Monday, December 15, 2014

The Nebraska Prairie Museum – Part II

In my first posting about this great museum in Holdrege Nebraska, I covered various period vignettes depicting what various aspects of life looked on the prairie back in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  In this ‘chapter’ of our visit, it’s all about the myriad and variety of individual exhibits throughout the main building at the museum.

This museum is loaded…jammed with tons of memorabilia, collectables, antiques, photos, posters…a virtual plethora of historical objects taken from life on the prairie.  We were greeted by a museum staffer who gave us a little introduction to the collection…and then we started our self-guided tour.  This big fella was on display at the start of our journey through time… Most of the time, we never saw anyone else visiting the building.  Our visit was within a couple of days after Labor Day.

There were a lot of American Indian artifacts on the walls and in various showcases.  This display of arrowheads, scrapers, spear points, etc. was right next to the teepee visible in the first photo.  We also saw beadwork, moccasins and ancient pots dating back to before Europeans came to the New World.

Going back even further, there was a display of fossils including this mastodon tooth.

Variety, variety, variety!  As you can see this cloth came over with immigrants in the late 1800s.  One thing that made this museum special in our eyes was that most of these ‘day-to-day’ items were donated by the descendants of the settlers who moved to the plains seeking a better life for themselves and their families…  

This ‘basket trunk’ from the 1870s was ‘used by the grandparents of Robert Wiebe’.  I love the handles!  It’s hard to imagine the skill it took for a craftsman to design and build this trunk.

Throughout the museum, a multitude of displays focused on one theme or product.  This railroad baggage cart complete with trunks and suitcases was positioned right outside the ‘railroad ticket office’. 

Not everything dated back to the turn of the 20th century… This display of old televisions is one example.  Toasters, sewing machines, dishware, cookware, 50’s ‘modern’ furniture, toys and a complete display of old vacuum tubes are among the items that I’ve left out of this posting.
Question: Do you think that anyone under the age of 30 has a clue what a vacuum tube was or was used for?

When I said ‘everything’ from life on the prairie was on display, I meant it!  Laurie took this photo of period wallpaper…

You saw that buffalo in the first photo.  Animal skins, trophies and complete mounted animals are displayed here and there throughout the building.  They aren’t all old or from the Prairie either… This feral Russian Wild Boar was shot in East Tennessee in 1980… We do have a lot of wild boar in the mountains around here.

Do you remember when the radio was one of the most important pieces of furniture in your living room?  I recall sitting with the family and listening to the most popular shows.  Among others, I remember George and Gracie, The Shadow, The Lone Ranger and Amos n’ Andy.

Wireless phones?  Smart phones?  iPads?  Most kids today have no concept of ‘wired’ phones, much less party lines and big old switchboards like this one!

How about an extensive washing machine collection!  Note the really old ‘washing machines’ mounted on the wall…

This was the latest innovation in 1900.  It’s a Cataract Washing Machine with a copper tub…and it’s electric powered! It was donated by a family from Holdrege Nebraska.

Laurie and I both love the ‘look’ of the old stoves.  This handsome beast is a “Copper Clad” Kitchen Range from the 1920s.  It could be powered by corn cob, wood or coal.  It was used by a family near Minden Nebraska and it was restored in 1987. 

This stove may not be the prettiest one on display in the museum…but I do have a vague connection with it.  We must remember that electricity didn’t come to many farms until after WWII.  This is a 1940 Montgomery Ward Kitchen Range.  It cost $75.00 when it was purchased. (That’s $985.00 in today’s dollars!) The family that bought it used it until it was replaced with an electric stove in the 1960s.  My connection is that I worked for Montgomery Ward until the company closed in 2001.

This is a 1929 Kelvinator Refrigerator.  In 1990, this unit was designated as the oldest working Kelvinator refrigerator in the USA.  It actually made the newspapers!

We saw a bit on television a few weeks ago where kids were put in front of typewriters, given some paper and left to their own devices.  They didn’t have a clue.  It would have been even funnier if they’d been confronted with these ‘ancient’ machines!

More memories or connections for me...  This is an old printing press.  My grandfather had one of these in the rubber stamp/printing shop business he had set up in his garage.

Yikes!  More deja vu… I worked from a type case like this one and I set a lot of type starting at the age of about eleven.  It was slow and dirty work but I was paid for it.  The family firm was the Weed Rubber Stamp Company and it was located on Prospect Street in Jackson Michigan.

If you’re into tools, there is a whole display room devoted to hundreds if not thousands of old tools at the Nebraska Prairie Museum.  They range in age from the 1800s until the mid-1900s. Many are handcrafted as well.

Variety plus…and how about a nice display of the many varieties of barbed wire, the product that tamed the Wild West and, along with the railroads, pretty much eliminated long cattle drives.

This photo of a wedding dress on a manikin is a little blurry but I think that you can appreciate the detailing and work involved in its creation.  The dress was made in 1893.  It was worn by Lydia Maria Winquest in 1895 when she wed Carl Oscar Olson.  As you can see a photo of the happy couple and their wedding certificate accompanies this display.

Continuing with the museum’s theme of variety…covering all aspects of life on the prairie.  Laurie took this photo of a collection of World War I posters exhorting public support of the war effort.  Note the period furnishings in the foreground. 

We both liked this big patriotic display of our military, their uniforms and other related paraphernalia.  Note the cavalry saddle on the upper level as well as the 48 star flag.  There are a lot of folded flags from military funerals for those who made the ultimate sacrifice shown on the shelf along the wall.

This is an example of one little detail of the military display shown in the previous photo… Not everything on the display is based on American wars, but all are based on American’s, (immigrants or natural born), war time experiences.  As I mentioned before, one of the charms of this museum is the fact that it’s about local citizens and their lives, with almost everything on display coming from local families or donors.  

That’s all for this ‘chapter’ of our visit to the Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege Nebraska.  The next chapter will be about trucks, automobiles and farm equipment.  To learn more about what this museum has to offer, go to  

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by and touring the museum with us!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. This is one interesting museum! I love the look of that stove also, but not too crazy about the boar. Funny with the kids and the typewriters, same goes for so many things, mimeograph machines, etc.

    I do remember the vacuum tubes! When our TV went out, we called Uncle Dick, and he came to the house with his case of tubes and replaced the burned out ones. And probably no one under 30 has a clue about them.

    Thanks for the tour! Take care

  2. Oh my gosh, I am feeling quite old now. I remember party lines and switchboard operators. I also remember TV's with tubes, manual typewriters and "ice" boxes that used ice. In fact the ice house was down the street from where we lived. Fun tour and lots of memories.

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