On our last adventure day, Dad said he wanted to go the Bucyrus Copper Kettle Works. He had looked it up and saw that they offered tours. Going there was a bit of a surprise, so I had not called ahead to book a tour, as they request. But we stopped by and Jennie, at the front desk, was very gracious. She agreed to give us a tour.
Bucyrus Copper Kettle Works, Ltd. has been making handmade copper items in the same location at 119 South Walnut Street in Bucyrus, Ohio for more than 140 years. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and walking into it is like taking a step back in time.
The copper trade began in Bucyrus because the local hardware store needed a supply of apple butter kettles and was tired of ordering them from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Two coppersmiths were brought in from Pennsylvania, settled in homes with their families, and began to make their apple butter kettles in Ohio. A poor apple year in 1880 led to an expansion of the product line to include Swiss Cheese Kettles and bowls for Tympani drums.
With the arrival of electricity in 1912, electrically driven hammers made production faster, and certainly easier, for the coppersmiths. When Swiss cheese makers turned to stainless steel equipment for cheese making, the company added a line of candy and caramel corn kettles. Later, decorative copper items were made to be used in homes.
Ownership of the company moved through four generations of the Picking family until the death of the family matriarch in July 2015 at age 99. After her death, the company retired the Picking family name and changed its name to Bucyrus Copper Kettle Works. Steve Schifer, a coppersmith with 39 years of experience at the South Walnut Street location, became the new owner. In 2020, Steve sold the business to James Patrick.
We learned all this history when we toured the Bucyrus Copper Kettle Works. Jennie did a great job with our tour. Her husband is the only full-time employee but it is obvious she loves the history of the place as well. She pointed out the safe that had to be installed on rails before the building was constructed. The safe is filled with ledgers and the historic pictures. We saw the original knob and tube wiring which is the still the primary source of electricity.
In the packing room Jennie pointed out the huge cheese kettle, which is the largest copper pot the company ever made. The workshop contained copper pots that are being restored as well as new pots that are being made. We saw the giant hammers that originally came from the Ford auto plant in 1912. Tom was impressed by the size of the belts that ran the hammers. A giant vat of sulphuric acid allows the company to clean the finish off old pots. It is also a good place to hide bodies.
A blacksmith was working upstairs and Tom was itching to go upstairs and watch her, but that wasn’t part of the tour. Tom also mentioned he could have stayed another couple of hours asking questions, but we had held their work up long enough.
Bucyrus Copper Kettle Works does not have an onsite store. They only make kettles through special order because of the price of copper today. They also do a lot of restoration work on historic kettles. We saw one old kettle being repaired and restored so it could be used as the base for a table.
If you have a chance to tour the Bucyrus Copper Kettle Works, I encourage you to do so. Tours are $10 per person and should be arranged ahead of time. We each got a small copper coin to commemorate our visit. Definitely one of the most interesting things we have done lately.