John M Keller
Rochester & 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.
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
wire wrapped around the body
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.
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
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:
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