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It is often the case that individuals who excel as lower-level employees in one business will leave that business and start their own enterprise (unless, of course, there exists a non-compete agreement).  Such is the case of George W. Stark and Erwin K. Wetzel, both of whom worked for Kingan & Co. Meat Packing prior to forming their own meat packing company named Stark, Wetzel & Co.

Stark, Wetzel & Co. produced a variety of meats, ranging from the bacon advertised above, to the “Grand Duchess Steak,” which the company claimed could go from the freezer to the plate in three minutes.  Stark, Wetzel & Co. was also involved in promotion of the Indianapolis 500.  In 1952, and for years to come, they sponsored the Stark & Wetzel Rookie of the Year Award.  The winner the award was given $500 and a year’s supply of meat from Stark & Wetzel.  George W. Stark also served on the original Indianapolis 500 Festival Board.

Stark & Wetzel closed its Indianapolis location at 502 W. Ray Street in 1974 when it was sold to Rath Meat Packing of Waterloo, Iowa.  Wetzel died the next year, and Stark died about fifteen years later.  Both are buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.

29 responses to “Sunday Adverts: Stark, Wetzel, & Co.”

  1. d m shea says:

    JESSICA: Your stark/Wetzel piece kicked in a couple memories–one dim –in the era when press agents/PR types were considered pond scum in city rooms of media, SW had one whose name is almost in my brain who was a welcomed visitor . Not that he passed out freebies–he just was truthful, creative and fit the Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee template–wish I could come up with his name but maybe someone dating back to 40-50 era will. And George Stark ,wife Maribel in same era were big in civic,Shrine, startup of 500 festival–I think he ran for Mayor but maybe not–She, however helped create the first guild to help the struggling start-up Indy Zoo .

    But it is your mention of Kingan that intrigues me historically. Sometime in the last 30 years or so a 3 generation wonderful old home on l3th, just east of Central address dim, became the subject of a nationally publicized auction (I publicized it for auction guru Jim Marsh and he would be a great source if you want to pursue. It was known as the Shaw-Brenner mansion, housed treasures dating back to when Adrian of Utrecht was candidate for Pope. It dated back to an Irish man John Maxwelll Shaw who immigrated here to head up a packing house and Kingan may have been it. Irish gentry on one side, he married Blanche Burkhardt,,, daughter of a wealthy Cincinnati family and dating back to Prussian nobility–and their only daughter also Blanche Maxwell was a local deb whose every tea, fancy ball was recorded in print–all archived in photo albums. It was a frozen treasure in time and the auction drew wire service coverage over US–Jane Pauley cut her TV teeth doing a piece for Ch.8 cuddled up in an over-sized antique rocker found in the attic.

    Blanche was the last heiress–married,divorced and finally wed to what was said to be a New Orleans bar bouncer, whose own less tastful collecting mania filled the house with black velvet paintings, classic cars, even a heliocopter as he lived on after her death. (I think there is s till a Blanche Burkhardt Shaw trust–you would be able to get info there and/or from James A. Marsh as it was one of the biggest most-publicized estates of his long career. Lottsa stories in Star archives but John is an early Indiana historic figure worth researching, likewise the Burkhardt side in Cincy historical society. (Footnote: It is said that when kerosene was developed to replace pricey whale oil for lighting, the Burkhardt family invested with an Eastern unknown named Rockefeller marketing a “useless” by-product–gasoline.)

    All FYI

  2. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Donna,
    .
    George W. Stark was active in the Republican Party, both locally and nationally, but I don’t think he ever ran for Mayor of Indianapolis. I knew his daughter, Dale Stark, when I was growing up. Their estate was on several acres at about 4700 on Kessler Boulevard North Drive, west of Crooked Creek.
    .
    The home to which you refer in your second paragraph is 1306 Park Avenue. Although it may have been known as the Shaw-Brenner Mansion at the time of the Marsh auction in the 1970s, its original owner was a more recognizable name in Indianapolis history. “Forest Home” was the residence of Ovid Butler. He built the home in 1848 and lived there until his death in 1881. Besides the land on which his personal home sat, he of course owned the land east of it on which the first campus of North Western Christian University was built.
    .
    John M. Shaw bought the property from Ovid’s son in 1891 and lived there until his death in 1924. Urban Brenner bought the property from Shaw’s widow Blanche and lived there until his death in 1972. It was probably Brenner’s death that prompted the auction. It was in terrible disrepair. The home sat vacant for many years until it was rescued by preservationist and appraiser, J. Scott Keller.
    .
    Sharon

  3. marilyn wilson says:

    my grandfather worked for Stark Wetzel .I have a couple photos of him with honors at a dinner.he took cold beans for his lunch and would bring home spiced ham a lot of it. his name was VIRGIL DEMOSS a butcher

  4. David Denny says:

    My dad, both before & after serving in the Korean War, worked for a company close to Stark & Wetzel called M.A. Delph. It was called a hide house. Do you have any information on that firm? I think they closed when they lost an imminent domain battle over I-70.

