The Industrial Folk Art of Abraham Megerdichian
September 6, 2016 – January 28, 2017.
Abraham Megerdichian (1923-1983) was a trained machinist living and working in Massachusetts. In his 30’s Abraham began machining his interpretations of everyday objects from scrap blocks of aluminum, brass, copper and stainless steel. His earliest items were utilitarian, domestic, full size and included handles, knives, letter openers, candle snuffers, ashtrays, vases, pots, door knockers, salt and pepper shakers, a soap dish, a rolling pin of solid aluminum, a lawn sprinkler, and tools. As his technical proficiency increased his pieces became more intricate, smaller, and often included many small parts. Among these items created to please and amuse were jewelry, doll house furniture, a cash register, a miniature vacuum cleaner, a tool box with individual tools, toy trucks, cars and a train set. During his work life Mr. Megerdichian created over 400 objects, a number of which will be exhibited for the first time in Connecticut at the New Britain Industrial Museum.
“Industrial Folk Art” is art created by skilled machinists, engineers and others who work with their hands in a production environment fabricating parts and tools and the objects of our lives. Using scrap materials at hand, some of these people are driven to use skills acquired on the job to create objects having nothing to do with their job. Objects that are created for the pure enjoyment of creating them……..
Meet Us at the Fair
JANUARY – MAY 16th 2015
The New Britain Industrial Museum’s exhibit, Meet Us at the Fair, took a look back at New Britain’s prize winning participation at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. As the 20th century ushered in the modern Progressive Era, a new global market was on the rise and New Britain was a powerful leader in this period of innovation and growth.
Named to honor of the centennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair was officially known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Scheduled to open in 1903, the opening was delayed a year so they could build the largest World’s Fair ever. The Fair was a grand showcase of the latest achievements in science, technology, manufacturing, art and education.
Out of 27 New Britain Manufacturers, only 4 made the trip to St. Louis to exhibit at the Fair, and all 4 won awards. New Britain was also represented by 2 men who submitted their apples as part of the UCONN Storrs exhibit and the New Britain Normal School and the High School had exhibits as well. Even though his company didn’t have an exhibit, Philip Corbin provided all the hardware used in the CT building at cost.
Bringing home a Gold Medal for Landers, Frary and Clark was the Universal Bread Maker. To the delight of the 1904 homemaker this new gadget mixed and kneaded dough with scientific accuracy in only 3 minutes! (a vast improvement over the 30 minutes it usually took) Already the largest cutlery manufacturer in the U.S., Landers was also honored with a Grand Prize for their Cutlery Exhibit, a specially constructed building within a building which artfully displayed Mother of Pearl tableware and featured new to the market cutlery handles made of celluloid, which Landers called “Ivoroy”.
Stanley Rule and Level, already known for their hand tools, won a Silver medal for their workbench exhibit featuring an entire line of their “must have” products including planes, braces and levels; everything a home or professional workshop should have.
First in the nation to manufacture warm air registers from stamped steel, The Hart and Cooley Company received a Silver Medal. Found to be superior to cast iron registers that could break, the steel heating register was the invention of company president Howard Stanley Hart. The company also received a Silver Medal for their line of steel lockers.
A Silver Medal was also awarded to The American Hosiery Company for its quality knit goods. Thanks to the foresight of president John B. Talcott, the firm is believed to have been the first American clothing manufacturer to import wool directly from Australia. This distinguished them from other clothing producers.
Meet Us at the Fair was curated by museum volunteer Andrea Kulak who worked with the Missouri Historical Society, the CT Historical Society, the CT State Library and the Local History Room at the New Britain Public Library to gather information and create this exhibit.
Currently Made in New Britain
OCTOBER – JANUARY 27th 2014
There are over 100 manufacturers and processors in New Britain, producing a wide range of items for a variety of industries. From ice cream cakes to book binding to tools and parts for aerospace and other industries; New Britain companies continue to make things that the world needs.
New Britain manufacturers Acme Monaco, Averys Beverages, Contorq, CT Shotgun, ERA Motorcars, Guidas, Okay Industries, Peter Paul Electronics, Skinner Valve, and Stanley Black & Decker are a few of the New Britain manufacturers currently represented in the museum’s permanent collection. The exhibit Currently Made in New Britain included expanded exhibits of the products these companies make and exhibits of items made by other New Britain companies as well.
