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Pannabecker to recall origin story of current museum special exhibit

January 2nd, 2019

Notebooks of tobacco premiums called "silkies" from the early 20th century

Rachel Pannabecker presents "Remembering Ethel Ewert Abrahams: Collector and Artist" Sunday, Jan. 6, at 3 p.m. at Kauffman Museum.

The museum will honor the source and inspiration behind its current special exhibit at this Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum program, which is free and open to the public.

Honoring collectors is the heart of the museum’s “Connecting to Collecting” theme for the 2018-19 school year. Currently on display is “Better Choose Me: Collecting and Creating with Tobacco Fabric Novelties, 1880-1920.”

The exhibition includes colorful quilts and household textiles made from tobacco premiums, all antiques collected by the late Ethel Ewert Abrahams of North Newton.

On Jan. 6, retired museum director Rachel Pannabecker will present “Remembering Ethel Ewert Abrahams: Collector and Artist.” The program is free and open to the public.

Pannabecker will retell the story of how Abrahams began this unusual collection, which Pannabecker believes is the most comprehensive tobacco novelty collection in the United States.

The exhibition title “Better Choose Me” refers to the BCM Company slogan, printed on silk cigar ribbons that were made into a table cover that Abrahams collected.

Research by Abrahams and Pannabecker on the history of tobacco premiums and how women creatively used them was published in the 2000 issue of Uncoverings, the journal of the American Quilt Study Group. 

“Better Choose Me” will be on display through Jan. 20.

Regular Kauffman Museum hours are Tues.-Fri., 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sat. and Sun., 1:30-4:30 p.m., closed Mondays and most major holidays. Admission to the special exhibit “Better Choose Me: Collecting and Creating with Tobacco Fabric Novelties, 1880-1920” and the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture” and “Mirror of the Martyrs” is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. The museum store is open the same hours as the museum but there is no admission charge for just visiting the store.

For more information, call the museum at 316-283-1612 or visit its website,, or Facebook page.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.