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Incoming and Outgoing Business Correspondence of the Health Merry-Go-Round Company, of Quincy, Adams Co., Illinois, 1892-1912

292 letters, 296 manuscript and typed pages, (no retained mailing envelopes), dated 8 November 1892 to 31 August 1912; plus 23 pieces of related paper ephemera mostly receipts (19) and advertisement proofs (3).

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Description of the Collection

       Correspondence: Outgoing Letters:

33 outgoing letters, 33 typed pp., on the letterhead of the Health Merry-Go-Round Co., dated 14 May 1907 to 31 August 1912; written by either the secretary of the company, Thomas Jasper (28 letters), or the vice-president of the company, Charles M. Ertel (4 letters), with one letter written (retained copy, not signed) by the president of the company, G.R. Cottrell. There are 10 short manuscript letters/notes written on 10 of these letters; which appears to be written by the recipient of the letter who then writes back to the Health Merry-Go-Round Company, on the original sheet. G.R. Cottrell was also the president of the Cottrell Hardware Co., and Thomas Jasper was the secretary of the George Ertel Co., Charles M. Ertel was the president of the George Ertel Co., a hay press and incubator manufacturer.

       Correspondence: Incoming Letters:

259 incoming letters, 263 manuscript  and  typed pp., dated 8 November 1892 to 22 July 1912; (no retained mailing envelopes); of this correspondence there are 9 letters dated 1892 to 1906, of which, all 9 were written on letterhead of engraving companies, the contents of letters deal with the engraving business, that is, firms seeking to do business with the George Ertel Company; there are 63 letters dated from 1907; 63 letters from 1908; 82 letters from 1909; and 42 letters from 1910 to 1912; the bulk of these letters are all addressed to the Health Merry-Go-Round Company, several  are addressed to the George Ertel Company. The letters are written by individuals, as well as companies, and they inquire about the Health Merry-Go-Round, the cost, the freight costs, the types of machines, requesting catalogues, or placing orders. In some cases they notify the company that the machines arrived and were missing parts, etc. There are several letters from various publications in which the company advertised. The correspondents tend to be from all over America, as well as from some foreign countries. Some inquiries were written by individuals hoping to be the agent for the Health Merry-Go-Round in their states, putting one up on their lawns and gaining a commission from sales. Several letters are from the old New York City toy store, F.A.O. Schwarz.


14 receipts on the letterhead of the Health Merry-Go-Round Company, dated 1907-1911; 5 receipts made out to the Health Merry-Go-Round Company, dated 1907-1909; 1 mss pp., of an incomplete letter, (no date); 3 advertisement proofs for Health Merry-Go-Round Company, not dated.

       History of the George Ertel Company and the Health Merry-Go-Round Company

        George Ertel Company

    George Ertel was born in Bavaria on 10 April 1830. He was said to have been from a “well to do” family.  He went to the common schools to get his education, but at the age of 13 left home to learn the cabinetmaking trade.  He worked for several years in different cities of Germany learning his trade and making furniture. His younger brother was in America, in Pennsylvania, and on his advice, George decided to immigrate to America in 1854. He was accompanied by his widowed mother, an elder brother, and a younger sister. They arrived in New York City, and Ertel secured employment in a furniture making concern in Elmira, New York. After one year he moved to Williamsport, Pennsylvania where he engaged in cabinet making.

    By the year 1856, Ertel decided to move west. He moved to Quincy, Illinois at first, where he worked at a cabinetmaking firm, but then moved to Liberty, Illinois, where he opened his own small furniture store. It was in Liberty, that Ertel invented a hay baling press, an important item in a predominantly agricultural nation. In many important features his hay press was an improvement on anything previously introduced and it attracted more than ordinary attention. At that time a hay press was practically unknown, there being but one or two machines on the market.

    To be close to rail and river transportation, he returned to Quincy, Illinois in 1868. With the successful manufacture of his hay baler and later a complete line of incubators and brooders (used to hatch eggs and care for young fowl), his enterprise greatly expanded, and George Ertel became a leading citizen of Quincy, serving for a time on the town’s council and as one of its supervisors. Ertel took out patents on most of his inventions and went on to conduct one of the largest and most important plants in this line of business in the entire country, his business covering the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, and other countries.

     The George Ertel Company was incorporated in 1893, and Ertel served the president until his death in 1902, at which time his son Charles became president. George Ertel was married in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to Ms. Eva Elizabeth Gardner, a native of Germany. She was born on 10 September 1838, at Newburg-on-the-Rhine, Bavaria, and was a daughter of John and Barbara (Reinhart) Gardner. Her father conducted a large wholesale fish and game market for many years in Germany and eventually he immigrated to America, settling in Pennsylvania, where his daughter met and married Ertel.

