Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Mystery of Carrie Birhl and the 115 lb. Ham

Hello and welcome to Bill’s History Corner, where we discuss all things Coppes. This week we are still looking at receipts from the treasure trove of company records. Sometimes we find things that make us scratch our heads and sometimes we find things that make us smile. This is one of those smile items.

I love it when we find personal items; when Frank, John, Albert, Daniel, or Charles did something that is not related to company business. For example, when Dan Zook wanted a speedometer for his fancy new car, he went to Kauffman’s in Nappanee; or if Frank wanted a new suite of clothing, where did he go to purchase it?

The receipts we found this week are for HAMS – yes, the kind of tasty hams that grow on pigs. It seems that the Coppes personelle liked ham. So far, we found ten receipts from the H. H. MYER Co. of Cincinnati, OHIO. H. H. Myers Co. is/was a meatpacking house. PARTRIDGE BRAND is the brand name of their line of products. Here is a postcard picture of the H. H. MYER Co.

The  1st receipt I want to show you, dated 8-31-1911, is addressed to Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. Nappanee, Ind. and is for 9 CANV 12 # (pounds) hams at a cost of $18.90.  I assume that is canned hams. We also have the B & O train freight receipt for this shipment which weighed 115 pounds. That’s a lot of ham. Were they planning a company party? Possibly a company picnic? Were they giving a ham to retirees?  Inquiring minds want to know.

The 2nd receipt I want to show is dated 9-15-1910 and addressed to C,Z & M Co. in, SYRACUSE, IND.  This order was for six “Burlap Partridge Hams” and one “Burlap Select Partridge Wide Bacon” at a cost of $16.25. This shipping crate weighed in at 100 pounds, as you can read on the B. & O. RR freight receipt. I’m thinking that the six Burlap Partridge Hams was a kind of smoked ham that did not need refrigeration.

If the Syracuse address is confusing you it is because of PICKWICK PARK on the lake. Several of the influential families of Nappanee, Including Frank, John & Daniel, had summer houses on the lake in Pickwick Park in Syracuse. So, this order was sent directly to Syracuse. How it was divided is unclear.

The 3rd receipt I want to show is like the others, this one is for 5 -12-pound HAMS. But someone has written on the receipt “Please pay this will find out how to divide”. This receipt is also addressed to C, Z & M Co. and at the SYRACUSE address.

The last Part of this story is this piece of paper. Sorry, it does not have a date and I cannot find a direct connection to any one of the H. H. MYER  receipts. So, there must be more order receipts somewhere. At first this paper looks like a bunch of jumbled up writing, but when connected with the receipts for hams from the H. H. Myer Co. it makes better sense.  

At some point, the company must have ordered 10 large hams and divided them between these 8 people. Carrie Birhl got 1- 11 1/2 # ham at a cost of $2.12, less .05 which was the share of the cost of freight. Who was Carrie Birhl? How was she connected to the company?

The other hams were divided among Irwin Coppes, J. D. Coppes, Frank Coppes, C. Mutschler, D. Zook, Marvin Coppes, and A. Mutschler. It appears that Frank Coppes got 3 hams, 2 @ 12 ½ # and one @ 10 ½ #. He also paid for that larger share or at least was charged for a larger amount. 

All this begs the question, what was the reason they purchased hams from a Cincinnati company instead of purchasing locally? Surely there were local butchers that could provide fresh meats, or was the purpose to purchase preserved meats that would not need refrigeration? As I said inquiring minds want to know. Boy, that is a lot of HAMS. I’m getting hungry for a nice ham sandwich. Thanks, be sure to come back next week, maybe we will find they purchased eggs from Cleveland. That was a joke. Hope it made you smile.

Posted on 4 Comments

Coppes Commons – the Amazing Before & After Pictures That Reveal Just Part of Our Transformation

Welcome to Bill’s History Corner. I think you will be amazed at these pictures. It is so easy to forget what the buildings looked like when the demolition was started. I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves. With the first pair of before and after pictures the camera is positioned on Lincoln St looking East. The camera is just to the West of what is now the Right Angle Steel building. You can see the corner of the building at the same position in each photo. Originally this was part of the Coppes Inc. complex. Easy to forget that we could not drive through on Lincoln Street.

The second pair of before and after pictures are also of this same area but from the other side of the buildings and pointed the other direction. With these pictures, the camera is again on Lincoln Street, but we are now looking West. The demolition had started and soon Lincoln Street would be open for traffic. How many of you tried to drive through here before the street was paved and got stuck in the mud?

We have come a long way, Baby!

