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Lens on History: An eclectic automobile collection

December 5, 2018
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Paul Hemp in his 1908 Model T Ford.

Paul Hemp was an inventor and salesman — he had even been a licensed masseur. But most of all he loved to collect and tinker with old cars and machinery.

In his years of selling goods to farmers in Southeast Minnesota, Paul was able to find many abandoned treasures in groves and old farm buildings.

In the summer of 1954, Hemp decided to share his growing collection with the public when he opened Hemp’s Old Vehicle Museum, just five minutes west of Rochester on Highway 14.

The 36-by-108-foot museum building was filled with more than 40 cars and a dozen horse-drawn vehicles including Rochester’s first ambulance. Collections of automobile accessories and about 1,500 car emblems were displayed along with many mechanical devices such as a Mills Violano-Virtuoso, a forerunner of the modern jukebox.

Soon, more than 6,000 visitors per year were attracted to Hemp’s eclectic collection.

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