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Franke 2

A Close Look at Francke Hardware Orders

Bill Warner
April 16, 2020
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This is the place where we discuss the history of the Coppes kitchen factory. I would invite you to share any thoughts or information you may have on any of the topics I write about.

Where do I start? As you know, if you have been following these posts, we have boxes of business receipts from the early 1900s. We are slowly going through them. Every piece of paper has a story. The latest box we are looking at contained several receipts from the FRANCKE HARDWARE COMPANY, 43 and 45 South Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IND. As an estimate, I would guess we found 50 receipts from Francke Hardware Co in one box, all dated 1905-06. At this rate there are bound to be more in other boxes.

I have picked out a few that I think are the more interesting ones. Maybe I think they are  interesting because I’m an old hardware store freak. I think I’ve said it before: I love anything to do with old hardware stores.

If you think about it, the Coppes companies would have needed several kinds of basic hardware to operate the business. Nails, screws, drawer pulls, hinges, cabinet locks, are but a few items that were regularly ordered from Francke Hardware Co. All the shipments were shipped to Nappanee by the B & O Railroad. Some orders went through Francke Hardware but were shipped directly from the manufacturer, and in those cases, there usually are two railway freight receipts pined with the main receipts.  

The Eagle Lock Company was one company that shipped their products directly. Francke Hardware Company was purchased by the Vonnegut Hardware Company in 1910. Vonnegut went on to become a huge hardware business in Indianapolis with several stores across the city.

Big Business vs. Local

Why the Coppes companies used a distance company (instead of a local Nappanee hardware store) for their larger orders I can only guess at. It must have been cost effective to place orders with Francke Hardware even with the added freight costs. Coppes did use the local Hardware stores, but it was for more immediate items. Often (from other receipt we have found) it seemed like an employee was sent to one of the local hardware stores to pick up an item that was needed immediately, like a repair item.

I have looked at eBay for any Francke Hardware Co. ephemera but have not located any, which makes me wonder, “How did the Coppes Co. know they could order hardware from the Francke company?” If there are no company catalogs or Francke advertising to be found on the antique market now, there must have been an over-the-road salesman from Francke Hardware Co. who made regular visits at the Coppes company. There likely would have been several of these salesmen from different companies stopping at Coppes as they traveled from town to town on the train, staying a night or two at the Coppes Hotel while making sales calls on all the businesses and smaller hardware stores in town.  What an interesting job that must have been. I would have loved it.

Francke Receipts

I had trouble limiting the number of receipts I wanted to scan and show for this History Corner, because they are all extremely interesting.  I hope the few that I picked out illustrate this company’s connection to the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co.

The first receipt I want to show you is from Nov. 27th, 1905. At this time theeceipts were being typed, which makes them much easier to read one hundred and fifteen years later. This receipt is typical of most of the Francke receipts. It has some tools (files, wrenches) then some hardware (catches) and 25 LBS. of “Bill Poster Tacks”.

As was typical of the supplies that were ordered, they were consolidated into one order and then divided among the different Coppes, Zook & Mutschler buildings when the order arrived. I would think it would have been more prudent for each building to place their own orders to eliminate the record keeping time and office time in determining and recording the cost for each building.  To illustrate this, look at the first line which reads 10 Dozen 8” Mill Files 2 Rd. (round) Edges, 5.40 /doz.   $54.00. In the left margin some one has written 3B  7A, which means three dozen of the 10 dozen files were going to building “B,” while the other seven dozen were going to building “A”.

At the bottom of the receipt is the record of the cost of this order for each item at each building. Someone had to determine the cost of the items that was going to each building for each of the line items on the entire order, factoring in the different discounts. Seems like a lot of personnel time being used unnecessarily. By the way this order weighted 705 pounds (with boxing) and cost $1.46 in B & O freight charges.  

The next Francke Hardware Co. receipt is short, only ½ doz. of one item. I’m just going to list the one line.  ½ doz. #62 – 4 ft. Straight Steel rules, Graduated 1/8 & 1/16, per Doz. 28.00   –  14.00 This order was divided among buildings as 1 to C at 1.05;   1 to A @ 1.04;    4 to B @ 4.20. I haven’t really figured out the discount rates yet. For this order of 6 steel rulers the discount is “less 50-10%,” which is written as $7.70 on $14.00. Does this mean take 50% off the original price, and then take an additional 10% of that discount? Anyhow, the final cost of these 6 steel rules was $6.30. Usually the discount is only 3% if the receipt is paid within 30 or 60 days. I would sure like to shop at this hardware store.

Some interesting lines on other receipts (receipts not scanned) are; “2 -Doz.  14 Qt. Galv. Rd. Bott. Fire Buckets   –   3.45   –     6.90”   ( fire prevention) “½  Doz.   # 1 Double face Engineers hammers    –   5.80     – 2.90”  (Double face? ) “1   Doz. each    12, 13, 14, inch,  claw hammer Hdles   .45, .45, & .50 ea.  – 1.40″  (that’s a lot of handles) “ ½ Doz. ea   13 in. & 18 in.  1 1/8 Iron Bench Screws  – 13 in. @ 3.75/doz – 1.87: 18 in. @ 5.25/doz = 2.63″  (for making their own bench vises)  

Marvin’s Mysterious Brass Box

The last Francke Hardware scan I want to show is also very interesting, not so much for the hardware that was ordered but what this order implies. Here is what this receipt has listed. 1 –  Brass Box Lock & Pins2 – Gilt Catches4 – Brass Box Corners1 – 3 ½ “ Brass Box handle & screws1 – Pr. Brass fancy hinges,  for a total cost of $1.00.”

See the penciled in note “Chg. M. C.”   It would seem likely that (M. C.) Mr. Marvin Coppes was making himself a fancy box with fancy brass hardware. We know that the Coppes 2nd generation children worked in the factory, either as fill-ins where needed or had regular jobs as they were growing up. Did Marvin develop a personal interest in doing woodworking or did he see an inexpensive way to create a gift for someone? Marvin would have been 25 years old and married for three years when this order was placed.   Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks, please come back next week, I’m sure I’ll still be here looking at my keyboard.