From Stove to Pieces and Back Again: Reuniting a Dismembered Stove at HHM

Sometimes the most interesting part of an object is the mystery surround it.

We don’t know much about the origins or history of the caboose stove that is today’s Object Lesson, but up until very recently, we didn’t know that it even was a caboose stove!

Chimney with Agitator

Part of the caboose stove as we found it in the garage.

While cataloging the garage at HHM, we encountered several pieces of cast iron, each weighing over a hundred pounds and barely moveable. While we could see that the pieces clearly went together somehow, we couldn’t assemble the pieces in any coherent way because of their size and weight—and because they were impossible to make heads or tails of!

The domed chimney with a door clearly suggested oven, but the bottom of that piece was open which didn’t seem right. The disc piece could have covered the bottom of the domed piece, but it didn’t sit snuggly on the bottom, so that wasn’t right. The other three pieces, though they had the same heft and color as the dome and disc, but didn’t seem to neatly make any logical whole.

In my work at HHM (and in life more generally), I have learned that the smartest move you can make when you aren’t sure about something is to surround yourself with smart and/or creative people then shut up and listen. Our breakthrough on the caboose stove came when our very clever intern, Floris, theorized it was indeed a stove and, since one piece was stamped with Central Railway, tried googling “train” and “stove.”

A few minutes later, she had a picture of a similar-looking artifact on her phone. From there, puzzling out how the stove fit together was a piece of cake and suddenly a mystery of the collection was solved!

This caboose stove was once used in a caboose that traveled the Iowa Central Railway, probably around the turn of the 20th century, judging by images of similar caboose stoves.

Caboose Stove in Use

These stoves were bolted directly to the train floor and featured other design features that make them specially adapted to use on a moving train. A lip on the top to kept pots and pans from sliding off the stove, and a double-latching door prevented an accident involving the coals that would move as the caboose rocked back and forth on the rails.

Author Bio

Heather Hoagland is the Collections Manager at Hennepin History Museum. She has a Masters in Museum Studies from George Washington University. Before joining the staff at HHM, she worked at Ford’s Theatre and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

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From Luxury to Lot: The West Hotel

The history and demise of the West Hotel and the Tiffany urn that was created to honor the founders

The West Hotel was known to be a destination of luxury in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It was built with funds of Charles W. West, and subsequently, he gave the new world-class hotel to his nephew and then manager of the Nicollet House, John T. West. Charles West spent an exorbitant amount of money building the hotel with ornate detail and making it particularly extravagant for visitors. As a result, the building became well known, and was the perfect addition to the then new state’s aspirations for success. The opening night banquet and celebration in November of 1884 was highly anticipated, although sadly approximately two months before the evening, Charles West died.

Silver urn

This large urn stood in the West Hotel’s lobby before coming to Hennepin HIstory Museum. 

Even after the death of Charles West, the building of the hotel continued and opening night was still a major success. It was a night of recognition and appreciation to the two people who made the building possible, Charles and John West. Around 500 guests attended the ten dollar a plate banquet, and many famous Minnesota leaders were among them. This large silver ceremonial urn, believed to be by Tiffany & Co. Silver,  was given to John West who accepted it in honor of Charles West. The 5,000 dollar urn was made in New York specifically for Charles West as a thank you gift from the city of Minneapolis.

Following the opening night banquet, the hotel started off with success as many wanted to experience the extravagance of the West Hotel. In fact, the West Hotel hosted the 1892 Republican National Convention, and famous people such as Winston Churchill and Mark Twain were among the hotel’s visitors. However, after the hotel caught fire in 1910 and more competitors popped up in the area, the hotel lost its luster. In 1940, its owners  decided to raze the building to make way for a parking lot.

West Hotel selling off goods in 1940s

Auctioning West Hotel items before the building was razed. 

The West Hotel ceremonial urn features an image of Charles W. West and the West Hotel as it looked in 1884. The cup sat in the West Hotel for guests to view. It was donated to Hennepin History Museum by Nathaniel DeLue Jr., who acquired the urn after the hotel closed.

Author Bio

Lindsay Simmons is an art history and museum studies graduate student at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. She is currently an intern at Hennepin History Museum working on the museum inventory project. She spent the summer assisting in rehousing and cataloging some of the museum’s 15,000 objects. This urn was one of the first objects she cataloged for the collection. She enjoyed researching this object as it is an important piece in HHM’s collection, and as a resident of Minneapolis, she finds learning about the history of the city fascinating.

Resources

West Hotel, Minneapolis

Thorstenson, Ruth Zalusky. “The West Hotel: Part One.” Hennepin County History 37, no. 3 (Fall 1978): 3–9.

Thorstenson, Ruth Zalusky. “The West Hotel: Part Two.” Hennepin County History 37, no. 4 (Winter 1978-79): 13–21.

