Knaack hardware store

Charles Marquardt, left, and Gus Knaack in the Knaack hardware store in Princeton.

This undated photo shows Charles Marquardt and Gustav Knaack in the Knaack hardware store, which opened in 1914 at 525 West Water Street (Daiseye today) and moved in 1927 to 536 West Water Street (east room of Blue Moon today).

The photo is one of the 100 that will be included in my book, which recently progressed from the proofreading stage to the layout/design stage. (I still need a good photo of the old mill if anyone has one that I could use.) After that, the final stage prior to printing will be developing a strong index, which – with a 240,000-word book – will take some time.

But back to our story.

Gustav J. Knaack purchased the hardware business in Princeton from Richard Artman, who arrived here in January 1909 after trading his property in Lakeland, Minnesota, for the business operated previously by William Buettner.

The Princeton Republic told its readers Artman “is a man well versed in the hardware business, having been a leading dealer in Lakefield for the past eleven years.” He took Buettner’s space in the A.G. Hoyer building at 508 West Water Street (Happy Medium today).

Artman expanded in 1912 when he purchased the former Yahr hardware business, which was founded in the 1870s by Ferdinand T. Yahr, who passed it on to his sons Frederick and William in the 1890s when he turned his business attention to a Milwaukee drug company.

Frederick Yahr departed Yahr Bros. in 1900, leaving William to operate the business. But William died unexpectedly at age 45 in 1907. The hardware business passed to his widow and daughters, who sold out a few years later to Artman.

Princeton Republic, Feb. 29, 1912 – “The stock of hardware conducted by Mrs. W.R. Yahr and daughters was recently purchased by hardware dealer Richard Artman. The latter who is now conducting a hardware and tin shop business in the store of Rev. A.G. Hoyer will remove same in the near future into the store of Mrs. W.R. Yahr.”

Three months later Artman and proprietor Charles Marquardt completed the move from 508 West Water to the building at 525 West Water Street that F.T. Yahr built in 1875.

Artman sold out to Gus Knaack in January 1914 and move to Appleton. Knaack and Marquardt found a new home for the business in 1927.

Princeton Republic, Jan. 27, 1927 – “Hugo Kelm and crew of carpenters and painters for the past number of days engaged in remodeling his building, formerly the G.J. Krueger stand (536 West Water Street), is gradually nearing completion. When finished it will be occupied by G.J. Knaack hardware store. New shelving, drawers and wall cases have been provided, and an elevator is to be installed. The second floor is arranged for storage and tinner’s shop.”

Knaack moved into the building in February. According to the newspaper, the store’s myriad offerings included builders’ hardware, farm tools, kitchenware and utensils, stoves, ranges, washing machines, and more.

Marquardt, a licensed plumber, supervised the plumbing, hot air, steam and hot water heating installations.

Advertisement from The Princeton Times.

“That the Knaack hardware has become a Princeton institution and is looked upon as the home of dependable merchandise tells its own story of progressive business methods and the sterling character of the owner,” the Princeton Times noted in its inaugural Progress edition in December 1936.

When Knaack celebrated his silver anniversary in 1939, the Times discussed how much his business had changed over the years: “The circulator has almost completely replaced the old-time baseburner; oil, gas, or electric ranges have largely replaced coal and wood-burning cook stoves. The washing machine is accepted as an essential appliance in every modern home. Air conditioning, mantel-burning kerosene oil lamps, electric toasters, ironers, and a host of other appliances have come to brighten the home and lighten the housekeeping burdens.”

The store had carried Monarch ranges and Speed Queen washing machines since it opened. The company also handled L.J. Mueller furnaces and Remington firearms.

Knaack was an ardent sportsman and served as president of the Princeton Rod and Gun Club. He was involved in other community projects, as well.

Knaack continued to fill the hardware needs of his customers for another 10 years, until …

Princeton Times-Republic, April 14, 1949 – One of Princeton’s old established businesses changed hands the first of the week when G.J. Knaack sold his hardware business to Messrs. John Dutton and Steve Parakowski of Milwaukee. The new owners took immediate possession. … Mr. Knaack purchased this business of Marquardt & Artman thirty-five years ago. The store was then located in the building now occupied by Gerlach’s IGA store. He later moved to his present location.”

Here’s an interesting sidebar to the story from the “Seen and Heard About Town” column in the Princeton Times-Republic in May 1942 after C.J. Artman closed the local Gamble store and accepted a defense job in Janesville: “Just before he left Mr. Artman learned that his father, Richard Artman, was engaged in the hardware business here about thirty years ago. He had sought to locate his father for over thirty years, making trips to various sections of the northwest and it was only through a casual conversation that he learned that his father had been a resident of Princeton. The senior Artman came here with Charles Marquardt from Lakefield, Minnesota, and bought a hardware store located in the building now occupied by (Stanish) Hoffman’s tavern. They later bought the Yahr stock and moved into the store now occupied by Mel Gerlach. The business was finally sold to G.J. Knaack. Mr. Artman had pictures of his father that Mr. Marquardt easily identified. The senior Artman moved to Appleton, where he died about four years ago.”

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