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Learn About People Who Changed the World at Halls of Fame

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By Victor Block

A mother watching her young daughter play with paper dolls surmises that the little girl would have more fun dressing three-dimensional figures. A young locomotive engineer drives a trainload of burning dynamite away from a town, saving the lives of hundreds of people. A Black scientist and inventor born in the 19th century discovers some 300 uses for peanuts.

None of these people would qualify for membership in the baseball, football or other well-known halls of fame located around the United States. Those honor outstanding accomplishments in athletics and other activities. But other kinds of heroes also are recognized for achievements in a variety of pursuits that have impacted people around the country and, in some cases, the world.

Halls of fame devoted to often-overlooked, sometimes surprising activities and the men and women who have made achievements in those fields can provide an inviting alternative to better-known attractions around the country. Some might be located not far from where you live.

In 1959, Ruth Handler, the imaginative mother of a paper-doll-loving daughter, created a grown-up three-dimensional version with a spectacular wardrobe. Within a year, the Barbie doll became the best-selling fashion doll of all time, Handler co-founded the Mattel toy company, and she was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, part of the Strong Memorial Hospital complex in Rochester, New York. It is home to the largest collection of dolls, toys, games and other play-related items in the world.

The heroic deed of Jesus Garcia is described at the National Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville, Colorado. He lost his life in 1907 when he chose to remain in the engine and drive his ore train away from a town in Mexico to save the residents from the explosion of flaming dynamite.

 

Eli Whitney and Abraham Lincoln are among honorees at the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas. So is George Washington Carver, the prominent Black scientist who promoted growing peanuts and other non-cotton crops by poor farmers for food and to prevent soil depletion. The 150-acre campus also houses the Museum of Farming, a furnished 1890s home and a Farm Town of buildings that depict pioneer life.

A different aspect of rural America is on display at the Buckaroo Hall of Fame in Winnemucca, Nevada. The first lesson visitors learn is the meaning of "buckaroo," which refers to cowboys who rounded up cattle in Nevada from the late-19th to mid-20th centuries. In addition to honoring buckaroo legends, the establishment serves as a museum of Western culture with displays of working gear, paintings and other paraphernalia.

Quilts are works of art just as paintings are, as the Quilters Hall of Fame attests. It's located in the restored Marion, Indiana, home of Marie Webster, who was a renowned quilting designer in the early 1900s. The house doubles as a museum, offering exhibits of quilts throughout the year.

Other creations and interests also get their due at halls of fame. Those recognized at the Paper Hall of Fame in Appleton, Wisconsin, range from some who made their mark almost 2,000 years ago to "present-day paper heroes." The associated Paper Discovery Center offers handmade paper programs.

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