One of the Most Iconic Movie Props

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Who remembers the leg lamp? Who still has one?


The 1983 movie, A Christmas Story, is about an Indiana family in 1940. The story is told through the eyes of a nine year old boy.  The film opened with mediocre box office sales, and it only ran for a few weeks. The movie was unique among Christmas movies heavy on nostalgia like Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.  Since 1983, the movie has gained popularity and influenced later Christmas movies like Elf

A Christmas Story was

“a new kind of holiday movie, one that acknowledged- even relished- the ‘unbridled avarice,’ the commercialism, the disappointments, the hurt feelings and all around bad luck that in reality often define the merry season.”

“Indescribably Beautiful”

The character of the father, known as “The Old Man,” entered a trivia contest, and with his wife’s help wins. The prize? A  full sized, woman’s leg including high heels and fishnet stocking fashioned into a lamp  that is “indescribably beautiful.”  

The story continues as the wife, not liking the prize lamp, breaks it.

When “The Old Man” tries to fix it with glue, only to find that his wife had used it all – intentionally.

“Quintessential Christmas Tradition”

In 1997, Time Warner began to run the movie on a continuous loop from Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. For many families this movie,  “a bracing blast of satire and realism, wrapped up in a hilarious pitch-perfect tale of a middle-class family . . .through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy” is a cherished holiday tradition.

Years later, Bob Clark, the director, noted with some surprise that “this low budget fluke of a movie had become a quintessential Christmas tradition.” 

Watch the Movie at the Museum!

Join us on Sunday, December 15 at 2:00 pm for a special showing of The Christmas Story at HCHM. Explore our new exhibit, Back to the 80s.

Please note: If the event is cancelled due to bad weather, we will post on our Facebook page.

Back to the 80s – Jelly Shoes

Did you own a pair of these versatile shoes?

Jelly shoes made out of  PVC jelly  first appeared in the 1950s and 60s. They did not become popular until the 1980s.  After a debut at the 1982 World’s Fair, jelly shoes became a fashion must have! The popularity of the plastic shoe only grew from there.

Jelly shoes were cheap and came in a wide array of colors. At roughly a $1 a pair, it was possible to buy a pair that would match any outfit in the closet.

Join us at HCHM this Saturday, Dec. 7, 10-4 for 5 Places of Christmas. Our new exhibit, “Back to the 80s” is open and the museum is decorated 80s style!

The First Kansans

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

A question that we often get is a variation of “Which Native American  groups lived in Kansas?” Hopefully,  the following post will provide some answers.

Since there are no written records from the ancestors of current day Native Americans, we rely on what others, like Spanish explorers observed, and archaeological discoveries. A recent discovery by WSU anthropologist, Donald Blakeslee, has shed new light on Native American life and culture  on the Plains. The Wichita Indian settlement identified as Etzanoa, located near present day Arkansas City, Ks, gives evidence of a well established town much larger than was previously thought.

About the discovery, Dr. Blakslee noted:

“this was not some remote place. The people traded and lived in huge communities. Everything we thought we knew turns out to be wrong. I think this needs a place in every schoolbook.”

Throughout Kansas,  there is evidence of thriving communities pre-European settlement.

Native Tribes

Tribes that are considered native to present day Kansas include Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kanza, Kiowa, Osage, Pawnee and Wichita.

Indian Removal Act 1830

Beginning in 1803, the United States government proposed plans to move tribes from eastern United States to land west of the Mississippi. Finally, the Indian Removal Act passed in spring of 1830. The implementation of the act forcibly removed eastern tribes  to the west including present day Kansas.

Map survey of Indian lands by Isaac McCoy, 1830-36.

In 1829, the Delawares were the first tribe to sign treaties which gave them land in the Kansas territory indicated on the map by Isaac McCoy, 1830.

McCoy, a missionary to the Ottawa and Pottawatomie tribes of Michigan, agreed with US policy that removed Native Americans to land west of the Mississippi. He along with some Native American delegates explored the Kansas Territory. This map is a result of his survey.  The map was redrawn by H. J. Adams.

Courtesy the Kansas State Historical Society, Kansas Memory.

1856 Map of Eastern Kansas

The effect of the  Indian Removal Act of 1830 can be seen in the below map which includes a number of eastern tribes. Indian boundaries indicated on the 1856 map of the eastern part of Kansas include the tribes of Kickapoo, Pottawatomie, Kansas, Sac & Fox, Shawnee, Miami, Ottawa, Chippewa, Peoria, Kaskaskia, Iowa, Delaware, Wyandotte, Piankashaw, and Wea.

Map of Eastern Kansas, 1856. Courtesy Kansas Memory

Simplified Map of Historic Indian Locations

Historic Indians of Kansas, 1541- 1854.


In Harvey County

Beginning in 1855, surveyors worked to map  Kansas. The above surveyor note identified a “Kaw Village” in Township 22, Range 3 W 6th PM, 3 ch N.  The map below shows the location on the Arkansas River in Alta Township, Harvey County, Ks.


From HCHM’s Collection: Objects found in the area.

Along the borders of Harvey, Marion & McPherson Counties, evidence has also been found of Kaw life.

The Kaw

At one time the Kaw or Kanza had territory that covered about two-fifths of what today is Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. Beginning with treaties from the 1820s and 1830s, the Kanza lands were reduced until 1873.  At that time, the tribe was forced from Kansas to make more land available for white settlement. At that time, there were only about 500 members.

Today, the Kaw Nation has 3,500 members, many live in Kaw City, OK about 70 miles southeast of Wichita, Ks.

Native Americans In Kansas Today

Today, there are four Indian reservations – the Iowa, Kickapoo, Pottawatomie, and Sac & Fox – in Kansas.


For  more information visit  American Indians in Kansas  or the city of  Etzannoa.