    Much thanks!

  5. Nancy Hendrickson says:

    George Stark, I believe, had a steakhouse restaurant in Lebanon, Indiana in the late 70s. Does anyone remember the name of it and the years that it operated?

  6. Steve Mourer says:

    d m shea,
    There are three individuals who worked in PR and Promotions at SW at the time you are referring to. They were Richard (Dick) Krusier (?), Paul Brooks and Richard (Dick) Mourer. All were active in community affairs for SW – IMS Rookie of the Year aka The Fastest Wiener – They started the ICM Haunted House in 1963 – They also won awards for their floats in the 500 Parade. George Stark did open a Steak House on the north side, but I can not remember the name.

  7. Jim McBride says:

    My Mother. Kathryn McBride, was George Stark’s private secretary from about 1947 until about 1959. I had dinner at the Stark’s as a youngster. I believe at the time he lived on Kessler Blvd. Not sure. I joined the Marine Corps in 1956, helped by the mentoring of Joe Buscemi, a Marine veteran and executive at Stark, Wetzel. Mr. Stark graciously bought me a plane ticket to Indy while I was based at Camp Pendleton, (and, thankfully, back to California). Both Mr. Stark and Mr. Wetzel were extremely kind to my mother during a difficult illness. Thank you for your interest in historic Indy. Jim

  8. Jeff Caudell says:

    I bought a Stark & Wetzel lard can at an auction today. Probably few people my age have ever heard of Stark & Wetzel, at least out here in Hancock county. However, my grandmother, Emma Federspiel, worked for the Stark family as a house keeper after her and my mother immigrated to the US. My mother, Elizabeth, worked at the hot dog plant. My mom and grandma were “misplaced persons” after the war. What a mess but that’s another story. I believe that the Stark family sponsored my aunt and uncle a few years later when they immigrated here. I always heard good things about George Stark and his family. I got to meet him once at a surprise birthday party for grandma. I don’t remember for sure but it may have been her 90th birthday, which would have been 1985. Maybe it was her 85th, in 1980? Regardless, my grandmother was very happy to see him and it was nice to meet the man who had been so kind and helpful to my family.

    Jeff

  9. Erwin Kuehrmann says:

    I remember my Mom buying their sausage when I was growing up. Weren’t they located on the southside of Indianapolis? Did they get bought out ? Bob’s to-your-door Pizza used their sausage to make their pizza.

  10. JOHN H. CERULLO says:

    Good evening Marine, I just saw your post and earlier in the day A friend of mine told me about a friend of hers that she was a Wetzel and I told her that I knew a STARK, He and I were MARINES TOGETHER in HAWAII 1963-64 and he married a LILLY while in the service. i have tried to find him over the years…

    I just thought I would give it a shot to see if you might have known him as well? Thanks and have a good one, for now and till then.

    JOHN
    LCPL USMC

  11. Bob Klein says:

    I was employed at Stark-Wetzel from 1958 to 1965
    I was the head of Payroll and accounts receivable
    It was my 1st real job.
    I worked for a gentleman by the name of Jack Sullivan {a very good boss}
    We had a fast pitch softball team that played at Metro softball stadium.
    On that team was Bill York, who ran the stat crew for the Pacers-Colts and Indy 500
    Also was Paul Furminsky, who keep the clock for the Pacers, for many years.
    Both were employed by Stark-Wetzel
    I gave worked for the Colts for 45 years, keeping the down Markeron the sidlines (Chain Crew)
    This a little trivia

  12. Anonymous says:

    4.5

  13. Jim Broyles says:

    I worked for SW close to their closing, and then for Rath for 10 years,All in their quality control departments, I enjoyed this
    period immensely, Working first for Mack Grey and later for Larry Greene with Rath. Worked closely with Jerry Silence in the
    Q.C. Areas, I later retired from Smithfield Foods, Cincinnati. The meat industry has made a very interesting career.

