We have the Popcorn Festival and the Wyandot Popcorn Museum but do you know what the importance of popcorn is to Marion? We’ll start with the importance of the snack to the United States.
According to the Popcorn Board, a non-profit organization funded by U.S. popcorn processors, forty-three quarts are consumed per person annually in the U.S. About 70% of the snack is consumed in homes with the other 30% consumed in movie theatres and at events. Fall is the peak season for consuming the snack, with nine major states producing popcorn- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio.
That brings us to Marion, Ohio and the Wyandot Popcorn Museum. Started in 1981, the current museum is the one of two popcorn museums in the world. Marion’s houses the largest collection of restored popcorn antiques. The concept was the idea of George K. Brown, a descendant of W. Hoover Brown, the founder of what was called then the Wyandot Popcorn Company.
Hoover Brown and his wife, Ava, started the company in 1936 in a one-room schoolhouse. In 1980, Wyandot, Inc., formerly the Wyandot Popcorn Company, was in the process of adding office space at their snack plant in Marion. They decided to combine the artifacts with a factory outlet store for Wyandot’s consumer raw popcorn and snack products. It opened in the fall of 1981 at 135 Wyandot Avenue. The original collection included donated, loaned, and purchased antiques from all over the country.
The Factory Outlet/Wyandot Popcorn Museum operated there until 1985, when the Museum moved to the Southland Mall, for better public visitation. It only spent three years in that location before the collections were broken up and sent to various places in the U.S. But Wyandot Popcorn Museum trustees were always looking for ways to bring the collection back to one location in Marion.
In 1989, the dream can true with the old U.S. Post Office building in downtown Marion available for purchase. This started the partnership with the Marion County Historical Society. The Wyandot Popcorn Museum found its current home at 169 East Church Street, sharing the space with the Society.
The Wyandot Popcorn Museum has a unique look— a circus theme, with a red, white and blue canvas tent used as the museum ceiling. It is filled with one-of-a-kind pieces, like a Model TT Cretors Popcorn truck, once used in the Popcorn Parade. In 1990, they acquired an older model— a 1909 Cretors Model D Popcorn Wagon that was horse-drawn that was used by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. A Model C Cretors wagon, in the museum, is identical to the style of wagon used at the Marion courthouse at the turn of the century. The museum’s Dunbar wagon, once owned by actor Paul Newman of Newman’s Own, was used to promote his product for several years in Central Park.
The museum has a new director, with a long history with popcorn— Phyllis Hendrix. “I was delighted to become involved with Wyandot and the Wyandot Popcorn Museum in 1982 when I was first employed by Wyandot”, said Phyllis. “George pulled me in right away, and I not only learned the history of his collection, but helped in both moves before he found a permanent home with the Historical Society. This is an amazing facility and a wonderful collaboration. Everyone enjoys the free box of popcorn at the end of their tours. I am truly excited with my new position and the opportunity to market the museum locally, and state-wide.”
Even though Wyandot Inc. is now considered a leading innovator of “better for you” snacks, including popcorn, they still have one of the largest popping facilities in the country. This make the Wyandot Popcorn Museum an important and fun place to take the family to discover more about our heritage. The Museum is open Wednesday- Sunday, from 1-4 pm through the end of October and limited hours until the beginning of May. So, take the time to learn more about the snack food that helped to put Marion on the map and visit the Wyandot Popcorn Museum.