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1958 Magazine Donation Provides Interesting Look into Coppes Napanee

The Indiana Business and Industry Magazine is the focus of this week’s Bill’ History Corner. Thanks for visiting; this is the place where we discuss all things Coppes. This magazine is dated October 1958, and was recently donated by Linda & Mike Bultema. As I understand it, Linda & Mike were reading the old article on Coppes Kitchens, became more interested, found our website and then decided to make a fun day visit to the factory.

This magazine, as the title suggests, is all about Indiana business and industry. The other articles in this issue are titled “Oklahoma Oil Company Acquires Gaseteria” (an Indiana oilfield); “Indiana’s Oil progress Report for 1958”; “More Oil for Indiana”; “Press Club Cavalcade”; “A Top Asset – Indiana Geological Survey”; “History of Hoosier Oil” and an article on Coppes Napanee Kitchens. There are also smaller articles and advertising for Indiana services and products. I might add, this magazine was printed by the Culver Press.


I scanned the Coppes Napanee Kitchens article and will show it here. The first picture is of the 1958 management team. Five of the seven men have the Coppes Name.

The next scan is a drawing of the Coppes factory;


and here is an example of 1950s humor.

As you would expect, this article makes the Coppes Factory appear to be the most wonderful thing in the world. Tidbits of information in the text explain that there are only 160 Coppes Dealers in the U. S., and shipping costs to the West coast usually make the sales beyond the mountains prohibitive.

Also, in April 1958 the “Lazy Susan revolving-top Island unit” appeared on the TV show The Price is Right.

Here are pages one thru four of the article. Most of the pictures of factory men working are pictures that we have seen before.

Here is an interesting detail picture from page two.


The Lazy Susan picture caption reads,

“Newest of the design innovations by Coppes Napanee is the ‘Lady Susan revolving–top island unit.’ Counter top revolves full 360 degrees, and built–in electric range and blender-mixer operate even when top is being turned. Base section has pull-out table and two benches to seat four people. Custom-built hardwood unit (as shown) is finished in white maple natural grain stain, trimmed with gold tone provincial moulding and complemented by antique brass hardware.”

If anyone has one of these units at home, be assured, we want it.

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A Unique Find From Saskatchewan

Hello, and welcome to this week’s Bill’ History Corner. I have been having an interesting email conversation with a young lady for the past several months. Her emails started as so many other emails have. Basically, people are asking when their cabinet was made and which company made it? “What can you tell me about my kitchen cabinet?” Usually, I can give a positive answer, then sometimes I’m completely stumped. The most difficult questions are the ones with cabinets that have no markings and look as if any of 20 or so companies could have made it in their factory. I’m sure that I’ve said it before, but cabinet companies borrowed ideas from other cabinets that were already on the market. This is why so many look alike.

This History Corner does not have that problem with this story. The kitchen cabinet that I have been emailing about looks like no other cabinet I have ever seen. First, it was made in Canada, the country to the North, in case you have forgotten. Second, I thought it was a one-of-a-kind kitchen cabinet, and I think our email conversations bear that out. The drawers have hand-cut dovetails. The young lady’s initials are MB (I told her I would not use her name). The cabinet has the name of MB’s Great Grandfather,  G. HAMILTON + DONGOUGH (his town) + SASK (Saskatchewan) written on the back side.

dovetailed drawer from 19th c cabinet

Furniture that I have seen with a person’s name written on it is usually an indication that it was made by the person that signed it. So, from the beginning, I thought this cabinet was a one of a kind cabinet having been made by G. Hamilton. When I suggested this theory to MB, she was not so sure but has since found military records indicating that G. Hamilton was indeed a cabinetmaker before he entered the military for WWI. MB has started to piece together her family genealogy, which is very rewarding for anyone who does it.  This is what history she has shared so far.

 “My great grandparents did not have a lot of money, so it is definitely possible he built it. My Great- grandpa (Gavin Hamilton) was a farmer later on in life. I’m not sure what he did before 1933 (cabinetmaker). I think I mentioned this before, but he brought his family (including my infant grandmother) over from Saskatchewan to British Columbia in 1933 via horse-drawn covered wagon. He bought a plot of land just outside of Nelson, (about 30 acres and some of it lakefront) built a barn, cleared land for a farm and built a home [with] the help of the older sons. He then became a farmer for a living: mostly cows and chickens. He would have been about 50 years old when he was doing all of this! He was 40 when he started having children with my great grandmother when they had their 9th and 10th children (twins) he was 60 years old!   The property is still owned by my family. My mom’s cousin owns the upper 20 acres of the property including the original barn which until this past summer was still being used for cows and chickens. My mom and her sister own the original house together and we go up at least once per year.”

This is the cabinet that we have been discussing.