Thorstenson, Ruth Zalusky. “The West Hotel: Part Three.” Hennepin County History 38, no. 1 (Spring 1979): 3–11.

Harvest Festival Parade

Harvest Festival Parade 1891

On September 23, 1891, Minneapolis celebrated the plentiful harvest and the industrial might of the Northwest with the Harvest Festival Parade. The celebration was planned after a bumper crop that followed several years of economic hardships for farmers. The parade was advertised in the Minneapolis Tribune as “over 25 miles of gorgeous floats and splendid industrial displays.” Organizers widely advertised the event and it drew attention from around the country.

The parade, itself, was quite the sight to behold.  It winded its way down Nicollet Avenue to 10th Street onto Park Avenue. The Minneapolis Tribune on September 24, 1891 claimed that the parade drew 300,000 spectators with over 100,000 from outside of Minneapolis. The floats represented numerous industries from the theaters to electricians, newspapers to lumberjacks. The Minneapolis Tribune described the sight of 500 retail meat dealers “attired in their white aprons and caps” riding their horses as “one of the finest displays of manhood and horsehood Minneapolis has ever seen.” These riders and hundreds of floats held the crowds’ attention for over 3 ½ hours. Without a doubt, the event was considered a huge success for Minneapolis.

This image from HHM archives shows the Gardeners’ Float with the unidentified queen waiting to begin the ride down Nicollet Avenue.

Washbowl of Destiny

A Tale of an Extraordinary Ship and an Ordinary Bowl

The USS Monitor was the first ironclad ship, and although it did not have a long life, it left quite a legacy. In fact, Winston Churchill stated, “The combat of the Merrimac and the Monitor made the greatest change in the sea-fighting since cannon by gunpowder had been mounted on ships four hundred years before.” This bowl comes from the Monitor.

During the Civil War, the Union was in a race to complete the Monitor in time to save their fleet of ships at Hampton Roads, and prevent the Virginia from accomplishing any further damage. The Monitor was completed in time, and the ship and the battle they had with the Virginia set an example for the future. Both sides declared that they won, as each boat accomplished some of what they set out to do.

At the beginning of the second year of the Civil War, as General McClellan launched his Peninsular Campaign–the first major advance into Confederate territory–Union and Confederate ship builders were in a race to complete the first American ironclad ships.

These powerful battleships, plated in metal and thus able to withstand direct fire, had been in use in European navies for several years but the technology had not yet been replicated by Americans. Both North and South wanted to be first to complete and put into action an ironclad ship, with the military advantage that would allow.

The Confederates won this arms race, pitting their ironclad, the CSS Virginia, against the ships at Hampton Roads on March 8, 1862, sinking two ships in one day of attack. The Union shipbuilders were close behind, sending the USS Monitor into battle the following day. Although the Virginia did damage some of the larger ships during the ensuing two day battle, the Monitor stopped it from destroying the entire fleet and blocked the Virginia from continuing up the coast to cause more damage to the Union.

Because each boat accomplished some of what they set out to do, both sides declared that they won. Although this fight is known today as having an inconclusive result, it was an extremely important event in history as it set an example for the future. The design of the ships and the way they fought was something that was utilized throughout western world following the battle.

Inspecting damage on the Monitor LOC

Above: inspecting damage on the USS Monitor. Image from Library of Congress.

Unfortunately, the Monitor only had a brief reign as the pinnacle of Union technology. It capsized during a large storm less than six months after the battle of Hampton Roads, on December 31, 1862. The Monitor still lays where it sank today, off the coast of North Carolina. In fact, it is preserved and protected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They are still learning and gathering significant information about this world-changing ship, including finding artifacts from the wreckage.

This bowl was given to the Hennepin History Museum in 1965 by the granddaughter of Louis Stodder, who was the ship’s Acting Master during the Civil War, and one of the survivors from it’s sinking. Later in his life, Stodder became Harbor Master of New York City until his death in 1912.

On Monitor from LOC

Above: on the deck of the USS Monitor; Louis Stodder is in the second row, first on the left. (Image from Library of Congress)

The bowl presumably graced Stodder’s nightstand until the day it sank in 1862. Although it isn’t clearly visible in the photo, careful examination of the artifact shows a faded inscription in elegant script along the side that reads “Monitor.”

Another Hennepin County/USS Monitor connection? The Ericcson neighborhood in south Minneapolis was named after John Ericcson, the Swedish-born engineer who designed the USS Monitor.

