To Horse, or Not to Horse

There is something important that every Carriage Barn needs in order to become a Carriage Barn…a Carriage, of course!  Thankfully, the Historical Museum in Heritage Park of Santa Fe Springs has one.  A carriage is a four-wheeled passenger vehicle pulled by two or more lightweight, fast horses.  Before the invention of the automobile, almost everyone owned a horse.

The type of carriage in the museum is a large, black, family size surrey.  It has a front seat and a backseat, 2 headlights, 4 wheels, and a parasol holder for umbrellas, and on top is a leather cover to protect from rain or sun.  This horse-drawn wooden surrey is very well-maintained and luxurious, with cushioned seats, but it didn’t come to the museum that way. It was falling apart and several parts had to be sent to the Amish in order to be fixed properly and maintain the surrey’s history.  A drawback to travelling this way was that there is no windshield, so anything the horses kicked up (such as dirt, mud, or rocks) could get into the passengers’ faces.  The surrey on display has a big black barrier – called a dashboard – right in front in order to minimize debris.  Another drawback were the headlights.  The lights did not shine very far, and a horse doesn’t have excellent night vision.  Not only that, but the lights were on the side.  They were more used as a signal to other drivers that something was there. On modern cars the headlights are more powerful and in the front of the vehicle.


When automobiles started to become more popular, people called them horseless carriages because they did not need any animal assistance.  Cars could be fairly hard to get used to; they required a lot of maintenance and could break down more easily.  They were smelly and scared the other horses on the road and they didn’t go as fast as cars do today.  However, as they improved and came with features such as seatbelts, air conditioning, and windshields, the surrey and other carriages were pushed into history for good.  But if you wish to ride in one, it is possible to take tours in carriages in certain areas, so definitely look into that after you visit the one in Santa Fe Springs’ very own…Carriage Barn!



“A walk in the park is a pleasure to do/When a visit to one is long overdue” – A Walk In The Park by Ernestine Northover  

Now that April is here, so is spring!  Although it seems that our beautiful California weather can’t make up its mind.  But if the sun is out today, why not head over to Heritage Park?  Not only do they have the Carriage Barn & History Museum (providing shade while you look over some artifacts from the past), but the park grounds have many points of interest throughout.

Why not check out the windmill?  If a tour is going on, you may even get to see the working water pump that pulls water from the reservoir nearby.  After you’ve seen that, head over to the Tongva exhibit.  The Tongva were Native Americans that lived in and around the area now known as Santa Fe Springs.  It features a ki or kich, a family dwelling that looks like an upside down basket, as well as a sweat lodge which was a hut used for cleansing the body through perspiration.  While you’re in that exhibit, take note of the many plants around you: pine, oak, willow, sage.  The trees cool the air and block off the city world outside, making you feel as if you have been transported back in time.

The Tongva village located in Heritage Park.

Trees of all types are very important.  They purify the air and give off oxygen that we need to breathe.  Many states celebrate Arbor Day in April; a day to appreciate, care for, and learn about trees.  Take a look at all the trees in Heritage Park.  A couple of them are over 100 years old!  Do you know California’s state tree?*  Some parks have small groves of them for you to admire.  No matter what day it is, we should be grateful for all the trees that make our state amazing!

*California Redwood


“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.” – Dr. Seuss

It’s nearly the end of February, and you know what that means: It’s time for Read Across America! Read Across America begins on March 2nd. This “celebration of reading” started in 1998 by the National Education Association to encourage literacy among all ages.  The NEA chose March 2nd because that is Dr. Seuss birthday.  Dr. Seuss is known for his zany and unique rhymes found in his books such as One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The Lorax, The Cat in the Hat, and many others.

Reading has been an activity for as long as we’ve had the written word.  It expanded in the 19th century because of the automated improvement of the printing press.  People could read anything they wanted, from instructional works, to crime and Gothic tales, romance, or domestic magazines; etiquette manuals or cook books.  The availability of these books meant that literacy was also on the rise.

At the Carriage Barn, visitors can see some books on display, from school textbooks to leisure reading.  One of these books is the vibrantly colored Picture Books for Children, which is an – often humorous – instructional manual for how children should behave.  The cover is red and embossed with vines, flowers, and Victorian-style imagery.  It is approximately 6 inches by 4 inches; able to be carried but not easily stowed in a pocket.

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While the book has excellent lessons, it might be more fun to check out a Dr. Seuss book to read!  The Santa Fe Springs City Library has many of them. Just head over to to search our collection!

For more information on Read Across America and the National Education Association visit:


Shining a Light on Magic Lanterns

Imagine it’s 1955. You’re out by Silverwood Lake, enjoying summer vacation. The sun is hot on the shore and you can hear your dad snapping away, taking pictures of you, mom, and your little brother. You have a feeling that these pictures are going to come up at the next family reunion; your dad just got a new slide projector and he can’t get enough of it. Maybe for the rest of vacation you’ll hide in the water.

But what came before the slide projector? A device invented, most likely by Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens, in the 1600s. Lit up from within by candlelight, film slides projected pictures on the walls and sometimes even moved. When early audiences saw these images – some scary, some awe-inspiring – suddenly appear on the wall, as if by magic, the device was named the Magic Lantern.

Currently on display in the Inventing a Better Life exhibit, located in the Carriage Barn.

