Frazier History Museum

Behind the Scenes: Frazier Object in Focus

Not only is the Frazier History Museum an awesome, interactive and educational experience for visitors; it is also a place to show off some really cool stuff. By now, you may have heard that we display President Teddy Roosevelt’s big stick, George Washington’s rifle and Geronimo’s bow. Did you know the Frazier Collection is also home to hundreds of artifacts, relics and objects that tell the story of civilization’s rich history?

At the direction of the Frazier’s new president, Penelope Peavler, we will present to you one of these items each month. These items are from the Frazier Collection, but are currently not on display in the galleries - so this is a special behind-the-scenes look!

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Diary of Joseph C. “Kit" King

This diary belonged to Joseph C. “Kit” King, the son of Jeremiah N. King, who was a toolmaker and friend of gunmaker John Smith, whose workshop is on display at the Museum.  Kit enlisted in the 111th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and on  September 11, 1862: troops arrive in Covington, KY. The diary begins September 12, 1862 and details day to day life during the war, including the close friendship formed between Kit's Lieutenant and himself, who allows Kit to runs errands with the infantry funds, purchasing candy and alcohol instead of supplie. 

This Photograph shows Joseph King in Civil War uniform with John Smith rifl, and the diary itself.


Springfield Trapdoor Carbine, Model 1879 (Also known as the Model 1873)

This model of gun was issued to the 7th Cavalry, under George Armstrong Custer. It was the primary weapon used by the 7th Cav. at the Battle of Little Bighorn. The “trapdoor” design was originally used to convert old muzzle loading rifles, from the civil war, into breach loading rifles.

One of the men who carried the Springfield Carbine at the Battle of Little Bighorn was Sgt. Charles Windolph. He was a German cobbler (shoe maker) who immigrated to the U.S. and joined the U.S. infantry in 1871 at the age of twenty. He deserted in 1872, and then reenlisted in the U.S. Cavalry six days later. He won the Medal of Honor for his bravery at the Battle of Little Bighorn. He was also wounded during the battle…he was shot in the butt. There was a book written about Mr. Windolph, “I Fought With Custer: The Story of Sergeant Windolph, Last Survivor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn”.

Mr. Windolph passed away on March 2nd 1950 at the age of 98. He not only participated in the Indian Wars but lived to see both WWI and WWII.

Miniature Portrait of Zachary Taylor

This miniature portrait of Zachary Taylor belonged to his daughter and has been passed down within their family.  The most interesting information in regards to this item is simply its size. It is small enough to hold in your hand and was hand painted. At this time, art was taking a turn. You had daguerreotype that were coming onto the scene as the first photos.

This artist hand painted this miniature portrait while the popular trend in art were sweeping landscapes and large scale imagery. This portrait was not a spectacle. It was not for show. It was intimate. It was private. It was meant for his daughter. She more than likely had this sitting on her dresser or on her bedside table and it was meant for her eyes only. This item also meant more to her after his unexpected death which just shows to prove that art is here to make us feel something in more ways than one. 

U.S. Model No. 8 Helmet

The government commissioned a new helmet design for soldiers when the US entered World War I in 1917 because of the industrial changes in warfare and weapons being used at the time. Dr. Bashford Dean, the Curator of Arms and Armor, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was the individual tasked with coming up with a new helmet design. After several attempts he settled on the Model No. 8 helmet. It offered good face and neck protection, while still allowing adequate visibility and mobility. In all the helmet only weighed three pounds 10 ounces. The three-pad liner system inside the helmet also made it comfortable to wear.

In November 1918, the Ford Motor Company started production of 1,300 prototype helmets, but soon after the War ended and the helmets were never able to be field tested. Former President Theodore Roosevelt went on to praise Dr. Dean and his work in 1918, writing, “Lord, how I wish I was half as useful!” 

Violin made by George Schalk

This violin was made between 1850-1880 by George Schalk, a German immigrant who lived and worked in Pottsville, PA. Schalk was a man of many talents: trained as a locksmith, he became one of the most influential gun makers of the 19th century, whose designs and innovations inspired makers like Harry Pope; he was an expert marksman, winning many awards around the world in shooting competitions; and he was also a violin maker. His eye for detail and his genius for mechanisms made him a success in all these endeavors, and his work was in high demand.

This particular violin, one of about 12 that he made, is a beautiful example. His skill as a craftsman is evident: the back of the violin is one single piece of figured hardwood, and the grain matching between the separate components is exquisite. At a time when most handmade violins of the highest quality were being produced in Cremona, Italy, by makers having dedicated years to learning the craft, Schalk’s machinist background is a surprising anomaly. 

Summer Service Uniform

The United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserves was established on February 13th, 1943. It was an attempt by the Marines to shore up men who were serving in the Corps for combat duty in WWII by recruiting women into the service for non-combat jobs that the men had traditionally held. Although looked upon with skepticism by their male counterparts the women recruits proved that patriotism and service knows no gender, paving the way for the fully integrated armed forces of today.

The Object in Focus is a summer service uniform worn by Sgt. Alma Meyer, a Louisvillian who enlisted with the USMCWR in 1944. 

The Bowie Knife

The Bowie Knife is an American broad-bladed knife that came to prominence in the 1830’s.  Many credit the notable frontiersman James (Jim) Bowie as the “engineer,” though not the fabricator. The Kentucky-born Jim Bowie would meet his famous end at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett, but before that he made news as the victor of the famous “Sandbar Fight” in Louisiana.  What began as a dual between two other men devolved into a melee, and ended with the wounded Bowie killing the town sheriff with a knife.  The term “Bowie Knife” was born, though the design would evolve.  As a timely pop culture aside, musician David Bowie’s real name was David Jones but he realized it was much too close to that of Davy Jones of the Monkees. In interviews, he stated that he choose “Bowie” as a stage name because of a love for the 1960 film “The Alamo” and he cites Jim Bowie, and the knife, which he describes as “quintessentially masculine and American,” as an inspiration for his stage name.

1909 Chief Red Cloud

Frederick Weygould (1870-1941)

Oil on canvas

Red Cloud (1822-1909), was the most powerful and famous chief on the Oglala Indians, the largest ethnic group of the Sioux nation. The Chief's title was obtained by force of his character and reputation while fighting against neighboring tribes.

Red Cloud was the only Indian leader to win a conflict with the US Government. That conflict became known as Red Cloud's War. Two years of carefully planned attacks resulted in the US Government accepting Red Cloud's demands to vacate all the forts running through the Lakota territories in present day Wyoming and Montana.

A short time later discovery of gold in Black Hills attracted white miners in search of riches. General George A. Custer's expedition to the Black Hills in 1874 ended the independence of Indian nations.

This portrait depicts Red Cloud as the painter saw him about five months before the Chief's death at Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. Blind and deaf, Red Cloud outlived all the major Sioux leaders of the Indian wars and died in 1909 on the Pine Ridge Reservation where he is buried.

1917 Madame Glover Dress

Worn in 1917, this Edwardian-style dress was adorned by the wife to one of the Seelbach brothers who founded the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville. While we can’t definitively be sure, it is very likely that this dress was designed by Madame Glover. Glover was an Irish seamstress whose world-renowned dress shop was located on Jefferson Street. 

Victorian Era Hair Wreath

In the Victorian era, utilizing human hair for jewelry, keepsakes and works of art was a popular way to remember loved ones. Hair and its use in keepsakes was a way to strengthen familial bonds. Hair wreaths were one of the most popular versions of hair art. This example in the Frazier History Museum collection likely contained hair from a dozen or more individuals from one family. It was a common practice for hair from a deceased family member to be collected and woven into the wreath.