The Campbell County Rockpile Museum is still closed for now and while the staff is working hard preparing for our re-opening, we encourage all residents of Gillette and Campbell County to engage with some new online resources we have created this past month. Visit our website at www.rockpilemuseum.com to see two new virtual exhibits, several online jigsaw puzzles, our collections highlights series “Cabinet of Curiosities,” our YouTube series “Rockpile Readers!”, and some fun at-home activities in our Rockpile Learning Lab. These resources are great for students, families, and anyone interested in learning more about the history and culture of the Powder River Basin.
Our virtual exhibits feature two exhibits created by the Rockpile Museum in 2019. Dear Folks: Letters Home from WWII featured letters sent home by Campbell County soldiers during World War II. You can “walk” through this virtual exhibit and hear the letters being read, watch the closing event, and view “Dear Folks: The Making of an Exhibit” which shows the behind the scenes effort needed to pull of this great display.
In the Fall of 2019, The Campbell County Rockpile Museum created and displayed a gallery exhibit dedicated to telling stories of some of the Black Cowboys of Campbell County. We felt it was important to dig up and share these stories to more fully understand the vast cultural history of the Powder River Basin. This virtual exhibit features many of the highlights from both the exhibit and the two-day event weekend. Feel free to take the guided tour, but also be sure to explore the virtual gallery on your own as well, you never know what you might find!
Be sure to also follow “The Cabinet of Curiosities” on the Campbell County, Wyoming Government Facebook page to see photos and objects from the fantastic collections at the museum. There will be a new post every Saturday. This week’s post is about one of our sewing machines.
Our newest video series is called “Rockpile Readers!” and features Museum Educator Stephan Zacharias. Each Monday morning for the next few weeks we invite you to tune in to our YouTube Channel for a new edition of “Rockpile Readers!” When you have finished viewing, be sure to check the links in the video description for additional activities related to each book.
Finally, visit our new webpage “Rockpile Learning Lab” at rockpilemuseum.com to enjoy some fun history activities including four online jigsaw puzzles, a youth airplane challenge, a pioneer arithmetic challenge, and Mother’s Day crafts and activities.
We can’t wait to show you some new exhibits inside the museum, but until that time please enjoy these great online resources provided by the staff of the Rockpile Museum.
For additional information about the Rockpile Museum, please call (307) 682-5723 or visit www.rockpilemuseum.com. The Campbell County Rockpile Museum is located at 900 W. 2nd Street in Gillette, Wyoming.
Photo: This object is an Edgemere sewing machine patented November 30, 1886. This is a high arm, treadle machine in a drop head case. This sewing machine was purchased in approximately 1903 for $12.00 by Mr. & Mrs. L. P. McVay while they were living in Iowa. They moved to Wyoming in 1917, and later to California.
What is known is that the Edgemere model at the Rockpile Museum was purchased through the Sears & Roebuck Company. Founded in 1893, Sears Roebuck & Co., next to Singer, was one of the most important suppliers of sewing machines in North America from the 1890s through the 1950s.
For the Sears & Roebuck Company, sewing machine sales were an immediate success. This was largely due to the very low prices for which they sold their machines and that they were a mail order company, which kept their overhead costs comparatively low. Sears was able to sell high quality treadle sewing machines for between fifteen to twenty dollars versus the forty to sixty dollars that retail dealers charged for equivalent models. Many different models of Sears sewing machines were sold between 1899 and 1929, making their identification challenging.
While the Second World War brought benefits to industries recovering from the Great Depression, it dealt a severe blow to sewing machine manufacturing. Because of the transition to producing war-time materials, sewing machines disappeared from the catalog pages and department store floors of the Sears & Roebuck Company. They would not reappear until about 1948, and by that time, would face a new rival in Asian import sewing machines.
Fun Fact: Local retailers became very resentful when local patrons purchased mail order goods. So, to protect their customers, the companies would send their catalogs and merchandise in unmarked packages. Taken from the 1902 Sears catalog:
“For the benefit of merchants, manufacturers, tradesmen and others, who, knowing they can buy from us at much lower prices than they can buy elsewhere … we have decided to leave our name and address off from every article we sell, so that even though the illustration may show the imprint of our name and address, it will not appear on the goods you get …. Remember our price to the storekeeper is exactly the same as to the consumer, and the same whether you order one article or one thousand, our aim being to protect every buyer and furnish merchandise of the highest standard of quality at much lower prices than it can be had from any other house.”