New & Cool: A Garage Sale Treasure

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator


A recent donation to the museum’s collection had a unique journey to us.


This sketchbook was found at a garage sale by a sharp eyed customer who recognized the name on some of the sketches. She later donated the sketchbook to HCHM.

A Landscape

The sketchbook belonged to Lloyd T. Smith, inventor and businessman in Newton, Ks.  Most of the dates in the sketchbook are from the 1980s.


An early drawing.

The original emoji?


1 of 3 self portraits in the sketch book.

A few animals.

Dramatic shading.

Unknown woman

Unknown woman


Unknown woman

The sketches in the book show another side of a man who was an inventor and instrumental in early historic preservation efforts in Newton.


‘What Did It Say To You?” the Art of Vernon Rickman

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Recently, we were pleased to receive a painting by local artist, Vernon R. Rickman, for our collection.  Rickman worked at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for more than 30 years.

He began as technician in 1958. At the time of his retirement in January 1981 he was a senior sculpture. One of many projects he worked on was the Neanderthal figures for the permanent exhibit “Ice Age Mammals and the Emergence of Man.” He later recalled this was one of his favorite projects.  Another project involved preparing full-sized mannequins of Pat Nixon, Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter for the First Ladies Hall in the National Museum of American History.

During that time, he also painted privately.    His body of work included over 300 oil paintings, in addition to sculptures and reliefs. The collection was donated to the Carriage Factory Art Gallery in Newton, Ks.  One was also given HCHM for our collection of local Harvey County Artists.

Painting by Vernon Rickman. HCHM 2017.1

Vernon Reid Rickman was born in Newton on August 4, 1929 to Theodore and Mattie Jordan Rickman.  He had three sisters and a brother.

Shirley Elliott, a cousin remembered that “he always had a pencil in his hand.” 

At Newton High School he was fortunate to have Marie Orr as an art teacher.  She recognized his talent and encouraged him to explore different mediums throughout high school.  As a senior in 1947 he won the Scholastic art contest and spent a semester at the Cleveland School of Art.

Vernon Rickman. Photo courtesy Julian Wall, Find-A-Grave Memorial Marker #127049881.

After nearly 2 years in the U.S. Army, he enrolled at the University of Kansas. In 1957, he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.  He began graduate studies at the Kansas City Art Institute, but quit to “earn a living” at the Smithsonian Institution.

After he retired, Rickman returned to Newton where he continued to paint.  A nephew, Michael Scott recalled one visit to Rickman’s home soon after;

“I looked at paintings everywhere . . . paintings in the basement . . . paintings everywhere.  He was painting all the time.”

In 2007, Rickman had a show of his private work at Bethel College.

Vernon died at Kansas Christian Home in Newton on December 27, 2013 at the age of 84.

Examples of his work  can be found at the Carriage Factory Art Gallery, with some available for sale. The Carriage Factory Art Gallery is located at 128 E. 6th, Newton, Ks.

In a conversation about his work with his nephew Ted Scott, who asked, “Where did this come from?” 

Rickman  replied, “you had to figure it out for yourself-what did it say to  you?”


  • Buller, Beverley Olson. “Vernon Rickman Life Sketch,” 2016.
  • “Vernon Rickman” Find-A-Grave Memorial #127049881.

“Anyone Can Apply It”

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Spend time in some of the older homes in Harvey County and you might run across some interesting woodwork.

Pocket doors with false graining.

Pocket doors with false graining.

These doors reflect a popular way to decorate your home during the late 1800s into the early 1900s known as “graining” or “false graining.”  The effect was achieved with tools similar to a graining kit we have at the museum.


Graining Set. HCHM #91.21

The practice of graining became popular in the United States because it was a way to make inexpensive wood, like pine, look like more expensive, less available  wood like oak, mahogany and cherry.

Our graining kit was patented in 1908 by the Ohio Varnish Company, Cleveland, OH as the “Original Ready-to-Use Chi-Namel Graining Process.” For “a little under 2 cents per square foot” a plain floor could become a “Hard Wood Floor with Maple Inlaid Border”  or have the effect of a natural oak floor. instructions 001 The front page of the instruction booklet explains, “Any one can apply it – previous experience not necessary.” The kit in our collection was no doubt ordered by someone interested in completing their own project, not a professional grainer.  There were people, however, that were skilled in the art and available for hire in south central Kansas.

Newton experienced a building boom in the early to mid-1880s.  Many of the homes along West Broadway and East First were built during this period. The 1885 Newton City Directory has nineteen individuals that identified “Painting” as their occupation and one woman, Mrs. F.M. Hurlbut, who worked with “Decorative Art Material.”  There is a separate category in the directory for construction. Those painters that had skill in graining would usually be paid more.

At least two area men were known for their graining skills.

Emil Kym (1862-1918) lived in rural Harvey County near the Alta Mill community.  He was  well known for his work which included wood-graining, marbleizing and even full scale murals of the Swiss mountains.

Emil Kym (1862-1918)

Emil Kym (1862-1918)

The second was John L. Caveny, father of J. Franklin Caveny.  John L, along with wife, Louisa, and two children came to Kansas from Pennsylvania in the early 1870s.  About the same time, his parents, James and Susan, and brother, H. Wayne Caveny, also moved to Newton, Ks.  H. Wayne Caveny also worked as a contract painter.

The Reese House, built in 1879 by John Reese, has several examples of false grained doors.

At this time, we do not know who created the wonderful interior doors at the Reese House. We do know that John L. Caveny was working in the area as early as 1876. He and his brother may have worked on the home.

Ad from The Kansan, 1 June 1876.

Ad from The Kansan, 1 June 1876.

The Caveny brothers continued to work as a painters in Harvey County.  John L. Caveny died in 1920 at the age of 80. Described as “a very useful and valued citizen of Newton,” J. LCaveny also served as county clerk for several terms.

False graining enjoyed renewed popularity in the 1970s with a renewed interest in preserving historic structures.

Find out more about the process at these  two do-it-yourself sites.



  • “Honored Citizen For Many Years Passed on This Morning” Evening Kansan Republican, 4 October 1920.
  • Newton City Directories: 1885, 1887, 1902, 1905, 1911, 1913, 1917. HCHM Archives.
  • U.S. Census 1880, 1900.
  • Stucky, Brian.  “Who Was Emil Kym? 13 August 2008 at