The Waitsfield Truss Bridge has a new home at the Madsonian


We are very excited to have a piece of the only steel Bridge in the Mad River Valley.  The Waitsfield Truss Bridge which was located in Warren, will become a permanent sculpture this summer at the Madsonian.  We will keep you updated on the transformation.

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Madsonian Museum Annual Appeal 2012

The Madsonian has been open for a year and a half now, and we are taking this moment to reflect on what we have accomplished over these past 18 months.
We are proud of what we have created, and hope that you will offer your support so that the Madsonian can continue to be a fun place to learn about the history and importance of design and designers.

In a short time, the Madsonian has become a pioneer in the recognition of industrial design, gaining respect from national industrial design publications such as Core 77 and the Industrial Designers Society of America.
Core 77 says:  “It’s one thing to have places like the MoMA, the Cooper-Hewitt and the Design Museum in cities like New York and London, filled with thousands if not millions of design cognoscenti. But what will really start to make the difference is an awareness of design spreading to rural areas.  So it’s heartening to see places like the recently-openedMadsonian Museum of Industrial Design popping up in Waitsfield, Vermont, population 1,659.”
In our summer exhibit this year, we were the first museum to recognize the work of Walter Dorwin Teague, a designer who shaped our lives through his work for Kodak, Steuben, Boeing, and others, and was the first to call himself an “Industrial Designer.” In the past 18 months, we have also hosted a show on motorcycle designs, offered several talks, and exhibited “Made in the Shade: The Designs of Summer Vacation,” which included a timeline of surfboards from the 1950’s to a 2010 board designed and signed by eleven time world champion surfer, Kelly Slater.
We want to continue offering this exceptional resource to our community; bringing exciting, fun, and thought provoking exhibits, talks, and design events to the unlikely location of Waitsfield, VT.  We feel it is important to recognize products (and their designers) that are beautiful and made to last.  These are the products that will be passed on for generations, and are key to sustainability in the use of our resources.
If you have enjoyed visiting the Madsonian, and feel it is a valuable resource, please consider making a tax deductable donation by clicking the button at right.  You may pay by credit card, or with a Paypal account.  As a non profit museum, we rely on your contributions to continue operating. Thanks in advance – we really appreciate your support in whatever level you are able.

We hope to see you at the Madsoniian this season for our exhibit on TOYS!  As always, please feel free to make an appointment to visit if our normal hours do not fit your schedule.  Happy winter!
David Sellers, Founder. Director
Anna Urban, Assistant Director
To make a  donation:  Click the button above, or send a check to Madsonian Museum:  P.O. box 288, Warren, VT 05674.
Please call 802-486-2787 with any questions.
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Five Fall Fridays # 5 – October 26 from 5-8 pm at the Madsonian

Five Fall Fridays # 5 at the Madsonian Museum

The Madsonian is teaming up with other Waitsfield Village galleries for “Five Fall Fridays,” a gallery walk and wine tasting series.  We are number five in the series, and will be featuring the amazing wines of Lincoln Peak Vineyard, located in New Haven, VT.  Come find out why this local vineyard and winery has won so many awards!  Lincoln Peak will be serving samples and selling wines by the glass, bottle, and case.  More info at the Waitsfield Village Facebook Page.

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“Made in the Shade: The Design of Summer Vacation”

Kickoff event September 16 from Noon to 6 pm – one day of boats, trailers, and live entertainment!  

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The design of firefighting

By Sarah Gastler

Behind every object there is a story and for fire fighter helmets it begins with the initial idea and design, then continues on to the design refinements. This classic ‘New York’ firefighters helmet design began in and developed throughout the mid 1800’s. The first material chosen was leather which is durable, moldable and resistant to fire. There wasn’t much more to it than that. This #20 leather helmet has a bit more and is a mix of practicality and aesthetics.

The brim was designed to be long in the back in order to protect the neck. (Sometimes these helmets were worn in reverse; the brim shielding the face from heat.) Inside the cap there are adjustable parts allowing for the helmet to fit snugly on the head. There is a fold out felt neck liner. The design is also loaded with aesthetic details; the leather brim is stamped (customized to each company) with a twisting vine and leaf decoration. A brass eagle rises off the front to clamp onto the identification badge, the fire department’s emblem is imprinted on the brass clamp. The exposed leather structural seams have also become part of the iconic aesthetic of the helmet.

Modern Composite Helmet

Today leather helmets are still being made in a similar fashion, with additional high-tech materials. On an episode of How It’s Made, the process reveals that there is still a significant amount of handwork involved in crafting leather helmets. Today there are also new designs of helmets for specific functions. These helmets use new materials like thermoplastic, or are of composite material. These improvements increase the strength of the helmet, reduce its weight and allow for additional features like flashlight clamps, goggles, face shields, etc. However sleek and new these helmets are, they still echo the initial design of the leather helmets. The classic eight seam lines are still emphasized on the Modern Composite Helmet and the thermoplastic helmet sports a more refined, elongated rear brim.

Given the nature of the work, firefighter helmets develop their own history from the person who wore it and from the work that it helped accomplish. This helmet didn’t just arrive at the museum, fresh out of a box. It burst through doors, braved falling embers, raced along on screaming fire trucks through the streets of New York City, and waited reliably to be put on, day and night, year after year. It shows. After a lifetime of thrilling hard work, the paint and underlying coatings are chipping from the leather, there is wear on the brim, the shape of the hat piece has warped and I’m even going to say that the smell of sweat still clings to the inside fabric. With such a mixture of history and design, it’s not just something you get rid of. Life at the museum sounds like a calm retirement to an old hat and it’s worth it to have it here. The #20 Cairns and Brothers Leather Firefighter’s helmet emphasizes that great designs like this are ultimately made for the purpose of aiding people in real life situations. (This one was for J. Zimmerman.) There’s something to be admired in that.