Early Hoosier Cabinet

As you can see, it needs some work. MB is planning on repairing/restoring/fixing it but does not want to lose the original color or character of the cabinet. Notice that the work surface appears to pull out like a genuine Hoosier cabinet, so likely Mr. Hamilton may have seen a Hoosier cabinet in his work as a cabinetmaker. I’ve suggested she add some color where needed and basically leave the rest alone.  It’s her cabinet, she can decide what to do.

Another very interesting aspect of this cabinet is the interior tin work. The flour bin is on the left side, and there are tall containers for tea and coffee with sugar in the center, shelves for spice jars and spaces for cups or other cooking utensils. This tin work is different from any that I have seen. It does look familiar, but I can not place it yet. Still working on the tinware, maybe in the U. S. patents, is where I remember seeing tinware like this. I do think the tinware was commercially made and that Mr. Hamilton may have ordered it from a mail-order company- Sears, possibly. It does look like the three-part tin portion would pull forward and out of the cabinet, for cleaning and filling.

tinware inside a custom Hoosier cabinet

What would you do if you inherited an old family piece of furniture with that much history that needed some repair, how much would you fix it up or leave it alone?

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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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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.

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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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Coppes Bros. & Zook 1920 Magazine Ad

Welcome to Bill’s History Corner.

Today we have a scan of a page from “THE FURNITURE WORKER” dated December of 1920. As you can read, Coppes Bros. & Zook Company was starting a large advertising campaign in several magazines.

furniture worker

Coppes Bros. & Zook was aiming their ads. at furniture dealers, pointing out how easy it will be for them to have a huge sales event by having a Coppes Dutch Kitchenet sale in their store. This was the method that Coppes Bros. & Zook used to sell cabinets. Any store with enough floor space was a candidate for having a Coppes Kitchen Cabinet sale. Coppes would send a Coppes employee to the store during the sale to help with selling the cabinets. Each family that came into the store just to look at the new kitchen cabinets was given a souvenir, usually something with the Coppes logo on it.

Also, interesting is the notice of two upcoming Dutch Kitchen Cabinet displays at different Furniture Expositions in Chicago at the Western Furniture Exhibition building and at New York’s Furniture Exchange.

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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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The Coppes Brothers and George L. Lamb

Today’s history lesson concerns the George L. Lamb Mfg. Co. of Nappanee, Indiana. The Lamb Co. is a very interesting company, which manufactured a line of “brushes, easels & novelties”. Originally Mr. Lamb was in business in Goshen, till there was a fire in his factory.  While he was searching for a new building location, he connected with the Coppes Bros., and they convinced G. Lamb to resettle his mfg. business in Nappanee. At first, the Lamb business was set up in an unused furniture Co. building, (Evangel Press building), but later when the business needed more mfg. space, they moved to the South Jackson St. location. (where the mill is now located).

Mr. Lamb was an enterprising individual, and within one year of this move, he became a sales agent for gasoline engines. Later he was also an agent for automobiles.

Lamb Brothers Lamps

In 1909, a new company was formed with G. Lamb, his brother, David Lamb, and son-in-law, H. B. Green, to form the Lamb & Green Manufacturing Co. which specialized in “art glass”. They produced an extensive line of “leaded glass” floor & table lamps, which are much sought after today. They built a new three-story brick building for this new company on S. Jackson St. in 1909.

Several Lamb & Green lamps can be seen in our museum!

This George L. Lamb receipt is from Dec. 17th, 1903, when they were still at the first location in Nappanee. The first thing you should notice is that the receipt is for almost a full year of transactions (Feb. 17, 1903, till Dec. 15th). Why the company did not submit an earlier receipt is unknown. Several of the items are questionable, why for example would the C, Z & M Co. which was manufacturing hundreds of pieces of furniture need to purchase small amounts of “wood alcohol; naphtha; 1 qt. heavy shellac; or 3 pts. W. O. stain (white oak).  Other interesting items on this receipt are the lines; “April 14 – 20 1/4 hrs. sawing – per hr. .35”; “April 28 – 28 ½ hrs. sawing  – .35”; “June 20 – 3 ½ hrs. sawing”; “and Dec. 15 – 26 ½ hrs. work – @ .15”. Why would C, Z & M Co. hire the Lamb Company to do sawing which the first company surely had the capacity to do themselves?

This mystery would seem to go unsolved unless we studied the next receipt from the G. Lamb Co. Dated Dec. 1903 and Jan. 1904.  It is apparent the G. Lamb company was constructing decorative woodwork for the interior of the Coppes Bros. new homes on East Market St. (see below).

If you have any additional information on these topics, we’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or email Bill at bill@coppescommons.com.

Home of Samuel Coppes

Coppes Home
Home of John Coppes, located on East Market Street