First impressions can say a lot, but sometimes you need to look deeper. When we visit a new museum, it gives us an opportunity to learn about the destination we are exploring. Since the majority of the artifacts are usually donated by residents, it also gives a personal peek into the lives of those who founded the area. It becomes more about the stories behind the pieces, which is what history is really meant to tell. When we stepped through the door at the Kinney Pioneer Museum, we knew instantly that we would be diving into the lives of those that made Clear Lake, Iowa what it is today.

We want to thank Clear Lake Chamber and Kinney Pioneer Museum for hosting our visit. Rest assured all opinions are our own. 

A 1911 Colby Roadster sits front and center in the entrance to the Kinney Pioneer museum.

First Impressions

The first thing we spotted, as we came through the door, was the bright yellow 1911 Colby. Hailed as the last remaining vehicle produced by a nearby automaker, it has top priority in the museum’s displays. When you think about it, the automobile stands out as an engineering marvel in the middle of the Midwest. Hailed as an early “sports car”, the Colby Roadster was powered by a hefty 40hp engine. The Colby Motor Company had a lifespan of about four years and sold about a thousand vehicles during that time. A new Roadster would have set you back about $1600, way back in the days before the Great Depression.

It's interesting seeing how fashions come and go in the mainstream.

Days Gone By

It always catches us by surprise when we spot the various apparel displays at a new museum. While it is not unusual to see, we are blown away by what people store for decades. After all, it is clear to us that most of the pieces at the Kinney Pioneer Museum are from locals. We find it hard to hold on to our outdated fashions, but fortunately, others have done it for us. This offers a glimpse into how our parents and grandparents would have appeared in their heyday. While some of the outfits are clearly dated styles, we have noticed the recurring theme of resurrecting them for today’s youth. I guess it’s true that what was old will become new again.

Beauty salon machines can often be looked upon as medieval torture devices.

The Pains of Beauty

Some of the exhibits that always catch my attention are the ones showing various styling equipment used for fashion. Quite often I feel these could easily be switched with torture devices and some may not even notice. After all, many of them look like something that could be used to elicit a confession from the unwitting victim. Oh, the things we go through for beauty.

A display about The Music man is familiar territory after our visit to mason City, Iowa.

Familiar Subject

It came as no surprise that we located a display that featured The Music Man. The composer of this famous musical hails from the nearby sister city of Mason City. In fact, when we planned this trip, we included both cities as a sort of dual-destination excursion. Being so close to each other, we can understand that they would both be proud of having such a successful musician come from this region.

The museum curator leads the authors to outdoor exhibits.

More of the Kinney Pioneer Museum

From the time we arrived, we had the pleasure of a guided tour. This was provided by Kay, the museum curator, who has an exuberant passion for local history. She imparted many personal stories into the explanation of the exhibits. This really makes our visits that much more special. Once we had seen everything indoors, we were told that there were also some outdoor exhibits. It was a beautiful summer day, so we loved getting some fresh air, while we heard more tales about Clear Lake.

The authors enjoy a break from touring the Kinney Pioneer Museum.

History Lessons Learned

With our heads spinning from so much new information, we knew it was time to bid our farewell to the Kinney Pioneer Museum. The stories we heard would help us better understand the origins of some of the street names and local landmarks. This is one way we find to take our visits beyond just a vacation. By diving into the local history, we feel like we have a true cultural connection with the cities we visit. How often do you visit the local history museums during your travels? What’s the most unusual artifact you have discovered?

the authors signatures.

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