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Rolling Right Along with Historic Receipts

Bill Warner
August 13, 2020
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Welcome to one more in the exciting series of exploring actual “History” in the almost world-famous, and much-loved, Bill’s History Corner. Hope you and your family are doing well, staying safe and doing your part to prevent the spread of Covid 19. I’m working from home and about to go crazy. I think I cleaned the shop three times already, reread every book I have at least once. But so far-so good.

Today, with Bill’s history Corner I want to discuss something vitally important to furniture builders. The Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. was mainly a furniture maker when the partnership began in 1903. As a review, the Coppes Bros & Zook Co., before the partnership, was a wooden shipping box maker, sawmill operator, flour mill operator, and retail/wholesale lumber seller. The Nappanee Furniture Co. brought into the partnership the furniture-making skill set. At the beginning of the partnership, the company catalogs had 100’s of wonderful designs for 3-piece bedroom sets, tables of all descriptions, commodes, and, in 1903, approx. nine different kitchen cabinets.

What did most of this furniture have in common besides being made with white oak veneers? What was the common link? What did most of the individual pieces of furniture have in common?  They all had CASTERS. Casters are the link – the little swiveling wheels that allowed the furniture to move, the same casters that today are usually flat on one side and don’t roll worth a darn.  Big casters, heavy casters, lightweight casters – furniture in 1903 needed casters. That was the style back then. Furniture needed to be moveable, not only to quickly rearrange the room, but to clean under everything.

Where have I come across this fantastic bit of information? you may wonder. I was digging into another box of the old business receipts from the early days of Coppes, Zook & Mutschler Co. and found this wonderful information. In 1903 & ’04 the C, Z & M Co. was purchasing casters by the barrel full from the M. B. SCHENCK CO. Manufactures of CASTERS for Furniture and Trucks. Meriden, Conn.

What a neat looking factory. This drawing makes me want to visit. Wonder if they gave factory samples to tourists in 1903?

You can see the straight pins that the C, Z & M Co. office staff used to keep papers together. This was pre-staples.

This receipt is by far the largest order that we found. We did find 10 separate order receipts and accompanying freight receipts from this company. In this one box of receipts, we found orders for 76,200 sets of casters. The most common size caster ordered was the “Rugby Casters,” which had ¾ inch by 3/8-inch wood wheels. This number of casters is staggering. These orders amounted to a little over one years’ production in the life of the C, Z & M Co. They could have put casters on 19,050 pieces of furniture before they needed to order more.

In the above receipt some of the details are interesting. The shipment started with the West Shore R. R. “Car #7661 Big 4” then switched to the B & O line which served Nappanee. The C,Z & M Co. noted in pencil an 8% discount for cash even when other receipts from this company expressly stated no discounts of any kind will be allowed. I wonder if the Schenick company allowed the discount?

The size of this last order is staggering. The railroad freight receipt lists this shipment as “77 Brl Caster” weighting a total of 30,000 pounds.  The freight cost was $101.94 for this one shipment. Wonder where they even stored the 77 barrels when they arrived. Hopefully not in an attic.  We also have what appears to be the form where the C, & M Co. employees weighted each barrel to check if the order was short. The average weight of these barrels was 375 pounds, what a job.

Come back for more exciting “HISTORY” here at Bill’s history Corner.