Made in Chicago Museum

Made in Chicago Museum Revisiting Chicago's industrial history through everyday objects and the companies that made them. Knox Avenue.

Along with our online museum at MadeInChicagoMuseum.com, we also have a new exhibit inside Klairmont Kollections, a classic car museum at 3117 N. Please visit KlairmontKollections.com for ticket info. Our official opening event is scheduled for May 26, 2022.

Anthony Overton was one of the most successful African-American businessmen of the 1920s. A cosmetics manufacturer, bank...
10/06/2023

Anthony Overton was one of the most successful African-American businessmen of the 1920s. A cosmetics manufacturer, banking executive, and newspaper publisher, he and was in many ways the living embodiment of Chicago's thriving Bronzeville neighborhood, and built two major office buildings there that have become historic landmarks. Check out the story of the Overton-Hygienic MFG Co. here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/overton-hygienic/

About 90 years before the popular Chicago-based TV series "The Bear," there was a Chicago-made children’s book called "T...
09/18/2023

About 90 years before the popular Chicago-based TV series "The Bear," there was a Chicago-made children’s book called "The Bear." And while the 1934 book was literally about wild bears rather than wild chefs, its use of early 3-D pictures (taken of actual bear dioramas from the Field Museum) made it no less compelling. Check out the tale of the unique publisher behind The Bear, the Orthovis Company, here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/orthovis/

An early Victor Adding Machine might look clunky and comically massive by today's calculating standards, but in its own ...
09/11/2023

An early Victor Adding Machine might look clunky and comically massive by today's calculating standards, but in its own time, the 30LB office appliance was hailed for its "lightweight" construction. For over 50 years, Victor's Chicago-made machines continued to push forward innovation, and now look archaic only as a result of the forward momentum they helped create.

Museum Artifacts: Victor Adding Machines – Model 210 (c. 1925, donated by Robert Eichhorn) and 600 Series (c. 1939) Made By: Victor Adding Machine Company, 3900 N. Rockwell St., Chicago, IL [North Center] “The design of the VICTOR is a work of art, and has been pronounced by experts the most bea...

The Super-Sensitive Musical String Company has the longest name of any business featured in the Made In Chicago Museum, ...
08/30/2023

The Super-Sensitive Musical String Company has the longest name of any business featured in the Made In Chicago Museum, but you likely never heard it unless you had your eyes on joining the orchestra. While student musicians were a big part of its business, Super-Sensitive also had endorsements from world renowned masters, including cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and legendary Chicago violinist Aaron Rosand.

A history of the Super Sensitive Musical String Co., part of our exclusive research archive of key 20th century Chicago manufacturers and their products.

The Space Age 1950s carafes produced by the Inland Glass Works represent the company’s only widely recognized contributi...
08/22/2023

The Space Age 1950s carafes produced by the Inland Glass Works represent the company’s only widely recognized contribution to American glass manufacturing. Once upon a time, though, this was Chicago's best and biggest art glass enterprise, financially backed by some of the city's leading tycoons, including John T. Pirie, Laurence Armour, and Philip K. Wrigley.

A history of the Inland Glass Works, part of our growing archive of research dedicated to important 20th century Chicago manufacturers and their products.

Founded by Harold Meitus in the mid 1930s, the Superior Match Co. took advantage of the smoker's culture of the day, sig...
07/27/2023

Founded by Harold Meitus in the mid 1930s, the Superior Match Co. took advantage of the smoker's culture of the day, signing up every mom-and-pop barber shop, dive bar, and sketchy motel with its own line of promotional match covers. Some options were essentially the “clip art” of their day: i.e., a bowling alley might be represented by an illustration of scattering pins, or a cocktail bar could have their name above a tilted martini glass. Over time, though, some of Superior Match’s more nuanced and popular designs attracted enough attention that people started collecting them on their own merits.

A history of the Superior Match Company, part of our growing archive of research focused on key 20th century Chicago manufacturers and their products.

