Clabber Girl Museum

Perhaps you have baked with a Clabber Girl product—baking powder, corn starch, baking soda. Clabber Girl is one of those long-time US brands still produced in the US, in Terre Haute, Indiana.

This was the last thing on my mind as I looked at the beautiful brick-red building in front of me. It either was a wonderfully restored building or a modern building constructed to look like it was from another era. It turned out that the Hulman & Co building was the former. A photograph inside listed September 28, 1892 as the grand opening of the company’s headquarters at this new building.

Today the first floor houses a bakery (Clabber Girl Bake Shop) and museum (Clabber Girl Museum). The museum is a bit of a misnomer, housing much more about the company than just Clabber Girl.

The first thing that greeted me was a 1916 Baby Inter-State. In a different blog post, I mentioned tongue-in-cheek that no museum in Indiana would be complete without an automobile. The Clabber Girl Museum is clearly no exception. One of the Hulman descendants, Anton Jr., bought and restored the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after WWII—cars and car racing were in the Hulman blood.

The museum is eclectic, to say the least, with several different exhibits. The common theme is the parent company: Hulman & Company. The museum covers the early history of the Hulman family and company and shows replicas of typical kitchens, offices, stores, taverns, and homes from earlier times.

The replica of a late 1800s/early 1900s office has a 1909 Rotary Neostyle Duplicating Machine—one of first “copy” machines—and a so-called Addressing Machine that was made in Buffalo, NY. By the walk-in-safe, various early phones, starting with the telegraph, are on display.

This is a quirky little museum.

The office also showcases the contents of an 1849 letter from F.T. Hulman of Cincinnati, OH to a Herman Hulman in Germany. Herman Hulman would go on to immigrate to the US to establish the long-lasting Hulman & Company.

A line in the letter struck me, pointing to the disparity between then and now. “…in this free and happy America, poverty and ignorance do not reign…,” F.T. wrote Herman. Poverty and ignorance are far too common now (and I suspect were pretty common in mid-19th century America.)

In another room is an 1834 Hanson Cab where driver sits behind the passenger compartment. Nearby stands a Clabber Girl delivery wagon from ca. 1905, which reads “Clabber Baking Powder” on the side. (The name of the product was changed to include “Girl” around 1923.)

While the company is best known for its Clabber Girl baking products, Hulman & Company actually produced lots of different products, food or otherwise, such as the famous Hoosier Cabinets.

The museum also includes a gallery where the art of a modern local artist is on display. (At my visit, the artist was Gloria Schipper.) Another room is lined with a collection of 1961 Forrest Sherer Christmas cards. These cards are paintings of scenes of significant Wabash Valley places done by local artist.

Did I mention that this is a quirky little museum? And it is free…right next to a bake shop.

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