ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin

       Kusel’s website  


D. & F. Kusel's of Watertown

207 E Main

108-112 W Main

Celebrating over 150 years


In 1849, Kusel Equipment Co. started in business


The hardware business and the manufacturing business separated into two entities in 1938.

The hardware store continued at 108 W. Main St,

while the dairy equipment business moved to 100 W. Milwaukee St



1916 note: Built by Ferdinand Behlke, General Contractor  




When Daniel Kusel, Sr. immigrated to the United States from Grabow, Germany in 1849, one would wonder if he had any idea that the small tinsmith business he began would continue to be a thriving corporation over 150 years later.


Daniel Kusel, Sr. served his tinsmith apprenticeship in Germany, Denmark, and Russia before establishing a business in Germany in 1836 as a "manufacturer of tin and brass goods."  Because of the 1848 Revolution in Germany, in 1849, one year after Wisconsin was admitted into the Union, Kusel came to the United States with his wife and four children, bringing $3,000 in gold with him.


Kusel reestablished himself in the tinware business upon his arrival in Watertown, Wisconsin, later including the manufacture of copper and sheet-iron products.  Kusel also entered the hardware business almost immediately.


At one point in his first years in the city, Kusel considered moving to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, but was persuaded to stay in Watertown by his friend, Carl Schurz.  Kusel was involved in community activities, as well as being instrumental in establishing Northwestern College (presently Luther Preparatory School) in Watertown.


In 1864 two of Daniel Kusel Sr.'s sons, Frederick and Daniel H. renamed the company as "D & F Kusel", becoming incorporated in 1897.


The hardware business and the manufacturing business separated into two entities in 1938. The hardware store continued at 108 W. Main Street, Watertown, while the dairy equipment business moved to 100 W. Milwaukee Street, Watertown. 




Kusel Hardware was the oldest continuous operating hardware store in Wisconsin.  This business was sold to Frank and Sue Witt in 1972 and closed in May 1985.


On October 31, 1973 Robert J. Elfline and Gary R. Smith purchased the assets of Kusel Dairy Equipment Co. from the Kusel family.  Clark Derleth, former president of Kusel, came out of retirement to join the new owners for three years. Gary R. Smith became president in 1976. Gary Smith and his wife, Jan, acquired 100% ownership in 1977. Having outgrown its facility at 100 W. Milwaukee Street, Kusel moved to its present location of 820 West Street, Watertown, WI in 1978.


Dairy equipment has long been the backbone of Kusel. The 1960's marked the beginning of diversification in product lines.  Diversification began with material handling equipment used to palletize and depalletize cans, cases, bottles, and bags.


In 1984 Kusel added stainless steel floor drains to their product line. Because of their sanitary design, these drains are used in the dairy, meat, wine, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food processing industries.


A 1994 addition to Kusel Equipment Co. has been food processing equipment, through the acquisition of select assets of Starr, Inc. of Hustisford. The product line includes waterless peelers/scrubbers, water vapor cookers, conveyors, and size graders.


The most recent addition has been the 2003 acquisition of select assets of Vorton, Inc. of Beloit, WI.  Vortron is a leading manufacturing of smokehouses used in the meat industry.


The firm was established in a small frame building 14x48 feet, on the site of the former Bott building.




Original Kusel Hardware was located at 104 W. Main

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Account introduced against the city General Fund:  D. and F. Kusel for lanterns, $7   WD




It will last from three to six times longer than any other steel plow made anywhere by anybody.  This has often been proved by actual use in “gritty” soils, occasionally to be found on the margins of streams in the West, in which sheet-steel Plows have been habitually “cut through” in plowing eighty acres or less, it having already plowed over three hundred acres of the same soil without yet being half worn.


It will “scour” in the most difficult soils, where all other plows have failed.  If there is a rod of ground anywhere in which it will not scour, we have yet to find it.


It draws lighter than any other plow while cutting the same width and depth.


It plows at any depth, from three to twelve inches, works perfectly in either stubble or turf, leaves a clean furrow, and turns under stubble and foul trash completely.


For sale only by D. & F. Kusel, dealers in all kinds of hardware, cutlery, stoves and agricultural implements, Watertown, Wis.   WD


Cross Reference:  Google Books citation, on these plows


1866       D. & F. Kusel on BOTH E Main and W Main

Someone might raise a question about Kusel's being next to Schempf's on E Main and think it should be that Kusel's was on the other side of the bridge, on West Main, nowhere near to being next to Schempf's.  D. & F. Kusel was actually on both E Main and W Main in the early days, as noted in the 1866-67 and 1872 Watertown City Directorys



Dan and Fred Kusel were in business with Henry Winkenwerder (this spelling is correct) on East Main before it became simply Winkenwerder's.  The 97 E Main address is the street numbering of those days.  Today it is 207.  And this same city directory lists Schempf's at 101 E Main (today 209 and 211), adjacent to Schempf's.


All is fascinating but the combined structural changes plus address changes plus occupants over time can make it a challenge to keep track of. 



07 03       D. & F. Kusel are making rapid progress with their new building.  When finished it will be one of the finest business blocks in town.   WR or WD



View of, along Main St, including, Mrs. Daniel Kusel



1887 ad


1800’s, late

W. J. Lee conducted a barber shop and bath rooms on the site occupied by Kusel & Kusel, plumbers



       This saloon and billiard hall stood next to (west side of) the Kusel Hardware Store. 




Mr. and Mrs. August F. Kusel celebrated their silver wedding Monday evening, at their home in the Firth ward, a large company of relatives and friends uniting with the happy couple in paying honor to the event.


07 08       THEFT AT KUSEL’S

The safe and vault in the store of D. & F. Kusel was broken open Thursday night and robbed of about $100, consisting of pennies, nickles and other small change.  Some $40 in paper currency was overlooked by the burglars.  The store was entered from the basement and the lock sprung by drilling, the work showing the deft hand of experts.


A burglar-proof safe in the vault was not meddled with.  Papers were scattered, envelopes broken open and things in the vault left in a rather chaotic state.


