National Cornhuskers Hall of Fame

Cornhuskers heyday celebrated at the National Cornhuskers Hall of Fame in Kewanee, Ill.

| November 1999

Six or seven decades ago, some of the most admired Midwestern athletes were not football or basketball players, but cornhuskers. Today, the National Cornhuskers' Hall of Fame in Kewanee, Ill., pays tribute to those men who had the physical strength and stamina to outhusk their competitors. 

The Hall of Fame occupies one corner of the Kewanee Historical Society Museum in the historic Butterwick Building. When the historical society decided to restore the 1868 structure and open a museum there, a local cornhusker – Bill Rose, now deceased – suggested a Hall of Fame be established at the museum. All county, state and national cornhusking champions from 1924 to 1941 are enshrined in the National Cornhuskers' Hall of Fame, which has a peg and hook as its emblem.

Bob Richards, president of the historical society, compiled scrapbooks on local cornhusking champions, and collectors donated hooks, pegs, and other equipment. Leonard Jacobs, author of Corn Huskers: Battle of the Bangboards, contributed photographs of cornhusking champions.

For many years, a Kewanee business, Boss Manufacturing Company, produced cornhusking wristbands, hooks and pegs. Some of those items, as well as company advertisements, are on display. Exhibits also feature patents for cornhusking equipment, newspaper clippings, and an ear of corn from the 1932 national cornhusking contest.

Cornhusking contests began when farmers found that friendly competition made an arduous job more enjoyable. In 1922, Henry A. Wallace, then editor of Wallace's Farmer magazine, and later secretary of agriculture, organized a cornhusking contest in Iowa.

Responding to Wallace's encouragement, local farm organizations in several states began sponsoring township and county contests, with cash prizes for the winners. Eventually, the contests were standardized.