Posted on Leave a comment

C&Z Teamsters and Shively Bros. Horse Goods

Hello and welcome to this week’s History Corner. If you have been reading my History Corners you know that we have been looking at old Coppes, Zook & Mutschler or Coppes Bros, & Zook Co. receipts. We have a treasure trove of old paper in the form of business receipts from approx. 1895 -1915. We just started sifting through the boxes, so who knows what we will find! Stay tuned, as they say, when people want you to follow along.

“All Kinds of Horse Goods”

This week I’m talking about the Shively Bros. store of Nappanee, Indiana. Their different billheads advertise “HEAVY AND LIGHT HARNESS, HORSE FURNISHING GOODS,” also “manufacturers of HARNESS, And Dealers in ROBES, BLANKETS, -Whips and All Kinds of Horse Goods.” In other words, anything you may need or want for your horse. Around 1896 the Shively Brothers, John F. Shively and Ulery J. Shively took over the Shively and Rusher Company. (M. H. Shively & W. H. Rusher) That earlier company was “dealers in HARDWARE, STOVES, TINWARE, and BUILDERS SUPPLIES. TIN ROOFING A SPECIALTY.” In  Jan. 1896, the Shively & Rusher Co. repaired Daniel Zook’s roof at a cost of $.35.

The June 1905 Industrial Nappanee paper, which was printed in Nappanee by the Nappanee News, has a full-page article on the Shively Bros. Company. A picture of the storefront and an interior picture are reprinted here.

C&Z Teamsters and the Shively Bros.

Do you think the Coppes Bros. & Zook Co. and the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. would have a need to do business with the Shively Bros.? You can bet your bottom dollar they did. Not only did the principal members of the companies have their personal horse harness repaired and horses’ health cared for at the Shively Bros., we also have learned that the company’s teamsters shopped at the Shively Bros. store. Finding the names of the group of men that had to be the company teamsters made my week. The names of the men changed a little over the six years that we found receipts between the Coppes Companies and the Shively Bros. I’m going to list the names of the men below.

Store Credit

First I want to explain how I think the system worked. I think starting in 1898, each Teamster had charge of maintaining his team and wagon, looking after the horse’s well fair, keeping them in tip-top condition, for doing the hard work of pulling heavy wagons filled with logs to the sawmill. When a teamster needed a “harness repair” piece or “gall cure” for their horse, each teamster went to the Shively Bros. and completed the purchase without prior approval, charging the cost of the item to the company. The Shively Bros. recorded each transaction on the individual teamster’s record. At the end of each six months, the receipts were submitted and paid by the company. This way the company could tell which teamster was costing the company more money, possibly by being careless with his team and which teamster was more careful of his charge.

Teamsters Roster

Here are the names of the teamsters, sorry if I got the spelling wrong. They didn’t care about first names

Starting July 1st, 1898. Edger; Hampshier; Hoffer; Reed; Smith; Lopp; Swanner; Burns; Grover; (9 names)

Jan 1 – June 31, 1900. Lopp; W. Olinger; J. Alinger; I. Swanner; Hampshier; Holderman; Neely; Williams; Gise; Ganes; Jackson; Smith; Reed. (13 names)

Dec. 1 – June 31, 1902. Lopp; Frank Smith; Swanner; Garrison; Waterman; Reed; Hampshier; Frenger;                       Peffly; Rupert; Miller. (11 names)

July 1st – Dec. 31, 1902. Scott Lopp; Ora Swanner; Chas. Reed; Jerls; Frenger; Ira Miller; J. Hampshier;      Rupert; Nixon; Joe Peffly; C. Neely (11 names)

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

On This Day in History

On Aug. 22, 1906 (113 years ago today), J. D. Coppes ordered 1-gal. Ice Cream, which cost $1.00. Mr. Coppes purchased the Ice Cream “in account with” “GEORGE FREESE’S SONS, Wholesale Produce Dealers, Nappanee, Ind.”“In account with” meant the same thing as credit, or I’ll pay you later. Approximately 2 weeks later (Sept. 6th) this bill was sent to J. D. Coppes and paid for by the company, as verified by the PAID company stamp near the bottom. I hope they enjoyed the ice cream on a warm Aug. day.

Posted on Leave a comment

Better Find a Broom!

Here’s another interesting tidbit from the history of Coppes. This is a receipt from THE JOS. LAY CO. of Ridgeville, IN dated Aug, 28TH, 1905.

The Lay Co. manufactured “BROOMS and BRUSHES OF ALL KINDS.” This receipt is for 5 Doz. #4 rattan Mixed Brooms — $3.00/doz.  = $15.00. While hunting for new History Corner paper goods, I actually found ten receipts from THE JOS. LAY Co. from 1903 to 1908. The Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. placed at least 10 orders for brooms. A total of 564 brooms were ordered during this time period at a cost of $136.72. That is a lot of brooms, but then there were several buildings that made up the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. factory.