Repairing the locks of the vault will involve a loss of about $50.


There is no clue to the robbers and although it must of necessity have taken some time to do the work they accomplished, the watchman did not notice anything unusual about the premises on the night of the robbery.



11 18       MAN ROBBED KUSEL’S

In Milwaukee last week a man giving his name as Frank Reilly was sentenced to 10 years in the state prison for robbing a man in that city.  While in the custody of the Milwaukee officers he admitted that he robbed D.& F. Kusel’s store in this city a few weeks ago.   WG



      Columbia and Victor bicycles



02 06       Hardware stock of E. A. Heck sold to D & F Kusel    WR


02 27       E. C. SAVAGE

E. C. Savage, late of Milwaukee, has located here established himself with D. & F. Kusel and in the steam and hot-water, heating business, into which they will go extensively.  Mr. Savage is thoroughly competent in this line, and no doubt the new departure will prove beneficial to all concerned.   WR


03 06       Mention made that Fellermann & Fischer mercantile business, 106 W Main, made possible by Messrs. Kusels spacious new building   WR

Drawing, 108-110 W Main, on left, 1895





The system of waterworks at the court house, which was ordered by the county board at its last session, and of which we made mention in a previous issue, has finally been completed to the satisfaction of the building committee.  By changing the pump, the Rider hot air engine, which Messrs. D. & F. Kusel of Watertown furnished, now pumps from 700 to 900 galIons per hour, according to the speed, into the 200 barrel tank located in the attic of the court house.  Although this large quantity of water is taken from the well, it still continues to flow at the surface, which is certainly an indication that the county will have ample water for many years to come.  Messrs. D. & F. Kusel deserve the highest praise for the perfect manner in which they have installed the whole system at the court house and jail.  As a matter of fire protection alone to these important buiIdings, the installation of this system is invaluable and its cheapness in cost and efficiency of service reflects high credit upon our county board and upon the contractors, although the latter, owing to the error in calculation at first made by the engine company, will probably come out behind in their figures.  Jefferson Banner.   WR




DON"T MISS FAIR DAY Tuesday, April 12.  One of the most interesting features of the day will be an exhibition, at Kusel's Hardware Store, of the Norcross Butter Separator, a scientific wonder invented in 1897.  It is not a cream separator nor a churn, but a simple machine which removes the pure butter oils from the sweet cream or milk, or from sour cream.  When sweet milk or cream is operated the buttermilk left is not buttermilk at all, but sweet cream or milk still, fit for all table, cooking and feeding purposes.  Remember the time, 2 P.M.   WR




F .J. Wenker completed one of his inventions and has had it on exhibition at D. & F. Kusel's store.  The machine is a milk purifier by which all impurities, such as animal heat, etc., are taken away and only the pure and valuable stuff remains.  The machine is certainly a good one and Mr. Wenker should make a success of it.   WR



It gives us pleasure to make note of the fact Monday, June 26, 1899, marked the 50th anniversary of the entry into business of the firm now styled as the D. & F. Kusel Company.  Even this bare fact would be of importance if no auspicious circumstances were linked with the event, but when it is also to be recorded that each succeeding year has brought to the business additional success and growth, until now the firm is now one of the best known and most extensive in its line, in the entire state, it renders the event all the more noteworthy and pleasing to patrons and friends.  Fifty years ago the business was established by Daniel Kuse[ the venerable father of the two elder members of the present firm, D. H. and Fred Kusel. on a small basis, but year by year it has increased and multiplied and today easily ranks as the largest hardware concern in Wisconsin outside of Milwaukee.  WR



In our last issue we referred to the coming semi centennial celebration of the hardware business of the D. & F. Kusel Co., of this city, which was celebrated on Monday last at their place of business on West Main Street.  Their store windows were prettily decorated in honor of the event, the pictures of the founder of the business, Daniel Kusel, Sr., father of D. & F. Kusel, and of the two latter having conspicuous places among the decorations.  All day long the members of this popular mercantile house were subjects of congratulations, and their store was crowded with a constant stream of visitors who called to extend their best wishes for the future success and popularity of the company.  The details of the organization of this business down to the present time were published in our last issue, hence it is unnecessary to repeat them.  Our citizens all take a just pride in the success of this old and reliable business house, and hope that when the hundredth anniversary arrives, it will be found even more prosperous and popular than it is at present.    WG







Bicycle riders find the automatic tire inflater which the D. & F. Kusel Company have placed in front of their store a very handy device.  It requires a “penny in the slot” to make its work, but it beats anything heretofore contrived for the rather laborious task of "pumping up” tires.  The machine forces air into the tire by means of carbonic gas.  WR




D. & H. Kusel secured contract for placing the new roof on the Phoenix engine house.   WG


Harry Leschinger learned plumbing trade from Kusel’s in 1908.



02 06       CELEBRATE 60th ANNIVERSARY   

The hardware firm of the D. and F. Kusel Co. are making extensive preparations to celebrate next week the 60th anniversary of their business career in this city.  Sixty years ago next Monday the firm was established in a small frame building 14x48 feet and, step by step, it grew to its present magnificent proportions.  WG


07 02       60 YEARS IN BUSINESS

It is not often that we find a mercantile firm celebrating its 60th anniversary of its business life, but such is the lot of the D. & F. Kusel Co. of this city, hardware merchants doing business at 108, 110, 112 West Main Street, which started a week’s special sale last Saturday evening in honor of the event.


On June 26, 1849, Daniel Kusel, father of Daniel and Frederick Kusel, present members of the firm, embarked in the business which has grown to such large proportions.  He was born in Germany in 1811 and, tiring of the revolution of 1848 in Germany, he came to American and located in this city and opened a small tin shop and dealt in stoves in a small building on the present site of the firm’s business on June 26, 1849.  From time to time he added different lines of hardware and guided the destiny of the firm till it became one of the largest and most successful hardware houses in Wisconsin, retiring from active business in 1864, when his sons, Daniel and Frederick Kusel, were taken into the business under the firm name of D. & F. Kusel Co. 


