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Chamberlain Memorial Museum Collections gifted to Michigan State College Museum

Woven corn husk shoes made at Tuskegee Institute, 1913.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

The Chamberlain Memorial Museum, founded in 1916 in Three Oaks, Michigan, was named for Henry Chamberlain, the father-in-law of the museum’s founder, Mr. Edward K. Warren. Chamberlain was a member of the State Board of Agriculture, the Michigan Legislature, and founder of Three Oaks. The Chamberlain Memorial Museum was originally housed in Chamberlain’s home. Following E.K. Warren’s untimely death in 1919, the museum continued to grow through the efforts of the E. K. Warren Foundation. It was a history museum, termed a “Pioneer Museum” at the time of its founding. The collections contained material culture from Michigan’s early statehood, including a large and varied collection of farm tools and implements; home furnishings; historic clothing and textiles; Native American artifacts; and flags, uniforms and guns from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The collection included hundreds of ethnographic items collected from around the world at the turn of the 20th century by E. K. Warren and others, while touring foreign countries on tourist and mission trips. The collection was rich with the family heirlooms of many families from S.W. Michigan, including the Warrens and Chamberlains.



Victorian-era wrist purse, made by Michigan native basket wearers.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Michigan State College Museum acquired the contents of the Chamberlain Memorial Museum in 1952 from Fred P. Warren, President of the Board of Trustees of the E. K. Warren Foundation. At the time, the board of trustees felt that moving the contents of the Chamberlain Museum to Michigan State College would allow greater access to the collection by a greater number of users. As stated by President John Hannah in his letter accepting the gift, “..a great many of these items illustrate the development of a typical Michigan community from the days of the pioneers to the current era of highly-developed agriculture and industry. Much of this development was in historical parallel



Palestinian Woman's jacket.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Japanese netsuke, ivory carvings,
19th century.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Hand carved whimsey.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Beaded pin cushion, made by Michigan Native Americans, c1900.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Homespun quilt made by Sally Emerson Moore, c1850.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Sampler, made by Amanda Byerson,
age 12, 1830s.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Overshot handwoven coverlet, c1850.
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong

Woman's wool two-piece dress, c1870.
Photo by IMC.

with the development of Michigan State College from a small pioneering agricultural college to a great university, so it seems highly appropriate that the College has been chosen as the permanent repository of this historical record.”

Michigan State University Museum is currently the custodian for over 10,000 artifacts from the Chamberlain Memorial Museum. Some of the highlights of the collection include the following:

  • A collection of 292 rare and valuable handmade watches, the earliest of which dates from 1661.
  • An antique gun collection of almost 100 pieces.
  • A Broderie Perse style quilt, ca. 1815, reportedly made by Abigail Adams for her sister Blanche Smith.
  • The Warren Calculating Engine – a unique mechanical calculator from the 1870s.
  • The Warren Featherbone Company business records.
  • An 1890s horse-drawn hearse.
  • An 1860s hand pump fire engine.
  • A collection of Victorian needlework and craft.
  • A collection of 19th c. Native American basketry, rugs, tools and weapons.
  • A small collection of items made by students at the Tuskegee Institute.
  • A collection of 19th c. men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and accessories.

Chamberlain Warren Museum

--compiled by Lynne Swanson, and Val Berryman, 2009.