Over time, the lanterns worked using oil lamps instead of candlelight. Now, of course, they are powered by electricity and are known as “slide projectors”. However, by the 1700s the Magic Lantern was a common form of entertainment and education. The earliest show held in the United States for “the Entertainment of the Curious” took place in Salem, Massachusetts on December 3, 1743. Shows were exciting and popular. To catch a glimpse of history, you can visit Santa Fe Springs’ own Magic Lantern at the Heritage Park Carriage Barn and Historical Museum.

For more information visit:

The Original American Puzzle

Often, at the Carriage Barn, we like to look at old artifacts and research how they fit into the cultural landscape of their time. The wooden puzzle box in our permanent collection represents the leisure activity of many wealthy Americans at the turn of the century. This puzzle box was most likely created in the early 20th century. It displays a beautiful Victorian design and offers six different puzzles for families to complete.

Puzzles became a craze in American culture during the early 20th century. However, prior to the 1930s, puzzles were fairly expensive and often only well-off families owned them. This is because most puzzles were made of wood, like the one shown below. We can surmise that this particular puzzle box was most likely owned by a financially established family. The tide change in puzzle ownership came with the Great Depression.

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The Great Depression influenced countless aspects of daily life among Americans. Interestingly, one industry heavily influenced by the Great Depression was the puzzle making industry. Depression-era Americans were constantly looking for cheap and easy forms of entertainment. Despite initially being a recreational activity for the wealthy, puzzles were given new life in the 1930s when entrepreneurs began mass-producing them by using heavy cardboard, rather than wood. By 1934 3.5 million puzzles had been sold throughout the U.S. and, according to a 1938 poll by the National Recreation Association, puzzles were named one of the most frequent at-home activities.1

Though popularity has waned for puzzles since the Great Depression, a plethora of puzzle communities, competitions, and puzzle-player websites prove that this activity will continue to hold a special place in American culture.


  1. “Everyday Living.” Great Depression and the New Deal Reference Library, edited by Allison McNeill, et al., vol. 1: Almanac, UXL, 2003, pp. 187-211. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 16 Jan. 2019.


The Camera Revolution

With the holiday season coming to a close, we can take a few moments at the beginning of the New Year to reflect on the time spent with family and friends. A cornerstone of the holidays has, for nearly a century, been the camera. Almost everyone has that one family member that just has to get a few good pictures of everyone together. With the advent of social media, the desire to get that perfect picture has only increased.

The Carriage Barn currently hosts multiple cameras in our permanent exhibit. A personal favorite of mine is the Agfa box camera. This camera is a later replication of the original, and similarly styled, Brownie box cameras sold by the Eastman Kodak Company in the early 20th Century. The invention of this inexpensive, accessible, and user-friendly camera helped bridge a technological divide. Prior to the release of the Brownie box camera, photography was almost exclusively an activity for the wealthy. Inventor Frank Brownell changed this by creating the Brownie box camera and, subsequently, revolutionizing photography.

Agfa Box Camera
Agfa Box Camera, currently on display at the Carriage Barn.

Dr Michael Pritchard, president of the Royal Photographic Society and the author of The History of Photography in 50 Cameras, has this to say about the Brownie box camera:

“A $1 or 25-shilling camera capable of producing reasonable results was innovative, and coupled with Kodak’s ability to provide directly or through an enormous number of chemists and photographic retailers a developing and printing service meant that photography became accessible irrespective of your social class or photographic skills.”1

The Agfa box camera currently on display was created by German imaging company Agfa, now known as Agfa-Gevaert. The box camera works similarly to the human eye. A shutter at the front of the camera opens and allows light to pass through the lens. This light is reflected from the object being photographed. As the light moved through the lens it is inverted and reflected onto a strip of film.

So, this New Year, when scrolling through the holiday photos on your phone, be sure to give a quick thanks to Frank Brownell!


  1. Dowling, Stephen. “The most important cardboard box ever?” BBC News. (December 31, 2018).



Winter Sun: The Orange

                Unlike many fruits, navel oranges are at their sweetest and ripest in the fall and winter months.  The Heritage Park Historical Museum and Carriage Barn exhibition titled “When the Air Was Pure and Money Grew on Trees” is a nod to the once-thriving citrus industry in Southern California.  Imagine that every house you see is, instead, an orange tree.

The largest object in the exhibit titled “Living from the Land” is the orange sizing machineIt is approximately 12 feet long and made of red, painted wood.  This was used to sort oranges by size before they were shipped off.  Orange sizing rings are also a part

Portion of the Orange Grading Machine, located inside the Carriage Barn.

of the exhibit.  There is a photograph behind this machine of farmers tending to the orange trees.

Navel oranges were developed by Mrs. Eliza Tibbets of Riverside, California, in 1873.  There were found to be sweet and seedless, so they were very popular and soon shipped all over the world.  People even ate them for dessert.  For a long time, having an orange was a big treat because they weren’t readily available.  But by 1940, there were 190,000 acres of orange trees in Southern California.

Today, there is a small orange tree grove in Heritage Park, but unfortunately the oranges cannot be picked.  But if you have a tree at home or have permission somewhere else, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • The sweetest oranges are typically found high on the tree, on the outside, and on the south side of the tree.
  • The color of an orange has no relation to whether or not it’s ripe. Yes, that means that the color can be anywhere from dark green to pink or dark red!
  • Eat oranges as soon as possible
  • Watch for firm, bruise-free skin
  • Avoid tender spots or folds
  • And of course, smell that strong, sweet, citrus smell!


Orange Grove
A view of the Heritage Park Orange Grove, located beside the Windmill.


To learn more about picking oranges, visit