The senior Mr. Kusel was a man of industry and honesty and dealt generously with all his customers, hence his success in life.  His sons were endowed with the same spirit and hand in hand they have worked together through life and success has been theirs to a most eminent degree in both a business way and their social standing in the community.


Their father passed to his reward on February 22, 1905, lamented by our entire community as one of the best men that ever lived here.  During his long business career in Watertown no one appealing for help was ever turned away with a deaf ear and many a struggling farmer and business man was given encouragement in a financial as well as an advisory manner that led them on to success.


Kusel’s store was known far and wide in early days and its popularity continues to the present day, till today its wares are shipped all over the state.  It does a general hardware, plumbing and tin roofing business and deals extensively in dairy supplies.  Aside from the honorable methods always prevailing in this business house, there was always the most cordial greeting and courtesy extended to every customer, no matter how trivial the purchase, and this extended from the head of the firm to the lowest salaried helpmate about the place. 


In 1897 D. & F. Kusel incorporated under the firm name of The D. & F. Kusel Co., capitalized at $50,000, the stock being all held by members of the family, the present officers of the company being:


President and Treasurer:  Daniel H. Kusel;

Vice-President:  Frederick Kusel;

Secretary:  Louis Kusel;

Theodore Kusel and Daniel Kusel are also stockholders in the company.


Daniel H. Kusel is a native of Doenitz, Mecklenburg, Germany, where he was born February 28, 1838, and came to Watertown with his parents in 1849 and learned the tinner’s trade, which he worked at till he became a member of the firm.  He is at present interested in several local enterprises besides his hardware business and is a large stockholder and vice-president of the Merchant’s National Bank.  In 1862 he was elected alderman of the 5th ward.


Fred. Kusel was born at the same place in Germany in 1839 and came to America with his parents and learned his father’s business.  The breaking out of the Civil War found him in Texas working at his trade and he returned home and enlisted in and recruited with C. A. Menges Co. B, 20th Wisconsin Infantry, being commissioned first lieutenant.  He took part in many important battles and was wounded at the battle of Prairie Grove.  At Carrolton he was taken ill and sent home on furlough.  Later on he went to Madison for medical examination and was told his recovery was doubtful.  He resigned his commission in October, 1863.  He has been honored with many local offices of honor and trust—mayor, alderman and supervisor, and also state senator, all of which offices he filled with credit to all concerned.  He is a prominent member of the G.A.R. and is never happier than when he is associating with his old comrades.


The present prosperous condition of the firm, its extensive trade, and its uniform courtesy and honorable business methods bids fair to look forward to a like celebration 60 years hence, and there are no doubt residents of our city today who will live to join in celebrating the event . . . WG



02 18       Theodore Kusel and wife return to city to reside   WG




              Watertown Weltburger, 09 30 and 11 11 





04 18       KUSEL & KUSEL PLUMBING at 119 W Main

Kusel & Kusel is the name of the new plumbing firm just opened for business at 119 West Main Street.   It is composed of two of Watertown's most popular men, Art Kusel, son of Fred. Kusel, and Oscar Kusel, son of August Kusel.  Both are experts in the plumbing line and they carry a large stock of everything in the plumbing line.  Any work entrusted to them, their patrons may rest assured, will be well attended to.    WG



09 14         



01 16       PLUMBING NOTICE at 119 W Main

Arthur H. Kusel is now engaged in the plumbing business at 119 West Main Street, as successor to Kusel & Kusel, and has a first-class plumber to attend all work.  Estimates furnished on all jobs.  Work guaranteed.    WG



10 24       FARE-REFUNDING SALE, full page Weltburger ad 


1915       Death of Arthur H. Kusel, son of Fred Kusel, brother of Theodore and Walter, sister of Mrs. Paul Valerius, Chicago.




-- --           INTERIOR VIEW, 108-112 West Main

A picture containing clothing, person, person, footwear

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Watertown or area community.  Store fronts do not seem to match with Watertown.  Kusel’s Hardware had built up a large stove business in Watertown that included the Majestic brand



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      Fourth of July









It is Roy G. Sell who tips the scales at 330 lbs.  Mr. Sell is appearing here at the store of the D & F Kusel Co.  He will be there Saturday and every evening next week.



03 10       The Kusel Dairy Equipment Co., 100 West Milwaukee Street, which supplies a large share of the nation's cheese factories and dairy plants with equipment, recently installed a new square shear which is used to cut steel and which does it so accurately and well that it can be gauged down to the smallest fraction of an inch.  The company, which is an outgrowth of the D. & F. Kusel Co. here, which, by the way, will celebrate its 100th anniversary this summer, is now completely independent of the original company which maintains its hardware establishment in West Main Street. The dairy equipment company was separated and reorganized about 11 years ago. [1938 ]   WDT


03 28    Watertown Daily Times

Kusel Dairy Equipment Is

Used Throughout Nation


Watertown Concern Produces Variety Of Metal Articles


The Kusel Dairy Equipment Co., 100 West Milwaukee Street, which supplies a large share of the nation’s cheese factories and dairy plants with equipment, recently installed a new square shear which is used to cut steel and which does it so accurately and well that it can be gauged down to the smallest fraction of an inch.


The company which is an outgrowth of the D. & F. Kusel Co. here which by the way , will celebrate its 100th anniversary this summer, is now completely independent of the original company which maintains its hardware establishment in West Main Street.  The dairy equipment company was separated and reorganized about 11 years ago.


Officers of the company are Daniel (Dick) Kusel, president; Clark F. Derleth, vice president; and Daniel L. Kusel, secretary-treasurer.


The company manufactures a variety of dairy equipment such as vats, cheese presses, agitators, pasteurizers and any number of minor items used in the dairy industry.


