What’s new at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles

Stunning Examples of Horsedrawn Vehicles on Display at Boyertown Museum

The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles has recently debuted a brand new permanent exhibit space—The Carriage Barn.  Attached to the 1872 Carriage Factory, which displays Boyertown-built carriages, a working blacksmith forge, and a functional belt-driven machine shop, the Carriage Barn features several showstopper vehicles in the Museum collection not built in Boyertown.  Included is a restored huckster wagon built by the Hamburg Carriage Works, a predecessor of fire apparatus manufacturer Hahn Motors, and a pristine Wolfington Rockaway Carriage.  Wolfington Body Company is still in business today in nearby Exton, Pennsylvania, specializing in school bus bodies.  The Museum’s restored English hearse, one of the most popular pieces with visitors, has also been moved out of the main gallery and into the Carriage Barn for permanent display.

Other Pennsylvania manufacturers featured in the Carriage Barn are John Yohn of Pottstown, Graves and Eighmy of Somerset County, and Daniel Wieand of Mauch Chunk (Jim Thorpe).  Sleighs of different styles from these companies help illustrate the large variety of horse-powered transportation in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Finally, the Museum is pleased to feature some new acquisitions in the Carriage Barn, including some not built in Pennsylvania.  Their rarity, however, makes them truly stand out and worthy of display.  A unique Skeleton Break, used to train and exercise carriage horses, takes center stage in the Carriage Barn.  Truly a ‘workhorse’ of a vehicle, not many skeleton brakes from the late 1800s have survived to the present day because of their hard, continuous use.  Also new to the Museum’s collection is a Hansom Cab, a distinguished front-entry taxicab; an original condition scallop sleigh by the famous Brewster & Company; and a Bavarian State Coach built in 1856 for King Ludwig I and used by his fourth son, Prince Albert.

How did this piece of European royalty end up in the United States?  Hans Holterbosch, importer of Lowenbrau Beer, purchased it and other King Ludwig estate items and had it brought to his home on Long Island in 1959.  The carriage eventually ended up in the collection of the Smithsonian, which then graciously donated it to the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles.

A “Tip-Top” Tourist Cabin

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, tourist camps and courts were common overnight accommodations for newly budding motorists. Earlier hotels catered to the needs of railroad travelers and were often located in big cities, so these camps began popping up along major roads to accommodate the needs of those traveling on roadways. In their early days, the structures that populated the camps were typically singles, hosting one person or couple at a time, and looked and functioned like one-room homes. As these lodgings became more popular, business owners expanded, offering more units for rent and modern amenities, like phones, gas, cafes, swimming pools, and sometimes air conditioning. These more modern accommodations began to be known as tourist courts. The term “motel”, a combination of “motor” and hotel”, implying more available space, was popularized in the 1940s. “Motel” and “tourist court” were both used through the mid-century before the latter fell out of popularity with the general public.

Formerly located along the Old William Penn Highway (Route 22), the Museum’s cabin, which dates between 1920 and 1940, was acquired in late August 2023 and has since undergone extensive restoration.  Check out the photos of the “before”, “during”, and much improved “after”. Items to furnish the cabin were donated by: Roy Bieber, Jim Butt, Guy Clemmer, Sam Fiorani, Kathleen Jones, Dan Olsen, Tobey Ross, Barbara Schaefer, Dick & Diane Schuster, Wayne Strogus, and Jim Swope.

Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads: A Back to the Future Tribute

The Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles hosted Guest Curator Tom Silknitter for a special exhibit during the summer of 2023 —Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads: A Back to the Future Tribute.  The main feature of this exhibit was Mr. Silknitter’s tribute car—an exact replica of the DeLorean time machine used in the Back to the Future film trilogy, which he recreated using production notes and drawings.  Mr. Silknitter’s remarkable attention to detail and in-depth research in recreating this iconic vehicle was on full display.  Also part of the exhibit was Mr. Silknitter’s impressive collection of Back to the Future memorabilia—from toys to DeLorean models to skateboards.  Rare concept art from the blockbuster film trilogy was featured, as well as production notes and drawings Mr. Silknitter used to build his tribute car.  The exhibit also included a  ‘selfie station’ modeled after the 1955 Enchantment Under the Sea prom from the first Back to the Future film.  Mr. Silknitter is the author of Build It With Some Style: Unauthorized Tales of the Time Machines from Back to the Future.

Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads was celebrated with an opening reception with the Guest Curator on Thursday, June 22. The Museum scheduled several other events to coincide with this unique exhibit including a special screening of the 2021 documentary film 88 MPH: The Story of the DeLorean Time Machine, followed by a Q&A with director Tom Quigley and others involved in the making of the film.  A second DeLorean time machine was at the Museum that day, offering patrons the chance to sit in the car in exchange for a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Back to the Future exhibit

Channel PH17 Visit the Boyertown Auto Museum and put together a nice segment about our Museum.

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ph17 video on Boyertown Auto Museum

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