Abbott’s to Close?

Abbott’s To Close?

Taken from The Colon Express newspaper, July 23, 1942: “NO TRUTH IN RUMOR ABBOTT’S WILL CLOSE

It has come to our notice that a rumor is being spread around that the Abbott Magic Novelty Company intends closing within the next few months. In justice to our faithful employees, we brand this and any similar rumors as malicious gossip, and feeling that we should nit it in the bud, we say emphatically that nothing could be further from the truth – that we have no intention of closing our plant.

It is true that there is a dearth of materials for the manufacture of some of our products, but so far we have not in any manner halted our operations, as we have taken advantage of materials still available to us by devising an additional line of effects from such products. The plant is busy even through this summer season, which normally, in our business, is a so-called of-season.

(signed) Percy Abbott, Manager


This was, of course, the war years, and that meant rationing and restriction on various supplies. Here is a quote from Rick Fisher’s book, “Percy Abbott Magical Years”: “Supplies were few and far between. Rubber, wire, plastics and gasoline were needed for the war effort and Percy wondered how he could manufacture without these necessities. He applied for a special permit with the U. S. Government to provide the troops with anti-gambling books and props for entertainment and was awarded ‘special status’ that allowed him to purchase raw materials for production.”

Abbott’s Final Get-Together

Percy Abbott’s Final Magic “Get-together”

From the South Bend Tribune, 1959: “COLON – Percy Abbott, world-renowned illusionist, who made a hobby into the world’s largest magic factory, will retire from his mystic trade after two one-man shows in September.

The only U. S. Show will be staged by the “magician’s magician” at the 26th annual Abbott’s Magic Get-Together, at Coldwater, the week of Sept. 7 through 12. He will make his final professional appearance Sept. 16 at the British IBM Convention at Bruxton, England.

General manager Recil Bordner, Abbott’s manufacturing partner, announced that the Coldwater meeting will be the final Abbott’s Get-Together as Percy enters semi-retirement.

Continue Factory.

The Abbott family will continue to operate their magic factory here which employs up to 50 persons during peak seasons and manufactures trade equipment ranging in cost from 10 cents to $1,500.

Abbott, who came to this country in 1930, is completing his life story, being published under the title, “Magic of a Life Time.”

The factory, and Percy personally, tale credit from most of the world’s most noted magicians for changing expensive, cumbersome props into lightweight, collapsible articles. Most of the manufacturing is done in plastic and aluminum.

Abbott has appeared on other get-together programs, but only as a last-minute fill-in.

Bordner said the final performance of Abbott will probably bring a turnout of the world’s greatest magicians. Abbott has been associated, at one time or another in his lifetime, with most of the greats of the profession.

Writes Autobiography

Abbott’s book covers his many years and hundreds of experiences in all parts of the world, his early years in Australia, his numerous trips through the Orient and his knowledge of the early originations of today’s popular illusions and his experiences with other great magicians. The book also includes many of his effects in magic, with full explanations.

Percy began using magic at the age of 10 and ended up living here after a fishing trip to Southwestern Michigan. He met Gladys Goodrich here and they were married, raising two sons and a daughter.

Perhaps his most famous trick is the vanishing water glass. The Abbott firm has manufactured and sold over 70,000 of the items. His clients are both amateur and professional and he has even invented some of those advertising sign gimmicks.

There is speculation that his last U.S. show will probably be his greatest and will bring out an unusual following of the public and professionals to Coldwater.

The semi-retirement is a term that leaves Abbott an out if he ever wants to return to the stage. A showman can’t resist being a showman, Abbott explains.”




Fire Makes Way for Library

Hotel Fire made way for township library



From the Colon Community Historical Society Museum Archives; newspaper clipping, date unknown: “COLON – In the summer of 1912, the Lakeview Hotel – or as many knew it, “Pond Lily House” – burned to the ground.