State Best Customer


While the company ships to and supplies plants in many parts of the country the bulk of its products are used here in Wisconsin which is a leading dairy state.  There is scarcely a section of the state where the Kusel products have not been installed and in use.  The name Kusel has become firmly established in the industry and its products are known far and wide for their good quality and the backing of the concern that manufactures them


Some of its tin plate is imported from England, because England provides larger sheets than are obtainable here.  But on the whole only American products are used.


At present the company has some 25 men working in its shops turning out the products.  The latest equipment and methods are used and every effort is made to improve production methods and products wherever possible.


Output Increased


Installation of the square shear is the latest example of that policy.  It has increased the output of its particular job and produces the most efficient and accurate results.  It employs a beam of light in its operation which establishes the utmost accuracy.


The shear is constructed so that it offers the fullest possible safety to operators.  It is the first device of its kind in the area


Officials of the Kusel Dairy Equipment Company are always on the alert for new ideas and methods to increase the quality and efficiency of their product.  Many of the workers have been with the company for many years.  William Frish, a native of Illinois but who has spent many years in Wisconsin is the shop superintendent and the company has surrounded him with men qualified in their field to turn out the best products that can be made and which are helping carry the name of Watertown far and wide, wherever dairy and cheese factory equipment is installed and used.









1964       Daniel Jr., in company with his brother Fred, purchased their father’s business in 1864.


01 20       THE “BIGGEST CHEESE”

Watertown is playing a part in the production of the “biggest cheese” ever turned out in Wisconsin which will constitute the Wisconsin exhibit at the New York World’s Fair which opens on April 22.  A special cheese vat, produced in Watertown at the plant of the Kusel Dairy Equipment Co., forms part of the production equipment which will be required to turn out the cheese.  Work on the huge cheese weighing 17 tons, the largest ever produced in the state, is due to begin tonight at the plant of Steve’s Cheese Co. in Denmark, Wis., a community of some 1,000 persons, located 12 miles from Green Bay in Brown County.    WDT



Miss Irene C. Blair, 308 Lafayette Street, was guest of honor last night at a dinner at the Legion Green Bowl to mark her retirement as bookkeeper for the D. & F. Kusel Co.  The affair was attended by 19 members of the Kusel organization, including officers and employees of the company.  Miss Blair, who began working at the Kusel Co. store in 1920, recently retired and the party in her honor was arranged for last night.  Officers of the company and her fellow workers joined in paying tribute to her long years of service to the company.    WDT



06 24       116th ANNIVERSARY SALE

The D. & F. Kusel Co., 108 West Main Street, tomorrow will begin its 116th anniversary sale which will continue through July 3.  The sale will be store-wide. The company operates Wisconsin’s oldest hardware store, now owned and managed by the fourth generation of the Kusel family, a name identified closely with the history of Watertown.


The Kusel company is among the half dozen earliest and oldest business concerns in Watertown still in operation.   WDT



12 19       NEW STORE FRONT

A beautiful and modern new front now sets off the building of the D. & F. Kusel Company hardware store.  The work on the project was recently completed with the final trim placed on the new front.  New windows flush with the front of the building have been placed in aluminum frames.  Above the windows is an attractive gold colored column of anodized aluminum. This is set off with an eight foot canopy.



   Watertown High School Industrial Exhibit event





Ad for, 1957 City Dir



06 17       109th anniversary observed   WDT



06 05       110th anniversary observed; plans for major anniversary sale.   WDT



06 11       The D. & F. Kusel Co., Wisconsin’s oldest hardware store, now in operation by the fourth generation of the Kusel Family, is observing its 111th year and will mark the event with a special storewide anniversary sale starting tomorrow.  The D. & F. Kusel Co. is among the half dozen oldest business concerns in Watertown still in operation.  The Kusel Company and name have been identified with the history and growth of Watertown as a community.  What is today the D. & F. Kusel Co. was founded here in June 1849 by Daniel Kusel Sr., and is now operated by the fourth generation of his family.  It is a record which few business concerns dare even hope to achieve, much less realize.   WDT



01 21       Plans for a shopping center in Watertown have developed to the point where it now appears almost certain that the project will materialize. The deal for the purchase of 14 1/2 acres of land on South Church Street has been completed.  The First Evangelical Church of Christ, Evangelical and Reformed, which owns the site, has closed a deal with James L. Frisch, Milwaukee shopping center developer.  The church purchased the property last August from the Kusel Dairy Equipment Company, which had owned the land for a good many years.  In addition to the 14 1/2 acres which will be utilized for the proposed shopping center, the congregation also purchased three other acres from the Kusel firm.   WDT


11 18       Edward E. Schoechert, 806 Cole Street, has rounded out 50 years of service with the D. and F. Kusel Co.  To mark the occasion, he was honored at a dinner party tendered him by the company.  This was held at Chauncey’s, Pipersville.  Attending were 21 persons, his employers, fellow employees and their husbands and wives.  Mr. Schoechert, who is sales manager in charge of hardware and major appliances, joined the company in 1913 and has been with them continuously except for a year when he served with the Armed Forces in World War I.  He has been considered one of the best hardware men in the state.   WDT




A genuine old-time calliope will be in Watertown’s July Fourth celebration parade.  The appearance of the calliope is being sponsored by the D. and F. Kusel Co., in connection with the company’s 115th anniversary as a Watertown business concern.  It is the oldest hardware store in the state.  The calliope will be drawn by four miniature ponies.



