When Things Speak: The Pistols

The dueling pistols on display at the Sheldon Musem of Art. (Photo by Jackie Sojico, NET Radio)
Eloise Kruger commissioned the dueling pistols from Erik Pearson to be part of a miniature room showcasing Sheraton-style furniture. (Photo by Jackie Sojico, NET Radio)
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February 28, 2015 - 8:35am

Eloise Kruger ran a laundry service with her husband in Lincoln in the 1960s and 70s. But in her spare time, she collected over 20,000 miniature pieces. As part of our occasional series, When Things Speak, DiAnna Hemsath, the curator of the Eloise Kruger Collection, tells the story behind a pair of miniature dueling pistols Kruger commissioned from a Swedish artist named Eric Pearson.

Music used in this piece is "Cylinder Six" by Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0


(Photo courtesy Sheldon Museum of Art.)

This story is part of a series "When Things Speak" featuring curators and their stories about objects they chose for the Things Speak exhibit at the Sheldon Museum of Art

The Things Speak Exhibit closed on February 8, and  all objects featured in the exhibit have returned to their home collections.

You can visit the Kruger Collection Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. You can find more information about scheduling a guided tour of the exhibit or storage space here.

The dueling pistols are what we call 1:12 scale miniature. So one inch in miniature would be a foot in full size. The pistol case is a little over one inch by one inch. Inside the case, which is mahogany, is a red velvet lining and seven instruments that are used to clean and load the pistol. In the corner, on the inside of the boxes, there’s two little compartments. There’s a handle that you pick up with tweezers and open and then there’s an ammunition box that’s lined with metal inside.

The pistols are actually made of brass and mahogany, and I’ve been told that they will fire, but I’ve never tried to fire them myself. Eloise Kruger would make up miniature room box designs. This particular one was a Sheraton-style drinking room and she had in her mind an old Southern gentleman sitting in the room, drinking with his dog at this foot, writing his last will. And  in the room on the table with him were a set of dueling pistols that he was going to be using the next day for a duel.

So she wrote to Eric Pearson, who had made some of the other furniture in the room that she wanted a set of dueling pistols. And he sent her this set. And she was very happy to receive it. She was so surprised by the delicacy and all the pieces in it that she wrote back to Eric Pearson that she was afraid if she sneezed all would be lost because all the tiny pieces would fall over the floor and they’d never find them again.

Eloise Kruger had a fascination for furniture history but couldn’t collect all the types of pieces in full size for her house, but she could do that in miniature. And with Eric Pearson in particular, she was a big fan of his and collected over 260 pieces made by him.

Eric Pearson came to the United States, originally to Montana — he wanted to be a cowboy — but quickly realized that that didn’t suit him at all so he moved to Manhattan and decided to make miniatures.

In 1962, Eloise Kruger and her husband went to visit him. And he had an outbuilding where his shop was that he made all the miniatures. But back then with the gender divisions, Eloise stayed in the house with his wife while her husband went out to the shop. And she was very crushed by that. That she didn’t get to go see how she made them because she was such an avid collector of his work.

But the two had correspondence for over a decade, even after they both retired. They corresponded about his work and what was going on so it became a friendship more than just a business partnership.

Well, the thing that I take away from the collection the most is that people come expecting one type of collection. People tend to develop a sense of nostalgia when they come because they look through the cabinets and often see something from their childhood, a piece of furniture that they had. The collection has a strong personal touch for visitors that maybe some other collections would not.



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