Museum Monday: Lightner Museum Turns 75

If we’re not in an airport, you’ll find the Stuck at the Airport team in a museum.

And if it’s a museum with some unusual collections, all the better.

The Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida fits the bill.

And how.

First built as the Hotel Alcazar in 1888, the building opened as the Lightner Museum of Hobbies in January 1948.

The museum was created by Otto Lightner, a great advocate of collecting and the publisher of Hobbies magazine.

Lightner promoted every kind of hobby, from collecting matchbooks and cigar labels to whittling wood. But he was also a great collector himself and had the means to amass a substantial personal collection of fine and decorative art, natural history specimens, Americana, and just plain stuff. 

Cigar Lables

Lightner first opened a museum of hobbies in Chicago in 1934. And in addition to his eclectic and eccentric collections, he encour­aged the readers of Hobbies magazine to send him their collec­tions. 

They did.

Following a stay in St. Augustine’s in 1946, Lightner purchased the Hotel Alcazar to serve as the permanent home for his collections.

The collections include lamps by Louis Comfort Tiffany, shells, geological specimens, a vast number of salt & pepper shakers, Victurian mechanical insturments, and hundreds of thousands of buttons.

We know there also some shrunken heads in the collection.

And in celebration of the museum’s 75th diamond anniversary in 2023, the museum is hosting a special exhibition titled, 75 for 75.

On display is a selection of artwork and objects from the museum’s permanent collection. The exhibit opens on February 2nd and we’re making plans to visit soon.

From the Lightner Museum Collection

Ride On!

We love anything transportation. So the Lightner Museum’s new exhibit “Ride On!: Historic Bicycles from the Keith Pariani Collection,” is also of great interest.

Here are some of the exhibit notes on the early popularity of the bicycles and the Hotel Alacazar’s ‘bicycle academy:’

In the 1890s the bicycle took over the hearts and minds of Americans. By the early twentieth century, almost 300 bicycle manufacturing firms were established in the US. Swept up in the craze for cycling, the Lightner Museum’s historic building, the Hotel Alcazar, offered its own bicycle academy, allowing its guests to tour Gilded Age St. Augustine on two wheels. 

First developed in Europe in the early nineteenth century, the bicycle took decades of design and engineering to make it safe and convenient for the average rider.  The first popular models of the bicycle were high-wheeled and dangerous for unskilled riders because of the frequency of falls. However, with the invention of the “Safety” bicycle, the vehicle became a safer and more popular mode of transportation. The women’s safety bicycle, allowing for women’s dress, helped boost the bicycle’s popularity even more. By the 1890s, the safety bicycle was widely used in the U.S. by everyone, regardless of age or gender, for both transportation and recreation.

The “Ride On!” exhibit runs February 2 through September 30, 2023.

Bicycle Academy

IS life a highway? Art exhibit on car culture says it is.

By Claes Oldenburg. Courtesy Toledo Museum of Art.

Here at we love airports and air travel, but cars and road trips are a close second.

And we’re delighted to learn about the new exhibit at the Ohio’s Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) exploring the  automobile as a popular visual symbol of American culture.

Work by Don Eddy. Courtesy Toledo Museum of Art

Life Is a Highway: Art and American Car Culture includes about 125 pieces of art by 20th-century artists in a wide variety of media – including painting, sculpture, photography, film, prints and drawings.

The show will be on view at the museum through September 15, 2019.

So it looks like a good stop to add to your summer road trip.

By John Baeder. Courtesy Toledo Museum of Art.

Car culture is not only a key element of the country’s postwar boom economy of the 1950s and a symbol of freedom, individualism, renewal and middle-class prosperity, the TMA notes that cars are an inextricable part of the region’s identity:

“A significant portion of Toledo’s economy has been related to the automotive industry since the beginning of the 20th century. It is the home of two production facilities known as the Toledo Complex, an automobile factory that began assembling Willys-Overland vehicles as early as 1910. Since 1940, Jeeps have been assembled in the plant, which is now owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Powertrain Toledo, a General Motors (GM) transmission factory, was founded in 1916 and has been the production site for many of GM’s transmissions.”

By Edward Burtynsky. Courtesy Toledo Museum of Art.

Artists with car-centric work in the show range from Thomas Hart Benton and Walker Evans to Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Judy Chicago, George Segal and more than 100 others.

Stuart Davis: Landscape with Garage Lights, courtesy Toledo Museum of Art

Bonus events

In addition to the exhibition, the TMA is hosting some cool car-themed events.