09 19       118th ANNIVERSARY

The D. & F. Kusel Co., Wisconsin’s oldest hardware store, is observing its 118th birthday and has arranged a special store-wide anniversary sale which is now on and which runs through July 1st.  The Kusel company is among the half dozen earliest and oldest business concerns in Watertown still in operation.  The Kusel Company and name have been identified with the history and growth of Watertown as a community.  What is today the D. & F. Kusel Co. was founded here in June, 1849 by Daniel Kusel Sr., and is now operated by the fourth generation of his family.  Today the store is the oldest hardware concern in Wisconsin and one of the most widely known.  Its name has long been a household word.  WDT




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04 15       Valley Bank of Watertown has purchased the Kusel [True Value] Hardware Store building, located immediately west of the bank property on West Main Street.  David Hansen, president of the bank, said the purchase is subject to the lease agreement between Frank and Sue Witt and the Kusel family, former owner of the building.  Hansen said the bank purchased the property for possible future expansion.  There are no immediate expansion plans.   WDT



03 12       Kusel's True Value Hardware Store, 108 West Main Street, Watertown, will close in the coming months, Frank and Sue Witt, owners of the business, announced today.  The business, one of the oldest in Watertown, was given authority by the Watertown City Council Tuesday evening to hold a going out of business sale starting next Monday and continuing until late May.  Witt said the decision to close the store was a difficult one but it will give him and his wife the time to place more emphasis on their lock business.  In recent years the lock business has improved substantially, and the Witts plan to continue that business in space in the Watertown Siding building four doors to the west of Kusel's building.   WDT


05 11       Valley Bank of Watertown will construct a new banking facility on its West Main Street property this summer, according to an announcement today by David M. Hanson, president.  The bank last year acquired the Kusel Hardware Store property which is located immediately to the west of the present bank building and the new facility will be located on the Kusel property.  When completed, the bank will be to the west of a park-like area on which the current bank is located.  Frank and Sue Witt, owners of the Kusel business, announced earlier this year that they would be closing the business late this month.    WDT


05 14       When Kusel's True Value Hardware Store officially ceases operations at 2 p.m. May 25 it will mean more than the closing of a simple hardware store, it will mark the end of Watertown's second oldest business.  Frank and Sue Witt, owners of the 108 West Main Street store, announced in March they were going to close the 135-year-old business.  After more than a dozen years in the business, the native Chicagoans decided they'd rather operate a small locksmith store two doors to the west at 105 North Water Street.  It was not as if the Witts wanted to close the store, Sue Witt said.  Instead, she said, it was a case where poor economic conditions forced them to make the move.   WDT


10  07      The way has been cleared for the Valley Bank of Watertown to construct a new building in Watertown.  The bank has received official notification from the Comptroller of Currency, central district office, located in Chicago, that the bank's plans are not in violation of banking regulations.  With that issue resolved, David M. Hanson, president of the bank, said the $1 million project should get under way in the near future.  Hanson said, “Within the next week demolition of the Kusel building should get under way.  That work is expected to take about six weeks.”   WDT


10  30      The back of the Kusel Building on West Main Street is shrinking by the day.  There is no interior, unless you count the floorboard and some scattered piping.  Even most of the large windows have been taken away.  Work is continuing on the demolition of the former Kusel Hardware Store, 108 West Main Street.  The razing is being performed by Bob Coughlin Contractors for Valley Bank, which plans to expand its operations at 104 West Main Street.  Once the demolition is completed, a new Valley Bank will be built in its place.  Then the current bank building will be razed for some further expansion work and the creation of a park-like area bordering the riverfront.  WDT



10 02    WDT


The ability and foresight to change with the times has enabled Kusel Equipment Co. to prosper after 150 years in business.


As the oldest business in Watertown, it continues to serve customers by responding to their needs with a diversity of new products for various markets.


The company will celebrate its 150th anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 9, with an open house, demonstrations and refreshments at its plant at 820 West St.


The business was started in 1849 as a tinsmith shop and then added a hardware store and the manufacture of equipment for the dairy industry. The company is owned by Gary R. and Jan Smith of Watertown who have been associated with the business for 26 years.


Gary R. Smith, president of the firm, said Kusel currently has four major product lines - dairy equipment, material handling equipment, food processing equipment and floor drains.


Click to enlarge











Production and sales of equipment for cheese plants have been the stalwart of the company since its early years, he explained.


Customers are worldwide with 25 to 30 percent of products exported. In recent years, projects have been undertaken in counties such as Siberia, Ukraine, Trinidad, South Korea, Australia, Poland and many Latin American countries. In sales to third world countries, Kusel has gone back into its archives and used designs considered obsolete in this country for 40 years.


Kusel manufactures equipment used in the production of traditional American cheeses such as cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack as well as cottage cheese, mozzarella, brick, Muenster and countless varieties of ethnic and regional cheeses. Cheeses are made from the milk of cows as well as other animals including goat, buffalo, yak, llama and sheep.


As cheese plants grew in size, Kusel began manufacturing larger equipment. Fifty to 100 years ago, most of the milk for cheese plants was supplied by farmers within a few miles radius. These factories processed 5,000 to 20,000 pounds of milk per day. Today, there are plants producing cheese using 3 million pounds of milk per day. This increase in production has necessitated a dramatic increase in the size of equipment. Kusel now manufactures finishing vats measuring up to 60 feet in length.


The hardware store originally imported dairy equipment from Europe and then began using tinsmithing expertise in the manufacture of its own equipment. After World War II, the use of stainless steel became commonplace, and the company's dairyware changed from tin to stainless. At the height of the dairy industry, there were over 3,000 cheese producing plants in Wisconsin. Now the number of cheese plants in the state has dwindled to less than 300.


The material handling line of Kusel was added nearly 40 years ago and includes highly sophisticated electronically controlled equipment to palletize and de-palletize cans, cases, bottles and bags. The line owes its beginning to a strong demand in the early 1960s for mechanized equipment to assist local canneries. When the number of local canning plants began to decline in the 1970s, the company broadened its base nationally and then internationally. Kusel's most successful designs are customized single units to fulfill specific and unusual customer requirements. Units palletize cases of oil in Thailand, sugar in Trinidad, paper products in the upper peninsula of Michigan, computer software in Washington, and glassware in New York.


Kusel's entry into the food processing equipment market began by using its stainless steel workmanship in the Wisconsin and regional canning companies in the 1960s and 1970s. In December of 1994, Kusel purchased the assets of Starr Inc. of Hustisford and combined the two operations in Watertown. The acquisition solidified the company's position in the food processing area.


Primary products of this division include items such as waterless peelers/scrubbers, water vapor cookers, conveyors, and size graders. The company has the ability to produce single pieces of equipment or complete production lines.


