Journey Into Fairfield’s Colorful Past
“ The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”
― Winston S. Churchill
Exhibits – The Carnegie Historical Museum features many unique exhibits which include:
The New Era Rope Maker was one of several similar devices designed & manufactured in Fairfield. The Louden Machinery Company was an innovator in the hay and dairy industry The Turney Wagon Works, Harper Brush, Fairfield Glove, and Dexter Washing Machines are also representative of a lively entrepreneurial spirit which has long characterized the local business community. Relics from these & other companies tell the story of industrial enterprise in 19th & 20th century Jefferson County.
Native American Artifacts
Tomahawk pipes Mes-Kwa-Ki ribbon-work and Pima Basketry are among the Native American artifacts on display. Of special note are the 1890’s W.W. Junkin Plains Indian Collection and the Pima baskets collected by Mrs. Mary Lamson Howard between 1903 and 1906.
Parsons College Memorabilia
Parsons College figures prominently in the Carnegie Historical Museum. Artifacts are displayed which span the years from its founding in 1875 to its controversial heyday in the 1960’s. Civil War and personal effects of Civil War General Lewis B. Parsons Sr., son of the college founder, are also featured.
Brown Pharmacy Collection
This display presents an array of pharmaceutical products and packaging which ranges from the 1870’s to the mid-twentieth century. Earl Brown, a local druggist, donated his collection after half a life time of frequenting auctions and flea markets in pursuit of this comprehensive accumulation of objects. The basement of his home housed this collection for many years and was equipped with a working soda fountain.
19th Century Smithsonian Taxidermy
Extensive bird exhibits reflect the late Victorian passion for ornithology. Many specimens came from the Smithsonian in the 1890’s, thanks to the influence of Senator James F. Wilson. A display of “Fairfield Birds” presents species observed within three miles of town by Mr. & Mrs. William G. Ross between 1901 and 1904. Their birding diaries were published under the title Bird Notes in 1938.
Civil War & Lincoln Artifacts
Rare labeled photographs of men who served under battle flags preserved at the Iowa State Historical Society and relics from “Auntie” Woods- the Clara Barton of Jefferson County- help illustrate the role played by local citizens. In 2009 the Iowa Lincoln Bicentennial Committee endorsed the Museum’s display of artifacts which link Southeast Iowa to the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.
World War II Posters
The Lucille Sipes poster collection creates a vivid picture of patriotism on the home front during World War II. Many of these posters bear corner holes left by thumb tacks used to display the images in her Birmingham, Iowa classroom. Uniforms, medals and equipment from both World Wars are also on display. The GOLD STAR Banner was given to families of soldiers who had died in service.
Pioneer Tools & Firearms
Pioneer relics such as flat irons, coverlets, and walking wheels are typical of small regional museums. The Carnegie Historical Museum has a unique collection in the coverlets by Daniel Stephenson. These represent the work of the only known professional weaver in the pioneer days of Iowa. The Museum also displays a large walking wheel which belonged to Mary Ann Rutledge. Abraham Lincoln had roomed at the Rutledge Inn and is said to have courted young Ann Rutledge. After Ann and her father died suddenly in 1835, Mrs. Rutledge left New Salem, Illinois and settled on a farm south of Fairfield near Birmingham.
Marble statuary, Etruscan Bucchero ware and Roman terra cotta form part of the Byers Collection. Colonel S.H.M. Byers had acquired these artifacts while serving as Consul General in Rome from 1884-1885. Byers is best known for writing the lyrics to “Sherman’s March to the Sea” and the “Song of Iowa”. The 1886 Fairfield City Directory mentions these objects in its description of the museum.