Curator: The Modern Renaissance Man

NWCM curator, Jerry Bowman, standing in front of an 1888 Stagecoach, wearing an impressive cowboy hat.In the midst of a recent research rabbit hole, an entertaining post came to light: this delightfully snarky letter by one of the trustees of the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, written in 1870, casting aspersions on a particular candidate’s aptitude for curatorial work. Here is Sir Richard Southey’s brief description of the ideal museum curator:

“The Curator must be a man of active habits, possess a practical knowledge of taxidermy (essential in our institution), must know a little of mechanics, and do a little carpentering very often. He must know how to handle the gun as well as the butterfly net, and be able to go out boating or riding, roughing it in fact, for specimens.”

The rest of the letter is basically about how the candidate under consideration is just a weedy, lazy entomologist, and therefore no good for the robust manly tasks required of a proper curator.

This humorous exploration of curatorship provided too good an opportunity to pass up to salute the skills and humor of our own beloved curator, Jerry Bowman, who does most of the writing for this blog, gives historical talks all over the country, is the museum’s #1 cheerleader, and maintains our world-class collection and building & grounds. Jerry has drive, passion, confidence, commitment, a sense of humor, and attention to detail that makes him the best man for job!

From a young age Jerry had a sense of humor which, if you know him, has only enhanced with age. His love of woodworking started early with exposure to carpentry projects through a beloved neighbor/grandfather-figure named Joe. Sports also played a big part of his life growing up, as a youth and well into college. Sports formed his discipline, confidence, and competitiveness to always get a job done right. After graduating from college, he enjoyed coaching and teaching math for a short time, but fate would have him enter the business world. During his 30+ year career with Bank of America he climbed the corporate ladder; his drive, honesty, and ability to work through the challenges of big business, including the sacrifices, and life experiences attributed to his success. Throughout his life, he maintained and cultivated his love of sports and woodworking, and added to the list of hobbies and projects through the years with things like restoring a ’53 Chevy and making wooden bird houses, trivets, and novelty items. His interest in history–especially the Civil War era–was a perfect fit for the museum, along with being a natural at fixing, tinkering, and building things! After retiring 20 years ago from SoCal and the “rat race of city life,” he is living his best life in the PNW! He is doing what he loves, conserving vehicles, giving entertaining tours, and speaking at engagements, all with a twinkle in his eye, as the curator at the NWCM! His passion is infectious, ask anyone he has talked with!

Buggy Maintenance 101!

buggy wrenches

Did you know that a buggy wrench was the only tool needed to assemble your new buggy back in the 1890s? Often, buggies and other vehicles were ordered from catalogs; in fact, you could order a new buggy from the Sears catalog back in 1895 for $29.95. That buggy would be delivered to your home (not by Amazon) and all you needed to do was uncrate it, find your buggy wrench, and put it together. That little wrench fit your hub nuts and every other square nut on that buggy. Once assembled, just hook up your horse and go to town. Here’s another good idea: best take that wrench with you… you never know what might be loose after a ride to town! This original wrench is from our 1895 Studebaker buggy. I have actually used it on our buggy… pretty handy!




Chin Waggin’ About Wagons

A scan of the illustrated cover of an 1877 catalog from the Mitchell, Lewis & Co.Curator Jerry Bowman with the donators of the Mitchell Wagon standing in front of the rustic farm wagon in its pre-conservation condition.This beautiful Mitchell Farm Wagon was conserved several years ago and is currently on display in the museum. Michell Lewis was one of America’s finest wagon makers and was known for building strong and durable wagons out of Racine, Wisconsin during the second half of the 19th century. In 1882, William Mitchell, grandson of founder Henry Mitchell, opened a West coast facility in Portland, Oregon. Wagons being built in Racine were shipped via railroad to Portland, where they were sold.  In 1892, Mitchell Lewis merged with Staver and Walker, producer of plows and related farm equipment.  The new company was named “Mitchell Lewis and Staver.” Our wagon was originally bought by a farm family near Battle Ground, Washington in 1892.  That family had it for many years and eventually sold it to another farm family who had it 61 years. Members from that family, while on a car club tour at our museum, offered to donate the wagon to us.  We are the third owners of this historic vehicle.  It was in the shop for several months, undergoing a complete conservation. We were able to save almost the complete vehicle–including original paint, pin stripping, and patina.  The wagon is totally functional and very historical.  Mitchell Lewis went on to make cars and trucks in the early 20th century.  Mitchell Lewis Staver is still in business and based in Portland: they make and sell agricultural irrigation systems around the world.

The fully conserved Mitchell Wagon in its new home at the Northwest Carriage Museum.









Introducing Curator’s Corner: An Exciting New Blog!

Welcome to the Museum’s latest project ~ “Curator’s Corner”.  Our blog will capture my knowledge about the collection and beyond ~ It will be fun, historically interesting, and entertaining.  I will be submitting particulars on history, our collection of vehicles and artifacts, and who knows what other topics!

At times, we will also be opening up the blog to guest contributors and seeing posts from our other staff about museum goings-on.  Join us behind the scenes as we keep history alive, and don’t forget to spread the word of our exciting new undertaking to the other history, restoration, and adventure buffs you know.

Curator Jerry Bowman working on a wheel hub

Thank you, and enjoy!