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Rupprecht, then Wilson awnings protected the region’s storefronts

In 1951, Wilson Canvas Product Co., was commissioned to provide new awnings for the Sonnenberg department store, 118-122 North Main Street. Glen Wilson is pictured next to his truck. Before starting out in the canvas awning business in the mid 1930s, he worked as a “floor walker” at this department store. Otis Howell photo/Steve Chou collection.


When 34-year-old Marie Greve married George Rupprecht on June 29, 1904, in Sioux City, Iowa, she was head of the curtain department for the T.S. Martin and Company Store there.

By 1909, the couple had relocated to Hannibal, Mo., where they went into business together, he as an upholsterer and she as a seamstress.

Together, they would operate their business at 108 South Fourth Street, early on adding canvas awnings and tents to their services. For nearly three decades they would continue to supply the community with awnings, tents and canvas goods, at times being the only business in Hannibal to service those needs.

Circa 1937, after moving the business to 121 S. Third Street, Mr. Rupprecht, at the approximate age of 67, decided it was time to retire.

Eyes an opportunity

Meanwhile, A. Glen Wilson was working as a floor walker for Sonnenberg’s Department Store, located at 118-122 North Main St. A floor walker was one who walks between the store’s departments, making sure that everything is running smoothly.

He learned that the Rupprechts intended to sell their business. Through his work under the direction of Carl Sonnenberg, he had learned the ins and outs of retail business. He was ready, he believed, to take a leap of faith. He invested in Rupprecht’s canvas and awning business.

The next year, he took for his wife, Constance Henneberger, a teacher at Eugene Field School.

And together, they didn’t look back.

The canvas sewing business was seasonal, they found, so they expanded to include tarpaulins and boat covers. From there it went to window shades and vertical blinds. They provided the window shades for the new Hannibal Junior High School circa 1960, their son, Warren Wilson, said.

Later, in a shop in the 200 block of Broadway, they opened a second store. There would be slip covers, custom draperies and matching bedspreads, wallpaper. “At one time there were six seamstresses working for them, and it was that way for 10 or 12 years,” Warren Wilson said. “Mother was in charge of the draperies, (and clients included the owners of) the nicest big homes in Louisiana, Mo.” Custom made draperies and bedspreads ended up being a big part of their business.

Their Hannibal customers included the Carriage House restaurant, “and almost every funeral home had draperies made by Wilson,” he said. All the awnings for the Hannibal National Bank were also provided by Wilsons.

Because they sold window shades and venetian blinds, “almost every business came in, a lot of the law offices, maybe they had draperies in the windows.” The Wilsons “were members of the Country Club, and they did the draperies there. The Carriage House had draperies from Wilsons. I was at a family funeral in Monroe City last Saturday, (Feb. 25, 2023) and I remember my parents put draperies in Garner’s funeral home 40 or 50 years ago.”

The Wilson’s customer base was as far north as Quincy, Ill., east to Pittsfield, Ill., and as far south as Bowling Green, Mo.

Carnivals, circuses

“Another thing Wilson’s was famous for when I was growing up,” Wilson said, “was the work they did for traveling circuses and carnivals. Because they did canvas work, traveling circuses and carnivals, they held off having their canvas tents or concession stands repaired until they got to Hannibal. They knew that Wilson’s had industrial sewing machines. As a small kid I was really impressed by these carnival people.”

Life in Hannibal

Warren Wilson returned to Hannibal after attending the University of Missouri. “My dad had expressed some interest in my keeping the business. In 1965 I got fully immersed in Hannibal, joined the Lions Club (which my father belonged to) and was treasurer for the Episcopal Church. I was elected to city council, in 1967, and for six months I was acting mayor when Henry Glascock had a heart attack and couldn’t serve.”

Ultimately, he decided that he just wasn’t really happy with the family business. “I didn’t have the feel for the decorating part of the business. My dad still had the original store, but I didn’t see myself wanting to do that, either.”

He and his wife, Dora Gilmore Wilson, left Hannibal in 1971.

“I had an opportunity to go to work for 3M, and it turned out to be a nice career for me. I became the manager of the Springfield, Ill., location; which became a big office for 3M because of state government. We would sell 15-20 fax machines or copy machines at a time.

“I stayed with 3M quite a while, then went to a family owned company in Springfield, with 10 offices in the midwest. Their business was office equipment, copiers, fax machines, microfilm camera and readers. The last big thing I did (before retiring) was the sale of the laptop computers which were put in all Illinois state police cars.”

Married to Hannibal native Dora Gilmore, a registered nurse. Shortly before they left Hannibal she was named head of surgery at Levering Hospital. She wanted to become a nurse anesthetist and there was a school in Springfield. She applied, and got in.

“Dora ended up with a master’s in that and hospital administration. She went at night to Southern Illinois University and got a Ph.D. in education.

She went all over the world to teach anesthesia techniques for open heart surgery, through Operation Smile, a nonprofit medical service organization. “She spent a month in Russia, three weeks in North Vietnam, and several times she was in Central and South American countries.” Now retired, “she did her last anesthesia 10 years ago.”

Warren and Dora Wilson, both 81, continue to make their home in Springfield. They have three grown children.

End of an era

Glen and Constance Wilson sold their business to Mike and Judy Constable in 1984. “My father died about 15 months after they sold the business. My mother died in 1997. Her health was such that we moved her to Springfield, not too far from our home.”

The Rupprechts

George and Marie Greve Rupprecht continued to live in Hannibal following their retirement from the upholstery and awning business. As early as 1925 they lived at 1723 Harrison Hill (then called Mark Twain Avenue) and continued to live there until Mr. Rupprecht’s death in August 1955. Mrs. Rupprecht died a year later. They are buried together in Aspen Grove Cemetery, Burlington, Iowa.

The Wilson Canvas Product Co., was located at 121 S. Third, Hannibal, Mo. This picture of the building, taken in April 1953, shows the building. Note that the foundation was made of stone, which suggests the building was constructed pre-1900. Otis Howell photo/Steve Chou collection

Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” and “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’” 47 stories of the Market Street Wedge and on west to Lindell Avenue. Montgomery can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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