For decades mining was the heart of the Wood River Valley. The quest was for silver, galena (a lead-bearing ore that is often associated with silver), and gold. Our hills are zigzagged with the roads prospectors made to reach their diggings. In 1917 a devastating avalanche took the lives of 17 miners. The museum celebrates our mining heritage with a walk-through replica of a mine tunnel, samples of ore taken from our hills, an assay furnace from 1890, a surveying transit, an ore wagon model, and numerous photos from the heyday of mining.
In the 1880s and 1890s approximately 200 Chinese lived in the Wood River Valley. Some worked in the mines or for the railroad. Others owned laundries and restaurants and grew vegetables, which they sold to grocery stores. Our museum displays a pipe that may have been part of one of the opium dens in Hailey. Other items that reflect the Valley’s Chinese heritage include a Mah Jong game, an abacus, and a pigskin-covered chest. From the beginning the Chinese faced discrimination, and by the 1950s there was only one Chinese restaurant left here.
From the 1880s on, ranching has been an economic focus of the Valley. At one time Ketchum was second only to Sydney, Australia, as a center for transporting sheep. In the high country one can still come across bands of sheep grazing the summer long. Each October we celebrate the Trailing of the Sheep, a valley-wide festival trailingofthesheep.org. Cattle ranching remains an important part of life in the southern part of Blaine County, but well into the 20th century cattle ranches dotted the landscape as far as North Fork. The museum commemorates our ranching heritage with a blacksmith’s corner, a collection of handmade barbed wire, and pictures of sheep shearing in the old days.
A recreation of an early 20th century room includes women’s clothes and beauty aids, as well as Paulita Desutter’s fan, which she wielded during international displays of her artistry and in the Ketchum Wagon Days parade in 1967. The recreated kitchen is more consistently domestic: a butter churn, a wood stove, an icebox, a hand-run washing machine, and, unexpectedly, a hand-powered vacuum cleaner. A player piano set in the front room of the museum still works and adds a musical touch.
Joe Fuld Collection
The museum holds one of the country’s largest collections of buttons and other items from political campaigns. Joe Fuld, born in Placerville, Idaho, in 1878, was a prominent Hailey businessman and the first president of the American Political Items Collectors Association. apic.us. Our display contains well over 5,000 items, some of which date back to the early 1820s. We continue to add to our collection with buttons from the political conventions.
A wall of photos, reproduced newspaper articles, and a collection of pertinent books reminds readers that the important and controversial poet Ezra Pound was born here in 1885 in a house just a few blocks from the museum. The house, extensively restored by the Ezra Pound Association, is now the Hailey headquarters of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.
The museum displays thousands of other items, clustered by era or topic, including some odd and interesting memorabilia:
A time capsule from the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Hailey, sealed in 1885 and opened during renovations in 1985. A new time capsule was sealed at that time, to be opened in 2085.
1929 Model A Ford Roadster in pristine condition. You can see it at rest in the museum or proudly purring in the Hailey Fourth of July parade.
A hospital bed from the third floor of the Sun Valley Lodge when it was used as a Naval convalescence hospital during World War II. A recent acquisition is a small hand-painted box decorated by a sailor there for occupational therapy. Military uniforms from various branches and various wars are also on display.
The 1948 ski uniform of Anne Jeanette Winn from Gannet, a member of the U.S. Olympic team in St. Moritz
A replica of a turn of the century school room, complete with student desks, pump organ, the old Hailey
Dr. Plumer’s 1901 medicine chest and, from Hailey’s Aukema Drug Company, a collection of apothecary jars, a mortar and pestle, and a pharmaceutical recipe book.