I have heard several old-time employees state that when the electricity went off or the factory work shut down for a machinery break down, you had better find a broom! If the bosses were around, you’d better be using it too, or the likely hood of you being sent home without pay would increase.

Posted on 2 Comments

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Glue that Held C,Z & M Together

Welcome to this week’s Bill’s History Corner. This is the place where we talk about all things Coppes. First, I want to say it is not my intention to make anyone sick or to make this a bad experience for you. I’m going to be talking about “hide glue,” (made from horses) the type of glue that was very common in the first part of the last century. The type of glue that 100% (that is a guess) of furniture factories used to build their products. Even today, there are professional furniture makers that will use nothing else. They think it is that good. The one appeal for hide glue is that you can undo a dry glue joint with heat. Apply heat and the glue will soften. Just don’t think about what hide glue is made from.

That’s a Lot of Glue!

Coppes, Zook & Mutschler used hide glue, Boy-O-Boy, did they use hide glue. While searching the Coppes Commons paper collection we found several receipts from the UNITED STATES GLUE CO., MILWAUKEE, WIS. This is at least one of the companies that Coppes purchased hide glue from. The C, Z & M Co. used a lot of glue. In a two-year time period from Feb. 1912 through Dec. 13, 1913, we found 13 different receipts from this company for hide glue. Each order was for “three bbls. (barrels) of ground joint glue”. The average weight of each barrel was approx. 550 pounds each. The company ordered a total of 20,781 pounds of glue in this time period. Another way to think about this is that amount is more than 10 tons of glue. The cost was $.13 or $.14 cents per pound.

How and Where the Glue Was Used

As you might expect, the C, Z & M Co. used this glue at many locations in the factory buildings. Wherever parts were assembled there needed to be a glue container at the ready. Workers glued door frames, side panels and frames.  We can still tell where many of these glue operations were located in the factory, because there is a thick layer of glue on the floor there. If a workman dropped just one drop for each door he glued together, the result is the large mess on the floor today.

But most likely the largest amount of this hide glue was used in the glue room. Just off the main machinery room was the glue room. This is the two-story brick building to the far West of the building complex. This building is unused now except for storage, but in its heyday, this room was very busy. Workmen sent pieces of wood from the machine room to the glue room when larger pieces were made by gluing them together. An obvious item that was made from this technique is a cutting board where it is best to make the larger item from narrow strips that a glued together. This ensured that it did not warp or twist.

An Interesting Discovery

Several years ago, when I was sorting trash in the buildings, I found two hide glue containers. These containers were almost unique. I had not seen anything like these before, and I fancy myself as knowledgeable about tools and related subjects. After doing some patent research, I discovered the glue containers were patented July 3, 1883, by a man from Grand Rapids, Mich.

Hide glue needs to be kept warm so it will be soft enough to spread into the wood joints. There are several glue containers that have the means to keep the glue warm. Weatherly’s patent does this by attaching to a steam or hot water pipe. The water jacket is heated from the hot pipe and this, in turn, keeps the glue warm. This patent idea does allow the smaller inside glue container to be removed and carried to the location where needed, then returned to be kept warm.

Other types of hide glue containers or glue pots were available at the time. Smaller pots made of cast iron (heavy cast iron to hold the heat) worked the same way. Basically, a glue pot is two containers, the larger pot contains heated water and the inside smaller one contains the glue. Keep in mind you will need an additional heat source during a full day’s work. Electric glue pots became available when electricity became widely used.

Some Conjecture On the “Glue Man”

We just don’t know, but I suspect there was a workman in the early factory that was the glue man. It was the glue man’s responsibility to arrive early every morning and mix the hide glue for that day’s use. Think of this as cooking the glue, because that was what he was doing. The hide glue was purchased in dry flakes, (remember those barrels) and needed to be mixed with water and heated. I’m sure there was a formula for the correct mixture, but a lot of this job was done by eye, getting the right consistency for the various departments in the factory. It would need to be thicker and heavier for the gluing of frames and thinner and lighter for the veneer department. The glue man could expect some one could come to him at any time of the day with an empty glue pot and want more glue. Many workmen depended on him to keep a supply of good glue ready for use.

A Parting Thought

Just one more thing before I go for the week: I couldn’t help but notice the symbol in the upper left corner of this United States Glue Co. receipt. Here is an enlargement of the symbol. Now ask yourself,  I wonder where Coppes, Zook & Mutschler got the idea of interlocking letters to paint on the outside of the building and use on company letter heads.