A Look Back At “Our Favorite Things” Exhibit
After an extended closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Society’s first exhibit open to the public was
Our Favorite Things which consisted of an eclectic mix of artifacts from the Aurora area. The exhibit ran from late June 2021 to mid-January 2022 in the first floor gallery at the David L. Pierce Art & History Center.
This post highlights a limited sample of artifacts that were on display.
Garfield Goose from the estate of Bruce & Claire Newton Bruce & Claire Newton were prominent in Chicago television from the early 1950s to the 1970s as puppet creators and designers. Their most famous creation was Garfield Goose. After retiring from television, for nearly 30 years starting in 1976, the Newtons gave hundreds of performances each year throughout the Chicago area with Garfield Goose and his friends.
Arenkill’s Loan Bank Sign, 1986. After nearly 100 years of operation over several generations of the family, Arenkill’s closed in 2019. Its final downtown location was 11 North Broadway, where the business moved in 1986. This sign was put up at that time, and remained there until the building was closed and sold.
Sign from The Bread Box, c. 1955 (on loan from Scott Christoffel) About 1952, Francis Dewey and his wife Jeanne began operating a grocery store at 1347 Liberty (at Farnsworth), also their home. By 1954, they had named it “The Bread Box.” Within a couple of years, the Deweys moved to Plano, but retained ownership of the store — it was managed by Donald Kozlowski. By 1959, Kozlowski was also the owner. Kozlowski was the owner of this small, neighborhood shop for the rest of its days, until about 2004.
Life Preserver from the City of Lights I The boat was one of two floating casinos that plied the Fox in the 1990s and early 2000s
Aurora Zouaves Circus Poster, 1902 The Aurora Zouaves were a close-order military drill team formed in 1887 that achieved world-wide fame. The closeness and precision of their double-time drills earned them the nickname, “The red-legged centipede.” After winning an inter-state drill championship in Georgia in 1896, the Zouaves toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1897 and 1898. In 1901-1902, the Zouaves toured Europe on their own, performing before thousands of spectators and the crown heads of Europe. Upon their return in 1902, and through the 1905 season, they toured with Forepaugh & Sells Brothers Circus, a major American circus of the era.
Thor Motorcycle, Aurora Automatic Machinery Company c. 1910 This machine is restored to its original appearance. The Thor Motorcycle, manufactured locally by The Aurora Automatic Machinery Company (later Thor Power Tool), was one of the most popular early motorcycles nationwide. Over 100,000 were manufactured between 1906 and 1917.
Championship Team Signed Basketball, 2000 Basketball signed by the players and coaches of the Illinois High School Association Boys Basketball Class AA Champions of 2000, the West Aurora Blackhawks
St. Charles School of Nursing Banner, c. 1940 At one time, Aurora had three hospitals — Copley, St. Charles, and St. Joseph’s — and all three had nursing schools. St. Charles Hospital, located at East New York Street and North Fourth Street, established its nursing school in 1922, and it operated until 1966. The hospital itself closed in 1970 The building itself was renovated and reopened as a senior living center in early 2017.
Drewry’s Hit Spot TV Show Poster, 1951 WBKB began as an experimental TV broadcasting station and became Chicago’s first commercial broadcasting station in 1943. Paramount Pictures was behind it–BKB stands for Balaban & Katz Broadcasting; Balaban & Katz, theater builders, was a subsidiary of Paramount Pictures. Early sports broadcasting on the station included Chicago Cubs baseball. Lloyd Markel was elected mayor of Aurora in April 1949 and served until April 1953 when defeated by Paul Egan.
Table-Top Astronomical Clock, 1907 Crafted by William Blanford of Aurora
Old Seat from the Paramount Theatre, Aurora The Paramount Theatre opened in 1931. A portion of the seats were replaced in 2018 and this seat was given to the Aurora Historical Society at that time.
TropicAire Salon Hair Dryer, Early 1960s Used in Modern Beauty Salon, Aurora
Architect’s Rendering of Home Savings & Loan Water Street, Benton & Broadway, 1971 Home Savings operated for over 100 years, from 1882 until 1985 when it was acquired by Champion Federal. The Benton & Broadway site, shown here, was opened in 1959, and expanded over the years.
RCA Victor Television Model 721 TS, 1947
Davy Jones Pinball Machine, Stoner Manufacturing Corporation, 1939 The family-operated Stoner Manufacturing Corporation began in 1931 as a maker of pinball machines, producing nearly 100 different models throughout the decade. In 1938 the company also began producing vending machines. In 1941, they retooled and produced munitions for the war effort during World War II. After the war, Stoner became a leading producer of coin-operated vending machines dispensing candy, coffee, and cigarettes.
Working models of Barber-Greene equipment, 1925 Left: Bucket Loader, Right: Vertical Boom Ditcher
Beacon Newspaper Box Used through 2009
Last metal type form used by The Beacon-News from The Beacon-News edition of December 11, 1973 Donated to the Historical Society in January 1974, the old mechanical type-setting machines cast individual characters or line of type like these from molten metal in a process called “hot type.” After this newspaper, the Beacon finished their process of changing over to “cold type,” computer-set and printed on photographic paper to be pasted up into pages and then photo-engraved to plates for the printing presses.