The new Mission Impossible movie is called "Dead Reckoning," and while that sounds like a typical cool-sounding title fo...
07/21/2023

The new Mission Impossible movie is called "Dead Reckoning," and while that sounds like a typical cool-sounding title for an action flick, it's also a reference to the navigational term for calculating the position of a moving object. During WWII, many of the slide-rule style "dead reckoning computers" & altitude correction instruments used by Allied soldiers were manufactured in Chicago by G. Felsenthal & Sons, a company that had previously specialized in silly novelties.

A history of G. Felsenthal & Sons, maker of navigation instruments; part of our research archive of notable Chicago manufacturers and their products.

The Alvah MFG Co. formed in 1892, produced this snazzy sewing machine in our museum collection, then dissolved a year la...
06/16/2023

The Alvah MFG Co. formed in 1892, produced this snazzy sewing machine in our museum collection, then dissolved a year later. Don’t mourn their loss too much, though. The leaders of the business, Richard W. Sears and company namesake Alvah C. Roebuck, quickly reconstituted their partnership under the slightly more familiar name of Sears, Roebuck & Company, making the Alvah Sewing Machine a sort of “prequel” to one of the 20th century’s most successful retail giants.
The full story: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/alvah-mfg/

He was president of Chicago's short-lived Empire Spice Mills during the 1930s-40s, but Harry J. Romanoff was far better ...
06/12/2023

He was president of Chicago's short-lived Empire Spice Mills during the 1930s-40s, but Harry J. Romanoff was far better known to locals as one of the city's preeminent crime reporters. In fact, he was one of the real-life models for the determined, flamboyant, fast-talking Chicago newspapermen portrayed in plays and movies like The Front Page, which was written by a couple of Romanoff’s former colleagues, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Check out the full story:

A history of Chicago's Empire Spice Mills, part of our growing archive of research dedicated to key 20th century Chicago manufacturers and their products.

Musical instruments made by Chicago's Harmony Company were mass-produced and affordable, but still "retained the artisti...
05/16/2023

Musical instruments made by Chicago's Harmony Company were mass-produced and affordable, but still "retained the artistic touch of the master craftsman," according to one 1952 article. "More than half of Harmony’s nearly 150 employees, including the many women, are skilled workers. Some are so skilled that not even the top feats of engineering have been able to approach their touch." Here's more on the history and legacy of Harmony:

A history of the Harmony Musical Instrument Company, part of our growing research archive on key 20th century Chicago manufacturers and their products.

Founded 100 years ago, in 1923, the Rival Packing Company eventually became a leading maker of canned dog food; still a ...
04/18/2023

Founded 100 years ago, in 1923, the Rival Packing Company eventually became a leading maker of canned dog food; still a novel concept at the time. Rival Dog Food was known for its catchy advertising jingle and for proudly "containing NO HORSE MEAT," another weirdly novel concept during the '20s and '30s. You can read the full story of Rival here:

Museum Artifact: Rival Dog Food Coin Banks, 1950s Made By: Rival Packing Co., 4500 S. Tripp Ave., Chicago, IL [Archer Heights] [♫ To the tune of Johann Strauss’s “Blue Danube Waltz” ♫] Gimme Ri-val Dog Food, Arf Arf, Arf Arf! Gimme Ri-val Dog Food, Woof Woof, Woof Woof! Your Dog’s Eyes W...

It's now one of the top new concert venues in the city, but from 1930-2015, the "Salt Shed" on Elston Avenue was just th...
04/12/2023

It's now one of the top new concert venues in the city, but from 1930-2015, the "Salt Shed" on Elston Avenue was just that: a massive storage shed and distribution hub for the mighty Morton Salt Company. For nostalgia's sake, the roof of this building still features a giant mural of the Morton Salt Girl, arguably the most iconic product brand the city has produced.

A history of the Morton Salt Company, part of our growing archive of research dedicated to key 20th century Chicago manufacturers and their products.

