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Museum Exhibit Takes A Look Back At Buffalo’s Quirky Industrial Heritage

December 4, 1992

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) _ What’s the connection between Cheerios, coffee breaks, kazoos and the face mask pro hockey player Pat LaFontaine wore to protect his broken jaw last season?

All were made in Buffalo, according to an exhibit that opens Saturday at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

Among the exhibit’s 700 items are boxes of Cheerios and other cereals made in the area and the titanium-alloy face mask fashioned by Buffalo Forge Co. that LaFontaine, who plays for the Buffalo Sabres, wore while his jaw healed.

Kazoos also are a prominent feature of the exhibit. The American Kazoo Co. of Eden, south of Buffalo, produces 2.5 million of the ″musical″ instruments a year.

Other items include the earliest internal heart pacemakers, invented by a Buffalo-area doctor in 1958; a 1901 Pierce automobile, forerunner to the Pierce-Arrow; and a collection of menus from restaurants around the country featuring Buffalo-style chicken wings.

The exhibit also traces the history of the coffee break to Buffalo’s Barcalo and Boll Co. in 1902. Employees at the furniture company suggested a mid-morning break, and management agreed to it. The only woman employed at the company volunteered to brew coffee. Soon after, the company added a mid- afternoon coffee break.

Company owner Edward Barcalo went on to invent the Barcalounger reclining chair at his Buffalo plant in 1947.

Buffalo became a major transportation hub and manufacturing center after the Erie Canal opened in 1825, linking it by water to New York City.

It was known for its steel and auto plants, most of which closed in the last 20 years. But William Siener, the historical society’s director, said the society wanted to show that the city’s industrial legacy was more varied and vital.

″Our purpose was partly to show the richness and complexity of Buffalo- made things, but also to show that the advantage of making them here years ago - skilled labor, abundant water, low-cost hydroelectric power and closeness to major markets - still exist,″ said Siener.

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