Dale Baad, a resident of Colon, remembered the fire. “I was working on a farm north of Colon,” he said. “We were eating dinner when the phone rang telling us about the fire.”

“Some people who were at the farm lived right across the street from the fire where the King Pharmacy is now located. When we got there, there was a lot of confusion,” continued Baad. “People were hastily taking things out of the hotel.” Baad was 14 years old at the time. “No one was hurt,” said Baad, “but the building burned to the ground.”

Mr. and Mrs. Oliver B. Culver, who lived on a farm 2 ½ miles east of Colon, gave the money to build the Colon Township Library. It was built in 1914 where the Lakeview burned.

In the files of the Township Library is the contract between O. B. Culver and the Township board, issued Sept. 12, 1912. By decree of the St. Joseph County Circuit Court, O. B. Culver willed $15,000 to be paid to the Township board at his death to erect a township library.

On Sept. 15, 1912, 60 Colon taxpayers petitioned the township board to bond the township for $3,000 to purchase, clear and beautify the specified site.

The library was built in 1914, by architect C. A. Fairchild, of Kalamazoo. General contractor was Byers Brothers of Kalamazoo. Cost. $10,700.50. Electrical contractor was S. G. Hill of Colon, cost $298.50. Plumbing and heating contractor was R. R. Bramer, Kalamazoo, cost $1,543. Window shades were purchased at cost of $98.

After the incidental bills were paid, the township had $1,000 left over which was spent on books.”

Library Dedication



Newspaper clipping from the Archives of The Colon Community Historical Society, dated October 14, 1915: “With Gov. Ferris and Good Weather a Large Crowd Should be in Colon Today

Everything is in readiness for a gala day today when Colon’s new library building donated by the late Oliver B. and Mary E. Culver will be dedicated followed by an old fashioned jubilee.

The Colon Concert Band will furnish music for the occasion.

The building will be open to the public all day.

The auto parade, for which an award of $5.00 will be given for the best trimmed car, will take place in the forenoon; also decision as to the largest load of people coming to the celebration, for which $2.00 will be paid the person bringing them in.

Gov. W. H. Ferris is expected to arrive shortly after noon by auto from Vicksburg and will deliver an address in the opera house, followed by a short program. After which he will be taken to Sturgis in time to catch a train for Chicago.

During the day the following program of sports and games will be pulled off: Foot race, 100 yards, $2.00 and $1.00; wheelbarrow race, $1.00 and 50¢; fat man’s race, $1.00; sack race, $1.00; tug of war, $1.00; ladies nail driving contest, $1.00 and 50¢ and other games and sports.

The Coldwater and Colon ball teams are scheduled for a game at 3 o’clock.

The day’s festivities will close with a social dance in Godfrey’s hall, music by Gwin’s orchestra.

Special Prizes for the largest squash delivered to Ely & Goodrich’s Cash Market, $3.00




Lamb Knit Goods Lawsuit

How Would You Decide?


Joe Ganger


I had heard that Issac Lamb had left the local Lamb Knit because he was not happy. There was more trouble later on when a lawsuit was filed.

From “The Lawyers reports annotated”, Volumes 43-44: Lamb Knit-Goods Co v. Lamb Glove & Mitten Co.

“Montgomery, J., delivered the opinion of the court:

The complainant avers by its bill of complaint that it is a corporation, with its home offices in Colon, Michigan; that, prior to its organization, the defendant Issac W. Lamb had organized a company at Concord, Michigan, known as the Lamb Knitting Company,” and at the time of the complainant’s organization it acquired all of the property, business, and goodwill of the Lamb Knitting Company from Issac W. Lamb, and paid a valuable consideration therefore; that at the time of the organization of the complainant, Issac W. Lamb was interested in the organization of the company and raised a large amount of the capital stock; that the complainant assumed the name of the “Lamb Knitting-Goods Company,” with the knowledge and consent and at the desire of Issac W. Lamb; that the complainant was organized to conduct a business similar to that which had been previously conducted by the Lamb Knitting Company, which was the manufacture and sale of knitting goods, principally gloves and mittens; that these gloves and mittens had in the main been knitted with a peculiar stitch, and that from the connection of complainant’s name with said goods the peculiar stitch had become known as the “Lamb Stitch;” that gloves and mittens may be manufactured by the same machine with a different stitch, which will be equal to the complainant’s in durability; that the stitch used by the complainant is for the purpose of distinguishing complainant’s goods’ that after the organization of complainant, Issac W. Lamb was in its employ for a number of years as superintendent, but that he had become dissatisfied, and left complainant’s employ on the 8th of April, 1892; that thereafter he, with the assistance of others, organized a company known as the “Lamb Glove and Mitten Company,” at Perry, Michigan, and commenced to manufacture gloves and mittens knitted with the same peculiar stitch as that employed by the complainant; that the name adopted by the defendant company is similar to that adopted by the complainant, and that purchasers and dealers are deceived thereby, and buy the goods of the defendant believing them to be the goods of the complainant; that the business of the complainant has been damaged thereby. Complainant avers that it is entitled to the exclusive use of the word “Lamb” in connection with knit goods of any description, and to the word “Lamb” in its corporate name; that it has the exclusive right to use the peculiar stitch; and that for this reason the words “Lamb Knit” have become and are a valid trademark at common law. The bill prays an accounting and an injunction.

The answer admits that the complainant assumed the name of the “Lamb Knit-Goods Company,” with the knowledge and consent if Issac W. Lamb, but denies that the complainant is entitled to the exclusive use of the words “Lamb Knit” goods, or the use of the word “Lamb” in connection with other words indicating knit goods. The answer also admits that the complainant acquired all the property, business and goodwill of the Lamb Knitting Company, but avers that Lamb acted in the transaction, not for himself, but as an agent for the Lamb Knitting Company. The answer also admits that the defendant corporation organized with, and is conducting a business under, the name of the “Lamb Glove and Mitten Company,” but denies the allegation that this name is so similar to the complainant’s as to mislead purchasers and dealers. The answer further avers that the peculiar stitch adopted by the complainant has been in common use for many years; that the defendant Lamb was the inventor of a knitting machine upon which this stitch was made, under patents granted to him, to the Lamb Knitting-Machine Company of Rochester, New York, and the Lamb Knitting-Machine Company of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts,” and that this last-named corporation is still doing business under the name of the “Lamb Manufacturing Company,” and is manufacturing Lamb knitting machines; that in 1868 defendant Lamb invented a machine for knitting many kinds of knit goods, and procured a patent thereon, and afterwards procured patents on various improvements; that in 1885 he issued printed directions for using the “New Lamb Knitter,” manufactured by the New Lamb Knitting Company of Jackson, Michigan; that a large number of persons purchased these machines; that a large number of persons and corporations which use these machines advertise such goods as made by the Lamb Knitters, and that the name of “Lamb” as applied to knitting machines, and the terms “Lamb Knit” and “Lamb Goods, “ have been in common use in this country, by a large number of different persons, firms, and corporations, for more than twenty years. The case was heard on pleadings and proofs, and the bill dismissed. Complainant appeals.

We are well satisfied that the complainant has not established its right to the exclusive use of the term “Lamb Knit.” The testimony shows that the goods manufactured on the Lamb machine were in common use many years before the organization of complainant company, and that to distinguish such goods from goods knitted on other machines they were designated as “Lamb Goods,” “Lamb Machine Goods” or “Lamb Knit Goods.” It also appears that the peculiar stitch which complainant claims the exclusive right to use was in common use before complainant adopted it.

