The Museum of the Fur Trade located just outside of Chadron, Nebraska, is a museum I have wanted to visit for many years as many historical aspects of trapping and trappers themselves have been of interest to me for several years—I have odd obsessions. This September, I had the pleasure of visiting Chadron and, consequently, the Museum of the Fur Trade through an unexpected trip with my family! The Museum of the Fur Trade’s extensive collection of guns from various eras, many with elaborately designed shafts, in excellent condition were interesting to see. The Museum of the Fur Trade also has a menagerie of knives and traps on display as well as tinted sun goggles, which were used by early trappers to protect their eyes from the sun and its glare, which reminded me of early automobile glasses.
A medal awarded to the Hudson Bay Company for the quality of their fur exhibits at the Crystal Palace’s Great Exhibition of 1851 by Queen Victoria was of great interest to me. In my interior design studies, I researched and did a paper in the Crystal Palace and on the exhibitions it displayed within. This building was one of the first pre-fabrication buildings created and was constructed to preserve ancient trees within the structure itself. Joseph Paxton, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Paxton the mastermind behind the fabrication of the Crystal Palace, was the head gardener of the English Chatsworth Estate http://www.chatsworth.org/. He was also an architect who, oddly enough, also cultivated the Cavendish Banana, which happens to be the most widely consumed banana in the Western World. The Crystal Palace was famous in its time as the building required no interior lighting because it was built of plate glass attached to an iron frame and allowed sunlight within to a degree that had not been achieved before its creation. The building was eventually moved and fell into disrepair, finally being destroyed by fire in 1936 http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2004/07/27/history_feature.shtml.
A rare tomahawk/pipe from a warrior at Wichita is also on display that I found interesting in design and sad in its history. Wichita involved the death of Chief Black Kettle and his wife, Medicine Woman, who were both shot in the back and killed in their attempt to flee as well as many other Cheyenne Indians.
The Museum of the Fur Trade includes many items from far northern trappers including as unusual walrus tusk cribbage board. The cribbage board retains the original curve of the tusk and is highly polished and ornately carved. This cribbage board is a beautiful example of skill and artistry as well as originality.
One of my favorite displays included a Russian Samovar and Russian money that was printed in the US for a Russian fur trade company. The Samovar was in beautiful condition and was heated with an unusual fuel source—charcoal http://masterrussian.com/russianculture/samovars.htm. The idea of Russian money being printed in the US was intriguing to me as I had never run across such a strange example in my historical studies.
Also of interest is a showing of Nanook of the North, the first documentary ever made, in the main building. My family and I have always enjoyed this documentary about a trapper and his family in the far North in the early 1900’s. My favorite scene is at the beginning of the film and is of Nanook, the main character in the film, pulling up in his kayak, getting out, and helping his young son off the top of the boat. Nanook then pulls out from the kayak’s hull: his two wives, a baby, and a dog. The tiny, arctic boat held five people and a dog—amazing!
The Museum of the Fur Trade also has many fun outdoor exhibits that include a tipi, a sod house, a log cabin, and a garden that has native, indigenous plants to the area planted within rail fences. Overall, between the guns, the knives, and the Eskimo’s wives, the Museum of the Fur Trade was a fun and educational experience for my family and me. The Museum of the Fur Trade also has a lovely gift shop with native seeds, Indian jewelry, and books for sale. The Museum of the Fur Trade is open 8-5 daily and is a fun stop for the whole family. Tickets are $5.00 for adults and free for children under the age of 18 May 1- October 31 and off-season by appointment via phone at 308.432.3843 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Museum of the Fur Trade also has a website, http://www.furtrade.org/ for further inquiries.