        Health Merry-Go-Round Company

     Charles M. Ertel was the only child of George and his wife.  He was born on 18 September 1864 and married Odelia Morell. The couple had four daughters: Elsie, Pauline, Edna, and Georgina Anna. The “Health Merry-Go-Round Company” was an invention of Charles M. Ertel, Thomas Jasper, and George R. Cottrell. In 1902, George Ertel died, and his son, Charles Ertel, took over the business. It was Charles who introduced the Health Merry-Go-Round line shortly thereafter. With Jasper and Cottrell, the three men incorporated the Health Merry-Go-Round Company in 1906, capitalizing it at $10,000. A patent was issued on 1 May 1906 for the Merry-Go-Round, and a second patent, describing the organ that was included with the machine, was issued on 15 January 1907, by George B. McKinney. The patent covered a well-built children’s Merry-Go-Round powered by the riders pulling and pushing on a lever with hands and feet. The organ, called a Gem roller organ, operated on the Merry-Go-Round by having the organ crank replaced by a pulley and connected by belt to one of the wheels on the Merry-Go-Round. As the children pulled and pushed they would go around and around, and the organ would play. The faster they pushed and pulled the more-lively the music would be. There were also several different types of canvas canopies that could be attached.

    The health benefits of Ertel’s invention were extolled; and later doctor’s testimony was presented in advertising. Children’s health and welfare was a successful sales pitch in the early 1900s.  The Merry-Go-Round was sold to bank and company presidents, doctors, and lawyers. Companies would also use the Merry-Go-Round for advertising and sales purposes as a draw to bring people into their stores to buy other goods they were selling.

     The company advertised the Health Merry-Go-Round nationally in leading publications of the day, including Life, Collier’s, and Popular Mechanics; and lesser known specialty publications like the Poultry Success, likely due to the Ertel family manufacturing items for the poultry business. They even advertised in Elbert Hubbard’s “Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Teachers.” The company was still producing the Health Merry-Go-Round as of 20 March 1915 when it advertised in “The Dry Goods Reporter” (Vol. 46, Issue 1, page 20).

    The bulk of the letters in this collection relate to the Health Merry-Go-Round Company, and various aspects of the firm’s business. There is much on the day to day activities of the company, soliciting customers, trying to get city parks to buy the machine, customers ordering the machines, salesmen wanting examples so they could be agents for the company in their respective areas, customers complaining about parts missing, freight problems and costs, publishers soliciting the company’s advertisement money, engravers soliciting the company’s engraving and stationary needs. The letters offer a nice look at an interesting company who sells expensive toys for middle class and upper-class families and sells these machines to other companies who use them to draw customers into their stores.

       Sample Quotes:

Lamont, Corliss & Company

18 S. Carrollton Ave

Baltimore, Md. 5/20/07


Messer Health Merry Go Round Co.,

Quincy, Ill.


Dear Sirs,


Your favor of 17th inst. At hand. It was my intention to operate your device and American Box Ball Alley for profit in connection with a confectionary store, charging a small fee for its use.

As this would give me splendid opportunity to demonstrate its merits, I will ask you to give me the Maryland agency for same and to furnish me one each of the cuts on enclosed slip for circularizing purpose.


I would show it at times on vacant lots in the wealthy sections of city and just previous thereto distribute circular matter in reference to it.

Have been with above firm past 19 months except 3 mos. Last summer when their line was unseasonable. Their letter just at hand says “we know you self how difficult it is to sell stove polish in the south in the summer season and we have nothing else at which we could use you but we will be pleased at all times to have you refer anyone to us as to your ability, honesty, truthfulness, etc.


Awaiting your reply, I am yours truly H.M. Stevens”


“Eisfeld Clothing Co.,

Burlington, Iowa, June 1, 1907


Health Merry-Go-Round Co.,

Quincy, Ill.



You will find enclosed draft for $37.16, for which please send me, at once, Merry-Go-Round with organ and canopy, and 3 extra pieces for the organ, making a total of 6 pieces. Ship via C.B. & Q.R.R.


1st choice                2nd choice

1162, 1110              14, 205

1158, 1164              1145, 156

1152, 1161              1020, 275


I have taken 25% off Merry-Go-Round and Canopy, as per your letters, but have paid full price for the music; if there is a discount on the music you might include another selection. I am thinking of a scheme whereby I may use 3 or 4 of your machines for advertising purposes in connection with our business. Please ship promptly. Kindly acknowledge.


Very truly, L. M. Eisfeld”


“The Marine Manufacturing & Supply Company, Incorporated

Pittsburg, PA, June 12, 1907


Health Merry-Go-Round


Gentlemen, I received the little machine all right except one of the small pillar block & bolts for one seat was missing. I don’t think it was ever on it. I had the machine for 10 days in the depot waiting for a nice day to send it home, the weather here has been so wet that I have not had the birthday party for my little boy yet, when I have it I expect to have some pictures taken for you to see how it will turn out as we expect 100 or more little children.

