Monday, July 28, 2014

Who is Bruno Lazzaroni?
Written by Todd Price for the Winter 2014 issue of Wagner Tales.

At most museums, there are thousands of artifacts. If their fortunes are good, these pieces of history include the artifact’s back story. The five-dollar word describing this back story is provenance.  Too often, the provenance of an artifact gets lost between years and owners.  However, there some pieces cry out to have their story heard and the small clues they leave behind expose a rich history.  This is the case with the Dunbar Popcorn Wagon that was donated to the Farm two years ago by Ron Bernardi.

When Ron first saw the wagon at the Hartung auction, all that was known about it was it had likely been a local piece and was about a hundred years old.  This past month, thanks to the hard work of Jim and Rob who have been restoring the wagon, history has come uncovered.  The big break came when the guys took the serial number off the steam engine and called Keith Anderson, the national expert on the Dunbar Popcorn company.  From there, the story of where this particular wagon started life and who it belonged to emerged.

Wagon #3149 left the Chicago factory on June 25, 1915. It is hard to imagine how beautiful it must have been in its showroom-like appearance.  The purchaser was a 21-year old Italian immigrant named Bruno Casmire Lazzaroni from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  Bruno had come to America ten years earlier with his parents and four siblings.  From an early age, Bruno worked in his parent’s ice cream parlor in Lake Geneva.

We may never know how he saved up the $650 for the brand new Dunbar, but it is interesting that he chose to buy a Dunbar and not the cheaper and more common Creators-brand wagon.  At that time, the Dunbar was the gold standard of vending wagons, with the patented dry pop system that made it different than everything else that was available.

In June of 1917, 23-year old Bruno answered the nation’s call and enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight in the First World War.  After the war, Bruno returned to Lake Geneva to resume his work in the family business.  And that is where our trail has gone cold. We know that Bruno died in February, 1964, but not where our wagon #3149 traveled to next.

A few of our historians are working to find out more of the story about wagon #3149 and our new friend, Bruno Lazzaroni.

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