If you ever used an old punch-style bottle opener with the name of a beer or soda company etched into it, odds are decen...
04/03/2023

If you ever used an old punch-style bottle opener with the name of a beer or soda company etched into it, odds are decent that it also included (in smaller print) the name of the Vaughan Novelty MFG Co., one of the largest producers of bottle/can openers, stoppers, and related gadgets from the 1910s to the 1980s. Here is the tale of Harry L. Vaughan and the unique can of worms he helped open up in a world before pull tabs and twist-offs.

Museum Artifact: Vaughan’s Grip-Tite Bottle Stopper, Perfo-Siphon Bottle Stopper, and Fox Deluxe Punch-Style Bottle Opener, c. 1950s Made By: Vaughan Novelty MFG Co., 3211 W. Carroll Ave., Chicago, IL [East Garfield Park] The bottle and the bottle opener—a vital symbiotic relationship that’s b...

The Western Felt Works at 4115 W. Ogden Avenue employed over 2,000 workers at its peak, producing felt linings for every...
03/28/2023

The Western Felt Works at 4115 W. Ogden Avenue employed over 2,000 workers at its peak, producing felt linings for everything from auto parts and hat linings to phonograph turntables, pennants, saddles, shoes, and sporting goods. The family behind the company, however, wasn't always as soft as the products, as one particular heiress, Alice Silverthorne de Janze, would famously become known as the "Wicked Madonna" in the 1920s tabloids. The full story: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/western-felt-works/

We've fully updated our history of the Planert Skate Company, including the addition of a new artifact: a colorful 1930s...
02/03/2023

We've fully updated our history of the Planert Skate Company, including the addition of a new artifact: a colorful 1930s ice skate box acquired at the Mercantile M antique shop in Andersonville. Planert was one of the "Big 3" of Chicago ice skate manufacturers, and led many of the key innovations in skate design for hockey and speed skating alike. Check out their story here:

Museum Artifact: Planert Ice Skate Sharpening Jig (1910s) and Ice Skate Box (1930s) Made By: F.W. Planert & Sons, Inc., 935-941 N Damen Ave., Chicago, IL [East Ukrainian Village] “Perfect design—perfect alignment—perfect fit and perfect performance. The New Planert All Steel—Full Tubular Ska...

Founded during Chicago's post-fire rebuild in 1871, the Theo. A. Kochs Company played an important role in advancing bot...
01/10/2023

Founded during Chicago's post-fire rebuild in 1871, the Theo. A. Kochs Company played an important role in advancing both the functional and aesthetic quality of American barbershops and beauty parlors—each of which had fallen into ill repute through most of the 1800s. At its bustling River North factory, Kochs produced or warehoused just about every imaginable piece of barberalia, from chairs, clippers, combs, and creams to barber’s poles, mirror cases, shaving mugs, and wash stands. Check out their story here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/theo-a-kochs/

Here are the Top 10 most visited company history pages on our site in 2022. Most of these businesses also produced some ...
12/22/2022

Here are the Top 10 most visited company history pages on our site in 2022. Most of these businesses also produced some great Christmas present options in their day.
10. Airguide Instrument Co.
9. Westclox
8. Hibbard, Spencer & Bartlett
7. Jays Potato Chips
6. National Washboard Co.
5. Zenith Radio Corp.
4. Schwinn Bicycle Co.
3. Halsam Toys
2. Chicago Roller Skate Co.
1. Ekco Products Co.

Piggybacking off our Montgomery Ward post from earlier in the week, we've recently completed a unique history of the Chi...
12/16/2022

Piggybacking off our Montgomery Ward post from earlier in the week, we've recently completed a unique history of the Chicago company that printed many of Ward's catalogs, along with magazines like Motor Trend, Popular Mechanics, Pl***oy, and Ebony. The W. F. Hall Printing Company was once among the largest in the world, and one of its former buildings in Belmont Cragin just happens to be the current home of the Made In Chicago Museum. Find out more here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/w-f-hall-printing/

As part of our own little Christmas tradition, we're once again sharing the Chicago-centric origin story of Rudolph the ...
12/14/2022

