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 The vintage uniform and hat of a former Frentz & Sons Hardware employee will be on display as part of an upcoming exhibit about the early days of Royal Oak at the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum. The Frentz & Sons Hardware store has been a staple on Main Street for 85 years.

The vintage uniform and hat of a former Frentz & Sons Hardware employee will be on display as part of an upcoming exhibit about the early days of Royal Oak at the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum. The Frentz & Sons Hardware store has been a staple on Main Street for 85 years.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik


New historical exhibit to focus on Royal Oak’s early days

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published January 29, 2020

 A hay pitchfork and an apple peeler, vintage farming tools used by early residents of what is now Royal Oak, will be on display as part of an upcoming exhibit about the city’s early days at the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum.

A hay pitchfork and an apple peeler, vintage farming tools used by early residents of what is now Royal Oak, will be on display as part of an upcoming exhibit about the city’s early days at the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

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ROYAL OAK — From Feb. 8 through mid-July, the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum will host its latest exhibit, which focuses on the early years of Royal Oak, particularly its early settlers and the founding of the school district.

Museum volunteers opted to revisit the city’s past because the 150th anniversary of the city will take place in 2021. Admission to the exhibit is free, and the museum’s hours of operation are 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

From 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 7, the museum will hold an opening and preview party. The cost to attend is $10 per person, and refreshments of the era — including molasses cookies, cornbread, butter in a crock and coffee — will be served. Coda Honor, a barbershop quartet, will provide the entertainment.

Museum Curator Muriel Versagi said the early families mostly grew produce, such as tomatoes, corn, melons, peppers and cucumbers, and sold it locally and at farmers markets in Detroit. Orson Starr’s son, Almon Starr, was also known for manufacturing cowbells and bricks, which Versagi said were all marked with a star.

She said Edwin Starr, the grandson of Orson Starr, grew melons and tomatoes and sold the seeds to a member of the Herb family, who worked as a salesman for the Detroit-based D.M. Ferry Co. The company still exists today under the name Ferry-Morse Seed Co.

“We have an old display case for the Ferry Seed Co. We’ll have pictures of the Ferry seed packets in there,” Versagi said. “Because the land was so swampy in the 1800s, most (of the exports) were cattle and sheep.”

She said Gustavus Dondero owned many businesses and employed his younger brother, George Dondero, who later went on to become mayor and school board president.

The exhibit will also focus on Royal Oak staples such as Frentz & Sons Hardware, the Baldwin Theatre, Hagelstein’s Bakery, Hermann’s Bakery, Superior Fish Co. and the Daily Tribune.

“I think history is important, and this is the Royal Oak Historical Society, so I think it’s a good thing to see what was before,” museum volunteer Johanna Schurrer said.

The Royal Oak Historical Society Museum is located at 1411 W. Webster Road, west of Crooks Road.

For more information, call (248) 439-1504 or email curator@royaloakhistoricalsociety.org.

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