Stice folk carvings exhibit to close January 2

For immediate release December 23, 2005



Contact: Jeff Morgan,, (515) 281-3858

DES MOINES – After capturing the imagination of guests and visitors for more than a year, the State Historical Museum’s "The Good Old Days: Folk Carvings of Fred W. Stice" exhibit will close Jan. 2.

The exhibit opened in August 2004 and showcases the intricate wood carvings of Fred Stice. Set in 50 miniature dioramas, the carvings explore topics ranging from everyday social and work traditions of the past (ice skating and blacksmithing) to biblical themes (“Flight into Egypt” and “Last Supper”). Stice also captured popular Americana (minstrels, covered wagons) and historical figures and events (Abraham Lincoln, Will Rogers, Iwo Jima, President Kennedy’s funeral).

“The Stice collection has been extremely popular with visitors young and old from around the world,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Anita Walker said. “The quality of the work and the craftsmanship is outstanding; the carvings truly capture the way Iowans lived and looked at life in the mid-20th century. We’re very thankful to the Stice family for sharing these amazing pieces of art and history with us. I strongly encourage anybody who hasn’t seen them to visit the museum next week and see for themselves.”

Stice began woodcarving while recovering from a broken leg in the 1930s and continued until his death in 1977. Around the time of World War II, his daugther, Mildred, started collecting and making dolls. Eventually a close collaboration grew between father and daughter.

What started out simply as a hobby rapidly became all-consuming. In the 1940s, Fred and Mildred set up some of the carvings in a small gift shop they called the Trading Post outside Montour. In 1954, they moved the shop to Le Grand on the Lincoln Highway and renamed it the Doll Museum and Trading Post to acknowledge Mildred’s collection of dolls. The enterprise attracted thousands of curious passersby for more than three decades.

Mildred, along with Fred’s second wife, Gladys, continued to operate the museum after Fred’s death until 1988 when it became apparent the family could no longer care for the collection. In 1995, they donated the entire collection – 53 scenes comprising more than 1,200 pieces (people, animals, wagons, furniture, tools, and so forth) – to the State Historical Society of Iowa.

"To some people, the thought of carving may seem a little silly, but it takes a lot of hard work. I was always interested in history and this is one way to preserve it. The scenes are interesting for the children who haven’t seen them, and for the older folks who remember them." – Fred W. Stice

The exhibit can be seen at the State Historical Museum, 600 E. Locust Street in the heart of Des Moines’ Historic East Village. Museum hours are Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Sunday Noon-4:30 p.m. The museum will be open regular hours through the holidays, except December 25, 2005 when it will be closed. Admission is free. Please visit or call 515-281-5111 for more information.

The State Historical Museum is operated by the State Historical Society of Iowa, a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state.


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