Friday, September 23, 2011

Swept Away--The Artful Broom

The instant I entered the Broom Factory at the Wyoming Territorial Prison, I was swept away. By the color and texture contained in this wonderfully restored space. By the patterns and placement of the beautiful broom-making materials. By the earthy, sweet aroma of the magnificent broom corn. And by the ethereal light that streamed through the windows.

As part of the rehabilitation process at the territorial prison, inmates were employed at various tasks. In 1892, they began construction of the the broom factory adjacent to the prison. The structure was restored to its original state in 2009 and showcases the antique equipment prisoners used to make brooms, which were sold as a means to generate income for the prison.

When the factory was at full production in 1900, inmates were producing up to 720 brooms a day. They were sold and shipped throughout the United States and Japan. Today, trained volunteers produce the brooms in the same style as those created by inmates nearly 120 years ago.

Bales of broom corn were brought in from southeast Nebraska. What a pretty pattern!

Clouds of wispy materials hang from the ceiling.


Inmates artfully made brooms of many shapes, sizes and colors.

Each broom bore (and still does today) a label with one of these three original Victorian-era designs. The labels are as beautiful as the brooms.

After seeing this wonderfully restored facility and learning the story of these simple works of art, I know I'll never look at my old-fashioned broom in the same way again.

Make it a great day!

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