Monthly Archives: July 2018

Gene Stratton-Porter’s Company

Kendallville Broom and Brush Company, incorporated from 1914 to 1926.

The object of this company was to manufacture brooms and brushes in the town of Kendallville, Indiana. This company was started by Gene Stratton-Porter, a very popular novelist and naturalist from northern Indiana in the early 20th century. There are copies of the incorporation papers, amendment papers and annual reports for the company in this file. The first papers are the Articles of Incorporation filed on May 14, 1914. It is interesting that her husband, Charles D. Porter, did not sign on as a director at the inception of the company as he did in the subsequent years.

There are various annual reports signed by the directors from 1914 to 1926. Besides the Porters the directors were Gertrude Lay Sumption and her husband Rinaldo Sumption, Wells S. Murphy, and John E. Jellison. Rinaldo Sumption was listed in the 1910 Federal Census as a General Merchant and Gertrude had no listed occupation. Wells S. Murphy was listed in the 1910 Federal Census as a Railroad Yard Marker in Cadillac, Michigan, and was listed as a manufacturer of brooms in Kendallville in the copy of his WWI registration. He was also the company’s secretary. John E. Jellison was listed as a laborer in the 1910 Federal Census, and was listed as manager of the broom company in 1920. Gene was listed as a writer of fiction in the 1920 Federal Census, and her husband as a bank manager in Rome City.

The Amendment papers for the company on January 20, 1921 increased its Capital Stock from $15,000 to $100,000. By that time the Porters had moved to California, where these papers were signed. Its interesting that all of the company’s directors had also moved to California by then. Gene was involved in producing films of her novels while in California, but was killed in an auto accident in December of 1924.

The last set of papers in this file is the Corporation Report of 1926. It looks like some investors from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania had bought the broom and brush company by then. Arthur A. Auer of Kendallville, Indiana is listed as the Vice-President of the company. Auer’s occupation listed on his death certificate in 1967 was as a manufacurer of brooms and brushes in Kendallville, so maybe the company started by Gene Stratton-Porter stayed in business in Kendallville for many years after she died.

Apperson Brothers Automobile Company

The Apperson Brothers Automobile Company was incorporated in Kokomo, Indiana on November 9, 1908, and its paperwork extended to 1925. Its original directors were Elmer Apperson, Edgar L. Apperson, Alton G. Siberling and C. H. Felske

The object of this corporation was “to manufacture automobiles, motor cycles, all self-propelled conveyances, and all accessories thereto and machinery connected therewith.” The name of the company was changed to the Pioneer Automobile Company on October 13, 1924.

Elmer Apperson was born in 1861 and his brother Edgar in 1870. Elmer opened a machine shop in Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana in 1888 and his younger brother later joined him.  Elwood Haynes, a Kokomo inventor, got the idea of attaching a gasoline fueled marine motor to a carriage and asked Edgar to help him with the project, which they finished and tried out successfully on July 4, 1894. Edgar continued to work on the idea, and together Haynes and the Apperson brothers formed the Haynes-Apperson Company, slowly producing some of the first automobile models in the United States.

The partnership split in 1901, though Haynes did not drop the Apperson name until 1905. The Apperson factory, which was located near Wildcat Creek in Kokomo, burned down and a new plant was built in 1906 on Kokomo’s South Main Street.  A bigger plant was built on Washington Street in 1916. They incorporated their company as the Apperson Brothers Automobile Company in 1908. Besides the Appersons, an original director was Alton G. Seiberling, an investor who became the company’s secretary and treasurer till 1912 when he joined the Haynes Automobile Company. Also, Charles H. Felske, a local factory manager, was an original director.

Instead of delivering their purchased autos by train, they would drive the autos to the purchasers and personally show them how to drive and maintain the auto. One delivery to Brooklyn, N.Y. took 21 days! They also would participate in various kinds of races around the country to publicize their product. In 1907 they introduced their Jackrabbit model which became their most popular auto.

