Museum shares the history of Springfield, Mo.
SPRINGFIELD, MO. – Springfield’s History Museum on the Square is a resource and jumping-off point for people who are interested in local history. The museum is divided into levels that can be visited via elevator. Each level exhibits a different aspect of Springfield, Mo., history.
The bottom floor highlights Native American History, complete with a real teepee and several other examples of Native American culture. In all the exhibits, there are media kiosks that allow you to gain a deeper knowledge of the subject matter. Visitors find these to be extremely professional, extraordinarily informative, and interesting.
The next level up was about the Springfield trolley system. Though it may seem like there isn’t that much on that floor, but visitors spend a great deal of time there. The exhibit includes the first mule-driven streetcar began in 1880. It was constructed to connect the two business districts together — Springfield and North Springfield. Later, they used horses to move passengers between the two communities until they merged in 1887. In 1888, the Springfield Railway and Power Company introduced some of the first electric street cars west of the Mississippi. Various companies formed to add lines to the system, servicing various areas of the growing city. Eventually, they were all bought by the same holding company that became City Utilities of Springfield, and they were in service until buses were introduced in 1937.
After investigating the trolleys’ history, guests can venture into what looks like a little trolley with seats facing toward screens in front that looked like windows of the trolley; it’s much more than a simulated trolley ride. In the center, there is a control that can be used to start and stop a presentation that simulated a trip through time. It started in the early 1800s and traveled through the history of Springfield.
Not only was the physical history of the city shown, but it profiled some famous and not-so-famous Springfield residents. Artist Rose O’Neill was the first woman to get a comic strip published and gained tremendous wealth through the creation of Kewpie dolls. Another inventor and entrepreneur was Walter Majors, who started out with a bicycle shop and then built one of the first cars in Springfield. He was the first African-American man to drive across the square at the reportedly too-fast rate of 7 miles per hour. He was pulled over for driving too fast and fined $1. This did not deter him though, and he went to registered more than a dozen U.S. patents.
The Route 66 exhibit, which is probably the most popular to see. There is a wealth of information, presentations and exhibits about the birth of Route 66, as well as information about famous places and visitors like Elvis Presley.
Another floor is the Civil War exhibit. It is well-known there was a battle at Wilson’s Creek in Springfield, and more information is divulged here that is a little less known.
Soon to come in March is a new exhibit called Deeply Rooted: Stories of Missouri Farming. This celebrates Missouri’s agricultural heritage and the people — past and present — who bring food to our tables. The exhibit covers a wide range of topics, from prehistoric agriculture to modern roof-top gardens and the joys and heartbreak of the industry.
This display was produced by the Missouri State Museum in Jefferson City, Mo. The History Museum on the Square will add a local component to the exhibit, displaying a number of quality farming-related artifacts, including a half-size and salesman sample-size Springfield wagon. A variety of illustrations and advertisements of farm and seed catalogs plus drawings from the 1876 Illustrated Atlas of Greene County will further tell the stories. Extraordinary stories about rural life and farming in Greene County will be produced with a multimedia exhibit. Exhibit dates will be March 9 to June 19.
The History Museum on the Square is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.
There are special rates for groups, seniors, veterans and students. Consult the museum website at historymuseumonthesquare.org for more information.