Home2022-04-26T12:06:07-05:00
Loading...

The Staley Museum in Decatur, Illinois

The Staley Museum opened its doors to the public during the summer of 2015. We are excited be a full-fledged member of our community. Here you will find updates and news about the museum and exciting events going on.

The Staley Museum and this web site are both works in progress. We encourage visitors to continue to check back with us and see how we are progressing. We would also like to encourage visitors to the site to share any stories or information they may have regarding Staley history.

Photos, documents, articles and memorabilia are all welcome and appreciated.  Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the Staley museum may contact us through via the Artifact Donation Form found on this site. Also, for anyone in our area who wishes to be a Volunteer at the museum and offer their time and/or expertise, please go to the Volunteer Form and fill out your information so that we may contact you personally. We invite you to Contact Us.

Visit the Staley Museum

The Staley Museum is open year-round
Tuesday – Saturday: 1:00 – 4:00 pm
Last Sunday of the month (March – November): 1:00 – 4:00 pm.

Admission
Adults: $3
17 & under: $1

Location
361 N. College Street
Decatur, IL

The Staley Story

A.E. Staley was a big man with big dreams and had the determination to make those dreams a reality.  Although he did not arrive on the scene until the 1900’s, his impact of Decatur was such that he is counted as one of the founding fathers.  The largeness of his dreams and of his civic minded generosity has contributed in major ways to the city we know today.

It was A.E.’s pioneering vision in the area of soy beans, both the cultivation and processing, that gave Decatur the name “Soy Bean Capitol of the World.”

In the period of one decade, 1920-1930, A.E. Staley made significant contributions to the community of Decatur, being the driving force behind the creation of Lake Decatur, the Staley viaduct, the Staley Office Building, and the formation of the Decatur Staleys football club, later to become the Chicago Bears.

The story of A.E. Staley is one in which the city of Decatur has the right to feel great pride. It is a story which forms a major part in the industrial and agricultural history of central Illinois. We look forward to sharing that pride and history as we work toward the opening of the Staley Museum.

The Staley Office Building: Inaugurated in April, 1930
Also known as “The Castle in the Cornfields”
Photo courtesy of the Hieronymus Mueller Museum

Staley office building

The Staley Office Building: Inaugurated in April, 1930
Also known as “The Castle in the Cornfields”
Photo courtesy of the Hieronymus Mueller Museum

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons

The museum is closed today due to the winter weather. Stay warm friends! ... See MoreSee Less

January 25th, 9:48 am

Did you know that this grandfather clock, located in Mr. Staley's office, controlled the whistles for the Staley plant? The glass-plated, walnut clock was the master time-keeper. Previously, someone would have had to pull a rope or chain at the exact time to blow the steam powered whistles.

At Staley, the whistles blew during the daylight hours and on weekdays only. The loudest whistles were warnings to notify all that work was starting, that it was lunchtime, and to indicate the evening shift change. These could often be heard far and wide across Decatur. Quieter whistles indicated meetings for foremen, etc. and typically were only heard on or close to the plant.

To read more, check out the January 1934 issue of the Staley Journal available on our website.
... See MoreSee Less

January 24th, 2:34 pm
Did you know that this grandfather clock, located in Mr. Staleys office, controlled the whistles for the Staley plant? The glass-plated, walnut clock was the master time-keeper. Previously, someone would have had to pull a rope or chain at the exact time to blow the steam powered whistles. 

At Staley, the whistles blew during the daylight hours and on weekdays only. The loudest whistles were warnings to notify all that work was starting, that it was lunchtime, and to indicate the evening shift change. These could often be heard far and wide across Decatur. Quieter whistles indicated meetings for foremen, etc. and typically were only heard on or close to the plant.

To read more, check out the January 1934 issue of the Staley Journal available on our website.

Comment on Facebook

The three chime whistle that was taken down in the early 1990’s is located at a historical museum in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa called Midwest Old Threshers. They have a five day event each year that always ends on Labor Day in September. The Staley whistle is blown each day at noon. Visitors that inquire with the volunteers in the Steam Powerhouse about the whistle sometimes get to be the person to blow the whistle that day. Tom Garden had a story about the whistle in his book “That’s Another Story”.

The whistle was also used to alert for an emergency.