  14. Ray Burns says:

    , I was hired at the Frankfort, Indiana plant in 1953. I was promoted to supervisor of the Sliced luncheon meat department in 1955 and moved to Indianapolis Gardner Lane plant where I had several promotions first assistant to Joe Weber who was plant manager He was promoted to General plant manager of all three plants and I became Plant Manager of the Gardner Lane plant I stayed with Stark,Wetzel until 1973. I moved to Texas becoming a spice and seasoning salesman , mostly to the meat industry. I am still active in sales. One thing different I remember being told that Mr. Stark and Mr, Wetzel worked for Armour Meat packing co. At there Indianapolis plant and left there to start there own business.
    I have stayed in contact with Joe weber, Joe Dugan Robert Hyde Carson Smith and others who worked at Stark Wetzel .I also stayed in contact with Mack Gray until his death in Georgia at 101 years old.Bill Jaus, Don Collins , Jerry Hiland were supervisors at Gardner Lane ,Lowell young and Leroy Fischer were hired after Hygrade plant closed. Also Dick Douty was in was in charge of payroll when iworked there.

    The 1970,s were tough years for meat companys with older plants many went outr of business

  15. raymond burns says:

    I Think you are refering to Richard Stark who was adapted son oF George Stark I was told he passed away sometime in the early 70’s

  16. raymond burns says:

    I think it was named GEORGES STEAK HOUSE

  17. raymond says:

    Jeff, I was plant manager of the Hot Dog Plant I remember Lisa Federspiel very well talked to her personally many times , i have a picture of all the day employees Lisa is in the front row.If you would like a copy I would be happy to send you one.Send me your mailing address.

  18. Anonymous says:

    2

  19. Allen Ideus says:

    I was hired as a peddler truck salesman ,strait out of the Army in1971 . 22 yrs old . Worked hard & paid well. So many good memories of the company , I was the last peddler truck in Illinois 1976. Remained in sales for various full line food service companies . NON COULD MATCH THE OVERALL MEAT QUALITY. Those were Great days .

  20. raymond Burns says:

    The name of the Steak House was Georges Steak House.

  21. raymond burns says:

    Delph Hide co. was at corner of West ave and West Ray street your correct, I 70 caused several business to close along Ray street.

  22. Rober Ewbank says:

    Would like to know what was history of Gene Turner at Stark & Wetzel

  23. David Townsend says:

    Just had a very large S & W lard can given to me a few days ago, and it brought back many memories………not because I worked for S & W, but because I worked at Rath meat packing, and spent 99% of my time in the really old S & W brick machine rooms and power house right next to the newer, more modern facility. I have some great stories stored up from the two years I worked there as a motive power engineer, along with some of the very best people you could ever want as friends, most gone now. People like Cleo Nickels, Tom Cummings, Denver Helton, Bill Parker, Bill Graves (an exceptional person), Jerry Hancock, Paul Owensby (of the singing Owensby family), and a blue million others whose names I can’t recall. I have stories told to me first and secondhand about S & W and strange and hilarious events that took place there, and personal experiences with the REALLY old ammonia compressors and equipment that would make your hair stand up. I started work there in 1981, and was told it was the best, most secure job in the state of Indiana, not that it paid like other big automotive factories or Allison’s, but that their benefits were so much better than anybody else, which was true……..but the other main selling point to employment was the fact that Rath said that, in the whole history of the meatpacking company from the time it was founded as Armour Star, to then becoming S & W, and finally to being Rath, that there had never been a strike or a layoff, EVER, and not a single person had lost his job for those reasons. I was so excited to finally have a secure job………..it lasted two years, Rath declared bankruptcy on 13 facilities across the country (our plant at Indy was reportedly the only one still profitable) and the doors were closed. Later the property was sold to Hebrew National. So much for security in this crazy world.

  24. Raymond Burns says:

    Mr. Ewbank, Mr Stark took Gene under his wing, I don’t know at what age, from college Gene was in the army and was in Germany I think a 2nd Lt. He came in the business as a sales manager soon promoted to Vice President and then President. until company was turned over to Rath . He passed away during heart surgery 2 or 3 years later. He had one son Named George.
    I am fairly certain he was a grad of University of Illinois.

  25. Donna Russo says:

    John, I too have wondered about Richard Stark over the years. I am the Donna of the Donna and Colleen that hung out with you two. Have you had any luck in finding out what happened to Richard. I’m quite sure he is no longer living, but seriously doubt that he died in the early 70’s as stated above.