Episode of How It’s Made:

MSA Company – Cairns & Brothers History

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Check out the latest article written by Rachel Goff of the Valley Reporter.

A museum that celebrates egg beaters and other everyday objects

And check out our new front door!

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Bluebird Radio Replica Raffle on August 11 – get your tickets NOW!

This replica of Walter Dorwin Teague’s Sparton Bluebird Radio, designed in 1934, will be raffled off at our final celebration of the current exhibit, “Walter Dorwin Teague:  His Life, Work and Influence.”

Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased online by making a donation HERE.

Every increment of $20 will get your name entered once more.  Thanks for your support of this great exhibit!

Make sure to join us August 11 from noon to 6 pm for the Teague exhibit open house and celebration!

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What’s brewing: Stainless Steel Design

By Sarah Gastler

As Part of the Nio collection, this teapot was designed in 1982 by designer Oliver Hemming. It is a striking sculptural teapot. The bold lines curve and stop in stark, dramatic geometry. The handle peaks high above the pot creating spacious negative space, room enough for your hand or for the lid to flip up.  One characteristic of this sleek design is that you can follow  the same centered line width from the handle to the spout and back to the lid’s grip. Both handle and spout crisply disappear into the body of the pot. To pour, you lift the light weight vessel and rotate the handle 90 degrees, from vertical to horizontal. It makes teatime look slick and feel, oddly, more efficient and contemporary.

The handle and grip on the lid are made from a black heat resistant material. The main material,  stainless steel, obtains the design in exactness.

Reflected in this smart design is the history and invention of stainless steel. In brief summary, the process for making stainless steel developed in the early 1900’s with the addition of corrosion resistant elements like chromium to steel. This was a substantial invention that irrevocably influenced modern life with wide applications for industrial, commercial, and domestic use. Because of the thin layer of chromium oxide, this metal remains lustrous and functional with minimum maintenance. Though a highly energy intensive process is needed to create stainless steel, another aspect of the material is that it is 100% recyclable, leading to new applications and possibilities.

Oliver Hemming used this material with elegant flair when creating his Nio Collection. With 30 years already under this stylish teapot’s belt, it sits like new and will for a long time to come.

Stainless steel information:


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A Tool as Fun as a Toy: The Universal Angular Bit Stock

 The Millers Falls Co. in Massachusetts was a prosperous tool company founded in the 1860’s. The innovation and inspiration of the early founders laid the foundation for over a hundred years of excellent manufacturing. The company  developed many products and one special hand tool has found its home in the Madsonian Museum. The Universal Angular Bit Stock is an eye catching tool designed and patented in 1875 by James Anthoine. It was produced in 1890.




What is attractive about the Universal Angular Bit Stock is that it is designed like a riddle, the complexity of interlocking pieces boggle the mind when you go to pick it up. It turns and bends, parts move in and out, what is it for?! Then there is an “ah-ha” moment when you finally understand the unique solution to the simple purpose of this tool. Two handle ends respond to different functions, one end opens and closes to clamp onto a bit and the other has a simple driver.  At the center, the universal joint continuously turns and flexes, easily transferring the hand’s twisting through to the end without the handle moving. Amazing! The universal joint and a locking lever allow you to adjust it to any angle, and that is its trick.


The ease of this tool’s handling creates a pleasant feel; both sides of the tool are designed to fit in the palm of your hand and the metal has a sturdy, well balanced weight to it. When you grip the Universal Angular Bit Stock, it is a magnetic sensation! It feels like you’ve found a friend, so to speak, when the tool immediately becomes an extension of your body. In today’s world of noisy, fast spinning electric tools, this meditative hand tool’s time has past. But it remains as a small icon of how to create a mundane object that is fun to use, ergonomically pleasing, and all out of long lasting, indestructible materials.

Article and photos by Sarah Gastler

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Spotlight on the Dark Town Battery Bank

As the summer intern at the Madsonian Museum, I have been working at organizing and photographing the collection currently in storage. Opening a box reveals a surprising, unique and beautiful design every time. When I unwrapped The Dark Town – Battery bank, it was like getting the present you’ve always wanted. I had to pause on impact.

Lifting it out of the box, I thought it must be from around the 1920’s but it’s actually older than that.  A little research and a stamp on the bottom, reveal that The Dark Town Battery bank was designed and patented in 1875 by James H. Bowen. It was produced in 1888 by the J.&E. Stevens Company in Cromwell, Connecticut.  The company, which produced cast iron tools, became known for their innovative toys and mechanical banks.  This bank happens to be one of their classics.

Not only is it intricately detailed on every side and painted but the moving parts function in unison to create an interactive toy. Three cast iron boys play baseball, they are posed still, and waiting.  With the addition of a coin, the real enjoyment of this toy is expressed. One boy pitches, his thumb-lever grips the coin when you wind back his arm. At the press of a button, the pitcher releases the coin. The coin shoots through the air and the batter swings to hit it but misses. The catcher’s head bobs to look as the coin slips through a trap into the bank below. This exchange happens fast so you have to really watch it. (Or have a lot of coins to play it over and over again)

What fun this must have been for a kid then, and how cool it still is! It is amazing that after all this time the mechanics still function, a testament to its design and construction. As I look at it now, I think of how it communicates a part of the history of America’s pastime, baseball. Stamped out of cast iron, that timeless fun of summer baseball games will keep shining on the shelf of the Madsonian.

Photo by Michael Heeney

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