Christmas at the Museum

I spent a recent afternoon at the Monona County Historical Society Museum. It was their Christmas Open House, in Onawa, Iowa, and they’re open tomorrow and next weekend, too. Otherwise they’re mainly closed in the winter.


Click on any of these pictures and they get larger. I didn’t do that because I’m a computer genius. It does it on its own. I have no idea why, but I’m glad.  
Possibly the most interesting thing in the Monona County Museum, to me, was a Hair Wreath . I’d never seen anything like this before.

I got this info about Hair Wreaths from HERE. I just couldn’t hardly stare at it long enough. It’s amazing, intricate, true artwork, done with human hair.

From 1850 to 1875, one of the most popular forms of fancywork was the hair wreath.
Appealing to the tendency among Victorian women to incorporate the importance of friends and family into their work, hair served as a tangible remembrance of someone. Often, close companions exchanged hair as tokens of friendship. Hair was also sometimes taken after a person’s death as a means of honor and remembrance. For a woman whose local supply fell short, hair swatches could even be purchased from catalogs and stores. Hair wreaths were constructed almost entirely of human hair, which was manipulated to resemble a variety of flowers, floral sprigs, and leaves. The flowers placed together in a horseshoe-shaped wreath represent a common Victorian symbol for good luck displayed with the open ends up so as to “hold the luck inside.”


Here’s what I went in to look at—a doctor’s bag. A doctor’s bag figures prominently in my work in progress, which won’t be out for a while so I won’t bother to talk about it, except to say, I need to know exactly what a 1880 doctor bag looked like and what would be in it.

I loved this. I think you can tell I’m a writer because I found the stuff WRITTEN DOWN almost more interesting than the STUFF. I just love words. 🙂 This is a recipe for soap.

And this??? A list of rules for the behavior and duties of teachers. Yikes. Definitely click on the Rules for Teachers and read them. Pretty strict. Where was the UNION??? Starting at rule #4 they get very personal. I especially love the one that says if a woman teacher gets married or engages in unseemly conduct, she’ll be dismissed. Like Marriage is on a par with unseemly conduct. My mother-in-law says this is absolutely true. NO MARRIED WOMEN WORKED. It wasn’t punitive, it was just the way things were. Getting married was the same as resigning. My mil says it’s because once you were married, you had a man to support you and keeping your job kept it away from someone who needed it. It was simple good manners. A woman could sell eggs and butter though. So there were ways to make money.

Onawa, Iowa is the home of the Eskimo Pie…and you thought it was Nome, didn’t you?
No way.
It’s a really interesting exhibit and lots to read so I’m happy.
Did you know Russell Stover got involved in the creation of Eskimo Pies?
He made the chocolate coating work.
The day I was there, it was the annual Christmas open house
and they had hot cider and cookies and music. A nice day.
A saddle dated 1880 so my hero would have one JUST LIKE IT.
Except without the decorated tree beside it, probably…unless he’s a wussy cowboy. Or wait, maybe I should say…extremely sentimental. And what cowboys are like that, huh?

And here is a replica of the keelboat Lewis and Clark pulled up the Missouri River.

For some reason this doesn’t get bigger when I click on it. I have no idea why. But look close. Those toy men standing on the front…they help you to realize how SMALL the keel boat was.
And they dragged that thing against the current from St. Louis??
Of course the Missouri wasn’t so deep and fast moving as it is now so maybe it was easy, huh?
Wanna bet???
I’m haunting museums these days, searching for a doctor’s bag. So who knows what else I’ll come up with to blog about?
Tell me about the seasonal fun in your area. Is any of it for Thanksgiving or have we totally by-passed that to start Christmas right after Halloween?
I live in a small town and we have a community Thanksgiving Dinner, put on by the ministerial association, five churches in our small town. Then the library has a festival of trees. There is a Christmas Cantata with choirs from all five churches.
Every organization in town has a chili feed or bake sale, or both. Christmas programs at all the churches. The school will have a music concert. There is a tour of homes, to allow us to snoop in the most beautifully decorated houses in town. But of course, this is all Christmas isn’t it? Oops. I skipped over Thanksgiving, too.
News flash…I don’t let them come to my place.
Tell me about your thanksgiving traditions.
And, in honor of my niece, who is currently on active duty in Iraq, and all the brave men and women who sacrifice to keep us free, click HERE to see a tribute to our service men and women at Thanksgiving.
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Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

12 thoughts on “Christmas at the Museum”

  1. Mary sounds like you learned a lot at the museum, and it is a nice way to get ready for the Holidays.
    I can’t believe the rules for the teachers wow they were in their business a little to much never knew about that. What about little house on the prairie did she teach and was married and had kids? maybe I am way off on time frame. Oh well I would not be able to live by those rules good thing I am not a teacher and I am a terrible writer.

