IBEW Satellite Museum Highlights Electrical Industry Expo

September 18, 2016

A traveling exhibit from the IBEW Museum was officially opened Friday by International President Lonnie R. Stephenson and International Secretary-Treasurer Salvatore “Sam” Chilia as part of the Electrical Industry Expo that precedes the 39th International Convention in St. Louis starting Sept. 19.

Visit the Museum during Convention hours through Thursday at 1 p.m.

More than 100 delegates, guests and vendors watched as Stephenson and Chilia cut a bright blue ribbon and invited everyone to walk through the exhibit.

The gallery includes selections from the permanent IBEW Museum housed at the International headquarters in Washington, D.C, which were carefully packed and shipped more than 800 miles for the IBEW’s International Convention.

The highlight, said IBEW museum curator Curtis Bateman, is 12 sheets of paper that have never been displayed before: the original, handwritten proceedings from the IBEW’s first convention in 1891. In them, the 10 original founders painstakingly hash out the details of membership, including dues—10 cents a month—and the union’s first logo.

Also captured in those pages is the nomination and election of the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ first president, Henry Miller. “It’s really exciting to have these historic documents here in St. Louis,” Bateman said, “We’re just over a mile from the boardinghouse where these 10 men met 125 years ago, so for these 10 days, it feels like we’ve brought this stuff home.”

Surrounding the museum in the expo hall were more than 90 vendors, ranging from tool makers to solar companies. St. Louis Local 1 volunteers were selling T-shirts, pins and commemorative coins on behalf of the Electrical Workers Historical Society, the nonprofit responsible for buying and renovating the very boardinghouse where the union was founded. The renovated house officially opened to the public on Sept. 15.

Delegates and guests explore the IBEW Satellite Museum located inside the Convention Center's Expo Hall.

“The response has been just amazing,” said Local 1 Business Representative John Kahrhoff. “A lot of people were able to see the house this week after the ribbon-cutting, and they want to be a part of making it happen. Every dollar makes a huge difference.”

Nearby, representatives from American Retirement Solutions were auctioning off a hand-made wooden cooler with the IBEW logo mounted on top. They hoped to raise $10,000 for the Henry Miller house.

Other exhibitors included the Electrical Training Alliance, IBEW Education Department and the IBEW Poltical Action Committee. The Education Department’s booth was a particularly big hit with attendees, who stopped to take photos with a 12-foot scale replica of the St. Louis Gateway Arch and a life-size cutout of the IBEW’s founding fathers.

During convention week, the IBEW Museum will stay open from the opening gavel through closing each day except Thursday, Sept. 22, when it will close at 1 p.m.

Several other vendors, including NECA, the American Time Companies and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance plan to extend their booths into convention week as well.