True Museum Finds



by Frank Madsen

Published on October 09, 2012

  • We all love finding treasure, but for me the real treasure is measured more in the object’s attribution, especially if it has a connection to one’s own life.

    At a country auction near my home dozens of small objects were laid out on tables and bidders were asked to bid for “choice”.

    I saw this small leather and metal object that was meant to serve as a container, but also looked like a miniature chauffeur’s hat from about 1920. I was prepared to bid pretty high but luckily I got it for $3.00.

    I can’t pass up unique old products with aesthetic appeal, especially if cheap, functional and branded in some way, and appearing never to have been altered.

    Here is the 2"object and I have decided that it was intended to be a coin purse for people traveling by car. I determined the age from the design of the car in the pewter relief illustration on the purse lid.

    The real treasure is the leather top of the hat. Because the museum opened in 1921, this must be the first example of Field Museum branded merchandise. It quite possibly could have been a favor given to attendees at the Field Museum’s grand opening. Until someone proves me wrong, I’m happy with that interpretation, especially having spent the first 4 years of my career in the exhibition department of the museum.

    So look closely, you never know when you might find a piece of your past.

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