As part of our own little Christmas tradition, we're once again sharing the Chicago-centric origin story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, who made his debut 83 years ago in a holiday booklet handed out by Montgomery Ward & Co. Our collection includes one of those original 1939 books by Robert L. May, which you can find here, along with a much broader history of the once mighty Monty Ward empire: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/montgomery-ward/

Our research into a Chicago business called Kawin & Company turned into an enlightening education on one of the first fo...
11/30/2022

Our research into a Chicago business called Kawin & Company turned into an enlightening education on one of the first forms of "3D" entertainment: the Stereoscope. An early precursor to the Viewmaster, these handheld instruments came along before motion pictures and were quite the popular fad, transporting the viewer to faraway lands and famous landmarks via a couple lenses and a dual-image postcard.
https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/kawin/

From the 1920s into the 1960s, the Wilson-Jones Company occupied the expansive 2-story factory building at 3300 W. Frank...
11/15/2022

From the 1920s into the 1960s, the Wilson-Jones Company occupied the expansive 2-story factory building at 3300 W. Franklin Blvd., producing "Modern Business Essentials" such as ledgers, binders, and hole punches. That building fell into disrepair for many years after the company left, but when it was renovated several years ago, the original exterior signage was revealed, including the logo of Wilson-Jones' "DeLuxe" line of Loose Leaf Devices and Supplies. Check out the complete history of Wilson-Jones here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/wilson-jones/

100 years ago, most Americans still didn't brush their teeth everyday. But Chicago's Pepsodent toothpaste, and the innov...
10/04/2022

100 years ago, most Americans still didn't brush their teeth everyday. But Chicago's Pepsodent toothpaste, and the innovative marketing campaign behind it, helped change that forever. It's a product that made legends of its advertising strategists, Albert Lasker and Claude Hopkins, and that helped launch the radio career of comedian Bob Hope. Check out the complete history of Pepsodent here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/pepsodent/

Chicago's Martin & Martin manufactured the "E-Z" brand of stove and shoe polishes in the early 1900s, with some success....
09/30/2022

Chicago's Martin & Martin manufactured the "E-Z" brand of stove and shoe polishes in the early 1900s, with some success. But the Martin brothers themselves are better remembered today for their long association with the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In fact, the E-Z Polish factory, at 3005 W. Carroll Ave., was the one and only factory building attributed to Wright, although the finished product was a far cry from his original design.
Find out more about the important role the Martins played in Wright's career, and vice versa, here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/e-z-polish/

The Chicago Eye Shield Company, aka CESCO, was founded in 1903—the same year the Wright Brothers ushered in the aeronaut...
08/12/2022

The Chicago Eye Shield Company, aka CESCO, was founded in 1903—the same year the Wright Brothers ushered in the aeronautics age, Ford introduced the Model A automobile, and Harley-Davidson built its first motorcycle. The timing wasn’t exactly a coincidence, either. With a new generation of bikers, drivers, and aviators on the horizon, a whole new set of safety risks was sure to follow; many of them related to protecting one’s bloodshot eyeballs from the flying debris associated with these open-air, high-speed hobbies. Add in the thousands of men and women still putting their retinas in daily peril doing factory, farming, or mining work, and the profit potential for a company making goggles was limitless.
Check out the unique story of CESCO here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/cesco/

In the 1950s, Kay Stanley's "Model Craft" kits and "Cake Mix" sets made her the most successful female executive in the ...
07/26/2022

In the 1950s, Kay Stanley's "Model Craft" kits and "Cake Mix" sets made her the most successful female executive in the toy business. Newspapers across the country celebrated Kay, a single divorcee, for her combination of toughness (she could repair all the machines in her own factory) and Betty Crocker-ish charm. Sadly, though, after selling off her business in the late '50s, Kay Stanley faded into obscurity. As of yet, we haven't even been able to find a death certificate or obituary to confirm her eventual fate. If you can help us solve the mystery, please leave a comment! Or you learn more about Kay's significant impact on toy culture in our full article on Model Craft, Inc. here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/model-craft/

The Dormeyer Corp. was another of Chicago's major mid-century appliance manufacturers, but the company's story is less a...
07/15/2022