There’s a film series featuring movies exploring the role of cars in American culture that includes a showing of the George Lucas classic American Graffiti in the museum parking lot on August 23. And throughout the summer, there will also be occasional car shows in front of the museum. More details here.

Work by Robert Indiana. Courtesy Toledo Museum of Art

Here’s what’s inside the TSA Museum

A lot of people were surprised to learn that there’s a TSA Museum inside TSA headquarters. Here’s a look at what’s inside:


An original handheld metal detector used by TSA at Washington Reagan National Airport in 2002.


A metal detector which screened hijackers on the morning of September 11th.

This flag was flying over Terminal B at Boston Logan Airport when the airport was federalized in 2002. American Airlines Flight 11 left from Gate 32 in this terminal on September 11th.


The first uniform issued to TSA federal screeners beginning in 2002.


TSA has a museum? Yup, it does.

I’m finishing up a book about museums and the things they can’t or don’t show to the public, so was delighted to learn that the TSA has a museum that’s off limits to the general public because it’s inside TSA headquarters (which is off-limits to the general public) and because the intended audience for the museum is not the public, but the 50,000 or so people who work for that agency.

The TSA Museum at TSA headquarters

TSA and many of its employees give the public many reasons to question and mistrust the work that they do, and I’ve had the opportunity to do plenty of those stories, but this story is simply about a museum that few people know about (including museum program managers at some other government agencies) and the stuff that’s in it.

You can see the full story about the TSA museum in my At the Airport column on, along with comments from a few people who think I’m a bad person for spending 800 words reporting the fact that there is such a museum and getting details and photos to share about what’s on display inside. 


Museum Monday: Celebrating the black leather jacket

This black leather jacket that Elvis Presley bought from J.C. Penney is one of more than 50 classic black leather jackets on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum. Photo courtesy of the museum.

Today it’s an icon in pop culture and fashion, but the black leather jacket was originally a utilitarian piece of clothing designed to protect travelers.

“In the early part of the 20th century, whether you were flying a plane or driving a motorcycle or a horseless carriage, everything had an open cockpit. So the idea of leather being an appropriate material for transportation gear emerged early on,” said Jim Fricke, curatorial director at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wis.

Early airplane pilot in black leather jacket. Courtesy Library of Congress

The museum’s newest exhibit is “Worn to be Wild: The Black Leather Jacket,” which runs through Sept. 3. More than 100 artifacts are on display, including dozens of jackets worn by celebrities and pop culture icons as well as leather jackets from fashion houses such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Gianni Versace. The exhibit also uses a wide variety of motorcycles, photographs, film footage, literature, advertisements and music to explore how this single article of clothing became such an iconic object in popular culture.

During World War I and II, pilots were photographed looking dashing in their leather bomber jackets, but the public’s fascination with the zippered, wind-protecting garment soared in the 1950s, when Hollywood got hold of it.

“It happened because of the movie ‘The Wild One,’ when Marlon Brando played a motorcycle gang member and wore one of our black leather jackets,” said Jason Schott, COO of Schott Bros. clothing manufacturer and great-grandson of Irving Schott, who is credited with making the first zippered leather motorcycle jacket in 1928.

Brando’s bad-boy image seemed cool, so people wanted that jacket. But because the jacket was associated with hoodlums and juvenile delinquency, many schools tried to ban it.

At the time, leather jackets were considered one way to identify juvenile delinquents, said Fricke, who included memos from an Ohio school district in the new exhibit.

“That made people want it even more,” said Schott. “The jacket just became synonymous with the rugged bravado that Americans seemed to embody.”

Despite a lull during the hippie era in the 1960s, Fricke said, the black leather jacket has maintained its role as the uniform of youthful rebellion and has been seen on everyone from James Dean and Elvis Presley to the Ramones and Bruce Springsteen.

A leather outfit worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator 2” and leather jackets worn by musicians and celebrities such as Fergie, Gene Vincent and Michael Jackson are among items on display. The exhibit also reunites the Harley Davidson motorcycle bought by a 21-year-old Elvis Presley in 1956 with the motorcycle jacket he bought a few years later, from J.C. Penney.

After leaving Milwaukee, “Worn to be Wild” will move to Seattle’s EMP Museum, home of some of the music and science-fiction artifacts included in the show, and will run from October 2012 through February 2013.

If you’re flying to Milwaukee, you’ll arrive at Milwaukee County’s General Mitchell International Airport, which provides free parking for motorcycles and a Harley Davidson shop. Here’s a link to the airport guide for General Mitchell International Airport that is part the 50 airport guides I maintain for

My story: Worn to be Wild: Celebrating the black leather jacket first appeared on’s Overhead Bin.