Ericcson from LOC

John Erricson (Image from Library of Congress)

 

Resources

USS Monitor Center

USS Monitor: Sinking of a Legacy

USS Monitor: A Cheesebox on a Raft

Author Bio

Lindsay Simmons is an art history and museum studies graduate student at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. She spent the summer working on the museum inventory project, assisting in rehousing and cataloguing some of the museum’s 15,000 objects. In fact, this washbowl was one of the objects she catalogued for the collection. She enjoyed researching this object as it is an important piece in the museum’s collection, and as a resident of Minneapolis, she finds learning about the history of the residents of the city and their ancestors fascinating.

 

An Unconventional Convention Desk

By Evan Walker

This desk was made by students in the industrial arts class at South High School for the 1892 Republican National Convention. The chairman of the Republican Party, James S. Clarkson, sat behind it during the first and only major political convention ever held in Minneapolis.

The year was 1892. It was a wild and exciting time. Benjamin Harrison was the sitting president, running in the primary against three other candidates, including William McKinley, who would later be elected president in 1897. Though Harrison won the primary, his results were underwhelming and he would go on to lose the national election to Grover Cleveland, old Tippecanoe, who still stands as the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

The Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, drew over 35,000 people and was the first convention where women were allowed to be delegates, but our citizens were more jubilant about the opportunity to show the politicians and visitors that Minneapolis, the “Prairie Queen”, was no frontier town full of barbarians. People advertised in the newspapers about fabulous deals on flags and banners to decorate the city, and there was even a contest where one could guess the nominee and the date and time of the vote for a chance to win $87.50 in gold.

The Convention took place in the newly remodeled Exposition Building. The building was designed to “appear artistic but not gaudy, patriotic and grand but not overdone, and the whole design was made subservient to the vision of the visitor sitting in the farthest corner of the gallery.”

The desk once had three silver plaques commemorating how and when it was used, but only two remain today. The smaller plaques indicate that it was used again in the 1896 convention, held in St. Louis, and the 1900 convention in Philadelphia.

Plaque Detail 1

Plaque Detail 2

About the Author

Evan Walker recently completed a summer internship at HHM. He enjoys walks on the beach and sharing stories about people and events from the past. Evan will be going into his sophomore year at Luther College in the fall, studying history.

Mu-So Choral Club

The Mu-So Choral Club, a Minneapolis-based choir of approximately 40 African American singers, depending on the year, was formed in 1917 and remained active through the 1920s. Members were drawn primarily from local church choirs, and the group was often considered to feature some of “best of the best” of local African American vocal talent.

The group performed at churches, benefits, and at public venues such as Minneapolis City Hall. In April 1923, the Mu-So Choral Club was the featured music of that week’s WLAG’s “Listenin’ in Radio News-Program.” The photo featured here, as well as the images below, come from our extensive historic radio, film, and theater program collection.

Never heard of radio station WLAG, “the call of the North”? WLAG, based out of the Oak Grove Hotel in Loring Park, Minneapolis, was only on the air from 1922 to 1924; soon afterwards, the Washburn Crosby Company took it over, renamed it WCCO, and the rest is, as they say, history.

WLAG cover photo

Mu-so choral club WLAG flyer 1923

From the Office of the President: William Watts Folwell’s Desk

By Evan Walker

Today’s Object Lesson might be one of the most exciting objects so far–at least to photograph. At almost 5 feet wide by 3 feet deep, the only way to fit the entire desk in the camera frame was to turn it on its side. Then one of us stood on either side of the desk and held up a white sheet in order to get a clean background.

If you ask me, the photos of the photo shoot are almost as fun as the final artifact photo!

Taking the Photo - Evan

Above: The author demonstrates the many duties of a museum intern!

Taking the Photo - Layne and Heather

Taking the photo - Mike

 

This desk once stood in the office of William Watts Folwell, first president of the University of Minnesota. Born in New York in 1833, he served as an engineer in the Civil War. When he became president of the University, it had eight professors and 100 students, but he was an instrumental figure in expanding the college and making it more useful for all Minnesotans. By the time he stepped down in 1884 the U had about 960 students, and he continued as a professor and librarian for several years.

Folwell raised a few eyebrows by advocating for a full graduate program and the establishment of museums and libraries at the U, rather than only the more traditional undergraduate program focusing on Greek and Latin. He was described as “a knight errant of the new education… interested in everything from Plato to hog cholera.” Students were more familiar in their descriptions, apparently calling him “Uncle Billy”.

Another of Folwell’s accomplishments was his four-volume history of Minnesota, which he wrote over the course of nine years.

The desk itself is made from oak, with some poplar wood. Each of the 10 drawers can be locked, and there are holes on the top of the desk. These may have been used to attach more shelves or possibly other articles, like a lamp or inkwell.

 

About the Author

Evan Walker recently completed a summer internship at HHM. He enjoys playing tennis and sharing stories about people and events from the past. Evan will be going into his sophomore year at Luther College in the fall, studying history.

Sources

William Watts Folwell

Report of the University of Minnesota, 1884-1886

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