The Dormeyer Corp. was another of Chicago's major mid-century appliance manufacturers, but the company's story is less about its namesake family, and more about Titus Haffa, the millionaire industrialist who took over the firm from 1944-1970. A former alderman of the 43rd ward, Haffa had infamously gone to prison for running his own bootlegging syndicate during Prohibition, but in the tradition of Chicago politics, he'd re-emerged as a hero of post-war capitalism, owning 17 businesses in addition to Dormeyer. Haffa was the personification of Chicago moxie in its best and worst forms and remained a magnet for controversy. Learn about his rise and that of the Dormeyer Corp in our in-depth company history here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/dormeyer/

No other manufacturing business in Chicago ever had a headquarters quite like that of the Olson Rug Company. From 1935 t...
07/01/2022

No other manufacturing business in Chicago ever had a headquarters quite like that of the Olson Rug Company. From 1935 to 1965, the sprawling Olson factory campus at the northwest corner of Diversey Avenue and Pulaski Road—with its stunning man-made waterfalls, rock gardens, sculptures, and light shows—didn’t just serve as a nice place for workers to have their lunch breaks. It was open and free all day to the general public, as well; an oasis of nature and beauty in an otherwise grey and industrial section of Avondale / Logan Square. At its peak, the park was attracting 200,000 visitors per year.
You can learn more about the heyday of Olson Rug here:

A history of the Olson Rug Company, from its founding in 1874 to the present. Part of the Made In Chicago Museum's archive of notable Chicago manufacturers.

Invented in the heart of the Great Depression, the Hammond electric organ arguably made a more substantial, immediate im...
06/15/2022

Invented in the heart of the Great Depression, the Hammond electric organ arguably made a more substantial, immediate impact on the culture than the first electrified guitars introduced a few years earlier. Its creator, Laurens Hammond, brought the tonal versatility of a cathedral pipe organ into America's living rooms, and his genius didn't go unrecognized.
Check out the history of Chicago's Hammond Organ Company here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/hammond-organ-co/

When many American families were forced to start knitting their own sweaters and blankets again during the Great Depress...
06/06/2022

When many American families were forced to start knitting their own sweaters and blankets again during the Great Depression, a certain factory in Ravenswood reaped the benefits. “The knitting boom has done wonders for the Boye Needle Co. of Chicago, the works in American knitting needles,” Fortune magazine reported in 1935. “According to Boye’s own estimate, it made 75 percent of the 10 million knitting needles sold in the U.S. last year and about 90 percent of the 5 million crochet needles.”
You can check out the full story of the long-running Boye brand here:

A history of the Boye Needle Company, part of our growing archive of research focused on key 20th century Chicago manufacturers and their products.

Thanks to everyone who attended the Made In Chicago Museum exhibition launch last night at Klairmont Kollections! We had...
05/27/2022

Thanks to everyone who attended the Made In Chicago Museum exhibition launch last night at Klairmont Kollections! We had a great turnout and some lovely conversations. Additional thanks to the folks at Klairmont, who offered up their big event space for the evening and provided some delicious Chicago-sourced food and drink. From here on out, you can visit the Made In Chicago exhibit inside Klairmont's Marshall Field's wing, Thurs-Sunday from 10am-4pm. Or visit us anytime online at madeinchicagomuseum.com

The Made In Chicago Museum exhibit launch event on May 26 also includes full access to Chicago's largest automotive muse...
05/19/2022

The Made In Chicago Museum exhibit launch event on May 26 also includes full access to Chicago's largest automotive museum, Klairmont Kollections, along with free food and drink, free parking, gift bags, a "Made In Chicago" short film screening, and more. If you're into Chicago industrial history, or classic cars, or both, do come by and join us!

Klairmont Kollections has partnered with the Made in Chicago Museum to celebrate our Chicago heritage by sharing historical local relics.

