with visitors during Bicentennial
of Madison chronicle
the citys history, character
(July 2009) It all started with a love for
his community and a fascination with an old oil can. Now more than 30
years later, Al Huntington, a former Madison, Ind., mayor, has amassed
a treasure trove of Madison memorabilia.
by Konnie McCollum
Huntington poses with
his memorabilia collection that
was on display during the
Many of the items were displayed at the Seifert-Short
Museum and Learning Center, 301 Broadway St., during the Madison Bicentennial
Celebrations 200-hour party. The exhibit, sponsored by the Madison
Rotary Club, will open periodically prior to major events in the city.
Details have yet to be finalized.
I had a few items that my parents and other relatives gave me
when I was younger, said Huntington. I really started collecting
heavily in 1978 when I found the oil can.
That oil can was made by Madden Motor Co.
Huntington, former owner of Madisons Valley Industrial Supply
Co., looks for many of his items at auctions, antique shops and online.
Now that word has gotten around about his collection, he said people
are simply giving him items because they know how fond he is of anything
that has Madison written on it. If it said Madison
on it, I bought it, he said.
He enjoys doing the research about each item he collects, such as the
Pepsi Co., bottle with the citys name on it. I couldnt
figure out why Madison would be written on a Pepsi bottle, he
said. But I found out it was actually bottled here briefly in
1952-1953 through Sunkist Bottling.
Huntington has a large collection of rare bottles that were produced
in Madison, many of which were on display in the exhibit.
Another favorite item of his is the 1901 prescription book that belonged
to Frank Harper, who owned an apothecary in town. The book holds formulas
from doctors, and patients could come in and he would look up the prescriptions
to mix the medicines. This is quite a treasure, said Huntington.
Not only are there souvenirs from a variety of Madison businesses, but
there are school photos and mementos, calendars, letters, documents
and even the 1901 original incorporation paper for the Madison Chautauqua
Festival of Art and the 1871 County Directory.
There is an album of trading cards that had business information on
one side and artwork on the other, key chains, badges, boxes, and many
other keepsake items from area businesses and industries. Photographs
of historic businesses and factories help highlight the artifacts.
I find new things all the time from businesses I never knew about,
said Huntington, who believes the exhibit creates a warm spirit
of the community.
Jefferson County Historical Society archivists Ron and Jackie Grimes
were instrumental in helping Huntington display the items. They
certainly didnt look like this when I brought them in here,
he said. The Grimes are experts at displaying exhibits; they did
a fantastic job of organizing and setting this up.
The collection is fascinating, said Ron Grimes. It
was such a pleasure to work with Al Huntington because he has a real
knowledge and love for Madison.
Part of the exhibit featured glass and tin plates of photographs dating
back to the late 1800s. When he first bought them at an auction, Huntington
wasnt sure if they were salvageable. He took them to Grimes, who
made photos off of them. Several of those photos, including one of the
Walnut Street Saloon, were on display.
Jackie Grimes did the research on the plates to try to identify the
saloon and discovered there were actually 52 saloons in the town at
one time. The Grimes actually drove through the city looking to see
if the building still existed and found it. Today, though, it does not
have the Wild West swinging saloon doors that it used to
Huntington donated the collection of photographic plates to the Jefferson
County Historical Society. Dont throw anything away take
it down to the historical society, he said.
Eventually, Huntington would love to leave his massive collection to
an organization that will keep continue to show it. For now, however,
he plans to keep collecting. Things pop up all the time,
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