"The worldwide need for this line of equipment is very evident and the company is devoting significant effort into further developing this growth market," said Smith. Equipment is used for the manufacture of potato chips, french fried potatoes, baby carrots, onions, corn for tortilla chips, and nuts.


The idea for the manufacture of stainless steel floor drains evolved from an employee's trip to South Africa in the mid 1980s. "This product fine has continued to expand and we are the manufacturer of choice for leading companies in the dairy, meat, wine, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food processing industry. Kusel was a pioneer in using stainless steel in the production of floor drains and other related products, and has received great market recognition because of the sanitary qualities of its design. "We are equipped to rapidly respond to a customer's need for a single drain as well as large projects," noted Smith.


"The success of Kusel for 150 years has been possible only because of the company's ability to change with the times. When Daniel Kusel Sr. began the business in 1849, his unique skill of tinsmithing was very marketable. As times changed, Kusel changed, emphasizing different products. The company's continued success has been possible only by listening to customer needs and developing appropriate product lines," said Smith.


Today Kusel Equipment Co. employs approximately 50 people with the average tenure of employment 14 years. Employment longevity ranges from less than one year to 59 years.


Ronald Millin, director of manufacturing, began his career with the company in 1940 and today, 59 years later, is still a strong part of the management team.


"The dedication of Kusel employees throughout the 150 years has been the back- bone of success.  Kusel employees take pride in their workmanship, their job responsibilities, and their community," said Smith.


The company has come a long way since its beginning in downtown Watertown where tinsmith Daniel Kusel started the business on West Main Street on June 22, 1849.  Kusel was a tinsmith in Grabow, Germany, before bringing his trade to Watertown. He soon added the manufacture of copper and sheet-iron products along with the hardware business. As an offshoot of its long experience in fabricating sheet metal, the company gradually began to produce equipment for the dairy industry.


The business was incorporated as D. & F. Kusel in 1897 after Daniel's sons, Daniel H. and Fred, took it over.


The Kusel business was split in 1938 when the dairy equipment part of the business company separated from the retail store.  The retail store was purchased by Frank and Sue Witt in 1972 and closed in May 1985.  The hardware store was the oldest in continuous operation in the state of Wisconsin.


The newly-created dairy business was called Kusel Dairy Equipment Co. and headed by Daniel "Dick" O. Kusel.  At that time, the company was located at 100 W. Milwaukee St.  Members of the Kusel family sold the business in 1973.


Gary R. Smith, formerly of Peoria, IL., and Robert J. Elfline of Elmhurst, IL., purchased the assets of Kusel Dairy Equipment Co. on Oct. 31, 1973. To assist the new owners in moving the company forward, former president Clark Derleth came out of retirement and resumed an active role in the company until 1976.


After being employed by the company as vice president for one year, Smith was named president.


In 1975, the company was renamed Kusel Equipment Co. to receive broader recognition in the marketplace. Gary and Jan Smith acquired 100 percent ownership in 1977. The company was moved from 100 W. Milwaukee St. to 820 West St. in 1978. David Smith, son of Jan and Gary, joined the business in 1998 as engineering manager, and will be the second generation of Smiths to carry on the family tradition into the new millennium.


NOTE ON MILWAUKEE ST BLDG—A proposal by Lawrence Mistele to renovate the former Kusel Equipment Company building at the corner of Milwaukee and South Water streets hit some snags this morning, but officials are still planning to go ahead with the project.  Mistele has modified his proposal to construct approximately 21 apartment units in the building by seeking bonds through the authority of the Watertown Housing Authority.  Because those bonds are exempt from federal and state interest, Mistele said the savings will mean a substantial reduction in the interest rate he would have to pay and as a result would make the project feasible.   Watertown Daily Times, 01 28 1985


A perception that Watertown is “smalltown U.S.A.” is hurting its chances of receiving a luxury apartment complex, the developer of the project told the Daily Times Thursday. “The big problem is that there's this stigma attached to Watertown.  A view that it's smalltown U.S.A. and doesn't have the capability to support the higher rent structure,” Larry Mistele of Spuncast said.


Mistele has proposed converting the former Kusel Dairy Equipment building, 100 West Milwaukee Street, into a 21-unit apartment complex.  He first announced his plans in February and at that time said he hoped the renovation work would begin this summer.


But obtaining financing has been a major problem, in particular finding a financial institution which will guarantee $950,000 worth of housing authority bonds. Mistele obtained the bonds from the Watertown Housing Authority as the project's primary source of financing.   Watertown Daily Times, 09 30 1985


Significant events in Kusel Equipment history

1849 - Daniel Kusel Sr. immigrates to U.S. from Grabow, Germany, and establishes tinware fabricating business in Watertown.
1863 - Frederick Kusel (son) is captain of Watertown's Company E, 20th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.
1864 - Daniel Kusel Sr. helps establish Northwestern College, now known as Luther Preparatory School.
1864 - Brothers Fred and Daniel H. Kusel rename the company D. & F. Kusel.
1897 - D. & F. Kusel incorporates.
1903 - D. & F. Kusel begins manufacturing equipment for the dairy industry
1938 - Hardware store and manufacturing business become separate entities. Kusel Dairy Equipment incorporated.
1960 - Material handling product line is added.
1973 - Kusel family sells business to Robert J. Effline and Gary R. Smith.
1975 - Name changed to Kusel Equipment Co.
1976 - Gary R. Smith becomes president of the business.
1977 - Gary R. Smith and Jan Smith acquire 100 percent ownership.
1978 - Kusel Equipment Co. moves to new location at 820 West St.
1984 - Kusel introduces stainless steel floor drains.
1994 - Kusel acquires Starr Inc., a food processing equipment manufacturer.
1998 - David J. Smith, son of Gary and Jan, joins company as engineering manager.




Kusel Equipment has acquired Vortron Inc. of Beloit.  Vortron is a long-standing manufacturer of commercial smokehouses for large and small-scale meat processors.  Vortron, which has four employees, will remain based in Beloit.


