Otwell Broom Factory

The Otwell Broom Factory, originally located a few blocks north across the road from Diamond Center in Strawberry Township, is recreated in the Museum Annex.  The equipment and supplies in the display, with few exceptions, are from the original factory started by William E. Otwell in 1892. The business grew to a volume as high as $24,000 a year in peak times.  Mr. Otwell employed as many as five broom makers.  His customers numbered in the hundreds in Kansas and adjoining states.  Mr. Otwell remained active in his business until his death in 1947 when his delivery truck was struck by a freight train at Hickman, Nebraska.  He was 81 years of age.

The full-sized brooms and whisk brooms were made of locally grown broomcorn (sudan), a member of the sorghum family.  In this area, broomcorn is planted on June 15th and will be ready to pull on September 15th (90 days).  After the crop begins to head, it will usually take 3 to 4 weeks for the heads to be ready for harvest.  Seeds are removed from the stalk before curing. Curing takes place in a more or less open-air shed.  The stalks are placed on racks and it takes about 3 weeks for this process.

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