Wisconsin Historical Society Removes Last Collection Pieces from Museu | Wisconsin Historical Society

News Release

Wisconsin Historical Society Removes Last Collection Pieces from Museum

For Immediate Release (April 20, 2023)

Wisconsin Historical Society Removes Last Collection Pieces from Museu | Wisconsin Historical Society
EnlargeLarge Object Move

Oversized items include a 1929 sports car, Harley-Davidson motorcycle, 1-ton foundry kettle and more

Madison, WI – The Wisconsin Historical Society is relocating several of the last remaining collection items from its museum on Capitol Square this week, one of the final steps needed to prepare the building for demolition expected to move forward next year. The oversized collection pieces are too large to clear exterior doors, requiring contractors to remove a third-floor windowpane from the building to create an outlet wide enough to accommodate them.

“This is an exciting, symbolic moment as we close the chapter on this building in preparation for the future history century purpose-built for the 21st century that will take its place,” said Jill Sterrett, director of collections for the Wisconsin Historical Society. “We are excited to bring to the people of Wisconsin a history center that will broaden accessibility to the Society’s unparalleled collections.”

Exhibitions at the existing Wisconsin Historical Museum closed in November 2022 due to the building’s deteriorating conditions, and the Wisconsin Historical Society secured a temporary space in the US Bank Plaza to host school groups and facilitate public programming until a new history center opens to the public. The oversized collection items will be securely stored in a new location while the planning and design phase of the new history center project advances:

-          Kissel White Eagle Speedster Model Six-73 – this 1929 model year coupe roadster, one of just 430 built, is a true and rare Wisconsin luxury sports car. It was manufactured by the Kissel Motor Car Company in Hartford, Wisconsin. The plant was eventually purchased by Chrysler Outboard Corporation, which donated the car to the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1968 after finding it in storage. At that time, the museum was located in the Society Headquarters building basement, making it a challenging feat for staff members to move the car into its new home. In 1995, the Speedster was relocated again to the existing Wisconsin Historical Museum. Of about 35,000 cars made by the company between 1906 and 1930, only about 200 exist today, making this car a significant piece of automotive history.

-          Nash Ambassador automobile – by 1925, motor vehicle manufacture ranked as Wisconsin's largest industry, and Nash Motors Company was the largest automaker in Wisconsin. The company employed thousands of Wisconsin residents and helped support many state businesses. The Ambassador was the Nash Motors Company’s top of the line model in 1948—this year, the company made 14,777 of the vehicles and a new model was priced at $1,874. The Seaman Body Company, owned by Nash Motors, manufactured the Ambassador bodies in Milwaukee and then shipped them to Kenosha for final assembly.

-          Larson Boat Works rowboat – this rowboat, manufactured approximately 1942 in Little Falls, Minnesota, changed hands between multiple Wisconsinites before the Society purchased it in 1994. It was not included in the original plan for the museum’s “On Common Ground” exhibition, but stood in as a replacement when the intended vessel was deemed unfit to display just prior to installation.

-          Heritage Softail Classic Harley-Davidson motorcycle – this 1991 motorcycle was acquired after a call for a donated Harley ran in a 2002 issue of the Society’s newsletter. Emblazoned with the phrase “Live to Ride, Ride to Live,” the turquoise and white motorcycle embodies the Harley-Davidson culture that has permeated Wisconsin since the company was founded in Milwaukee in 1903.

-          J.I. Case Co tractor cab – this piece of farm machinery from the Society’s education collection is a longtime favorite of children visiting the museum. For the past 27 years, kids have enjoyed climbing inside of the cab for a “test drive” and a first-hand look into Wisconsin’s agricultural legacy.

-          Nordberg Manufacturing Co. ladle and steel kettle – this artifact, weighing in at approximately 2,000 pounds, exemplifies Wisconsin’s history as a hub for the foundry industry. 

-          1 wood and metal plow – painted an eye-catching bright red, this plow helped set the scene in one of the museum’s exhibits.

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About the Wisconsin Historical Society
The Wisconsin Historical Society, founded in 1846, ranks as one of the largest, most active and most diversified state historical societies in the nation. As both a state agency and a private membership organization, its mission is to help people connect to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing stories. The Wisconsin Historical Society serves millions of people every year through a wide range of sites, programs and services. For more information, visit www.wisconsinhistory.org.