Kusel is a 154-year-old Watertown- based manufacturer of food and vegetable processing equipment, cheese equipment and sanitary drainage systems.




Kusel Equipment employs about 30 people in its Watertown facility.  Kusel has been in business in Watertown since 1849, and manufactures cheese making equipment and floor drainage systems.  This year, the wages for those employees will be over $1.9 million.  Sixty-eight percent of Kusel employees are local to Watertown. That means Watertown is where they earn their money, and Watertown and the surrounding area is also where they spend most of their money.   Glacial Heritage Development Partnership and the Jefferson County Economic Development Consortium




Kusel steps up to help at Watertown High School


With help from local industry, Watertown High School's manufacturing courses are getting a makeover for the 2018-19 school year.


Over the past 18 months, work has been completed to finalize curriculum, acquire board approval, select equipment and secure funding to update next year's classes. Courses next year will be welding, machine tool and metal fabrication.


Jesse Domer, Watertown High School's manufacturing instructor, said, "Partners like Kusel Equipment are making updates to our welding and machining courses possible. These updates are providing better educational training for our students at WHS."


The program has been soliciting donors over the past nine months to raise the $60,000 price tag to accomplish these changes. Kusel Equipment Co., a Watertown business, recently donated $6,000, making it a "Welding Booth Sponsor" for this initiative.


"Educational opportunities can take shape in many different ways," Dave Smith, CEO of Kusel Equipment Co., said. "Kusel is committed to helping those Watertown High School students explore a future path either in a trade or a specific manufacturing career that suits their interests."


As the oldest company in Watertown, Kusel Equipment Co. has a deep and distinguished history that has only continued to flourish since its inception in 1849.


With beginnings as a tinsmith that grew into one of the leading cheese equipment makers in North America, to starting the stainless steel drain industry in the United States, Kusel Equipment Co. continues to deliver on its promise of quality products coupled with superior customer service. Today, Kusel continues its heritage of designing and manufacturing all of its products where the company was founded -- Watertown.


Jeremy Walker, vice president of manufacturing for Kusel Equipment Co., said, "We are excited to be partnering with the Watertown Unified School District, especially with our investment to expose students to a solid welding experience. We've all learned that an advanced, traditional educational path isn't for everyone. Giving students other options for their futures will provide them with the tools to succeed."     WDT





Click to enlarge


        Exterior c1910              Interior c1920s   



DANIEL H. KUSEL JR. OBIT, 1838 – 1916           The Death Roll

WG 04 20 1916

A Pioneer Business Man of Watertown


On Saturday morning, April 15, 1916, Daniel H. Kusel, president of the D. & F. Kusel Co. and vice-president of the Merchants National Bank, died at the home of his son, Louis Kusel, 216 North Church Street of Bright’s disease, with which he had been confined to his bed for less than a week.


Mr. Kusel was a son of the late Daniel Kusel, who founded the Kusel hardware business in Watertown on June 26, 1849, which he finally passed over to his sons, Daniel H. and Fred Kusel.  He was born in Doenitz, Mecklenburg, Germany, on February 28, 1838, and came to Watertown with his parents in 1849, and he learned the tinner trade in his father’s shop.


In company with his brother Fred he purchased his father’s business in 1864 and he was personally connected with it up to the time of his death.  Mr. Kusel was one of the founders of the Merchants National Bank, and was its first cashier, and at the time of his death was vice president of that bank.  He was connected at various times with many of the other business concerns of this city, and always contributed librally to everything that tended to advance the interests of Watertown. 


He was twice married, his first wife being Sophia Thiessenhusen, to whom he was married in September, 1866, who died in 1873.


He married Christina Huether-Oestreich, Nov. 29, 1874.


He was the father of six children, five of whom survive;

Louis Kusel, Daniel Kusel, Watertown,

Ernst Kusel, British Columbia;

George Kusel,

Mrs. Louis Kramer, New York City.


One stepson, Max G. Kusel, Watertown, also survives.


There are nine grandchildren,

Edwin, Louise, William, children of Louis Kusel;

Daniel, Helen, Robert and a girl baby, children of Daniel Kusel;

Harold Kramer, son of Mrs. Louis Kramer;

Erwin Kusel, son of Max G. Kusel.


The remains of Mr. Kusel were laid at rest in Oak Hill cemetery Tuesday afternoon.  Services were held at the home at 2 o’clock, the Rey. Henry Link of St. Paul’s Episcopal church officiating.  A quartette composed of Mr. and Mrs. William Sproesser, Mrs. Bertha Feld and Edward L. Schempf sang the service. The pallbearers were directors of the Merchants National Bank, being Messrs. John Habhegger, W. A. Beurhaus, William Hartig, Ferd. Schmutzler, C. E. Frey, and Max A. Rohr.


In the death of Mr. Kusel this city has lost one of its most highly esteemed residents.  He was identified at all times with the enterprises that were put in force for the development of the city, actively cooperating in concerted movements of the best citizens for the sterling expansion of the city.  Of a quiet unobtrusive manner, he was a man of acknowledged foresight and force, experienced and eminently successful in business affairs, conciliatory in temperament, in character a man of integrity, strongly disposed toward justice and good will to his fellow man.  He has gone to his final reward, but he will live in the memory of his friends for many a day.  His noble character, his influence for good will survive him.




Frederick Kusel, 1839-1916

Profile of, Civil War veteran



August F. Kusel Obit, 1843-1934


August F. Kusel, member of an old Watertown family and one of the few remaining civil war veterans in this section, died January 29, 1934, at his home, 414 North Water Street.  Death claimed him at 7:30 o'clock and was due to infirmities of age.


Mr. Kusel was the son of the late Daniel Kusel, founder of the present day D & F Kusel Co.  He was born in Domnitz, Mecklenberg, Germany on March 29, 1843 and came to America in 1849. The family settled in Watertown and had been his home ever since with the exception of a few years which he spent in Nebraska.


