“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 http://sfslibrary.sirsi.net to search our collection!

For more information on Read Across America and the National Education Association visit: http://www.nea.org/


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, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3425600022/GVRL?u=sant46959&sid=GVRL&xid=f4101ebd. 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. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30530268 (December 31, 2018).



Kitchen Life

Now that we’re deep into autumn, we start thinking about the things we’re thankful for, like family, friends…and modern appliances. And not having to cook our food on a wood-burning stove.

Heritage Park Historical Museum and Carriage Barn has an exhibit called “Keeping a Home”, which showcases items such as a wood-burning oven and icebox cabinet. The kitchen then, much like today, was the central place in the home. A lot of time was spent in there with family as meals were being prepared, because cutting, beating, and mixing were all done by hand. The stove was typically filled with eucalyptus branches – a local tree – and that had to be chopped by hand as well. These days we are thankful for modern gadgets that can help us with these tasks!

A lot of the food came from the family’s own backyard, not the store. Basically because there weren’t very many grocery stores like there are today. Eggs, fruit, vegetables, milk, and meat all came from the family’s garden and livestock. To keep it from spoiling, the food was kept in the icebox (now the modern day refrigerator) with a block of ice to keep the box cold. As the ice melted, the water would collect in a tray that was later emptied. The one here in the Carriage Barn is a tall cabinet made out of wood, with metal hinges and 2 doors. On top are two grinders, either for spices, coffee, or wheat. We should be thankful we can easily buy these items pre-ground from the store!

The oven is by Royal Enterprise, manufactured by Phillips and Buttorff from Nashville, TN. It has no dials to turn the heat from low to high, no timer to set to remind you when the turkey is ready. It just has one door for the oven, the stove burners, and two doors on top. Also visible are various cooking items: baking powder and bowls, wafers and tea.

So when you’re sitting down to a delicious meal, ham or turkey, with mashed potatoes and stuffing, with your family around you, think of how much harder it could have been to store all those dishes in the icebox or prepare it on a wood-burning stove…and be thankful.


Part of the “Keeping a Home” exhibit, located in the Carriage Barn.

Are you afraid of dolls?

There’s only one thing that never fails to scare us around Halloween…dolls!  This is actually called pediophobia, a type of automatonophobia, which is the fear of humanoid figures.  Basically, dolls are scary because they remind us of…us!  In any case,  Heritage Park and the Carriage Barn Museum have some on display for people to get their thrill.

This doll, in particular, was donated by Grace Hoffman on May 5th, 1986. Hoffman was a resident here in Santa Fe Springs and generously contributed this piece to our permanent collection.  The doll is made with a soft cloth body and white porcelain head, arms, and legs. As you can see, the doll’s gaze is pointed right and the hair is cut short and styled in waves. The doll is wearing a white cloth dress with ¾ bell sleeves. She stands approximately one foot high.

Dolls go back as far in time as you can imagine, as there have always been children needing entertainment and people needing things to collect! This specific doll was most likely made in Germany between 1840 and 1880. Though this doll has painted hair, some dolls in this style later received wigs either made from human hair or mohair (i.e. the hair of an Angora goat).  These first dolls were supposed to represent grown up women in the fashions of the time period.  Only children from wealthy parents had dolls.  Of course, that’s all changed today. Now many people can enjoy dolls, although some remain expensive collectors’ items.

According to the 2018 Guinness Book of World Records , the largest porcelain doll lives in Jiangxi, China.  She is 5 feet and 7.7 inches tall.  Wang Chu and Deng Jiagi are the two responsible for her creation.

Additionally, the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records names Bettina Dorfmann as the owner of the largest doll collection in the world, which contains over 15,000 Barbie dolls. This record remains unbeaten.

Barbie dolls are, as the name implies, still dolls, but arguably not as creepy as the porcelain ones.  Probably because we have all owned one or two in our lifetimes.  But there are some dolls that are rumored to be haunted – most notably Robert the doll, who “lives” in the East Martello Museum and has quite a frightening history.  Another doll, Annabelle, is a Raggedy Ann doll who “lives” in the Warren Occult Museum and her history almost beats Robert’s in pure scare factor.  So much so that there are several movies of the same name.

Will the Heritage Park Museum dolls gain the same sort of haunted fame? Are they really watching you?  You’ll have to stop in and make sure…on October 31st, if you dare!