  26. Burr Snider says:

    I’ve read all these wonderful comments about George Stark and Stark & Wetzel with great personal interest. Maribel (my father’s sister) and George were my aunt and uncle. They both treated me as a son and I loved them deeply. As very young boys, my late brother, Steve, and I spent summers at the Kessler Blvd house, and then in later years at the Stark’s summer place on Lake Wawasee. They had four daughters — Mary Lou, Marjorie, Marcia and Dale, of whom only Mary Lou and Dale are still alive. Marjorie was closest to me in age and we were great friends. She worked for the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce for years and was a lovely woman. I speak to Mary Lou regularly and am also in touch with Dale, both of whom I adore. George and Maribel adopted Richard and his brother Donnie I think in the late Fifties. They were good kids who had lived a rough life and I liked them both, but I don’t think they were ever comfortable in the family. Richard was an honorably discharged Marine, as somebody mentioned. Both are deceased but I don’t know when they died.

    I worked at S & W for a couple of summers when I was in college. I worked in the Utility section, which meant that I could be sent to fill in anywhere. It was very hard work and the production lines moved swiftly and you had to keep up. I remember my first shift on my first day, which was over the Fourth of July weekend and extremely busy. I was put in a freezer locker to move beef sides around on overhead trolleys and cover them in canvas “shrouds.” I had just come up from Florida and was wearing loafers in that freezing cold. I think it was the longest night I ever spent. I tried to not let it get out that I was related to George, but a few guys on the Beef Kill floor found out, and to them I was always “George’s boy.” They weren’t malicious, just having fun with it.

    Gene Turner was George’s protege. I think he was running things when I was there, but George was always the final decision-maker. Gene was among scores of young guys that George sent through college. George was a tough guy and you definitely didn’t want to piss him off, as I did on several occasions, but he was also a soft touch, and I’m sure there are a lot of people around Indianapolis who would attest to that. The last time I saw him was Thanksgiving weekend of, I think, 1989, when I was in Indy chasing some story for the San Francisco Examiner. I fixed Thanksgiving dinner for George and Maribel and we had a terrific time reminiscing. He had long since lost S & W, and having paid off every penny of the company’s debt (against all advice) he wasn’t in great financial shape. He wasn’t in great health, either, but as always, he was in good spirits.

    Maribel Stark lived to be 95 and was beloved by everyone who knew her. I tried to call her once a week over the years, and she always welcomed my calls except when the Pacers were playing. “Honey, call me back,” she’d say. “I’m in the middle of a game.” She was crazy about Ron Artest (sp?). I used to tell her he was one of the NBA’s baddest boys, but she didn’t want to hear it.

    One other quick anecdote. George was big in the Republican party, both in Indiana and nationally. (We had huge differences politically but it never came between us.) One night while I was working at S & W, probably summer of 1962, I was at the Kessler Blvd house and everyone else was away. The phone rang and the operator said, “Long distance for Mister George Stark.” I said he wasn’t at home and could I take a message? On the other end of the line I heard a very distinctive and recognizable voice say, “Operator, just say Dick Nixon called and I’ll try again another time.”

  27. Raymond Burns says:

    Burr, i worked for Stark,Wetzel from 1953 until 1974 from 1960 until i left I was plant manager of the Gardner Lane Plant. I did not have a lot of direct contact with George. he did give me 500 race tickets for every race from 1960 until I left.
    My nephew was in same classes with Mary Lou at North Central high school .

  28. Hope Wagner says:

    Hello Mr Burns,
    Would you perhaps recall Doris Norris? She worked at S&W in the mid 1950s. She married in 1956 and perhaps quit then or maybe quit closer to 1959 when my husband was born. Sadly, she died of cancer in 1963 and my husband know very little about her. When my husbands father died recently, we found many photos of folks working there but none were labeled except for Paul Kuntz and Ramona Lee. I know that was so long ago….but any help would be appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Hope Wagner

  29. Ray Burns says:

    To Hope Wagner, I knew a Violet Norris, I remember a Doris Glitze , her husband worked at Stark,Wetzel a truck driver i think His name was Kenny. Violet may still be living but i don’t have a phone number or address I never knew Doris’s maiden name. The name Paul Kuntz rings a bell but I did not know him.I worked all my years at the Gardner Lane Plant , Sorry i have not looked at adverts sooner,
    My boss Joe Weber passed away in California Nov. 29 . His funeral was last week at O’Riley funeral home in Indy , he was 92,
    Hope i was helpful.
    Ray Burns
    San Antonio,Tx

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