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A Flock of Cow Birds – Birds carved from cattle horns c. 1939

Birds carved from cattle horns c. 1939

The 1930s were a bleak time in our nation’s history and especially in Kansas. The Great Depression was in full swing with the crash of the stock market, high unemployment, and people feeling a sense of hopelessness. To compound matters, the farming regions were experiencing drought causing the topsoil to erode and creating huge dust storms.

To help provide relief to the citizens of the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1935 as part of his New Deal program. Putting people to work on public projects gave them employment and helped improve their communities. This was done by providing infrastructure in the form of building bridges, roads, highways, and public buildings (think Coronado Heights near Lindsborg, KS).

Other WPA projects provided educational and cultural programs. The Kansas Museum Project was sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education whose purpose was, “To provide general museum services by establishing new museums where none exist, by enlarging present museum services, or by providing traveling museum services where neither of the other methods is feasible.”

The project supervised training in the making of handicrafts using both old and new techniques. Projects were varied and included woodworking, pottery making, weaving, printing, and diorama making to name a few.

The carved birds shown here made use of local materials in the form of cattle horns from the meatpacking plants in Kansas. The horns were carved, sanded, or scraped into the desired shape. Painted on eyes and a wooden base completed the art piece.

The McPherson Museum and Arts Foundation has an assortment of over 30,000 artifacts in collections. The MMAF would like to share some of these so we will be posting some of the more eclectic examples for your enjoyment. We hope to see you in the future. Until then, stay safe and well.

3:04 pm|

All Schools Day 1948 to 1963 – See anyone you know?

We may not be able to view the All Schools Day parade “live and in person,” but here is a glimpse from yesteryear courtesy from our Board President Gary Casebeer.

“Since there is no All Schools Day celebration this year I thought I would share a project I’m working on. It involves dating and organizing ASD films (mostly from the 50s) that were filmed by my uncle John and others. This version was provided by Mike Rausch and I edited out all the footage that didn’t pertain to ASD. See if you can identify the years and the people that you recognize. Remember when Roxbury and Conway had marching bands?  Notice the buildings in the background.  Have fun!” –  Gary Casebeer

2:52 pm|

A Rattle Fit for a King – Porcelain baby rattle of Prince (later King) Louis Philippe I of France

In 1949 the people of France donated items to the United States as a way of saying thank you for the food and supplies that had been sent to France after World War II. The French people donated so many things that they were able to fill 49 railroad boxcars. Dubbed the “Merci Train” or “French Gratitude Train” the boxcars were sent to the United States to be distributed among each of the 48 states at the time, with the 49th boxcar being shared by Washington D.C. and the Territory of Hawaii.

The Kansas boxcar went on a tour of 120 towns across the state. It contained mostly personal items from the French people including costumes, dolls, pottery, crystal, books, and historical documents.

Many of the objects in the boxcar were given to museums, libraries, schools, colleges, and other public institutions around Kansas. McPherson College received a small porcelain baby rattle that was used by Louis Philippe I (1773-1850), who was the King of the French from 1830 to 1848 and the last king of France.

The McPherson Museum and Arts Foundation has an assortment of over 30,000 artifacts in collections. The MMAF would like to share some of these so we will be posting some of the more eclectic examples for your enjoyment. We hope to see you in the future. Until then, stay safe and well.

11:32 am|