Wyandot Popcorn Museum History
The Wyandot Popcorn Museum is a 501.C3 Corporation. Any donations made to the museum are tax deductible.
The creation of the Wyandot Popcorn Museum occurred as a byproduct of research that was done in the early 1970's and 1980's on the history of the Wyandot Popcorn Company and the popcorn industry. Data that had accumulated over the last 30 years had filled up two filing cabinets. This included a mass of material on early popcorn machine manufacturers.
In its early years, the Wyandot Popcorn Company was located in a one-room schoolhouse built in 1882. W. Hoover Brown, the founder of the company, attended this school. At first, it seemed fitting to locate the Wyandot Popcorn Museum in this one-room schoolhouse. The acquisition of various beautiful popcorn machine antiques began in the early 1980's, but it soon became apparent that the collection exceeded the space available in the schoolhouse.
Wyandot, Inc. was in the process of adding office space at their snack plant at 135 Wyandot Avenue, Marion, OH. In order to keep the Wyandot Popcorn Museum from being a heavy financial drain, we decided that it should be combined with a factory outlet store for Wyandot's consumer raw popcorn and snack products. It opened in the fall of 1981 at 135 Wyandot Avenue. The initial collection included donated, loaned, and purchased antiques from all areas of the country. A customer in Canada gave us a commercial popper used by Suzan Popcorn in Cherbrooke, Quebec, and later transferred to Montreal. The popper was being used to manufacture caramel corn at the time of its donation to the museum. The antique originally came from the now-defunct Long-Eakin Company in Springfield, OH. Mr. Long started the company and Mr. Eakin joined him later. We have another dry popper from the initial company. They specialized in caramel patties of sweet popcorn called Crispettes.
The Wyandot Popcorn Museum also acquired a volume tester that was designed and created by the Cracker Jack Company in 1931 to determine the expansion of their popcorn. It shook the grain in a wire basket. It measured the expansion in a glass tube. By 1944, C. Cretors & Company worked in conjunction with the Popcorn Processors Association to develop the first Official Volume Tester. One of those first O.V.T. testers is at the museum, as well as its conversion to the weight volume tester in the 1960's.
Initially, our featured antique was an 1899 Cretors No. 1 wagon, both for its beauty and its age. It is the third oldest surviving Cretors popcorn machine. Since the opening of the Wyandot Popcorn Museum, we have acquired two older antiques. There is an 1896 Kingery steam-driven wagon and an 1892 Olsen store-type dry popper hand-turned with the original patent for a squirrel cage dry popper. There were 35 popcorn and peanut antiques ready for the opening in Marion. The Factory Outlet/Wyandot Popcorn Museum operated at that location until 1985, when the Museum moved to the Southland Mall in Marion , OH , where the hours would be more appropriate for the public.
After three years at the Southland Mall location, the antiques were placed in various locations around the country so that many people would have the opportunity to see them. Three antique poppers, including a 1915 Kingery walk-in wagon, a 1948 Air Pop automatic vendor, and a 1912 Cretors No. 1 steam wagon went to the Center of Science & Industry (COSI) in Columbus, OH. One antique went to the Snack Food Assn. in Alexandria, VA. Two antiques went to Paul Newman's office in Westport, CT. Other local antiques were returned to their owners. The Cretors Model TT Ford Concession Wagon was temporarily stored in George Brown's barn along with a 1911 Dunbar wagon formerly owned by Paul Newman. The rest of the antiques went to Michael and Linda Perry's Bed & Breakfast on South State Street in Marion, OH. Most of the first floor of this home was used to display the various antiques.
In 1989, the ninety-year-old U.S. Post Office building in downtown Marion was available for purchase. It was an ideal choice for the Marion County Historical Society and the Wyandot Popcorn Museum. The Wyandot Popcorn Museum trustees offered the Marion County Historical Society financial support with the understanding that 40% of the main floor would be used for the Wyandot Popcorn Museum.
In nearby Mansfield, an individual was found who owned a collection of ceramic circus items housed in a tent that was 25 by 60 ft with a 12 ft ceiling in red, white, and blue canvas. This idea provided a good solution for the museum's need for an attractive display and gave the museum a circus theme. The Wyandot Popcorn Museum's tent is 30 by 75 by 14 ft high. Finally the museum could show large antique pieces that could not have been on display at previous locations.
Our collection includes a Model TT Cretors Popcorn truck that is driven in the Marion Popcorn Festival Parade. In 1990, we acquired a 1909 Cretors Model D Popcorn Wagon that was horse-drawn with a driver's seat. This rare and beautiful unit was one of two Model D wagons used by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. A Cretors Model C Wagon was restored by Bob Pearson of Pearson & company in Olathe, Kansas. This one is identical to the style of wagon used at the court house in Marion at the turn of the century. Our Dunbar was purchased from Mr. Koepsell in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by Paul Newman of Newman's Own in 1984. Paul utilized to promote his product in Central Park and in supermarket chain demonstrations for several years. He decided, due to vandalism, to sell it to George Brown, who, in turn, donated it to the Wyandot Popcorn Museum.
Who does the restorations?
Early on, we had two antiques - the Cretors Model TT truck and the Cretors 1899 No. 1 Wagon restored by Bob Pearson, who is the imminent restorer of Cretors equipment in the United States. We also had some work done on Holcomb & Hoke machines by Roy Arrington of Victorian Casino Antiques in Las Vegas, Nevada. All the other restoration work had been done by Wyandot Museum's own craftsman. Initially it was Joe Clark, a former Wyandot Popcorn plant manager. His work was supplemented by Vic Stover, who was then the maintenance manager at Wyandot. Mr. Haverstock, a retired Central Soya maintenance manager, completed early restorations. Dick Wells and Kathy Lothes did restoration work on the Dunbar wagon from Paul Newman. Currently our highly skilled restorer is Warren Levings, who is retired from Wyandot, Inc. maintenance department. We are never satisfied until they look identical or better than they did when they came off the factory floor. Early antiques were nickel-plated over copper. All of our ten steam engines operate on compressed air for demonstrations.
The display currently includes Advance, Air-Popt, Bartholomew, Burch, Cretors, Dunbar, Emerson Brothers, Excel, Holcomb & Hoke, Kingery, Long, Long-Eakin, Manley, Olsen, Star, and Stutsman antiques.
How is all of this funded?
Initially, the project was primarily funded by the Wyandot Popcorn Company. It then became a 501.C3 charity. Donations and funding were then expanded. After the move to Heritage Hall, financial support came from a much broader group of sponsors, patrons, and members. Included are many NAC friends and members, C. Cretors & Company, Pearson & Company, CONAGRA, Wyandot, Whirlpool, and other local firms.
Since 2002, hundreds of thousands brochures have been printed and distributed to rest stops throughout the state of Ohio, as well as travel agencies and other travel-related locations. These brochures are available for anyone who has an interest in learning more about the museum. We have many bus tours and school groups assisted by the Marion Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In the field of popcorn antiques, Wyandot Popcorn Museum clearly has the largest collection in the nation. Thanks to the cooperation of everyone in the industry, many of the antiques have been received without cost or partially donated. Those who have contributed to us in the form of sponsors, patrons, or members know their money is going into advertising, web site development and maintenance, operating costs for the museum and the restoration of antiques.
The Wyandot Popcorn Museum is popular throughout the year. Click here for our hours and admission. In the theater and concession industries, profits would be much less without the soft drinks and popcorn. Come and see the history of the popcorn segment of that equation.
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