What do the following items have in common?
A San Francisco cable car. A Monopoly board. An amphibious automobile. A covered wagon. A one-room school house. A railroad water tower. A collection of mechanical timepieces. A set of straight razors. 18 pianos. 50 Buicks. A 1958 Hoover vacuum cleaner. A barbershop chair. A myriad of dental implements. A dozen trombones. A pile of printing presses.
For one, they were all manufactured in America. And two, they are all on display at Pioneer Village, a collection of collections housed in 27 buildings — many of which are authentic structures from the pioneer settlements of the early 1800s. This gargantuan, dusty complex is the Godzilla of the museum world, and appears to have eaten several smaller others for breakfast. It is — quite literally in some buildings — bursting at the seams with trove upon trove of curious curios from the yesteryears of America.
Emblazoned on the entrance’s signage, and on every printed advertisement scattered around the state, is the former owner’s moniker, Harold Warp. Not much is known about the man who pieced together one of the largest Antique piles in the world (over 50,000 pieces strong, and still growing). A Wikipedia article devoted no more than a single five-lined paragraph to this shadowy figure, and even the attraction’s website offers only a whiff of Warp history.
There were only four clues that I unearthed as I ambled around the labyrinthian property. First, a hand-painted billboard of frequently asked questions explained that Harold Warp established the collection to teach his children and childrens’ children how America was built. Second, in the building of American industry, there is a small exhibit of Warp’s Flex-o-Glaze plastic window materials and machines on display. And the following plastic placard (clues three and four, respectively) quietly heralded two quotes for which the man must have been remembered.
“Kindness is contagious. Try it out and see.” – Harold Warp
“Honesty knows no compromise.” – Harold Warp
That’s what we know. And this, dear Watson, is the conclusion:
Warp was a kindhearted and eccentric man with a considerable amount of money. He made his fortune by riding a wave of developing plastics technology. He patented an unbreakable window product that stood in as a substitute for glass in hen houses, allowing UV rays to reach the animals, which was scientifically verified to yield more eggs.
The man loved America and greatly admired the ingenuity and wherewithal of its inhabitants. Instead of bottling his wealth into untouchable trust funds, he decided the monies should be spent on all manner of American products, from the tchotchke to the gargantuan. He hoped that all of his visitors would be enlightened, as he was, by the creativity of our forefathers and foremothers, and inspired to join our voice among the choir of future innovators.
Not a bad lesson for ten bucks.
Like many others in the midwest territory, Nebraska is an often-ovelooked state that will never attract as many visitors as comely California, friendly Florida, or tantalizing Texas. But off nearly every exit ramp across Interstate 80 lies a fascinating outpost of historical consequence. There is a staid and profound depth behind the curtain of bristly grass and leafy corn here, and it is worth a modern-day exploration.
Harold Warp was a man who refused to cower in the face of challenges, instead seeing them as opportunities. He treated every person with equity and integrity, believing everyone he met had something of worth to bring to the table. And he embraced the idea that America can continue to thrive as we patriots learn from the past and gaze toward the future. The spirit of Harold Warp is the essence of everything I experienced in Nebraska — and I dare say ought to be the inspiration for America’s tomorrow.
My family is currently traveling around the USA in a 10 foot Shasta Compact travel trailer from 1969. We are currently camped in Kansas City, Missouri and headed toward St. Louis. Keep it right here for tales from the journey, and please also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Nothing keeps us motivated more than the encouragement of hearing from our readers, so please keep in touch by commenting below. Thanks!