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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

From the Higgins Archives: Big Suits

If you've ever been to the Higgins Armory Museum, you've seen that big suit of armor that sits up on the roof. It's a great symbol of the museum and hints at the type of things you'll find if you go inside. I had a handful of guests come up to me when I worked there and express their surprise that the building isn't shaped more like a castle. The distinctly un-castley look of the museum makes a lot of sense though, when you remember that the original museum concept was not just about armor, but an homage to the power of steel. Higgins even had car parts on display and a airplane hanging from the ceiling when the museum first opened.

Anyways. One of my favorite discoveries in the archives was documents about the history of that figurehead. The sculpture was commissioned by J.W. Higgins, and the design was based upon the Worcester Pressed Steel logo. So much so that the original "blueprint" was nothing more than a copy of the logo with Higgins' specifications jotted down on it, seen here:

"2.6 meters tall. 3mm thick iron."

Higgins hired Leonard Hugel to build the weighty project. There isn't a trace of Hugel to be found anywhere on the Internet, so his personal history and accomplishments are completely up for speculation. Hmmm....He's a good dresser?
Either way, he probably got stiffed for whatever it was they paid him to do this. Higgins was a notorious miser. In the 50's he repainted the museum exterior for free by requesting samples of silver paint from every paint company in America.

Construction on the statue began in 1930, and museum itself was built in 1931. This shows that this big suit was a big part of the buildings original concept. And now, my favorite picture ever. Hugel with the suit. It really gives you a good feel for the scale of things.


  1. If I ever become a giant I'm totally climbing Higgins and taking that for my own personal use. It's good to have plans for these sorts of things...

  2. I laughed out loud at the part where he paints the entire building with free samples. It would never occur to me to do that! But I love it! Now THAT is bargain hunting!

  3. Hi Caroline, in Feb 10 You have posted pictures of my Great Grandfather Leonhard Hugel. I am currently doing some genealogy and was excited to see this new link to my armorer on your blog! He used to work for the Metropolitan as well as the infamous Bashford Dean from WaveHill in Riverdale NY. CAn you tell me if these pics were on display at the Higgins? or did you get more info from somewhere else?

    1. Hi Linda, I came across these photos as an intern at the museum. Part of my work there entailed digitally scanning and catologing the photo archives from the museum and worcester pressed steel. Higgins armory was nice enough to give me permission to post them on my blog.