I started working there in 1966 and did not know this. I remember the whistle.

The whistle also had a code of long & short whistles for each area so the fire department or emergency vehicles knew where to go back then.

Yes, there was wiring that ran from the clock to the controls for the steam whistle. At the time there were tunnels that ran all the way from the new administration building to the boilerhouse, and the wires ran through the tunnels.

I believe the whistles were still being used in the 70s. I could hear them from my house at the time.

Cool info

View more comments

Happy Birthday Ione Staley!

Born January 23, 1900, Ione was the eldest child of Gene and Emma Staley. You can learn more about her and other Staley ladies at the museum.

Open Tuesday to Saturday, 1pm-4pm
Admission $3/adult, $1/child
... See MoreSee Less

January 23rd, 10:00 am
Happy Birthday Ione Staley! 

Born January 23, 1900, Ione was the eldest child of Gene and Emma Staley. You can learn more about her and other Staley ladies at the museum. 

Open Tuesday to Saturday, 1pm-4pm
Admission $3/adult, $1/child

Ever wondered how the inside of the Staley office building was used? This image, from the February 1953 Staley Journal shows the various departments located on each floor. ... See MoreSee Less

January 21st, 2:37 pm
Ever wondered how the inside of the Staley office building was used? This image, from the February 1953 Staley Journal shows the various departments located on each floor.

Comment on Facebook

It was a full building when I started in 1980. Great people and a lot of good times ❤️

My first desk was on 1-W personnel. Then 5-W sales & 2-E finance. Was a great place to work.

I would be interested to know what is left in the office building.

Where was the entrance to the tunnel that lead to the plant?

So sorry it is not like it used to be. Shame to waste such a unique building

When I was there in the 70’s, Engineering was on the 3rd floor and Purchasing was on the 1st floor.

Most intriguing.

This is super interesting. Thanks for sharing it Julie.

I knew where the cafeteria was.

I walked security rounds through there at night in the early 90s. Nice building, but a little creepy at night.

It's a shame Tate & Lyle allowed it to become dilapidated, not 1 ounce of care about it's Legacy.....😥🤦‍♂️

Barbe Kress

View more comments

The first teletypewriters installed at Staley's...

From the Staley Journal, January 1932, pages 12 & 13:

When Sara Gorman, of our sales department typed a message to Ethel Millhouse in our Chicago office on the morning of Nov. 27, she was typing the first message sent in the United States over a new service just announced by the American Telephone and Telegraph company. This new service, technically called switching service for teletypewriters, was available all over the country for the first time Nov. 21 and on Nov. 27 the Staley company— the first subscriber to the service, sent its first message. At present we have just two machines in service, one in our home office and one in our Chicago office, but the service is available to any other place where machines are installed.

The teletypewriter transmits typewritten messages electrically over wires, so that whatever is typed at one end of a circuit appears, practically at the same instant, at the distant end, also in typewritten form.

For the rest of the article, check out the Staley Journal Library on our website: www.staleylibrary.com/Staley-Journal/PDFs/Staley_Journal_Jan_1932a.pdf
... See MoreSee Less

January 19th, 6:00 pm
The first teletypewriters installed at Staleys...

From the Staley Journal, January 1932, pages 12 & 13: 

When Sara Gorman, of our sales department typed a message to Ethel Millhouse in our Chicago office on the morning of Nov. 27, she was typing the first message sent in the United States over a new service just announced by the American Telephone and Telegraph company. This new service, technically called switching service for teletypewriters, was available all over the country for the first time Nov. 21 and on Nov. 27 the Staley company— the first subscriber to the service, sent its first message.  At present we have just two machines in service, one in our home office and one in our Chicago office, but the service is available to any other place where machines are installed. 

The teletypewriter transmits typewritten messages electrically over wires, so that whatever is typed at one end of a circuit appears, practically at the same instant, at the distant end, also in typewritten form. 

For the rest of the article, check out the Staley Journal Library on our website: https://www.staleylibrary.com/Staley-Journal/PDFs/Staley_Journal_Jan_1932a.pdfImage attachment

Comment on Facebook

Thank you. So many great stories.

Amazing tech for the time. Oh how far we’ve come..

So cool. I never knew.

Wow! That's really cool!

So cool

View more comments

Load more
Go to Top