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Historic Auto Attractions: Is This the Most Surprising Museum in Illinois?

by Silke Elzner

If you think that Historic Auto Attractions in the little town of Roscoe near Rockford, Illinois was just a boring museum about cars you would be very, very wrong. Yes, you will find cars here, for sure. But there is so much more that will surprise you. So much that you wouldn’t expect to see in a small museum in the Midwest.

The collection of Historic Auto Attractions comprises a wealth of objects that all have an important story to tell. Movie memorabilia and personal items from the stars. Furniture from presidents’ homes and the White House. Guns and weapons of gangsters and famous figures of the Wild West. NASA equipment from some very important US space missions. Costumes and guitars owned by country music stars. A huge selection of Illinois Stock Cars.

As such, Historic Auto Attractions is a first-class pop culture museum that I believe should be on everyone’s list when in the area.

Historic Cars From Movies, Politicians, and Pop Stars

Core of the exhibition remains the collection of historic cars, of course. The most significant car in the museum is probably the limousine that followed John F. Kennedy in the motorcade in Dallas where the president was shot. The display is part of a bigger JFK exhibition which also includes dresses of Jackie Kennedy as well as the American flag that covered the late president’s casket. There is also a noteworthy Abraham Lincoln exhibition which gives great insights into the man himself.

A replica of Bonnie and Clyde’s movie car is just as much part of the Historic Auto Attractions exhibition as limousines owned by world-famous leaders and politicians. Ghostbuster’s ECTO-1 is featured just like a Batmobile and a DeLorean as seen in the “Back to the Future” movie franchise.

Of course, you mustn’t miss one of Elvis’s Cadillacs which he loved to give away freely to friends and staff.

Hidden Treasures That Have Interesting Stories to Tell

Cars aside, my most favourite parts of the collection were those items that you would have never thought of putting into a museum in the first place. Time witnesses which were owned by famous people or which were part of a historic moment. Some of them funny, others surprising, and sometimes also a little bit macabre – If only these objects could talk!

The following photos show my most favourite finds.

Sitting Bull’s Signature

Sitting Bull's Autograph was a popular Buffalo Bill Show Souvenir.

Sitting Bull’s Autograph was a popular Buffalo Bill Show Souvenir.

Sitting Bull was a proud Native American warrior at a time when the native culture was severely under threat by white settlers. He gained world-wide notoriety when he joined the Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill. Sitting Bull barely spoke English and his autograph (above) makes me think that he probably didn’t know how to write either.

Jesse James’ Revolver

Jesse James' revolver is just one of many pistols and revolvers in the Wild West section of the museum.

Jesse James’ revolver is just one of many pistols and revolvers in the Wild West section of the museum.

At Historic Auto Attractions you will find a wonderful Wild West exhibition which includes guns, a stagecoach, hats and many other items of interest. Among the historic guns is also the revolver of Jesse James, a bandit who became one of the best known figures of the Wild West.

Buffalo Bill’s Jacket

Buffalo Bill's jacket is just one of the many Wild West related exhibits at this museum.

Buffalo Bill’s jacket is just one of the many Wild West related exhibits at this museum.

This original jacket is some 120 years old and was once owned by the famous Buffalo Bill. Look at the beautiful beads, probably added for turning an ordinary jacket to a stage costume. As the sign next to it explains, Bill led a quintessential Wild West life working on the goldfields, with the pony express, and as a scout for the US army. He became a worldwide star with his stage show which he was able to take all the way to Europe.

Chariot From the Movie “Ben Hur”

Movie props just like this chariot from

Movie props just like this chariot from “Ben Hur” are a great find for movie fans.

At Historic Auto Attractions you will find quite a few movie props. This chariot was used in the making of the movie “Ben Hur” with Charlton Heston. The movie won 11 Oscars, a record number that it currently shares with the movies “Titanic” and “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

“Gone With the Wind” Costumes and Memorabilia

Costumes, props and autographs of the legendary cast of Gone With the Wind are a must-see for any movie buff.

Costumes, props and autographs of the legendary cast of Gone With the Wind are a must-see for any movie buff.

There are movies and then there are movies. In my world, “Gone With the Wind” is one of the best movies of all times, and when stumbling upon the collection of “Gone With the Wind” memorabilia at this museum I have to say I got a little bit star-struck. Besides the costumes that you can see in the picture there is also Scarlett O’Hara’s handkerchief, a wall mirror used in a scene, and a flyer signed by the entire cast

A Limousine From the JFK motorcade in Dallas

In a great display, the car that was following the Kennedys in Dallas is shown here.

In a great display, the car that was following the Kennedys in Dallas is shown here.

When John F. Kennedy was shot in broad daylight during a parade in Dallas, the world changed forever. The car which drove behind the president in this decisive moment is exhibited at Historic Auto Attractions. It is just one of the many other items concerning the Kennedys which you will see here. (see below) The car is a 1956 Cadillac Secret Service Parade Car. It was also used by secret service and presidents such as Eisenhower, JFK, and Johnson.

JFK’s 45th Birthday Cake

The frosting on JFK's birthday cake surely must be one of the weirdest things you can see at Historic Auto Attractions.

