Museum visitors "Rediscover Iowa History" with rarely seen artifacts

For immediate release July 18, 2006



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

(DES MOINES) – Visitors to the State Historical Museum can “Rediscover Iowa History” as curators bring rarely seen artifacts out of a subterranean, climate-controlled storage facility for public display this summer.

The artifacts range from antique cars and a 1860s stagecoach to a governor’s executive desk and place settings that are nearly 250 years old. They are part of the State Historical Society of Iowa’s “Rediscover Iowa History” campaign, which encourages Iowans and other museum visitors to explore the state’s rich past.

“We’re giving the museum atrium a makeover this summer,” said Anita Walker, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees SHSI. “We have more than 100,000 artifacts in our permanent collection and we’re bringing many of them out of storage to create new and exciting experiences for visitors the minute they enter through the doors. They’ll be able to see something different during each visit.”

This summer, museum visitors will see a 1902 Knox Waterless, “the car that never drinks,” donated to SHSI by William Steer in 1925. The Knox has no radiator; a series of brass screws helps air-cool the engine. The one-cylinder, chain-drive car has 8 horsepower, tiller steering and a top speed of 30 miles per hour.

Curators have also put on display an 1899 “Locomobile,” which is powered by a Stanley Steamer engine – a gasoline-fueled burner boils water to create steam, letting the vehicle move silently over the road. Purchased by Sen. William Haskill of Cedar Rapids for $1,000, the Locomobile features a chain drive, tiller steering and a top speed of 20 miles per hour. Haskill raced his Locomobile against an 1898 Haynes-Apperson gasoline carriage owned by H.G. Dows of Cedar Rapids at the Linn County Fair. The winner is unknown.

Moving deeper into Iowa’s past, curators are displaying a 1860s stagecoach passenger vehicle called a “two-horse jerky” that was used in the Red Oak and Afton areas. The stagecoach – the rapid transit of its day – traveled 40 to 50 miles per day, with the passenger compartment supported by a leather strap and rocker suspension instead of springs. The stagecoach was donated by Mrs. Perry Tracy of Red Oak.

Other artifacts on display include the desk of Iowa Governor Albert B. Cummins, one of the state’s most influential governors. The desk is located on the museum’s mezzanine while “Great Plates” and “Great Platters” exhibits located near Café Baratta’s on the third floor showcase place settings from the 1700s-1970s. The plates and serving platters were manufactured in England, France and the United States.

Later this summer, visitors will see several temporary exhibits that focus on current themes, including Iowans’ use of hybrid and alternative energy sources to combat high gas prices. In addition, special areas featuring museum education programs and events will be found on the first and third floors.

The State Historical Museum is managed 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. Please visit or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


Return to What's New Section



shsi homepage report technical problems


Privacy Statement Copyright and Disclaimer Notice Read about the State of Iowa Network Contact the State of Iowa Network Search the State of Iowa Network Go to the State of Iowa Network Help Desk Go to the State of Iowa Network News Go to the State of Iowa Home Page