Even though I’ve lived near the Amish all my life and visited the areas in which they live multiple times, the museum taught me something I did not know: the Amish can wear colorful clothes if their orders allow it. One of the museum’s information signs reported, “The New Order Amish of the Sugarcreek area have no aversion to colors in clothing. In contrast, the Swatzentruber Amish of Wayne County wear only shades of black and gray.”
In the basement one will find hanging upon one section of a wall a large display of Ohio license plates. According to the museum, Ohio’s first license plate was issued in 1908 without any number or dates. The next year numbering was introduced. In 1910 dates appeared. From 1912 to 1917, the numbers were painted on, but after 1918 they were stamped. Letters were added in 1935, and the first stickers were issued in 1943 (probably because of a metal shortage—this was during World War II).
While I love music, I can’t read notes nor play any instruments, not even the humble kazoo. That said, I must admit I found the room filled with music instruments on the top floor quite interesting. Aside from the usual suspects one finds in any museum music section—organ, piano, autoharp—there are three long Alpine horns, or alphorns. Near them I found a button and pressed it. Suddenly a video appeared on an otherwise blank television. In it an old fellow began telling about the different instruments in the collection. He also played a few. Of these, I was most keen on hearing the alphorns. He explained their purpose: in Switzerland, shepherds took their livestock higher into the mountains to graze. In the days before telephones and telegraphs, this left them unable to communicate with those in their town or village below. These lonely shepherds used the horns to communicate with them, employing a sort of code that allowed them to converse. I could not determine the whether this was true or a myth. It is also possible herders used alphorns to call their cows home.
Sugarcreek has one more item that might interest museum goers. Cattycorner across the street you will see the world’s largest cuckoo clock. While I’d never have this kind of time keeping piece in my house—it would eventually drive me, well, cuckoo—this is a fun little thing to watch, especially for children. Figures accompanied by music come to life and dance about. Upon activating every half hour, the clock emits a cuckoo sound followed by a Polka tune. I’m not sure which is worse.