By Kris Leonhardt
In an era before time was kept on our phones and technology brought virtual reality into nearly every business, sample work was nonexistent, crude, or an adaption of any means possible to bring decision-making options to customers.
In the 19th century, Oliver Wendell Holmes developed his stereoscope/stereo viewer. By placing two photos taken at slightly different angles side by side in the device, the viewer imitates left eye-right eye vision, creating the illusion of depth.
Though not the first one of its kind, the handheld instrument became a wildly popular means of reality viewing between the years of 1881-1939, especially in the retail world.
One industry in which the use of the stereoscope became commonplace was the headstone business. By using stereo photos of his handcrafted stones, Louis Schmidt was able to recreate his products for potential customers as they walked through his doors.
His headstone business, Marshfield Marble and Granite, was started in what is now 435 S. Central Ave.
“It was officially (opened) in 1894, but the records start in 1895,” said Schmidt’s eventual successor Brian Hopperdietzel. “During the Depression, you can see somebody brought in eggs and they took five cents off of their marker or a dollar or something. You can see through there that they bartered.”
Schmidt ran the company until 1938, when it was sold to his two employees, Ed Beck and John Rhodes.
In 1977 Rhodes sold the business to John Hopperdietzel, Brian’s father, and John’s father-in-law, Cliff Craft.
“(Dad) came into it without any knowledge of monuments,” said Brian. “My dad used to sell cars for Les Stumpf Ford in Appleton. Out of the blue, (Cliff) called and said, ‘Hey, there’s a monument company for sale. Would you like to go in and buy it?’
“That’s how we started, without knowing anything. My dad was self-taught — colors, how to lay out the markers.
“When we bought it, it was just about bankrupt. My dad did a lot of work cleaning that building up. They utilized silica sand.”
When John and Craft began operating, the service area was limited to Marshfield, but using a solid and respectful philosophy, the Hopperdietzels would uphold a thriving business that would continue on past 120 years.
Next week: Part II – Becoming a cornerstone
(Editor’s note: The version of this article in the Oct. 29 print edition of the Hub City Times misstated Cliff Craft’s relationship to the Hopperdietzels. He is John Hopperdietzel’s father-in-law, not Brian’s. This version of the article has been edited to reflect that change.)