The case narrows down to the single question whether the defendant infringed the rights of complainant by use of a corporate name so similar to that of complainant as to mislead the public, and, if so, what remedy ought to be applied. There can be no doubt that by the transfer to the complainant of the goodwill of the Lamb Knitting Company it was the intention of the defendant Lamb to grant the right to use his name in connection with the complainant’s business. In fact, he assisted in organizing the corporation, and became a stockholder in the complainant company. The statute (How.Anno.Stat. 4161) authorizes the formation of a corporation, and provides that no two companies shall use the same name or a name so similar as to be liable to mislead. It is contended that the defendant Lamb has entered into no express agreement not to use his own name, and that Mr. Lamb, in making a sale of the Lamb Knitting Company to the complainant, was acting on the behalf of the Concord company and that the Concord company could not, and Mr. Lamb did not, sell the exclusive right to use Mr. Lamb’s name nor undertake that he would not engage in any similar business elsewhere. It appears, however, that the proposition of complainant came from Mr. Lamb, and, as before stated, he is estopped from asserting that the company did not take its name rightfully.


The case was appealed and the Appellate Court said:


In the present case the testimony shows that dealers have been misled, and in view of the fact that the complainant’s business is largely the manufacture of gloves and mittens, and that the name “Lamb” is prominent in the corporate name, we think it is likely to mislead.


The decree will be reversed and a decree entered restraining the defendant from continuing the use of the corporate name “Lamb Glove & Mitten Company,” or any name in which the word “Lamb” appears, in connection with other words indicating a business similar to that of complainant. Subject to this restriction, defendant is at liberty to advertise its goods as made on the Lamb knitting machine.


The other Justices concur.


Colon Township Library

It’s my money and I want one like that!


The history of our Township Library starts a few years before it was built with an architectural design that people liked. So far, we have been able to trace it back to Linton, Indiana where Andrew Carnegie built a library there in 1908.

In 1906 a movement was started to build a library in Auburn, Indiana. An appeal was sent to Andrew Carnegie and in 1909 he committed $12,500 to build a building. Charles Eckhart, owner of the Eckhart Buggy Co. and a magnate in the automobile company in Auburn offered to build a library if the Carnegie contract was cancelled. Mr. Eckhart eventually spent over $40,000 on the building dictating what it would look like. Using the Linton library as a model, the building was completed in 1911.

Here in Colon there was a fire in 1912 that destroyed the “Lakeview Hotel” at the present library location. It was also called the “Davis House.” That location was perfect for using a bequeathed gift from Oliver and Mary Culver for erection of a library building. Mary died in 1912 and Oliver in 1913. The Culvers owned a large fruit farm and nursery east of town. The township bought the land for $3,000.




The will of Oliver Culver stipulated that the library should have two stories and a basement. It also requested that the building conform as closely as possible to the Edwin R. Clarke library building in Coldwater or the Eckhart library in Auburn.

Township Supervisor Wagner, Clerk Karchner and Justices Shane and Snyder of the Colon town board along with O. C. Tomlinson and J. Elliott Mosher made a trip to Auburn to inspect the library there.

As a result of their choosing, C. A. Fairchilds & Son, a Kalamazoo Architect was hired to design the library. Its exterior is very close to that of the Eckert library. Thanks to a gift from the Colon Lioness Club, a historical marker was erected in 1986.

I spoke with a woman at the Linton library and she thinks that there are around 15 library buildings very similar to theirs. Certainly Colon’s is one of them!

Lamb Knit Goods Company

I need a cord of wood carried to the third floor!

History is a fun thing, but it is even more fun if you can look at it and reach out and touch it. We have a few buildings in our area that fit the bill. One of them is the Colon Seminary building. Before you start getting ideas, pay a visit to the dictionary. This is one of the words that have changed a bit in meaning over the years. For our purpose, the meaning is simply “a school of higher education.”

So there really was a seminary in Colon. It began in 1858 from donations by H. K. Farrand, Phineas Farrand, A. J. Kinne, Charles Miller, W. F. Bowman and Adam Bower. Many of the graduates of the school became schoolteachers.




The number of students increased so rapidly that in 1863 (during the Civil War) a new brick building was erected at a cost (including land) of $9,000.