His services in the civil war started on August 18, 1862 with his enlistment as a sergeant in Co. E 20th Wisconsin regiment, volunteer infantry, which was Watertown's own company.  He was wounded in the historic battle of Prairie Grove and was returned to the north and spent three months in a Madison hospital.  He was honorably discharged on April 25, 1863.


Worked for Father


Following his discharge he returned to Watertown and went to work for his father in his tin-shop in West Main Street where he continued work for a short period.  Then he went west and established a general store in Logan, Neb., where he served as postmaster for a number of years.  In 1872 he returned to Watertown where he resumed his work as a tin-smith until his retirement some years ago.


Mr. Kusel's wife, formerly Margareta Heller, preceded him in death some years ago.  They were married in the west.


Four children survive, Mrs. Edward Luther and William Kusel of Hooper, Neb., Mrs. William Meschke of Rochester, Minn., and Mrs. Henry Hilbert who resides at the Kusel home in this city.  There are five grandchildren.


Mr. Kusel was the last surviving member of his family. He was a St. Mark's Lutheran Church and was one of the few remaining members of the O. D. Pease post, G. A. R. when it disbanded a few years ago. With his death, there remain but two civil war veterans in Watertown, Sebastian Blonigan and Joseph Haberkorn.


Recalled Old Comrade


A short time before his death, Mr. Kusel recalled that as far as he knew only one of his old civil war comrades who served in the same company with him was still alive. He was August Schmutzler of Beaver Dam.


Mr. Kusel was a picturesque man. He was keen and alert despite his great age and enjoyed having visitors and callers. He enjoyed talking over old times and until his eyes began to fail him he was an avid reader. In recent years he had been confined to his home but always manifested a great interest in community events.


The funeral will be held Wednesday afternoon from their home where services will be conducted at 1:30 o'clock followed by services in St. Mark's Lutheran church, the Rev. Julius Klingmann officiating. Burial was in the Lutheran cemetery.


The body was taken to the Nowack funeral home and then returned to the home where friends called to pay their respects up to the time of the service.



Louis H. Kusel Obit, 1866-1947


Portrait omitted


Louis H. Kusel, president of the D. & F. Kusel Co., one of Watertown’s oldest and best known business concerns, died Saturday, June 7, 1947 at his home, 216 North Church Street (Brewery tunnels recalled). Death was due to a heart attack.


Mr. Kusel had been at his daily work on Friday. Saturday he did not feel well and his wife prevailed upon him to remain at home, which he did. His death came suddenly and unexpectedly.


Born in Watertown, Mr. Kusel was a son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Kusel. He was born Sept. 28, 1866. He attended the public schools here and also Northwestern College where he enrolled in the business course. Later he attended a Milwaukee business college and then, upon his return, went into the hardware store here and became associated with the business bearing the family name.  At the time of his death he was president of the company.


Mr. Kusel was married to Miss Margaret Hartig on June 19, 1901. She survives, as do a daughter, Louise, at home, and two sons, Edwin and William, also of this city. There is one granddaughter. Mr. Kusel was also survived by three brothers, Daniel (Dick) Kusel, Watertown; Ernst Kusel, Ashland, Ore, and George Kusel, New Rochelle, N. Y.


Mr. Kusel was a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church and the Watertown Association of Commerce.


One of the city’s conservative business leaders, Mr. Kusel brought many of the old business virtues into his daily dealings with the store's trade.  He maintained personal contact with customers and was always on hand to greet them whenever he was in the store.  He spent most of his time there and gave personal attention to directing the business.  He was a good business man and believed a store should stand back of its goods and services.


Over the years he was active in the life of the community and a leader in Watertown business circles. He liked Watertown and its people and was always interested in promoting the welfare of the city and its progressive expansion and development.


As president of the store, he was looking forward to the time when it would celebrate its centennial, which would have been in about another two years, for the Kusel company stems from one of the oldest business establishments in the city.


There were many who paid tribute to Mr. Kusel and his fair dealing as a business man when news of his death spread throughout the city.


The funeral was held from the Schmutzler Funeral Home, the Rev. William F. Chamberlain, rector of St. Paul's Church, officiated.  Interment was in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Kusel Home

216 North Church Street


Land grants were given in 1848 in Watertown with the provision that the new land owner commit himself "to erect a good respectable house on the property" within a year. The original home at 216 North Church Street, owned by the Kusel family for 105 years, was built as a small home in 1849 and purchased by Daniel Kusel in 1870 from a Robert Howell. Miss Louise Kusel, present occupant, is the fourth generation Kusel to occupy the home.


Daniel Kusel was a tinsmith, born in Mecklenberg, Germany, in 1838. Shortly after his arrival he opened a stove and tinware business in 1849. In 1864 his sons, Daniel and Frank purchased the business and expanded it into the Kusel Hardware.


The original small house was greatly expanded by the Kusels with three large rooms across the front, originally the parlor, the every day living room, and the room for guests. A great deal of the woodwork has now been taken out of the home; a "widow's walk" was added to the top of the house many years ago.


The old roof line can be seen inside the attic area. Today the home is a large 13 room brick home with high ceilings throughout.


The first Daniel Kusel was a founder of St. Mark's Church and a very active member of the planning board that built Northwestern College.  Frank Kusel, one of the sons, built his own home at 302 North Church Street.  He was mayor of Watertown in 1872.


In property adjacent to both the Kusel homes are the underground cellars that were used to age cheese and beer in early Watertown.








Frank and Sue Witt, the last owners, were good community minded people.  The store was done in by pricing from big box stores which they couldn’t compete with.


As a kid I spent many days in the sporting good dept. in Kusel,s. Just looking at the different things I could not afford to buy.. I also would do the same at Saniter Sport store, South Third & Jones St.


Got my roller skates here. I remember the day!!!


Santa Claus & Lionel trains at Christmas


I remember all the wood drawers full of every size and kind of nuts, bolts, screws, nails etc


Santa always sat in his chair in that back room, great memory!







Beal & Torrey building became site for Kusel Dairy Equipment

Louis Cordes, employee

Luther grinder display




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin