Artifact of the Week — October 26, 2023

Hoosier Cabinets

On October 12, Danny Dozier generously brought by his grandmother’s Hoosier cabinet for our Smithsonian Institution/OIRM “A Taste of Community” exhibit. This beautifully constructed cabinet is even more unique because it was purchased new in downtown Batesville from Crouch Furniture. Close examination of the butterfly closures dates the cabinet somewhere in the 1930s.

The Hoosier Manufacturing Company met a need for many kitchens at the turn of the 20th century: areas to store food within close proximity of a work space. At the time Hoosier cabinets were manufactured (1880s – 1942), most kitchens did not include cabinetry – a fault not remedied until the 1930s. Kitchen owners were also faced with a lack of counter space to prepare meals. The Hoosier cabinet met both these needs in a variety of colors and details. The moniker “Hoosier cabinet” derives from the home state of the company – Indiana. As a brand name, Hoosier cabinets were also manufactured by companies other than The Hoosier Manufacturing Company, with the main gist of the name falling on the state of manufacture. If it came from Indiana, they were known unofficially as Hoosier cabinets.

These cabinets ranged in price from $12.75 to $50.50 in the 1940s, and at their peak one in every ten American homes contained a Hoosier cabinet. As new homes were constructed with ample storage and the Great Depression strangled the economy, the popularity of the Hoosier cabinet diminished. Today, Hoosier cabinets can fetch a pretty penny depending on condition and size.

Hoosier cabinet
Hoosier cabinet

This cabinet was lovingly “antiqued” by Danny’s mother, who inherited the cabinet from her mother. Danny recalls the cabinet in his family home throughout his life. He and his siblings have graciously loaned the Hoosier cabinet to Old Independence Regional Museum for the duration of our “A Taste of Community” exhibit. Interested in donating or loaning a food-related item to OIRM? Contact us at 793-2121. Interested in seeing the exhibit? Visit us beginning January 2024. We will see you at the museum!

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Artifact of the Week — October 19, 2023

Minute Man of America Restaurant

Proprietor Wes Hall opened Arkansas’ native Minute Man of America restaurant chain in Little Rock in 1948. With steady growth, the chain reached 57 company-owned and franchised restaurants by the early 1970s, expanding beyond Arkansas to seven nearby states. 

Raytheon Company took an interest in Minute Man, shipping its latest technology, a RadaRange microwave oven to its flagship Little Rock location in 1948. At the time, it was one of three experimental microwaves released by Raytheon. Imagine a restaurant nowadays advertising cooking with a microwave!

Advertisement for Minute Man Restaurant (lower left)
Advertisement for Minute Man Restaurant (lower left)

Consider how Minute Man pioneered fast food service with several gimmicks that have been taken up by restaurant chains across the United States. Burger King was so taken with the idea of a specific meal marketed to children they bought the Magic Meal name and used it for advertising in the 1980s. Minute Man also gave away free glasses with the purchase of a Coca-Cola product, which was a brand new concept. And Wendy’s adopted and paid for Minute Man’s “old-fashioned hamburgers” slogan. 

Locally, Jerry and Connie Townsley operated a Minute Man at 595 St. Louis from 1974 – 1981. Today one Minute Man restaurant remains, located in El Dorado. 

The accompanying picture is of the 1974 Newport High School Homecoming court. Sponsors fill the program, and Minute Man is boldly displayed on the bottom of one of the program’s initial pages.

Newport High School Homecoming Court (1974)
Newport High School Homecoming Court (1974)

OIRM will showcase Minute Man in its “A Taste of Community” exhibit in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution. Come by and learn about the history of foods from your area beginning January 2024 at OIRM!

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Artifact of the Week — October 12, 2023


Working on the joint venture from the Smithsonian and OIRM has brought so many local histories to light for me. I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of others and the vast amount of knowledge our patrons have to share.

One of the stories we will tell for the “A Taste of Community” exhibit concerns Grapette. Originating in Camden, AR, in 1932 as Fooks Flavors, Benjamin “Tyndle” Fooks was inspired to create the ultimate grape soda because, in his opinion, nothing on the market was worth drinking. After half a dozen years and thousands of formulas, Fooks hit upon his favorite, purchasing the Grapette name (along with Orangette and Lemonette names) from Rube Goldstein for $500. It was well worth the cost.

With most soft drinks sold in 12-ounce bottles, Grapette broke the mold, selling 6-ounce, clear bottles to showcase the soda’s color. Consumers were indeed enchanted, and found the flavor was worthy of the packaging. 

World War II was a time of rationing, and manufacturers were no exception. Grapette’s formula called for its sugar to be liquefied, forming a syrup. Because syrups were not rationed, Grapette’s sales soared during the war. 

Grapette Soda Artifacts
Grapette Soda Artifacts

In the 1960s Fooks sold Grapette, which changed hands several times before a hostile takeover by PepsiCo caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC told PepsiCo to divest many of its sodas before it declared a monopoly on the market. PepsiCo sold Grapette to a company that already had a grape soda, so the name and recipe were retired…in the United States. Internationally, Grapette was still marketed as Grapette International. The international business eventually passed to the owner’s son-in-law, Brooks Rice. 

Brooks did not have legal rights to the Grapette name in the United States, but sold the idea of resurrecting the soda to Sam Walton, who took him up on the offer simply because Sam loved Grapette’s flavor. By 1989, the flavor was sold under the Ozarks Farms name in Walmarts across the United States. When Sam Walton passed away, the Ozarks Farms name was changed to Sam’s Choice.  In 2000, Rice finally gained rights to the Grapette name and products hit the shelves again, but exclusively at Walmart.

Today you can purchase Grapette in 2-liter bottles in Walmart. Our local Walmart also carries tiny cans of Orangette soda. The company is still owned by a Rice – David Rice. David is sending memorabilia pertaining to Grapette to OIRM in time for our January premiere of “A Taste of Community”. Our ambition is to have Grapette on hand to sell to our visitors as they enjoy the exhibit. Come by in January to see – and taste – an Arkansas native, Grapette!

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Artifact of the Week — October 5, 2023

Ideal Bread

One of the joys of living in a farming community is locally-sourced foods. To that end, we have many farmers and small business owners who have been able to successfully scale up their operations to create multi-million dollar businesses.

One of those success stories belongs to Mr. Elmer Cochran, Sr. Mr. Cochran began working in the bread industry as a deliveryman, shuttling loaves of Myers Bread to customers. A little over a decade later, Cochran bought a share of an independent bakery in Batesville called Ideal Baking Company. Through sheer perseverance and great business acumen, Cochran purchased Ideal Baking Company in 1947 and led the bread company for more than four decades.

Ideal began with seven employees when Mr. Cochran became owner; forty years later the company earned over $10 million in gross sales per year and employed close to 300 people. In 2002, Ideal was purchased by Flowers Bakery and is still considered a family-owned business.

Pictures, Articles, and News from Ideal Bread
Pictures, Articles, and News from Ideal Bread

Ms. Cochran donated a scrapbook of pictures and news articles pertaining to Ideal Bread’s history along with a ceramic Ideal plaque and a commemorative Ideal watch. She generously allowed us to present these items in our joint venture with the Smithsonian Institution to present “A Taste of Community” opening in January 2024. If you have any items you believe are worthy of being part of this magnificent exhibit, please call 793-2121.

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Artifact of the Week — September 28, 2023

Kitchen Stove

Old Independence Regional Museum recently hosted the Daughters of the American Revolution at the museum in honor of Constitution Day on September 17. One of the DAR members, Ms. Deanna Brown, was reminiscing about her family home and mentioned a stove. Because we are looking for kitchen appliances from the 1940s or before, I inquired further. Ms. Brown said she would be happy to loan us her mother’s old stove, and gave the following history of the appliance. We plan on featuring a 1940s kitchen in the shared exhibit between the Smithsonian Institution and OIRM entitled “A Taste of Community”. Below is her mother’s history.

 [S]he lived in Fourche Valley (Yell County, AR)…growing up. I expect many families in this area that didn’t live “in town” used similar stoves, and most likely had similar stories.  Living away from the city, they didn’t have many of the modern conveniences that those in town had… but they didn’t know any different as no one in “the valley” had them.  Russellville, AR, was their “big city”.  Below are some of her memories of the stove and life growing up during that timeframe in the rural hills of Arkansas.

Old Kitchen Stove
Old Kitchen Stove

She thinks they got the stove sometime in the mid-40s.  She was born in 1939 (number five of six kids) and was in first or second grade when they got it. 

She’s pretty sure they bought it through the Sears and Roebuck catalog… That’s where almost everything they had that wasn’t grown or made in “the valley” came from.  She remembered how excited the family was when they got it.  Their previous stove was a cast iron pot belly.  This one, although still wood burning, was “fancy” because it had a reservoir to heat water that they used for many purposes and had multiple places on the cook top for pots.  Mom and her sisters helped their mother cook.  Most everything they made was home grown.  They ground their own corn to make cornmeal for cornbread.  Soup beans and cornbread with salt pork was a staple they ate quite frequently.  Almost every morning, my grandmother would make homemade biscuits / rolls and they would have eggs from their hens.  They thought it was a great treat when they were able to buy “store bought bread”… I can remember the smell of my grandmother’s homemade bread as she continued her tradition until she died.   How could they think store bought bread was better?  They canned and preserved vegetables grown in the garden, had a root cellar to store potatoes and other root stock.  They had a smokehouse to preserve meat that my uncles or grandfather killed or when they killed hogs in the winter.  Pork was preserved by salting and smoking.  They almost never ate beef as the cows that they raised were their primary source of income- sold to go to people who lived in the cities. 

The stove was one of the primary methods of heating the house as well as cooking.  They had a fireplace in the living room, but the stove put out much more heat.  Mom remembers spending lots of time in the kitchen trying to get warm in the winter as they didn’t have insulation. 

The stove was also used to heat up water for their bath water.  They drew their water from a well.  In the winter, they would fill up a wash tub in the kitchen and heat the water on the stove to get it warm.  My grandfather and the boys would go out on the porch (or somewhere) while my Mom, her sisters and mother bathed then the girls would leave for the guys to bathe.  There were 3 boys, 3 girls and my grandparents.  They didn’t get running water until Mom was a junior or senior in high school. 

Thank you, Deanna, for sharing your family’s story with us! We look forward to displaying your stove in our upcoming exhibit. If you have a 1940s refrigerator or icebox, please contact OIRM at 793-2121. We would love to borrow them for two years while we are showcasing this exhibit. Also, if you have any items pertaining to restaurants – menus, pictures, tables, chairs, signs, et cetera, please let us know. The goal of this exhibit is to incorporate as much material from our area as possible; this is YOUR exhibit.

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