Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ray Swanson's meticulous model

I picked a good time to wander in to the Lucas County Historical Society Museum Thursday afternoon --- when Larry Swanson (left) and his wife, Linda McCumber, of California, brought in this magnificent model of a 1895 Case tractor to join the collection.

The model, which consists of some 1,500 parts, was made not long after World War II by Larry's father, Raymond H. Swanson (1911-1987), who will be remembered by many because of the jewelry store he operated until retirement during 1985 in the Ritz Theater building.

Larry and Linda were accompanied by their friend, Greg Moore (right), of the Des Moines area. He is a son of the late A.O. "Mecan" and Margie Moore and a nephew of the late Lloyd Moore. I'm not sure he was convinced when we told him he had to be in the photograph just because folks would be interested in seeing what Mecan Moore's son and Lloyd Moore's nephew looked like now.

The model was donated by Larry and his sister-in-law, Kay Swanson, widow of Larry's late brother, Roger Swanson, of Oskaloosa.

Ray Swanson was a native of Lucas who married Ferne Rouse during 1932 and operated a jewelry store in Humeston from 1934 until 1942, serving as projectionist at the Princess Theater there, too. 

He had hoped to return to business in Humeston after World War II, but couldn't find space to rent in that busy little town, so reopened his shop in a former service station in Lucas instead. A skilled watchmaker and repairer of watches and other intricate devices, he spent about a year building the model, crafting each of its 1,500 pieces --- many tiny, many on his jewler's lathe. By his estimate, he spent some five hours a day on the project. He was working from photographs he had taken of an 1895 Case that he had found sitting in a farmyard.

He also was serving as projectionist at the Ritz Theater in Chariton at the time --- and eventually moved his family to Chariton and opened his businiess here.

This is a working model, designed to burn alcohol in order to build a head of steam in the tiny boiler. Swanson, who displayed the model in the window of his Chariton shop on special occasions, eventually shifted to compressed air to operate it, fearing that the combination of fire and water would damage it.

We're delighted to have this wonderful item in the collection now --- and you'll be able to see it first-hand if you attend our Harvest Festival open house at the museum from 10 a.m. until noon next Saturday, Oct. 1. 

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