Minnesota has museums like Wisconsin has cheese curds. We have a multitude of museums shining light on history, science and art. And now one is shining light on shining light.
The Flashlight Museum, newly opened in Maple Grove, is the world's first museum devoted to flashlights, according to its creator David McLellan. In the 11 years since he started collecting, McClellan hasn't met a flashlight that didn't turn him on.
McLellan started his museum with one shelf in his office. That led to a second shelf, then a display case, then another and another. Ask McLellan today if he's got a light, and he'll tell you he's got 2,000 of them.
"It's kind of like a virus," he says.
McClellan has mirror equipped flashlights for do-it-yourself dental exams. Flashlights with hidden first aid kids and flashlights with built in vacuum cleaners. If those don't strike you as museum-worthy, how about an old collector's edition flashlight that looks like a Pepsi bottle. McClellan calls it the first "Pepsi light."
"One of the least common to find is the 7-Up bottle flashlight," he says — adding that he got his hands on one a couple months ago.
If Thomas Edison can get credit for the light bulb, maybe there should be a place that honors the man who made it mobile.
"The first tubular flashlight was made in 1898," according to McClellan. "It was made by a man called Conrad Huber, who was the founder of the Eveready Battery Company."
Dubbed the flashlight — because weak early batteries allowed for only a flash of light at a time — the device became so popular by the 1920s that General Motors included a model known as the "Red Head" in the glove box of every car. McClellan says internet auctions have pushed the value of a "Red Head" from $50.00 to "five, six, seven hundred dollars and higher."
McClellan set up his museum earlier this year in a room inside the lighting supplies company he operates at 11621 95th Avenue North, in Maple Grove.
Some of his employees have learned the way to their boss's heart is to share his interests. Bob Popp has started collecting some of the oldest flashlights, while Quentin Schiltz pursues the latest in technology, including a "six LED flashlight that has a solar panel."
Dave's son Paul has been attracting the attention of other flashlight fanatics by posting pictures of his father's collection on the Flashlight Museum Web site. He says flashlight collectors are "kind of lurking around the underbelly of the world." Paul McLellan says the museum gets e-mails from all over the world, and is now known as "the central hub on the Internet for flashlights."
That's part of the reason Minneapolis was selected to host last year's National Flashlight Convention. The event didn't exactly tie up traffic. Thirty-four people attended. At least "I'm not alone in the journey" says David McClellan.
Thanks to McLellan 2,000 flashlights now have a home in The Land of 10,000 Stories.
Ready for visitors, and itching for a power outage.
By Boyd Huppert, KARE 11 News
More information on the museum
(Copyright 2005 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)