2017-01-16_20-04-47_edited-2Elmer died in 1920 and Edgar sold his stock in the company and retired from the business in 1924 when the company was in financial trouble. It went bankrupt in 1926. Though, according to the corporate papers, Edgar was a director in the newly formed Pioneer Automobile Company, but it was not successful. It is interesting that the treasurer of the Apperson company, A. G. Dawson, and the company’s Vice President, B.C. Buxton, hung in as directors of the Pioneer Company, along with E. B. Barnes, a local lawyer, and three out-of-town investors. The company must have had too much debt.

Edgar Apperson retired to Arizona to become a farmer, and his hobbies were hunting and fishing. He died in 1959.

by Robert F. Gilyeat, an Indiana State Archives volunteer





An association of 7 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race drivers in 1935.


Champion Drivers, Inc. was a company incorporated by Wilbur Shaw, Peter DePaolo, Fred Frame, Al Gordon, Louis Meyer, Lou Moore, and Elbert Babe Stapp on June 7, 1935. They all were Indianapolis 500 Mile Race drivers, and they all claimed Indianapolis as their place of residence.

“The purpose or purposes for which it is formed are as follows: To engage in automobile racing, including the owning of racing automobiles, promoting automobile races and contracting for the same; also contracting for the services of drivers and mechanics for the operation of racing automobiles.”

Wilbur Shaw was a legendary race car driver who first participated in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in 1927 and won it in 1936, 1939 and 1940. He helped to save the race track grounds from housing development after WWII and became the track’s president. There are several informative sites about Shaw on the internet.

Peter DePaolo, whose uncle Ralph DePalma won the Indianapolis 500 in 1915, competed in seven of these races, and won in 1925. After suffering from a coma from a race crash in 1934, he owned and managed the winning car in the Indianapolis 500 in 1935. Its interesting that he signed the paperwork for the Champion Drivers company about seven days later. He later became a very successful sprint car owner.

Fred Frame began his career as a dirt track racer, and participated in eight Indianapolis 500 races, winning it in 1932. Al Gordon raced in the 500 in 1932, 1934 and 1935, but was killed in a race crash in 1936.

Louis Meyer, another racing legend who began the tradition of drinking milk from a milk bottle after winning the Indianapolis 500, won the race in 1928, 1933 and 1936. Lou Moore, also a racer, was more successful as a car owner winning five Indianapolis 500 races. Elbert “Babe” Stapp raced in twelve Indianapolis 500 races, and later became more famous as sprint car racer.

There were no more annual reports sent to the State after 1935 by Champion Drivers, Inc., so they probably didn’t continue this association. But this attempt at financial cooperation between these very successful race car drivers is intriguing, and probably unprecedented.

by Robert F. Gilyeat, an Indiana State Archives volunteer

An Early Weight Reducing Machine

c100_2015_mch_002_0000Gardner Weight Reducing Company, June 22, 1916, South Bend, Indiana

“The objects of this association shall be the purchasing, selling, leasing and operating Body Massage of Reducing Machines.”

The directors of this company were Richard O.Morgan, Katherine Morgan, James A. Judie, and Margaret Judie. Mr. Morgan was a credit man [accountant?] at the Oliver Chilled Plow Works, one of South Bend’s largest factories, and Katherine was his wife. Mr. Judie was a real estate agent, and Margaret was his wife.

The Gardner Weight Reducing Machine was one of the first mechanical massage machines, using the theory that massaging the body will increase the body’s circulation which will cause fatty tissue to burn off. Similar to later fat-reduction vibration machines, the Gardner machine used roller-pin shaped rollers to massage the patient’s midwaist. A picture of the machine shows a crank on the right side, so maybe an attendant had to crank it to make it work. “Instead of rolling on the floor”!?

James P. Gardner and his son Paul E. Gardner manufactured this weight-reducing contraption. James was a very wealthy fifty-seven year old manufacturer of machines who lived with his family and several servants on Greenwood Avenue in Chicago. Paul was about twenty-five years old and worked as a stocks and bonds broker. Apparently the machines began to be used in Chicago and several other cities in the U.S. early in 1914, and men and women used them in separate rooms.

The elder Gardner was also a co-founder of the Olympia Field Country Club in Chicago, which boasts the largest clubhouse in the United States. I bet the Gardner Weight Reducing Machine had a prominent place in it’s gymnasium!

by Robert F. Gilyeat, an Indiana State Archives volunteer