Quick Description: A marker right on TX Hwy 27, about 6 miles East of Center Point (Kerr County) and on the outskirts of Comfort (Kendall county), denoting the site and history of a rather very unique farm that existed in this region.
Below is a excerpt on the now-defunct Armadillo Basket Factory, per a blog posted on Wordpress
... the blog includes some great historic pictures as well:
"Charles Apelt, a German immigrant who came to this country in the late 1800s, [... With a] background in wicker furniture-making and basketry, combined with an unexpected new-world experience, [he] launched a unique and remarkable Texas business.
""One day, while walking about his farm, a strange little animal sprang up and began to hop away. Mr. Apelt picked up a stone and with excellent aim hit the animal’s head. Otherwise, the plated armor would have turned the missile aside, like the armor on a battleship.
When he gathered up his game, he surveyed it with wonder. When he went out to tack that hide to the barn in some sort of fashion, the hot sun had dried it until it began to curl up. He picked it up and instinctively he said, “Basket.” Then he fastened the end of the tail to the head and made a handle… As it dried, he shaped it with his hand, and lo, the first armadillo shell basket that the world ever knew became a reality.""
After perfecting a way to preserve the hides, Apelt opened his factory in 1898 and sold 40,000 baskets in the first six years. Plain baskets started at $2.50, while fancier versions sold for $4 and up.
Human creativity being what it is, the Apelts soon began innovating. Customers could purchase fringed or unfringed floor lamps, table lamps, bed lamps and wall fixtures – all made from armadillo shells. As production peaked in the 1920s, fifty hunters were employed to supply the critters, and at least a cook or two was hired to turn all that meat into barbeque.
As demand for their novelty grew, the Apelts supplemented the supply of armadillos provided by hunters by actually “farming” the creatures in an elaborate series of concrete burrows and tunnels built into their front yard. Not all became baskets — many were sold to zoos, medical research facilities and private individuals seeking an unusual pet.
The family owned the business for seven decades. After Charles’ death, his second wife Martha took it over until her death. When daughter Ruth Dowdy assumed control in 1947, the operation was moved to Salado, Texas, but it returned to Comfort in 1951,
At that point, Apelt’s daughter-in law Kathryn took over, continuing the traditions of the farm and producing the same baskets and shades that had made it famous, shipping them to shops and individual customers world-wide."
Marker Number: 15777
In the late 1890s, Charles Apelt (1862-1944) opened a unique commercial enterprise at this site. Apelt, a German immigrant, came to Comfort in 1887 and worked as a farmer. Here he encountered the armadillo, an animal native to the Americas, and began to develop a commercial use for the mammal’s hard shell. Utilizing the nine-banded variety (Dasypus Novemcinctus) he soon opened the Armadillo Basket Factory. The novelty armadillo basket was a quick success; within its first six years of operation, the Armadillo factory shipped 40,000 orders throughout the U.S. and the world. In 1904, Apelt displayed his product at the St. Louis World’s Fair, and by the 1920s, the operation employed dozens of local hunters. At its height, the establishment produced about 100 baskets each week, which sold for $2.50 each or $15 if decorated with silk, bows and beads. Apelt found additional functions for armadillo shells, using them for floor and table lamps, desk sets and smoking stands. Some armadillos were captured live and sold to zoos, pet owners and research facilities; Apelt constructed an elaborate network of concrete burrows and tunnels in front of his home to meet the high demand for armadillos in medical research. Charles Apelt ran the farm until he died in 1944. His wife, Martha, continued to run the business, which closed when she died in 1947. The farm reopened in 1951 before again closing in 1971. During its years of operation, the farm was a significant source of employment in the area. Although it is no longer in operation, Apelt Armadillo Farm continues to be remembered for its production of distinctive and famed souvenirs. (2009) Marker is property of the State of Texas ----- Supplemental plate (below main marker): Donated by the family of Ella A. and Armin O. Apelt 2009