Dedication was on August 20, 1863 and Judge J. Eastman Johnson delivered an address. Elias Cooley Jr. was the first teacher in the new building.

That building still stands today. It is the center portion of the old Lamb Knit Goods factory, later called Woodcrafters, and now practically abandoned. The original seminary building was thirty four by seventy feet and three stories high. The third floor was used as a public hall for various community gatherings. As I stood looking inside it trying to soak up some history I couldn’t help but notice that there were six short chimneys (started on the third floor). That means there were six stoves to feed! Someone had to carry wood up and ashes down. There is an old saying about getting warm more than once when you burn wood (cutting being one of them). Add another get-warm session!

The only other competitor of the seminary here was the one in White Pigeon. The enterprise was abandoned in 1867. The building was rented out to the public schools until 1889 when it was sold and became the main building of the Lamb Knit Goods Company. Later on the “cupola” on top was added to facilitate addition of a freight elevator. During the Second World War the Ground Observer Corps used this cupola to track aircraft (1941 – 1945). In the fifties Operation Skywatch used it. Technology was able to replace people and the programs were abandoned in 1959. The names written on the walls of the “cupola” are a history I wish we could preserve. Lamb Knit officially closed their doors in 1971.


Lamb Knit Goods Company

Lamb Knit Goods Company

From The Colon Express, April 5, 1895: “About six years ago I. W. Lamb, a man who is known all over the world as the inventor of the Lamb Knitting Machine, came to Colon with a proposition to establishing a factory for manufacturing gloves and mittens with an improved machine. Some of the prominent businessmen of Colon took hold of the matter and made an effort to form a stock company. Little was imagined of the real results of this effort. Hopes were high and some moderate castles were built in the air, but the hopes have all been more than fulfilled and the castles have been found to have a foundation on financial rock. The growth has been solid and sure under the present management.



The cutting room at Lamb Knit Goods


The first two or three years, like all new ventures, it was not a paying investment, but the goods, now recognized to be the best on earth, had to be introduced, and the foundations well laid before the superstructure could be erected. The president of the company, Charles Clement, is one of the substantial businessmen of the town, and conducts a general store on State Street in the finest double block in this section. Mr. Clement is also a fancier of fine horses and drives some well-known steppers. Edwin R. Hill, secretary and treasurer, is a man well fitted for the position. President of the Exchange Bank, his wide experience in money matters has enabled him to pilot the finances of this concern safely among the rocks of disaster when other wrecks were all about. Thomas J. Hill, the superintendent, under whose management the Colon knitting mills have emerged from a doubtful to an assured success, is just the man for the place, his ability along this line having been so fully demonstrated that the board of directors have reelected him to succeed himself each year and will undoubtedly continue to do so. Mrs. O. K. S. Leland, the assistant superintendent, is one who has been in the employ of the company from the first, and cannot be excelled as a bookkeeper and understands perfectly the minor details of the business.




Colon, the beautiful city by the lakes, is proud of her industry and well she may be, for it is the largest manufactory of high-grade gloves and mittens in the world. Other institutions have been organized and have put imitations of the Lamb Knit Goods on the market but they have only succeeded in making an inferior article and more firmly establishing the reputation of the Colon mills. Each succeeding year has found the factory unable to keep pace with the demand for goods and each year new additions have been made. This year there will be sixty machines running in the knitting room with 500 hands on the pay roll. Every day the superintendent is receiving inquiries from dealers in regard to goods, fearing they may not be able to get them for another season. The traveling men will start out earlier this season taking the road in April and ten men will be employed instead of six heretofore in this capacity. The best stock, silk, saxony and Australians, coupled with the best expert workmanship have made a very enviable reputation for this institution.”



Abbott’s Metal Shop Destroyed

Abbott’s Metal Shop Destroyed

From the Colon Express, November 20, 1952:”Good Work of Firemen Saves Other Buildings

Abbott’s Magic Novelty Company is gradually getting its several departments organized from the effects of the fire Saturday morning which completely wiped out the metal shop building on Canal Street, together with all the machinery and supplies in storage.

