White’s collection is history
SEAFORD, Del. — To walk into Clark White’s garage loaded with chicken industry memorabilia is to take a time warp back through decades of poultry growing on Delmarva.
White said the collection started with waterers that were used in the late 1800s and into the 20th century.
Often made of glazed stoneware or glass, the waterers came in many different styles and sizes from a lot of manufacturers, making their collection a lot of fun for White.
“They weren’t really big and easier to store and there were different ones,” he said.
His father, James White, frequented sales and auctions and contributed a lot to the collection.
Clark said when his father came home with a certain size cardboard box it was sure to be another waterer.
“I’d say, ‘Hey, he’s got another one for me’,” Clark said.
As his collection grew, he eventually built a dedicated space to store and display the items and put up a building behind his house in 2001.
“I had chicken waterers in my office and all over the house, so from there I started to do a little more,” White said.
Now resting on shelves just below the ceiling of his meticulously-arranged mini-museum, the antique waterers are just the tip of the iceberg.
Clark’s collection numbers easily in the thousands of pieces, with just about anything related to growing chickens on Delmarva. Old feeders hang from the ceiling, dozens of thermometers from poultry companies hang on pegboard in one corner, a flock of ceramic chickens are encased in another.
Chicken company calendars, signs, industry pictures and artwork adorn the walls. Nearby, on the farm he grew up on, in a building used for brooding chicks now houses his collection of old incubators, company feed bags, coal stoves, egg carriers and other larger items.
“It’s fun. It’s a hobby,” he said. “Some people go fishing or boating. I like going to sales and finding things.”
The bottom of a large display cabinet holds several binders of photos, news clippings, promotional items, chicken company family photos and just about anything else chicken-related that will easily fit in a plastic sleeve.
“It’s kind of neat to keep them and have them,” Clark said. “Sometimes I just pull one out and look through it.”
For years, while the Delmarva Chicken Festival was one of DPI’s major annual events, Clark and George Chaloupka, retired University of Delaware poultry agent and fellow industry historian, manned display tables loaded with items used in poultry houses decades ago. Though the chicken festival itself is now history, ending in 2014, Clark said the items remain as a window to the past.
“Hopefully this can be used to show people what we did years back,” he said. “I feel like it’s preserving things.”
After studying at University of Delaware and Goldey Beacom College, Clark entered the poultry industry full-time as a grow-out serviceman for Purina.
He also worked for Perdue and Cargill before a 20-year job with Allen’s, the same company his father worked for.
“I always felt I wanted to work in farming,” he said. “Growing up with it, we had chickens all my life.”
Working for multiple companies over the years, Clark formed relationships with people all over the industry and many of his items have personal significance.
Involved in DPI throughout his career, Clark served as DPI president in 1998, during much of the tension that arose from a toxic outbreak of the microorganism pfiesteria.
Clark said he recalls the many meetings held with legislators and their staff in poultry farmers’ and advocates’ efforts to advocate for the industry.
“It was interesting,” he said of his trips to Annapolis. “And their still fighting it out up there.”
Poultry houses and farms have gotten larger and more advanced, even since White retired in 2005 and he includes the many best management practices used around houses as part of that improvement.
“They’re setting them up where they’re certainly environmentally friendly,” he said. “It’s come a long ways.”
At DPI’s annual booster banquet in April, Clark received the group’s highest honor with the J.Frank Gordy, Sr. Delmarva Distinguished Citizen Award. Clark said he was surprised and humbled to get the award.
“Its a great honor,” Clark said, pointing the wall space he’ll have to rearrange to hang the new plaque from DPI. He added to get the award named after Gordy is special, too.
“If it wasn’t for him, we probably would not have a DPI like we do now,” White said.
Clark said he still enjoys going to sales but he doesn’t bring as much home as years ago. Poultry items have become fairly popular and with online auctions, more bidders can locate and bid on items.
Prices on some things, like the older thermometers, have gone higher then he ever thought they’d go.
“I just shake my head,” he said. “It’s getting more scarce though. Thank goodness I’ve got what I’ve got.”
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