The frosting on JFK’s birthday cake surely must be one of the weirdest things you can see at Historic Auto Attractions.

This must be one of my most favourite finds at the museum because it’s really weird and wacky. Not only is this exhibit the frosting of a cake (who would think of keeping this?). It is the frosting of JFK’s birthday cake. To be precise, it’s the cake that was served at the party where Marilyn Monroe sighed “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” into a microphone.

Jackie Kennedy’s Funeral Veil

Jackie Kennedy's funeral hat and veil are part of the JFK exhibition at this exciting Roscoe museum.

Jackie Kennedy’s funeral hat and veil are part of the JFK exhibition at this Roscoe museum.

The extensive Kennedy collection also includes the hat and veil of Jackie Kennedy which she wore at the Funeral Mass of her late husband. Other items in the room include the funeral card with a signature by JFK’s mother, Rose Kennedy, as well as the flag that flew over the capital the day Kennedy left for Dallas.

James Dean’s Sweater

James Dean's sweater as well a piece of metal of his crash car found their way into the exhibition.

James Dean’s sweater as well a piece of metal of his crash car found their way into the exhibition.

Tragic Hollywood figure James Dean is one of the 1960s stars who are commemorated at the museum. You can see the sweater which appears in several photographs as well as the only known piece of metal from Dean’s crash car, a Porsche 550 Spyder.

Marilyn’s Cats Eye Glasses

Marilyn Monroe's sunglasses in cats eye design evokes pictures of the 1960s.

Marilyn Monroe’s sunglasses in cats eye design evokes pictures of the 1960s.

Marilyn Monroe already was a fashion icon when she was still alive. These chique sunglasses are perfect proof how stylish and elegant she really was.

Buddy Holly’s Glasses

Buddy Holly's sunglasses.

Buddy Holly’s sunglasses.

It was his glasses in particular that made Buddy Holly famous. This pair of Buddy Holly’s glasses is also shown in Roscoe, Il.

A Key to Hitler’s Office

The key to Hitler's office at the Eagles Nest in the German Alps.

The key to Hitler’s office at the Eagles Nest in the German Alps.

American troops found this key at the “Eagles Nest” in the German Alps, where Hitler loved to spend his summers. It is believed to be the key to Adolf Hitler’s office.

Eva Braun’s Pistol

Eva Braun's pistol is one of many items from the WWII era.

Eva Braun’s pistol is one of many items from the WWII era.

Hitler’s girlfriend/wife was a young woman named Eva Braun. She married Hitler on the night before their double suicide. The pistol shows her initials EB on the slide. Another pistol in the collection is the gold-washed gun of Hermann Göring, one of the most prominent figures of the Nazi regime.

The DeLorean From “Back to the Future”

The Back to the Future Car.

The Back to the Future Car.

Not just a car, but also a time machine: This DeLorean was made immortal thanks to the three very successful “Back To The Future” Movies. Seeing this iconic car in the exhibition is good fun!

ECTO-1 “Ghostbusters” Car

The Ghostbusters car is easily recognisable.

The Ghostbusters car is easily recognisable.

Ghostbusters fans will love checking out the famous ECTO-1 Ghostbusters car featured at Historic Auto Attractions.

Moon Landing Command/Service Module

Ever wondered what it must feel like to be shot into space in a tin can?

Ever wondered what it must feel like to be shot into space in a tin can?

If you ever dreamed of going into space you can get pretty close at this quirky Illinois museum. The NASA corner of the exhibition includes some rare and exciting space travel items which commemorate the American dream of conquering space. One of the most significant exhibits is probably the Command/Service Module which was used in a moon landing. It is currently on loan from NASA.

Space Shuttle Discovery Tyre

A tyre from Space Shuttle Discovery is just one of the many aerospace related items on display here.

A tyre from Space Shuttle Discovery is just one of the many aerospace related items on display here.

More NASA memorabilia includes for example this tyre from Space Shuttle Discovery which carried a Russian cosmonaut to the space station Mir in 1994. You will also see the glove of astronaut Gene Cernan who was on board Apollo 17, the final manned Apollo mission of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln Exhibition

President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in rocking chair.

President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in rocking chair.

In a separate room you will find an amazing Abraham Lincoln exhibition. The collection includes some very interesting and rare artefacts from the president’s life. A lock of his hair, his favourite rocking chair (together with a piece of upholstery from the day he was shot sitting in that chair), his razor kit, as well as piece of wood from the house’s roof where his father got married are all featured here.

Historic Auto Attractions: What you Need to Know

Historic Auto Attractions is located in Roscoe just outside of Rockford, Illinois. It’s at a perfect distance to visit for a day when coming from bigger cities such as Milwaukee, Chicago, and the Quad Cities. But even if you are not from the area or visiting from overseas, this little museum is definitely worth checking out.

While historic cars make up an important part of this very extensive collection, it is by no means what defines this extraordinary museum. If you are interested in pop culture, presidents, and quirky historic artefacts, then Historic Auto Attractions is a must do in the Rockford area.

The museum is located at 13825 Metric Rd, Roscoe, IL 61073 – you need to pay attention to the signposts, otherwise you might miss it! For more info and opening times, visit the official website: Historic Auto Attractions.

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