SIDNEY — Area residents will be able to get to know Shelby County titans of industry when the Shelby County Historical Society (SCHS) opens its latest exhibit, Thursday, April 28, in the Ross Historical Center, 201 N. Main Ave.
“We’ve always talked about industry in terms of what (the industries) did. This time we’re talking about how companies grow because people are creative, innovative, and they have a generous spirit to do what they can to make their community as good as it can be,” said SCHS Director Tilda Phlipot.
“Titans of Industry” will open at 7 p.m. with a reception and talk by SCHS Secretary Rich Wallace. Admission is free.
“He will give an overview of these men and the characteristics that they shared,” Phlipot said.
The exhibit comprises posters about companies that represent Shelby County’s industrial foundation and what local companies are doing today, as well as artifacts that tell the story of industries that were vital to the community from the mid-1800s to the turn of the 20th century.
Among those featured will be Bimel Buggy, Sidney School Furniture Co., Philip Smith, Stolle, Monarch Machine & Tool, Heidelberg, US Foods, Sidney Manufacturing, Copeland/Emerson Climate Technologies, Peerless Foods, Amos Press, Ross Aluminum and Wagner Manufacturing.
Exhibit-goers will see a wooden elevator, a scroll compressor cutaway, an early model of a tabletop folding machine, cookware, a Prima washing machine and a food press. Also on display will be some of the original pop top lids that were developed in Sidney.
SCHS Vice President Faye Spangler, who coordinated the exhibit, said the biggest challenge was figuring out how to communicate with artifacts the basic traits of amazing men.
“It was their perseverance, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that made them such remarkable people, and that makes it hard to attach to an exhibit item,” she said. “Those are the things we want to celebrate — that they were able to start a business in a garage, go through downturns and keep going. There was no safety net for them then.”
To make the point, Spangler and her fellow exhibit designers have used a lot of mannequins in addition to historical objects.
“And signage emphasizes their characteristics and the difficulties they faced and overcame,” Spangler said.
She noted that her research showed her something about the industrialists that made them unusual.
“I was surprised to find the connections between these men, their willingness to help each other out because their primary goal was to help Sidney grow and be successful,” she said. “They were a unique group of men.”
In addition to the artifacts and posters, the exhibit will include screenings of “Moving a Nation,” a film produced by Gateway Arts Council in 2016 to herald Shelby County workers.
Organizers expect that people who work at the various modern companies profiled in the exhibit will want to see the display. They also hope that others will be interested to see how important local industry has been in developing the community of today.
The Ross Center is open to the public for self-guided tours of the exhibit, Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Admission is free.
Groups are welcome to arrange for docent-led tours by calling 498-1653.
The exhibit will continue through mid-October.