The fire was discovered shortly after 4:00 o’clock Saturday morning and had evidently been burning for some time, getting a good start. The fire started in the front part of the building and when heat or an explosion from inside shattered the front windows, the noise aroused Mrs. Anna Whitford and daughter, Mrs. W. C. Schultz, who turned in the alarm.

The Colon firemen responded quickly and realizing more help was needed to confine the blaze to the one building, the Burr Oak truck was called. The firemen did a good job confining the blaze to the Abbott building which was completely destroyed within an hour.

The Whitford home, garage and barn were all in the danger zone to the west and south of the burning building, but all were saved, but somewhat damaged. The house will need new windows and repainting. The Farrand barn, just across the alley to the east, was also saved, with considerable damage to the siding.

The south part of the building was of cement block construction and it was those walls which protected the adjoining buildings, possibly preventing more serious results.

The Abbott’s have five buildings, each housing a different department. The burned structure housed much of the metal working equipment and machinery, as well as hard-to-replace metal supplies. All the stage equipment, tents and chairs, used for the big get-together, were stored in the upper story of the building. All was consumed in the blaze.

Percy Abbott was in Chicago on business and arrived home a few hours after being notified of the loss. Recil Bordner, the other member of the company, was at the scene of the fire but unable to rescue more than a few plans and blueprints. The loss is partially covered by insurance. Many of the secret patterns and drawings will be difficult to replace.

The owners are undecided as yet regarding rebuilding at the same site.”

Abbott Employees, 1961

Employees at Abbott’s



From The New TOPS Magazine, date unknown, approximately May of 1961, by Recil Bordner: “This year, the Magician’s Get-Together will be held here in COLON for the first time in nine years. The dates are August 24th, 25th, and 26th, and it will be held in the new High School Auditorium. The visiting Magicians will be housed, for the most part, in the homes of citizens of Colon. The rooms are to be made available through the Colon Junior Chamber of Commerce. The reason for this early announcement is to make it possible for you to plan your vacation. Anyone wanting to rent a cottage for that week should write to me soon, as these cottages on the lake are reserved many months in advance. WATCH NEXT MONTHS TOPS FOR MORE DETAILS!

Last month I wrote about some of the people who have worked here at the Magic Factory. I had mentioned only the earliest ones, so to those of you who wrote that I had left out Si Stebbins, Gus Rapp, Walter Gydesen, Father Mattox, Frank and Hazel Galliger, Bill Bright, Ted Ward, and Duke Stern, I want to say that I did not forget them but just did not have the space for everyone. In time I expect to introduce you to all our Magic Family, right down to our latest member, “Pete” Bouton who is in the wood and illusion department of our workshop.

To continue with those now with us, in somewhat the order I which they started, there is Ray Fillmore; yes, his great, great, uncle was the thirteenth President of the United States. Ray is in charge of the plastic department, where he started in September, 1939. He makes the plastic miracle glasses, pitchers, bowls, and all the other intricate plastic fakes. He mixes, compounds, and packages the wax, ink tablets, beer powder, roughing fluid, oil of milk, etc., listed in the accessory classification of our catalog. He is the one who makes the trick glasses – the ones of real glass with the bottoms out or with the slits so neatly concealed in the sides. Then in his spare time, he converts watches into rising card mechanisms and spring motors into Simplified Snake Tricks. As far as I know, America’s oldest living Magician is “Gus” Rapp – ninety years old on January 29, 1961. Gus worked here several years in the late ‘40’s and early ‘50’s. He made over fifty different types of card, money, and paper tricks, and wrote a couple of books. Besides tricks he worked with papermâché, making “Punch and Judy” puppets and the heads for Ventriloquial figures.” Gus Rapp died on July 30, 1961. He appeared at the Abbott’s Get-Together in 1949 and 1955.