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John M Keller

Rochester & Nappanee, Indiana


Nappanee Indiana

1888, John Keller opens a photography studio on the corner of Walnut and Main Street. From 1888 to 1900 he takes over 300 photographs documenting the cites residence and businesses. (His photographs appear for sale regularly on eBay for sale). Image to the right is the back of one of his photographs advertising his products.

1892 Keller jumps on the national bicycle fad around safety bikes. he advertisement for the Keller Cyclery Company lists the Aerial Model B bicycle for sale along with clothing, tools and accessories. 

1897 he advertises the The NAP bicycle for sale. 

1904 Keller announces he is closing his restaurant, bowling alley and pool to start up a sporting goods business including fishing tackle. 

1908 business district lists the following: Keller, John M. automobiles, bicycles and repairs also sporting goods, e. Market, see photo of his shop to the right. 


Rochester Indiana

History Provided by Rochester Historical Society:

While living in Rochester he built and operated the Keller Inn near the edge of Lake Manitou in 1921. He operated the Inn until his death in 1943. He most likely made most of his lures for fisherman during this period. He made and sold liquor during the prohibition from 1920 thru 1933. .


Prior to moving to Rochester he sold automobiles and earned income as a photographer. In, 1935 he patent a device for beheading chickens, eliminating that gruesome task wives hate. He also had patents for window visors and other devices. (Authors note: I have only found a patent for a spark plug tester, its possible these patents were applied for but not granted.)



John M. Keller, age 75, proprietor of the KELLER'S INN on the west shore of Lake Manitou for a number of years, died at 1 o'clock Friday morning at Woodlawn hospital. Death was due to heart trouble and followed an illness of six weeks. He had been a patient at the hospital only one day. Keller was well known throughout northern Indiana for his business at the lake.


The letter head for an invoice for automotive work states J.M. Keller manufacture of "KELLER & REDHEAD FISHBAIT surface and underwater" in 1904, Invoice courtesy Coppes Commons. The use of FC Woods Type I & Type II hooks on two of my five hook minnows fits this timing. It appears he used the term GETSEM starting in Rochester Indiana, I have only observed GETSEM on boxes also marked Rochester Indiana.


Most of the known boxes are solid green with KELLER GETSEM ROCHESTER INDIANA on the box lid or inside the box, but some are not marked. One box found with "The Keller" hand written inside the box.

Keller is known for his beatiful hand painted lures with a variety of types of rigging:

Following configurations found:

Five hook minnow with Woods Type I hooks, staple rig

Four hook minnow wire wrapped side and belly hook.

Three hook minnow with and without external belly weight

Screw eye single belly hook minnow w/tail hook

Double side hook minnow screw eye and wood screw (no tail hook)

Single belly hook minnow (no tail hook)

Wiggler (three sizes found)

Wiggler triangle shaped body bait with side hooks 


Keller used the following methods of attaching hooks:

Thru wire rigging

screw eye rigging

machine screws

wire wrapped around the body


Prop styles:

Two piece tin

single piece tin

Prop braised to tin shaft

Marking - some are marked KELLER on the back, most are not.

His lures are famous for his use of 20 cal shell casings pressed into the nose of the lure wooden body. He also made washers out of wire to act as spacers.

Kim Clay, a local collector, shared a story told by locals that he would sell his lures by blowing on the tin propellor to show how easy they spin.

Similar lures 

Myer & Spellman & Bitem Minnow

There are two lures that are similar to Keller and in the same region. First, the Myer Spellman lure has a very similar paint scheme and body shape to the Keller minnow. It was made in 1914. The Myer lure has a stamped propeller. Shelby Michigan isn't too far from Nappanee, perhaps the automobile business of Edward Myer & Jack Spellman provides a connection with Keller who also sold and repaired cars.

Primary Source Documentation 


1891   John Keller marries Clara Burbach, Nappanee News

1888   Opens photography studio in Nappanee, Indiana

1897   Ad for "The Nap" Bicycle Keller Manufacturing Company

          Nappanee news. 

1900  US Census - resident Nappanee, Indiana, Occupation                   Dealer  in Bicycles.

1900  Keller advertizes his studio for sale in the St. Louis and

          Canadian Photographer magazine.

1904  March 20, The Nappanee News, Keller announces he is

          closing his bowling alley, pool and restaurant, entering the

          sporting goods business including fishing tackle.  

1904  Invoice letterhead J.M. Keller manufacturer of Keller & 

          Redhead surface and underwater lures. 

1908  Elkhart Business Directory - John M Keller Bicycles,     

          Sundries and Repairing, Sporting Goods, Nappanee, IN.

1910  US Census - Resident Nappanee IN, Occupation: Garage


1912  Goshen Democrat Newspaper - "John Keller of

Nappanee, who operates a garage at that place, sustained serious injures while testing an automobile. The flywheel came off, striking him below the knee, breaking his leg. The flywheel continued it course and went thru the side of the building."

1916  Patent 1,202,532 - Tester for spark plugs, Nappanee IN

1920  US Census - Resident Frankfort City, IN, Occupation: 

          Garage mechanic.

1921   Rochester Indiana Phone book lists John M Keller and                 the Keller Inn.

1930   US Census - Resdient Rochester IN, Occupation:  none.

1943   Obituary, June 18, 1943.

1943   Keller Inn sold by Howard Keller, son, to Arthur Moore
















keller garage 1909.jpg
J. M. Keller invoice 1904.jpg
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