Tucked away in a small building on the campus of the American Village in Montevallo, Alabama, are the remains of one man’s dream of bringing U.S. history on tour through small-town America, to those who could not travel to see the monuments and museums of the nation’s capital.
In 1964, Pettus Randall, of the Randall Publishing Company, spent a small fortune opening a traveling museum of miniatures, with 35 dioramas depicting landmark historical moments in the history of the United States, from Christopher Columbus to the space race.
Unfortunately, in the mid-’60s the concept was going out of fashion, and the miniatures museum was a bust after just a few years of travel. Fortunately, it was safely stored for decades, refurbished, and can now be seen here in its permanent home.
The 35 dioramas, housed in dignified wood display cases, have labels such as “Declaration of Independence,” “Carver’s Contribution to Agriculture,” “Automobiles for the Masses,” “Women’s Struggle for the Vote,” and “Remembering Iwo Jima.”
After winding your way through the cases and peering into centuries of history, you round a corner and come upon the magnificent “Hail to the Chief,” a scene depicting the Inaugural Ball. Originally, the model contained every president and first lady from George Washington to Lyndon B. Johnson. It has since been updated to include presidential couples up through Barack and Michelle Obama. The figures are made with porcelain heads, hands, and feet attached to bodies made of wire, sponge rubber, and masking tape. It is clear that much research and craftwork went into these meticulously detailed models.
Know Before You Go
The museum can only be accessed through the American Village living history museum and is included in the price of admission. Be sure to also take the time to explore the American Village, which includes reproductions of the Oval Office, Mount Vernon, and Independence Hall.