Jumbo’s “Little Brother” Joined Our Museum

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The Labor and Industry Museum was contacted by Slater Harrison, a descendant of the family that owned and operated Harrison Machine Works in Belleville, IL. Workers in the shop at the machine works had given a small model steam engine to his grandfather, Lee Harrison, in 1926. It had been in the possession of the family since that time. Slater had communicated with “lots of Harrisons” who expressed “enthusiastic support” for returning the little steam engine to its original home where it could reside next to its “big brother”, steam tractor Jumbo.

As a boy Slater believed the engine was a child’s toy made for his grandfather but the date on the engine did not agree with reality. There is a brass plate
on the base of the model which states it was made in 1926. Lee Harrison was an adult in 1926. He had already graduated as a civil engineer, served in the US armed forces during WWI, married and had children.
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The current belief of Lee’s descendants is that it “was clear to everyone that the gasoline engine was going to replace steam engines as soon as petroleum production and distribution could be ramped up. So maybe the engine was a memento to an era that was about to disappear. The stockholders of the company filed a certificate of dissolution (of Harrison Machine Works) in

Previously the li􀀎le engine was a hands-on exhibit at a local (Williamsport, PA) children’s museum. Kids could operate it using a bicycle pump or air from a compressor. Slater had also used a gas burner underneath the boiler to operate it using steam. A group from Cornell University was making a trip to a convention in Denver.

Traveling in the Physics Bus laden with physics demonstration exhibits they stopped in Belleville to deliver the little steam engine. The group enjoyed a VIP tour of our museum!


Many have contributed to the success of the museum from its founding in 1996 to its current status. All past and present Boards of Directors, members, volunteers, contractors, civic organizations, companies, our local labor organizations, and others have “pitched in” with donations and labor to help us to become an asset of historical importance to our area.

Although no one, to our knowledge, expects anything more than a” thank you”, the current Board of Directors intend to express their appreciation now and in future newsletters.

Each time we walk through this museum, we become more aware of the role organized labor has had in our lives as well as in the lives of others. The displays throughout the rooms and on the walls illustrate the struggle working people had to endure to enable industry to accomplish so much.

The museum is comprised of three buildings, one old historical structure gutted and renovated, a new building we call the annex designed to resemble a 19th century machine shop, and a small blacksmith shop. All exist, in part, due to volunteer work from members of our local building trades unions. Most recently union members built concrete steps to provide access between two buildings, applied a much-needed paint job to the exterior of our main building, and repaired and replaced some of our plumbing fixtures.

The goal of the current museum board is to continue the effort of so many to improve and advance this establishment. We couldn’t have made it this far without you.



Attention: All Current and Former Members:

Our Board of Directors decided in the future all memberships will renew on the same date…. January 1st. In January, we mailed annual membership renewal letters. Membership fees and donations are vital sources of funding for the Museum to continue operating. If you did not receive the letter and/or have not yet returned your membership renewal of $30.00 (Individual Membership)/$100.00 (Family Membership) or more, you can still send it to: PO Box 8242 or 123 N Church St, Belleville IL 62220.

Attention: Local Labor Unions and Businesses:

The Museum would like to add a special feature to each future newsletter highlighting a different union/local or business organization, or any individual member with a labor/industry story to tell. Please send submissions via US Mall or to our e-mail
address using the subject, "Labor Union/Business Feature”.