Floyd County Historical Museum highlights Hart Parr, Oliver and White history!

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On a trip with the Midwest Travel Bloggers I was excited to visit the amazing Floyd County Historical Museum where they profile agricultural history in a big way.

In this town there is a lot to love, the new suspension bridge that replaced the old swinging bridge after the 2008 flood,  a world class art museum connected with the Charles City Library  and the beautiful downtown located along the Cedar River.

For this farm girl though, one of the stories that stuck was the reminder that the word “tractor” is credited to downtown Charles City . The story goes that it was  W.H. Williams, a sales manager at the Hart Parr Gasoline Engine Co who coined the word that originates from the Latin  “trahere”, which means to pull.   Williams took the term “traction engine” and modified it into tractor according to Charles City history, during the unveiling of the Hart-Parr gasoline powered traction engine, which was the first production-model tractor in the U.S.

Charles W. Hart and Charles H. Parr first opened their company in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1901 then moved to Charles City, Hart’s home town, where they began manufacturing tractors in 1902.  After company buyouts, in the end, they were the White Farm-New Idea Equipment Company.  At one time in the mid 1970’s, the plant complex encompassed 23 acres and employed nearly 3,000 workers.  Yes, this company’s history is not only deeply entangled in agricultural history, but also with the town of Charles City.

I had been to the museum before, but forgot how extensive the collection really is.  They  offer an amazing array of tractors on display along with literature and memorabilia that will make any collector sigh. Collectors are also able to access motion picture films, technical manuals, blueprints, sales literature and purchase manual copies from the museum.img_3900

Mary Anne Townsend of the Floyd County Historical Museum showed us around and pointed out some of the tractor highlights like the Hart Parr Little Devil, a smaller version of  some of the larger tractors.  There was an experimental Hart Parr and the 20-40 Mary Ann referred to as “Old Reliable”.

There are toys, literature and amazing memorabilia.  There was also a lovely pharmacy  which encompasses a collection of artifacts from the Legel Drug Store in Charles city.   The museum has a school room, Floyd County’s oldest existing building, the Mutchlar cabin built in 1853 and  and much more.

img_4006The museum is housed in the former Dr. Salisbury’s Laboratories. They built on in 1999 and that is when the Hart Parr/Oliver/White Collection really came alive.

The gift shop also offers a variety of things a collector will enjoy.

Downtown Charles City also has agricultural artifacts scattered around like the mill wheel by the Cedar River, the archway composed of tools in Central Park and more.

The museum is open Monday – Friday from 9:00 am until 4:30 pm and Saturday’s from 1:00 pm 4:00 pm and open Sunday’s during the summer months. For more information, call 641-228-1099 or log onto www.floydcountymuseum.org.

4 Comments


  1. //

    What a great recap! This museum is serious one of the best in the midwest. Tractor enthusiasts will love this museum… but that drug store- dang, it’s awesome as well.


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