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History of Columbus Indiana on the Historic Columbus Indiana Website

A History Of Cummins Bookstore

    George H. Cummins officially opened the doors to Cummins "Bookstore" and news agency on January 30, 1892

    George H. Cummins was born in Madison, Indiana, on October 9, 1865, the only son of Mr. and Mrs. James Cummins. Moving from Madison to Franklin, the Cummins family moved to Columbus, where George would spend the rest of his life. George served his apprenticeship working for George Ellis, who also owned a bookstore in Columbus Indiana.

    On January 30, 1892, George opened "Cummins," his bookstore and news agency, in a frame building on Washington Street, directly across the street from where it resides today. Besides being strictly a bookstore, George Cummins was also the local agent for the Indianapolis Star newspaper, and had been the local agent since the very first edition of the newspaper. There were no big block ads announcing the opening of Cummins. Instead, newspaper readers of the time found a series of one-liners on the local page of the paper: "Cigars at Cummins, Golden Days at Cummins, Key West and Domestic cigars at Cummins, Fine Line of Stationery at Cummins, Century for February at Cummins, All the story papers and magazines can be found at Cummins, Corinette cigar at Cummins, Saturday Night at Cummins, and Tobacco at Cummins."*

*Evening Republican, January 30, 1892


In 1897, Cummins moved his bookstore across the street into the building at 406 Washington, which had been where the post office was located. "He often recalled that when he first opened his establishment, Washington Street was lined with frame buildings, the streets were unpaved, and at night, gas jets lighted by a lamplighter illuminated the streets."*

*Evening Republican, February 26, 1948

During the 56 years George operated Cummins Bookstore, he boasted of never having a sick day. His daily routine consisted of arriving at the bookstore at 4am, and staying until closing time. He lived with his sisters, Miss Frona Cummins, who passed on in 1934, and Miss Laura Cummins, who died in 1936. George was the last member of his family. A year before he died, he resided at the St. Denis Hotel, but kept his residence at 908 Chestnut Street. At the time of his death on February 26, 1948, Cummins Bookstore was believed to be the oldest business under the same management in the city of Columbus.


For years, George displayed the very first edition of the Indianapolis Star to arrive in Columbus Indiana inside his bookstore.


Glenn Brooks and Finley Salkeld, who, as kids, had begun with Cummins as Indianapolis Star paper carriers, worked with George. I have to speculate here at this point in time that they continued the business after Cummins passed on. Reference sources state that Glenn and Finley were "associated" with George in the Indianapolis Star agency, but without any further information at this time, I can only assume they continued the operation of the bookstore.


George H. Cummins died on February 26, 1948 at the age of 82 years old. Cummins Bookstore had been in business 56 years at the time of his passing. Funeral services were held at Hathaway Funeral Home the following Saturday. Dr. A. S. Woodard, pastor of the first Methodist Church, conducted the ceremony. Pallbearers included Finley Salkeld, Glenn Brooks, Clarence Custer, Elmer Dean, Ed Nordman, and Carlos Folger. George Cummins is buried in a cemetary in Madison Indiana.


In July, 2003, my brother sold Cummins Bookstore. I really miss not being associated with the oldest business in Columbus. Cummins Bookstore was one of my favorite places in the days of my youth. It is is once again open for business, after a short period of being closed for renovations...

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