more information on Coppes Napanee and products being made today can be found on our New Kitchens & Restorations page.

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Nappanee Stockyards – Date Unknown

Nappanee Stockyards

What a busy place on this day! It may have been some type of special market day or maybe this was the normal amount of activity in early Nappanee – lots of farm wagons bringing livestock to the stock yards for sale. As you can see, the fenced in area on the right side of this photo is the unloading pen. One wagon after another would pull into the pen and unload. Notice that some of the wagons have what appears to be a smaller box pen in the back of the wagons while other wagons have boards across the top, apparently to keep the animals from escaping. I’m guessing, because of my many months on a farm, that the majority of animals being brought to market this day are likely pigs. Although, I can see after an enlargement of the picture, sheep in one wagon and a calf in another.

I think that the camera man was standing on top of a train car that sat on one of the side tracks. Almost every person in the picture is posed, as if the picture taking process does not happen often. The wagon in the bottom center of the photo looks like a freight wagon, certainly not a farm wagon. How he became in that position is fun to speculate about. Did he arrive early and then get caught in the traffic jam, or is he attempting to send his crate on the train? The overloaded wagon in the lower left is also a puzzle. Looks like the wheels are going to fold in because of the weight in the wagon. What does he have in his wagon? Can you find the boy on a bicycle?

This location is at the South end of Elm Street at the Rail Road tracks, looking North toward Lincoln Street and East Market Street. The farthest-away horses are close to standing on Lincoln Street. The church steeple at the top is an early church on the corner of Elm & East Market St. where the Calvary Baptist Church is now located. Another clue to the date of this photo is the street light at the corner of Elm and East Market Street. Do you know when Nappanee put up street lights? Also, I’m not sure (the trees may be in the way) but I don’t see any large two-story buildings on the West (left) side of Elm street that could be the Coppes Hotel. Samuel Coppes left the Coppes Brothers Company in 1890 for other business enterprises, one of which was the Coppes Hotel which he had built in 1891. This picture must be before 1891.

This raises another question in my brain: what is the oldest picture taken of a building, a location or person in Nappanee? Do you have an early Nappanee photograph you would be willing to share with everyone? There are several very early reprinted photographs in the Nappanee centennial book They Called it Nappanee.  If you have not seen this book, the Nappanee Library has a copy in the historical section. I learned a lot from reading it.

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President Hoover Visits Nappanee

Hello, A little something different today at Bill’s History Corner.

Our boss had this picture in his collection for a long time, so long that he doesn’t remember where it came from. What we have is a photo of Nappanee people standing at the Train station listening to President Herbert Hoover as he makes a campaign stop during a trip through the Midwest on Nov. 4, 1932.

Hoover at the Depot

I’ve been looking at this picture for about an hour by now and have a couple ideas. Instead of me attempting to explain this picture, I’m going to suggest things that you can do if you are interested in finding more information.

First, you can now do Google internet searches, I did, and found several listings for this event. You almost never have an exact picture in your mind of what you will find on the internet. I find that I’m usually surprised by what stuff is on the net. You can read what President Hoover said from the train’s rear platform.  I’ll bet there were “newsreel” films of the stops along the way.

No doubt, the Nappanee News had reporters covering this event and pictures published in the local papers. In 1932, this was big news in Nappanee. This event was only 86 years ago, so it may be possible that some local people were at the event – if they remember the event- it will depend on how young they were, but this may lead to the discovery of some family photos taken this day. I do see a couple young children in the lower right of the picture.

I hope I have encouraged you to take a larger interest in your history. I don’t have all the answers. I also don’t have all the questions that should be asked. Your help would be appreciated. If you find any new information about this picture, I hope you will share it with us so we can post it for all to see. Remember my motto, HISTORY MAKES YOU SMART, HERITAGE MAKES YOU PROUD.

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A Busy Scene on the Other Side of the Tracks

rail yards

Today we are looking at a vintage picture of the factory area that surrounded the Nappanee Furniture Co., later the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. building A, and still later the Mutschler Brothers Co. I love looking at these old pictures with a powerful magnifying glass to see all the details. If you can enlarge the photo, you will see the name on the building closest to the tracks. This building is still at this location but now it has red steel siding covering the exterior.   At the time of this picture, there was also a train track spur along the building to make loading easier. Notice how busy the train tracks are. Looks like all these train cars stationary and are off the main line, which could mean each car is doing business with a company in Nappanee.  Some logs on train cars were likely destined for the Coppes sawmill, and at least one animal stock car is at the loading ramp at the stock yard pens. Several freight cars were possibly for the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. for shipping kitchen cabinets and other furniture to far-away customers. This many train cars gives the impression of a very busy Nappanee.

 During the partnership period from 1903 through 1913, these factory buildings were called “C, Z & M Co. Building A”. Having the different building sets named with letters allowed for less confusion. For example, instead of someone saying “take this load over to the big factory” which might cause confusion,  they could have said “Take this load to factory A” and that would have eliminated any confusion and unwanted mistakes.  The brick factory buildings that are now the Coppes Commons Buildings was “Factory B” and the one-story tin building that was (now, no longer there) behind “factory B” was “factory C”. Finally, the sawmill was named “Factory D”.

Other interesting parts of this photo are the stockyards at the center bottom and the Laughlin Bros Co. Onion Storage No. 1 and Onion Storage No. 2 buildings. The roof of the original Nappanee Furniture building has the name on the roof with either different color roof shingles or it is painted on. The building behind the original Nappanee furniture Co. building is the Uline Company building. Very difficult to see, but the words “Butter Tubs” is Painted (or shingled) on the roof of this building.