We are grateful to the following New Britain Companies that lent items for the exhibit Currently Made in New Britain:
Signs of New Britain
JULY – SEPTEMBER 27th 2014
New Britain has been described as a city of “church steeples and smokestacks”, but it has also been a city of signs. Signs that identified the places we shopped and were entertained and the signs that identified the places we worked.
A number of factory signs are part of the museum’s permanent collection and for this exhibit we have brought out, and borrowed, other signs from New Britain businesses and manufacturers. Signs that will be on exhibit only until the end of September are: C. Menditto House Wrecking (on loan), Tuttle & Bailey, J. Parker & Son (from the Parker Shirt company, a recent donation), Gilberts Flowers (on loan), Cookie Arrangement (on loan), Signs made by Reflexite, and the sign from Paul’s Deli & Variety (hung on the corner of Lincoln & W. Main Street for 50 years and recently donated by the family).
“Nuts and Bolts:Stories from New Britain Manufacturing”
Friday March 14 – September 10
On view at Gallery 66 located in the
Downtown Visitors Center
66 W. Main Street New Britain.
Gallery Hours: 10-4 Monday – Friday
10-4 Saturday 8/23 & 8/30
For most of the 20th century the American Dream was outfitted by items that were either made in New Britain, contained New Britain components or made on a New Britain machine. The Nuts & Bolts exhibit honors this legacy by combining images of items manufactured in New Britain with the words of people who worked for New Britain manufacturers. CCSU writing students conducted and transcribed the interviews (which will become part of the museum’s archive), CCSU design students photographed items from the museum’s collection and will be designing the exhibit where words and images will be combined to communicate what it was like to work in New Britain. The Nuts & Bolts exhibit is supported by Connecticut Humanities and is part of Connecticut at Work, a year-long conversation on the past, present and future of work life in Connecticut created by Connecticut Humanities, a non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In the Hartford Region, Connecticut at Work is a partnership with the Hartford Public Library and the Greater Hartford Arts Council. The Connecticut tour of The Way We Worked is made possible by Connecticut Humanities and Historic New England. For a calendar of events and more information on Connecticut at Work, visit cthumanities.org/ctatwork.
Hear the voices of New Britain manufacturing as broadcast July 1 on WPNR’s Where We Live (New Britain interviews start at 36:53)
Stanley helps you do things right
APRIL 5 – JUNE 28th 2014
Stanley has been helping people “do things right” for over 150 years. But it is not enough to make the best tools in the world, you need to sell them and teach people how to use them. Unique markets call for unique advertisements and for this exhibit Stanley Black & Decker lent 4 examples of ads targeted to specific markets.
Stanley tools and hardware are permanently on view, but this exhibit gave us an opportunity to focus on Stanley advertising and promotional items. In addition to the advertisements on loan from Stanley Black & Decker we had reproductions of advertisements that ran in trade publications, a binder of original ads representing 70 years of marketing and a case full of promotional items ranging from tee-shirts to a phone shaped like the Powerlock taperule.
JANUARY – MARCH 7th 2014
Landers, Frary & Clark made products to make kitchen life easier. Starting with kitchen scales in the 1850s their offerings expanded to include a whole line of gadgets and gizmos; food choppers of all sizes, corn mills for their South American customers, raisin seeders, coffee grinders, fruit and vegetable peelers, butter churns that clamped to the counter, cake mixers and through the Aetna Works all manner of cutlery and tableware (to name just a few). In the beginning these items were sold under a number of brand names, but it wasn’t long before Landers, Frary & Clark started using the name “Universal” on the majority of their products.
In the early 1900’s, as electricity became more available, Landers embraced this new technology and started creating electric appliances for the kitchen and home. Stove top percolators continued to be sold alongside electric percolators as Landers, Frary & Clark developed and sold electric Irons, Toasters, Curling Irons and expanded into refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, waffle irons and vacuums. They even developed an electric food chopper for home use. Landers, Frary & Clark grew to become the largest producer of housewares and cutlery in the country – by the mid 1940’s there were over 50,000,000 Universal products in use around the world. This exhibited highlighted some of the many Universal products manufactured in New Britain CT. The museum’s permanent collection shows the range products invented, innovated and produced by Landers, Frary & Clark over the better part of a century.