  2. Mary, I’ve never heard of hair wreaths before. They’re pretty, but kind of icky…but I guess no different than using animal fiber. Your trip to the museum sounds like it was interesting, and LOL on finding the written bits more interesting than the stuff.

  3. Mary,

    We’re going to do a little something at the Crooks’ house this year, and that’s spend several hours in the morning packing food boxes for the needy at the Salvation Army. It appears to a *huge* process, and I’m looking forward to the experience.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

  4. Fascinating blog, Mary. My great grandmother (who was very good with her hands) made a hair wreath with the hair from all her children. My aunt had it while I was growing up. The different colors were beautiful. One of my grandmothers, who had long hair until the last few years, used to save the combings from her hair. I guess it’s because she did it as a young woman. But she never did anything with the hair. Her children threw away this big bag of hair after she passed on. (Maybe a little too much information??)

  5. Hi Mary, great blog as usual. This museum sounds amazing and I wish I lived closer.

    I have seen hair art and while pretty, I do agree with Kate. A bit creepy. We did find my gramma’s long ponytail when we cleaned out mom’a old house. I guess my grampa seriously took her to task for bobbing it. We could probably make some rockin’ stuff out of that one.

    The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near me has a lovely display of a hundred or more Christmas trees decorated in themes…so we intend to go see them!

    Mary, God bless your niece and keep her safe. A blessed Thanksgiving to everybody at the Junction.

  6. Interesting blog, Mary!

    I had no idea women made hair wreaths back then. That must’ve been weird. No wonder you stared at it for a while. Must’ve taken days and weeks of painstaking work. I’m wondering how large the wreath was. You saw so many neat things at that museum.

    We have a small local museum that has a few things. I went yesterday and looked around. They had the place decked out in holiday cheer. So pretty. One interesting thing was a replica of a dugout that was neat with a tumbleweed Christmas tree. I loved seeing that. Our town also does a Christmas tour of homes every year where people can go snoop inside luxurious homes you’d never have a chance to see.

    Pam, it’s wonderful that you’re going to help the Salvation Army pack needy boxes tomorrow. That’s such a worthy cause. My daughter and granddaughters are going to serve lunch at the homeless shelter. It’s great to help out and give back to the community.

    Now, I’m off to start cooking and getting ready for my family. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

  7. Oh, Mary, I enlarged the recipe and thought it said home made soup – so I read through the ingredients and directions, thinking, “Lye? Lye in the soup?” LOL

    Good thing you don’t have me reading your Thanksgiving recipes to you this year.

  8. Hi, ladies. Crazy day but I’m back online. No longer living that strange ‘real world’ life.

    The wreath was about oh…12-18 inches in diameter I’d say, and the top was open so it was horseshoe shaped. They had two smaller ones, too.

    And I think the part of Little House on the Prairie where Laura taught school was totally fictional.

    Except I suspect that, if the need was there and NO TEACHER AT ALL was available, they’d probably let a married woman teach…don’t you think?

  9. The work on that wreath is so fine, so intricate. I remember we had a quilt made of one inch square pieces. My grandma called it a ‘postage stamp quilt’.

    I asked how anyone could put those tiny piece together and she said her mother made it and she had never seen her mother sit down without something in her hands, some kind of needle work. So, if you did that always, you might start LOOKING for teeny fine work to do, just to keep yourself busy.

  10. Great post, Mary!! I LOVE museums…they alawys have to drag me out *lol* Thanks for taking us along 😀 The hair wreathes are WILD. I’ve never heard of them before.

    Wishing everyone a warm and festive Thanksgiving!!

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