Behind all of these buildings are huge piles of lumber that is air drying. This is the lumber storage area for the Coppes Bros. and Zook sawmill. If you can zoom in well enough you can see a wagon and men working at one of the stacks directly behind the brick building of “Factory A”. The pile of lumber is more than 2 times as tall as the men. Behind the piles of lumber is farmland.  The whole area that now encompasses Nappanee South of the tracks was still a very rural area when this picture was shot.

Has anyone thought about how or where this picture was shot? I don’t think drones were available back then. This picture was taken from the highest structure in Nappanee, by a photographer using a 1910 era camera and tripod while standing on the walkway of the Nappanee water tower.

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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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Coppes Bros. Pursuade Lamb Bros. & Greene to Move to Nappanee

Welcome to this week’s Bill’s History Corner!

First thing, I want to tell you my current Motto, which I’ve borrowed from a You Tube video. The video features Knight Foundry, A Historic Water powered belt-Driven Machine Shop in Sutter Creek, CA.  At the end of the video they flash on the screen this saying which I’ve adopted. “HISTORY MAKES YOU SMART— HERITAGE MAKES YOU PROUD.” There are a lot of neat things on YouTube, also some stupid things. I would recommend watching this one if you like early machinery.

I want to start by thanking Dan Blucker (hope I have the name correct) for sending a great picture for us to use in the History Corner.

Lamb Factory Interior

The photo is of the interior finishing room of the George l. Lamb factory in Nappanee, Indiana.  Dan has a strong interest in this photo. His Grandfather, Francis Miller, is the man on the right. Dan said he still has an aunt that he was able to ask questions concerning the facts about the picture. They, Dan & his Aunt, think this picture was taken in the mid-1920s and published in a newspaper. They also think this factory was on South Madison street. In the actual picture, you can see examples of table lamps on shelves on the wall.

I can add a little to the story. The Nappanee Weekly News published a couple articles on the new company coming to Nappanee.

On Feb. 28th, 1900, this notice appeared.   

 FACTORY COMES TO NAPPANEE        — The George L. Lamb Brush Factory Comes from Goshen to Nappanee this week. The brush, easel, and novelty factory of George L. Lamb, of Goshen, is being moved to Nappanee this week. This is a good beginning for 1900. The enterprise has been secured to Nappanee through the prompt movement of enterprising citizens during the past week, and it surely marks the beginning of another prominent manufacturing concern for Nappanee. Mr. Lamb had been negotiating with citizens of Warsaw for removal to that city, but Nappanee’s offer was preferable to Mr. Lamb, and the business came here as stated above. The machinery for the manufacture of brushes, easels, fire screens, etc., has been moved into the old furniture factory building which he bought and which will be fitted with proper repairs. The two lots on which the building stands and which are owned by the Furniture Company are rented with an option by Mr. Lamb for their purchase during five years at $600. The town also pays the expense of moving here from Goshen and provides for working capital. ——-Goshen is sorry to lose Mr. Lamb and his industry but he goes back among old neighbors, having been a former Locke Township resident. —-

The George Lamb company was persuaded to move to Nappanee by the town fathers which included the Coppes Brothers, Samuel, John, and Frank. We do not know how large a financial incentive was part of the deal, but certainly more than just friendly encouragement. An empty factory building was found for the new business to move into. Often the last pages in several Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. catalogs were advertisements for the George L. Lamb business. Definitely, the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler company helped Mr. lamb come to Nappanee.

The Nappanee news also had this on Nov. 13th, 1901

 A GROWING INSTITUTION

– During the past two or three weeks the News has had opportunity to observe the comparative growth of the newest of Nappanee’s institutions, that of the manufacturing industry of Geo. L. Lamb. Murry’s printer has just completed two thousand catalogues for the factory mentioned. It is practically, the first catalogue ever issued by Mr. Lamb since engaging in the business, ——– From a half dozen employes his force has grown steadily but surely, until there are now twenty-two people on the pay-roll. ——-

Also, on April 21th, 1909 this news —

NEW INDUSTRY IN NAPPANEEWILL BE IN OPERATION ABOUT JULY 1ST. ART GLASS SPECIALTIES. WILL OCCUPY NEW THREE-STORY BRICK BUILDING – A BEAUTIFUL LINE OF SHADES AND NOVELTIES.  Lamb Bros. & Green is the name of the new manufacturing firm which has been organized in Nappanee for the purpose of making art glass and all kinds of art glass specialties, and to take over that part of the art glass business already owned by Geo. L. Lamb. Geo. L. lamb, David Lamb & H. B. Green are the members of the new company. ——-

Lamb and Green Building

George and David were brothers and H. B. Greene was George’s son-in-law. The “new three-story brick building” was the buildings on South Jackson St. by the R.R. tracks, now the large feed/grain mill. We have one aerial picture of the buildings with both names on the building.

Aerial S Jackson St

Any of the products from the Geo. L. Lamb company are highly collectible today. Coppes Commons has a few Lamb table lamps in the large showcase in the museum.

The Nappanee heritage Center supplied this 1923 photo of the Lamb Bros. and Greene Company, with a list of names. The list of names appears to start with the upper left person. The comments are interesting.

Lamb Bros. Name List

Lamb Greene Employees

 

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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.