Materials include furniture, metalwork, ceramics, glass, agricultural and military equipment, musical instruments, toys, vehicles, and numerous other products, tools, and household and industrial objects. Special areas of strength include Chicago-made furniture, ceramics, glass, and metalwork. Of particular interest are pieces by Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, The Kalo Shop, Gates Potteries, Tobey Furniture, and the New Bauhaus.
Chicago’s industrial heritage is well represented by the Pioneer locomotive, meatpacking equipment, and a wide range of products made by American Flyer, Bell & Howell, Playskool, Schwinn, Sunbeam, Western Electric, and many other Chicago companies. In addition, the collection holds a rich array of artifacts from Fort Dearborn, the 1871 Fire, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, the 1933–34 A Century of Progress International Exposition, city politics, and an increasing number of pieces from Chicago neighborhoods and diverse communities.
Highlights of the American History Collection include military and home front materials from the Revolutionary and Civil War periods. Of special note is the John and Jeanne Rowe Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln Collection, which contains many rare items from the 1860 campaign, his presidential carriage, and many materials related to his assassination, including his death bed. The collection also contains important pieces of early American folk art and furniture.