Earlier this week, it was announced that a new Bally's Casino would be coming to River West, which generated some mixed ...
05/08/2022

Earlier this week, it was announced that a new Bally's Casino would be coming to River West, which generated some mixed reactions. Interestingly, little if any comment seems to have been made about the "homecoming" of the Bally brand itself, which started out 90 years ago as the trademark of a Chicago coin-op machine manufacturing company:

A complete history of the Bally MFG Co., part of our museum's growing research archive of 20th century Chicago manufacturers and their products.

"1,000 Toys in One" - Tinkertoy, the Wonder Builder, was invented in 1913 by 38 year-old Charles Pajeau, a monument and ...
04/28/2022

"1,000 Toys in One" - Tinkertoy, the Wonder Builder, was invented in 1913 by 38 year-old Charles Pajeau, a monument and mausoleum contractor who lived in Evanston and worked in Chicago. On the daily train ride into the city, he described his stick-and-spool toy idea to fellow Chicago businessman Robert Pettit, and by 1914, the two had formed a new company, the Toy Tinkers of Evanston in the State of Illinois.

Museum Artifact: Tinkertoy Wonder Builder Set, c. 1930s Made By: The Toy Tinkers, Inc., 2012 Ridge Ave., Evanston, IL “Toys haven’t been considered a ‘regular business’ in the United States until very recent years. We relied on Japan and Europe to supply our children; and, by and large, a ve...

03/03/2022

It was basically the exact same size, shape and weight as a smartphone, but the Baby Calculator didn't need to be charged, backed up, or upgraded. Instead, it gradually solved your dinner bill division with the help of a stylus and a series of metal tabs. Between the 1920s and '40s, several noteworthy (if random) Chicagoans tried their hand selling these devices, including a leading African-American columnist, a future long-serving Illinois state senator, and a hardluck advertising man who died the same night as Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens . . . in a different plane crash.
Check out the strange tale of the Baby Calculator here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/baby-calculator/

02/14/2022

If you've seen the excellent new film , you might have noticed a Webster Chicago wire recorder (just like the one in our collection) playing an important role in the plot. We'll forgive the fact that the movie is set in 1941, and the Webster "Electronic Memory" machine didn't actually debut until 1947 (gasp!) You can learn more about the history of the wire recorder on our Webster Chicago history page: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/webster-chicago/

We're sorry to break this news to you if you didn't already know, but in 2019, the Oh Henry! chocolate bar was quietly D...
02/07/2022

We're sorry to break this news to you if you didn't already know, but in 2019, the Oh Henry! chocolate bar was quietly DISCONTINUED just months shy of its 100th anniversary. Oh Henry! was a Chicago original, first produced by the Williamson Candy Co. in 1920, pre-dating the similar Baby Ruth by a year and Snickers by a decade. Nestle had the rights to the brand since the 1980s, but when Ferrero SpA acquired it in 2018, they apparently opted to axe the Oh Henry without so much as a press release or a tweet. You shall be missed, old friend. :(
Our complete history of the Oh Henry! and the Williamson Candy Co. is available here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/williamson-candy-co/

The Cretors name is as much a part of Chicago’s confectionery and concessionary history as Wrigley and Cracker Jack. Run...
02/02/2022

The Cretors name is as much a part of Chicago’s confectionery and concessionary history as Wrigley and Cracker Jack. Run by five generations of the same family across more than 130 years, the company popularized the modern professional popcorn popper as we know it—housing their earliest steam-powered models in ornate horse-drawn wagons that became icons in their own right; synonymous with early 20th century street-corner Americana. Check out our history of C. Cretors & Co. here: https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/cretors/

Here are the Top 10 most-read company histories at www.MadeInChicagoMuseum.com in 2021: 10. Westclox9. Chicago Roller Sk...
01/21/2022

Here are the Top 10 most-read company histories at www.MadeInChicagoMuseum.com in 2021:
10. Westclox
9. Chicago Roller Skate Co.
8. Albert Pick & Co.
7. Harmony Co.
6. Zenith Radio Corp.
5. Curtiss Candy Co.
4. Halsam Products Co.
3. National Washboard Co.
2. Schwinn Bicycle Co.
1. Ekco Products Co.

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