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