Central Michigan Life – Museum of Cultural and Natural History welcomes largest donated artifact

Sam Staples, president of Ventures Plus, LLC, presented the Museum of Cultural and Natural History its largest artifact and donation Sept. 18 at Fabiano Botanical Garden. 

The museum received a 1920 Transport Truck from Staples’ vintage automobile collection and an anonymous $10,000 donation to maintain its ongoing care and preservation. 

A welcoming ceremony took place with speeches from by Jay Martin, museum director and associate professor of history; Mayor Kathleen Ling and Pamela Gates, dean of the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences. 

“It’s one of only three left in the country,” Martin said about the artifact. “It’s also a work in progress that generations of CMU students will continue to restore, preserve, maintain and operate for educational programs and exhibits.” 

Museum Studies students will be using the artifact to learn how to operate, preserve and repair antique automobiles. The truck’s presence at Central Michigan University has already attracted the attention of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Martin said. 

“The museum studies program is now in discussion with the staff,” Martin said, adding the Henry Ford Museum is intending on scouting CMU students to operate their vintage collection after the academic year. 

The Transport Truck was built throughout late 1999 and completed in January 1920 by Transport Truck Company in Mount Pleasant. It is one of 1,750 trucks built by the company prior to it closing in 1925. 

“The owners subrounded with some funds and they ran out of money,” Staples said. 

Staples purchased his Transport Truck in 1997 at a vintage automobile auction in Dowagiac. The vehicle drove in Mount Pleasant parades throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s prior to spending more than 10 years in storage. 

“It went a little bit higher than I would have liked to have paid for it, but I bought it anyway,” Staples said, adding that it was a successful bid on an automobile that soon became great treasure to him. 

Staples said the truck has a four cylinder continental gasoline engine and can carry up to 5,000 pounds. The car runs completely off of a man-powered crank and has no batter and no electricity. 

Ling said during the ceremony that Staples’ donation was a unique gift that will succeed to further link the town and university together. Gates said that the vehicle and the means of its exchange is an example of the university’s compatible relationship with the city. 

“This cooperation between CMU and the local community is key to student success and we’re happy today to accept this generous gift,” Gates said. “It’s a symbol of the relationship between the Mount Pleasant community and CMU.” 


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