An Oral History: The Ackerman Jewelry Store

by

Brandon Milner

www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/go567/students/bmilner

This webpage project was created for a graduate gemstones and gemology course in the 2010 spring semester at Emporia State University. The assignment was to practice webpage creation, as well as present knowledge on the history and characteristics of the Ackerman Jewelry Store in Marysville, Kansas as told by the former owners.


Table of Contents


Introduction

The Ackerman Jewelry store was an important aspect to the community of Marysville, Kansas for providing fine jewelry, silver, and clocks. The original store was open for 105 years before being sold to another party a few years ago who will continue selling jewelry in Marysville. Today the jewelry store is called 4 Carats.

Ackerman Jewelry store sold an assortment of products to the public depending on the current trends of the time. Fine gemstones were always found in the store while other items such as sterling silver came from time to time in the business. Jewelry repair was always part of the store dealing with mainly rings and clocks. This report will outline the general history and products of the store while being open.

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Background

The information for this report came from two jewelers involved with this historic family-owned jewelry business. Information is first-hand and was gathered with few face-to-face and telephone interviews conducted during the month of April 2010. Mr. Norman Nork and Mr. Robert Nork were the main participants who provided much of the account. Mr. Norman Nork is the author's great uncle while Mr. Robert Nork is the author's grandfather.

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History

The Ackerman Jewelry store opened its doors in 1893 in Marysville, Kansas as a jewelry store/optometrist along with a film shop. It was opened by H. Ackerman in a small framed building in downtown Marysville. The main building where the store still stands today was built after 1893 and opened in 1901. H. Ackerman had worked under another jeweler in Fairbury, Nebraska until he decided to open his own shop. This shop mainly revolved around watch repair and sale. The store was ran by H. Ackerman until 1942.
Early 1900s Store courtesy of Norman Nork

1930's Store courtesy of Norman Nork
The shop was then ran by H.A. Nork and Linna Nork. Linna Nork was daughter of the Ackerman Jewelry store founder, H. Ackerman. H.A. and Linna had two sons, Robert and Norman who started to work in the shop immediately following high school. Their work was interrupted by the war, and each had to leave work until 1946. H.A. and Linna Nork ran the jewelry store until 1974, and that is when Robert and Norman took over the store and continued to operate until the store was sold in 1998.

This is a picture of the store on its 100th anniversary in 1993. At left is Norman Nork and Robert Nork on the right. This image and caption is from Wilson (1993) and the Marysville Advocate newspaper,
www.marysvilleonline.net.

Three family generations ran the store over its historic 105 years in business. This was one of the oldest continuous businesses in the history of Marysville. As mentioned before since 1998 up until the present day the store is now called 4 Carats Jewelry, skyways.lib.ks.us/towns/Marysville/mcocbusinesses/4carats/4carats.html.

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Products in the Store

The Ackerman Jewelry store has carried an assortment of products over the years. When the store first opened in the 1893, it was mainly a watch and clock store. Other items at that time included cuff links, tie pins, watch fobs and stick-pins. While some of these items are rarely used today, watch fobs, including pocket watches and watches worn as a necklace, remain popular with some generations. Other precious items such as fine china and crystal along with mantle and wall clocks and even some musical instruments were sold in the early years of the store. Some of these items, mostly clocks and musical instruments, were no longer offered in the store by the mid 1960s.


Counter from 1926 showing silver pieces, musical instruments and the like. Photo courtesy of Norman Nork.

The selections of gemstones in the store has changed over the years as well. When the store opened, there was a great variety of gemstones; as time went on, diamond became the main item sold half a century later. When the store first opened there were many sales of rubies, both real or synthetic, as well as emeralds and diamond. Diamond though was the most dependable selling item in a small town and had taken over the sales by the mid 20th century. Sterling silverware and gift items were sold in the shop, but because of expense and lower demand, they were later supplemented by stainless steel flatware and utilitarian pieces. However, silverware, watches, bracelets, and gemstones were always sold at Ackerman Jewelry.

Cabinet showing fine silverware from a later date. Photo courtesy of Norman Nork.

This image is from the middle of the 1930's and shows the many different products offered at the store.
Photo courtesy of Norman Nork.

The jewelry store has been the same location for over 100 years and even with the new owners of today, there are no plans to move the location. The store today, known as 4 Carats, continues to serve Marysville with diamonds and more. While normally small diamonds are the mainstay, once a 2 1/2 carat diamond was purchased for some twenty three thousand dollars. This was the most expensive item ever sold in the store (personal communication, Robert Nork, April 3rd, 2010).

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Jewelry Services

The Ackerman Jewelry store offered many services during the time it was open. As when the store first opened, it was mainly a watch and clock retail and repair shop (personal communication, Robert Nork, April 3rd, 2010). H. Ackerman began the store when watches and clocks were not digital and need cleaning and repair to work properly. This was a valued service offered to the public. Ackerman had learned the skills of watchmaking from a Swiss-born man he had worked with in Illinois, before moving to Kansas. Later H. A. Ackerman was an apprentice with watchmaking from H. Ackerman, when he first started working at the store in 1918. His two sons decided to learn the traits of watch repair as well but attended a school. Norman had started watchmakers school in 1941, but was first drafted into the military and never returned to school. Robert Nork attend the Kansas City school for watchmakers in 1946 and did graduate. He returned to the store and used his skills to continue the long tradition of watch and jewelry cleaning and repair.

This image is from the early 20th century and shows the area where watches and rings were repaired or resized.

While the main services offered in the store included watch or clock repair, polishing gems and jewelry was added as services through the store. This would include polishing fine metals, watches, rings and gemstones. In fact it was recommended that a watch should be cleaned every 18 months. Another service offered was the resizing of rings and the image above shows the work space to accomplish this.

The Union Pacific Railroad at one time came in to have their watches syncronized every day at 11 A.M. to make sure the correct time was in place at work (personal communication, Robert Nork, April 3rd, 2010).

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References

Wilson, M.(1993, September 16). Ackerman Jewelry to mark 100th. The Marysville Advocate, pp.1A, 3A


About This Webpage

This website was created by Brandon Milner, April 2010. It fulfills an assignment for a graduate gemstone and gemology course from Emporia State University, Earth Science Department,
http://www.emporia.edu/earthsci/earthsci.htm. For questions and comments, email bmilner@emporia.edu. Webpage was created on April 26th, 2010; last update May 11, 2010.

Return to other student webpage examples at www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/go340/students/stupages.htm.