HomeCar CultureCommentaryAs museums re-open, the Crawford shares its history

As museums re-open, the Crawford shares its history

Our weekly roundup of car museum news and notes


Ever wonder how museums come to be? The Crawford Auto Aviation Collection, part of the Western Reserve Historic Society in Cleveland, recently shared its history.

It begins at the 1936-37 Great Lakes Exposition in Cleveland, where a exhibit of antique automobiles was displayed. As the Expo was ending, Frederick Crawford, president of Thompson Products, learned that one of the cars was to be junked after the show. 

The car was a 1910 Duryea and Crawford, and Crawford, knowing the story of the Duryea brothers and their impact on the early history of automobiles in America, decided to purchase the car and display it at his factory.

Frederick Crawford is among those with shovel in hand at the museum groundbreaking
Frederick Crawford is among those with shovel in hand at the museum groundbreaking

Thus the start of the Thompson Products Auto Album, a collection which grew as Crawford found other vintage vehicles, many of them languishing in barns or garages. 

Crawford, a native of Watertown, Massachusetts, studied civil engineering at Harvard and moved to Cleveland in 1916 to work at that Steel Products Company (which later became Thompson Products). Steel/Thompson manufactured fittings and connectors for motorcars and later for aircraft. 

In the 1950s, Thompson merged with California-based Ramo Wooldridge and the result was a company known as TRW, which also became involved in products for space exploration.

By 1943, Crawford had enough cars that he decided to share them with the public and he took a lease on a former Cadillac sales showroom at East 30th and Chester Avenue and on August 13 opened the Thompson Products Auto Album as one of the nation’s first car museums.

The following year Crawford added a 7/8-scale street with storefronts including a print shop, saloon, blacksmith shop, barber shop and more, all designed to reflect the 1890s.  He also started collecting airplanes.

Frederick Crawford and Ruth Swihart look over one of the cars in the collection
Frederick Crawford and Ruth Swihart look over one of the cars in the collection

In 1945, Ruth Swihart became the museum’s curator, a position she held for 26 years and a rare career for a women in that era. Swihart was the first woman on the board of trustees of the National Antique Automobile Club of America.

With his lease on the Cadillac showroom expiring in 1962, Crawford wanted to permanent home for the collection and found it with the Western Reserve Historic Society, to which he transferred ownership and which began construction on a new facility Frederick C. Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in 1964.

As for Crawford, he lived until 1994 and the age of 103.

As for the museum, it has announced July 24 as the date for its re-opening after being closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gilmore sets event schedule

The Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, re-opens June 12 and also has announced its upcoming event schedule, which includes Model T Driving Experience programs starting June 21, a “Corvette Envy” car show on July 19, a “Mopars Lite” show July 25, “Red Banrs Lite” show on August 1, and a new “Air-Cooled Gathering” show August 8.

To see a complete list of events and shows, visit the Gilmore website.

Studebaker museum re-opens June 14

The Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana, will re-open to visitors on June 14, it has announced.

“In accordance with St. Joseph County Health Order 1-2020, visitors will be required to wear masks when in the museum,” the museum said in its announcement, adding, “This policy will be in place through at least July 4, 2020, when that order is currently scheduled to expire.”

Visitors also will be asked to practice social distancing.

ACD features ‘Out of Quarantine’ exhibit

Crawford, As museums re-open, the Crawford shares its history, ClassicCars.com Journal
‘Out of Quarantine’ displays an unusual array of vehicles for the ACD Museum | Museum photo

“Out of Quarantine” is the theme of an exhibit of 17 vehicles prepared for the re-opening June 14 of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum in northeast Indiana. 

The exhibit, in the museum’s special interest gallery, put 17 vehicles from the museum’s private collection together for the first time. The vehicles span more than 80 years and include 1930s Cords and a Checker cab and cars from the 1950s.

While closed during the coronavirus pandemic, the museum also restocked its store and launched a new “virtual store.” 

Blackhawk sets re-opening for June 13-14

The Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California, is scheduled to re-open June 13-14. The facility features collector cars as well as extensive exhibits on “The Spirit of the Old West” and collections of Asian art and another on natural history.

As the museum re-opens, visitors will be required to wear masks.

Owls Head opens its doors June 17

The Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine will end its coronavirus pandemic shutdown on June 17. At first, the museum will be open 5 days a week with 2 sessions each day — at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. — and advance reservations will be required. For details, visit the museum website.

On June 18, the museum plans a special virtual trivia night, “Are You Smarter Than a Curator?” that will focus on the Ford Model T. For details, visit the museum website.

Mustang museum opening delayed

The Mustang Owner’s Museum in Concord, North Carolina, was scheduled to re-open in late May but will remain closed until the end of June, it says, because the governor of North Carolina delayed museum re-openings until Phase 3 of its post-pandemic plan instead of as part of Phase 2.

“Unfortunately, the state of North Carolina Phase 2 does not allow the Mustang Owner’s Museum to be open for Father’s Day, a perfect place to take your Dad for Father’s Day,” the museum said.

Newport museum open again to visitors… 

The Newport Car Museum in Rhode Island re-opened June 8. The museum features six galleries and features Ford/Shelby, Chevrolet Corvette, Fin Cars, Mopars, American Muscle and World Car exhibits. 

… so is the Lane museum in Nashville

Crawford, As museums re-open, the Crawford shares its history, ClassicCars.com Journal
‘Stacked’ is among the new exhibits at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville | Museum photo

Opening to visitors on June 11 was the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville. In honor of Father’s Day, Dads are admitted free on Sundays throughout the month of June, the museum announced.

As part of the re-opening, the Lane opened several new exhibits — Hobby Gone Wild, which features books from the museum’s new book by the same title; Wingless Wonders, a showcase of propeller-driven vehicles; Stacked, featuring “feats of strength, durability and capability;” and Opportunity and the Open Road, with vehicles that give voice to the perspective of women behind the wheel.

The next exhibits run through May 31, 2021.

Virtual cruise in at Indy

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum will stage another Speedway Virtual Cars & Coffee from June 13 from 9 a.m. until noon (Central time). To participate, go to the museum’s Facebook page, select the Cars and Coffee tab on the Event page and post a photo of your car under the Discussion tab. 

Ferrari museum features ‘24 Hours Virtual’

The Ferrari Museum in Maranello, Italy, not only has a special exhibit on “Ferrari at 24 Heures du Mans,” but is hosting a viewing of the “24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual.” 

With the 2020 24-hour race postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the racers have been invited to participate in a virtual race during racing simulators the weekend of June 13-14, which otherwise would have been the actual race dates.

At the Ferrari Museum, visitors can watch as drivers maneuver the Ferrari 488 GTEs as well as a pair of FDA Hublot Esport team cars in the virtual race.

Qualifying trials are scheduled for June 12 with the 24-hour competition running June 13-14.

Alfa museum sets June 24 re-opening

The Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese, Milan, Italy, has set June 24 as its date to re-open after being closed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent Posts