“Big Museum Arrives Here on Thursday” was the headline in the Athens Weekly Review story of March 1, 1945 and it was described as a “museum gathered from the four corners of the earth.” This had come to Athens in a big red van from Comanche, Texas and with its arrival also came some questions. In short, exactly what was it?
What’s interesting is that the reporter writing the account never actually defines it, and so we as the readers are just not told what it is. Did the readers already know?
Yet whatever it was the reporter found a ready informant about it in Rev. O.W. Hooper, who had arranged delivery to Athens. Since the “museum” was listed as weighing exactly 8,040 pounds that meant that delivery required assistance which they received from local athletes. Rev. Hooper explained: “Dr. S.R. LeMay inspired Coach W.R. Phythian and his ball teams with ample occasion for testing out their muscles in unloading the big van and carrying the contents to the store room provided on the tird [sic] floor of the high school building.”
Also, it was hoped that whatever it was should be enthusiastically received. Rev. Hooper explained: “Though most of the collection had been packed away carefully in closed boxes, there was sufficient abundance of unpacked wonders to excite the curiosity of the high school children as had never occurred before.”
Also, there were future plans for it. “Of course this marvelous collection cannot be appraised and duly appreciated until an arts building, designed sufficiently commodious to allow a proper display has been provided.”
Also, Rev. Hooper explained that it was important that the community understand “the historic background as to why and how this museum came into existence, and just why Athens became the fortunate recipient of such a heritage.”
The “museum” had been obtained from a wealthy Comanche, Texas lady named Alma Neely Allcorn who was described as “an enthusiast of rare genius,” She was “an individual hobbyist with such a penchant for researching the face of the whole earth with her insatiable scientific curiosity …” and thus she had accumulated the items that were of “scientific and educational value.”
Also, as Rev. Hooper explained, if Mrs. Allcorn had not died she would certainly have continued “her labors until she had accumulated a museum equal to the greatest collections on earth.”
The collections came to Athens, according to Rev. Hooper, because Mrs. Allcorn had recently passed away, and since her family did not share her scientific enthusiasm for collecting or maintaining the collection they had apparently sought to sell the items,. And when Athens took advantage of the opportunity to obtain the “museum” they had a “wide awake vision of Athens benefactors who happen to be fortunate enough to catch this prize before the patriots of some university or other educational foundation took it over…”
The “museum” collection, wrote the reporter, had been purchased for the local schools by officials of the First National Bank.
But we repeat the question - what was in those closed boxes that were delivered and placed in a school storeroom? It seems strange that the reporter was never specific about the contents of the “museum” so as we asked above did the Review readers already know?
So who was Mrs. Allcorn? One possible connection comes from an ad in the “Comanche Chief” newspaper of the 1930s that identified a J.B. Allcorn in the city who had an insurance agency and who also sold bonds. He also appeared in a 1941 article relating his appearance at an American Legion convention. Could he have been her husband? Perhaps so.
But the question remains - what was this “museum”? We might make some assumptions and one of those comes from the fact that that there are references to it being a “collection” with scientific and educational purposes. Often at the time private individuals who sometimes collected “scientific and educational” items acquired such items as prehistoric fossils, weapons, gemstones, taxidermied animals, mineral samples or even exotic plants that they could preserve and display.
There were certainly many questions as to what Rev. Hooper described as “a museum equal to the great collections on earth” but without further information it must remain a mystery.