Business: J. I. Holcomb Manufacturing Company
Year of this Advertisement: 1939
Location:  Barth Avenue and Palmer Street, former home of the Leedy Manufacturing Company (located there from 1903-1930)
Neighborhood: Bates-Hendricks Neighborhood
What they did: Developed and sold cleaning products
Years of operation: 1896-1964 (purchased for $10 million by Premier Industrial Corporation)
Notable: J.I. Holcomb was also part owner of Holcomb & Hoke, and vice president of the Board of Trustees for Butler University.
Additionally:  In 1953, J.I. Holcomb and his wife donated $250,000 to Butler University to build an observatory, which is still a popular Indianapolis destination.  Have you ever been to the Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium?

Holcomb & Hoke are also famous for the Butter-Kist Popcorn Machine, featured in the HI Article “Indianapolis Collected: Antique Ad Show Brings Back Indy’s Wonder Years.”

10 responses to “Sunday Adverts: J. I. Holcomb Manufacturing Company”

  1. basil berchekas jr says:

    Been to the observatory and gardens several times (by car and by bike); one feels one isn’t even IN Indianapolis in this beautiful location!

  2. LaRue Bennett says:

    Jessica, thanks for highlighting J.I. Holcomb. Since my father worked for Mr. Holcomb for 45 years, I am increasingly fascinated by his life. When we have out of town visitors, we usually take them to Butler. In addition to the Observatory, he also donated the Holcomb Gardens. the Holcomb Carillon (in memory of his wife), and the Holcomb Science Building. In fact, I understand that his entire estate went to Butler after his passing, including the Company and his residence and grounds on Cold Springs Road. (Now the location of condominiums) Butler used to conduct classes there before it was sold. So I imagine his gifts to Butler through the year totalled in the millions of dollars. His life was a true rags to riches story, but he continued to be concerned for others throughout his life.

  3. Natalie says:

    Love learning the stories behind the people for whom places are named! Thank you, Mr. Holcomb, for using your money so generously, and thank you, BU, for continually making the observatory an interesting and educational place to visit!

  4. Steve Anderson says:


    Uncle Irv (James Irving Holcomb) was my Great Uncle, my mothers uncle. Most of my summers were spent on Cold Springs Rd. enjoying everything on the estate from the pool to the White River. I remember many evening card games (poker) in the dinning room held for his many friends including his partner Fred Hoke. JI’s wife Musetta would sit at the end of the table hiding many of her winnings (chips) in her lap. When JI would ask “how you doing down there Musetta?” She would reply, “don’t worry about me big boy, just deal em.” She was a winner.

    Many. many warm memories. Those good times included many visits to his Biscane Bay home in Miami (now South Beach). I drove him to the Miami Airport in March of 1962. He died that night after dinner at home on Cold Springs Road. Just prior to leaving he donated that home to the Methodist Church. I used to attend service with him and sit next to S.S. Kresske (spelling?). He may have had some idea that his failing health would prevent him from returning. He had also reluctantly sold his yacht, “The Musetta”. He loved to fish in and around the Florida Keys.

    Thanks for your kind word about Uncle Irv. or Uncie.


  5. LaRue Bennett says:

    Steve, Thanks for your reply. You brought back more memories of the Holcombs. You might enjoy my reply to the article that had a picture of their home on Cold Springs Road. It is at this site: (Historic Indianapolis Flashback Fridays – Mary) Since Dad had worked for him at his estate before moving to the factory, I was able to meet them several times there, and later get to see him at the company as well. Mrs. Holcomb gave my brother, who was mentally handicapped, a large savings bond when he was born. They said that Dad was like a son to them. He also went to the Florida home 2 or 3 times to landscape their yard. While there, Mr. Holcomb took him to Havana, Cuba. We still have the hotel key from the Havana hotel! So good to hear from you. I have often wondered if there were any family members around. I knew they had one child who died young. Another great story about Mr. Holcomb: During the Depression, he managed to keep everyone at the company on the job. They had to take a cut in pay, but didn’t lose their jobs. Best wishes, LaRue

  6. Vincent Long says:

    Many, Many years ago my parents built their home on Knollton Road about a mile or so from the Holcomb Estate. As kids, my younger brother and I would “sneak” onto the Holcomb property to walk through the beautiful gardens. The gardens, along and through a ravine, lead past a small cottage which I believe housed a pool table/recreation area for guests. At our age, we though it was more like a house that Hansel and Gretel might live in!! The path lead on down to White River where a small cave or grotto was located; very scary. The fact that we kids should not have been there made it all the more magical and exciting; we were probably 8 – 10 years old in the late 50’s. I do not know if the Holcombs knew we were there and just let us wonder in awe at the beauty but the adventure will always be a memory I will not forget.

  7. Kathie spitler kellner says:

    Uncle Irv was my grandfather’s (Loyd Spitler Sr) uncle and was my great-great uncle. He sailed his yacht, which he bought from John Rockefeller, from Florida to the Houston Yacht Club in the mid-1950’s and our entire Spitler family had a reunion cruise together. His sister Alameta married Walter Spitler, my great great grandfather. Such wonderful memories of our family day on that yacht, cruising on Galveston Bay. My cousins leased a vintage home this year that is located within walking distance of the Houston Yacht Club and I have so many fond memories every time I view it from their front porch. I’ve often wondered if that yacht is still afloat!

  8. Tina says:

    I would welcome any insight on what the Holcomb Mansion looked like on the inside before it was split up. We purchased it a couple years ago and have been very curious as to what is original to the house if anything. I would very much appreciate feedback and would welcome anyone into the house whom could help.

  9. abxm321 says:

    Vincent Long, the small cottage on the property you mentioned was known as the Billiard House and remained there even after the condos were built and apparently it was for community use. When I lived at Holcomb a neighbor told me the Billiard house was destroyed by a fallen tree sometime in the mid ’90’s, and the board elected not to have it rebuilt. In the ravine some piers are still standing where a walking bridge once spanned it.

  10. Crystal Collins Christiansen says:

    I grew up on W.44th down the road from Cold Spring Rd. When I was 9 or 10 my friends and I would sneak Into the Holcomb estate and see that cave and the Japanese gardens and the Indian to Tom pole and other treasures from around the world. It was very warm that day and I went to the estate front door and rang the bell thinking the maid would my surprise Mr, Holcomb answered. I asked for a glass of water.He came back with the water. He said he hoped we enjoyed the gardens ❤️That was 74 years ago

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