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Coal 1

Counting Coal Costs

Bill Warner
July 23, 2020
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Welcome to Bill’s History Corner, this is the place where I talk about the Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. Today I want to discuss Coal, Yes, the black stuff dug out of the ground and burned.

The above drawing is illustrated on the top of The W. L. Scott Company’s receipts and is intended to show the scope and the potential size of the business. You can see several coal trains and coal ships, implying that the company is shipping coal everywhere. I love these old industrial illustrations; someone should collect them.

These coal receipts are from the stash of old Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. business receipts. This latest box has receipts dated between 1902 – 1906. I’m sure we don’t have all the receipts from any one company in the same box. What we do have from this company covers the period from May 22, 1903, to Feb 12, 1904, almost a full year. In this box there were nineteen coal receipts from the  W. L. SCOTT Co. Chicago, Ill, covering shipments in 24 railroad cars ( some receipts listed 2 cars). We will likely find more coal receipts in other boxes.  I think the price is consistent at $3.50 per ton, but less the cost of shipment. C,Z & M Co. purchased 710 tons of coal in this period at a cost of $2485.00.  The freight cost is only noted on a few of the receipts and usually amounted to approx. $60.00 per rail car, depending on the net weight. If I multiply the avg. freight cost ($60.00) times 24 railcars and subtract that amount from what C,Z & M Co. paid, the answer will be $1045.00, or about $1.47 per ton of coal.

Apparently, the W. L SCOTT CO. sent postcards to coal customers when a shipment was sent (talk about service). We have one of these postcards stating a railroad car ( B & O # 7770, with “Ohio Steam Lump” coal) was shipped on July 27th, but the card was not canceled at the post office till Aug. 3rd. Possibly the coal car arrived in Nappanee from Chicago before the postcard did.

It’s also interesting, that in all the correspondence I have found with the W. L Scott Co. coal shippers, they always spelled Coppes with two O’s and only one P.   (Coopes)  Wonder how many times the company saw the correct way to spell Coppes?