The day I sent the Merry-Go-Round home, none of the children would come to our home to play with our little boy on account of him having the Chicken Poxes, but when they seen the Merry-Go-Round coming nothing would keep them out of the house so I had to put it up that same evening and to tell you the truth of the affair, there was more children in our houses then you could count. Some of them forgot to go home for supper and there were more roller skates laying out the rear than I knew what to do with. It was worth the money expended for to see the fun with the children. I did not get them to go home until it was quite dark.


So, you see how they enjoyed it…Yours resp., J.E. Clark”


“F.A.O. Schwarz

Importer of Toys and Fancy Goods,

39 & 41 West 23rd Street,

New York


July 15, 1907


Health Merry-Go-Round Co.,

Quincy, Ill.


Last year I received a letter from the George Ertel Co., under dated of October 26th, in regard to a children’s Merry-Go-Round.


To the best of my recollection I replied, at the time that it was rather late in the season and furthermore, that I had feared that the article was too large to handle it here.


However, I have received an order for one and wish you would please have it shipped direct, via freight, to Mr. W. H. McCord, Bell Haven, Greenwich, Conn., - bill for same to come here.

As no terms were mentioned in the former letter I leave it to you to make me the lowest possible price and terms in general.

Awaiting your acknowledgment of this order, I remain, Yours respectfully, F.A. O. Schwarz, per [Gus] Parizot”



“Health Merry-Go-Round Co.

Quincy, Ill., April 22, 1909


Mr. F.T. Neff

Marseilles, Ill.


Dear Sir,


Your very kind favor of the 21st at hand informing us that you are interested in our literature and asking which is the most preferable, the four or six seated Merry-Go-Round. Now we made you a very liberal discount of 25% off list, for the reason that we have no agent at your place at the present time.


The most popular machine we are selling is the six seated Merry-Go-Round, and where the children are industrious and wish to make money they can make quite a little revenue from this six-seated machine.


We can make very prompt shipment and will frankly say that this Merry-Go-Round makes an ideal birthday present and it is not only a good revenue producer but also is a fine thing for the children’s health, and we have hundreds of letters here from physicians from all over the country recommending these Merry-Go-Rounds to their patients.


We wish to thank you for the interest you have shown and hope to receive your valued order by return mail.


Respectfully, Health Merry-Go-Round Co, per Thos. Jasper, Sec.”


[note on bottom of page]


“I don’t care to make money on the proposition. Is the 4-seat same sweep and just as desirable for having? I only have one kid, and if the 4 is just as good everyway, that seems to me preferable. How about it?

Yours truly, F.T. Neff”


“Health Merry-Go-Round Co.

Quincy, Ill., December 6, 1909


Mr. C. Krug,

Glendive, Mont.,


Dear Sir,


Your favor at hand asking us to give you the size of the room required to set up a four seated Merry-Go-Round, and we wish to say that this machine will take a room at least twelve-feet square.

A good many people are buying these machines as Christmas presents for the children for they appeal very strongly to children of all ages.


We are sending you another catalogue showing the different size machines and wish to say that we will allow you on single orders 25% discount from the list prices, f.o.b., cars Quincy.

We carry a very large stock of these on hand at all times therefore can make a very prompt shipment, in fact, within twenty-four hours after receipt of the order.

Respectfully, Health Merry-Go-Round Co., per Thos Jasper, Sec.”


[note on bottom of page]


“Gentlemen. Enclosed find check for $27.00 for which ship me a 4-seated machine by W.P.R.R. freight.

Yours truly C. Krug”



“Health Merry-Go-Round Co.

Quincy, Ill., April 18, 1910


Hon. Phil. J. Breitmeyer,

Detroit, Mich.


Dear Sir:


We are enclosing with this catalogue illustrating the Health Merry-Go-Round which we are selling to parks and public playgrounds, and as well as to private individuals for home use. The large size machine, our twelve seated one, which you will notice illustrated, is gotten up exclusively for parks and public playgrounds.


As you were formerly park commissioner and are naturally interested in matters of this kind, we would take it as a special favor if you will bring this to the attention of the park commission and in case they see fit to order one or more of our Merry-Go-Rounds for samples in your parks, we will give them our agents discount of 25% which will make the cost to your commission reasonable and we feel quite sure that a sample order will result in your placing at least ten or fifteen of these machines in your various parks.

Thanking you very much indeed for giving this matter your attention, we remain yours truly,

Health Merry-Go-Round Co., …President” [retained copy of letter, not signed]