The Way We Worked Smithsonian Exhibit in Cowan TN
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The Way We Worked

The Way We WorkedWorkers are the backbone of American society.  Known for their strong work ethic, Americans invest themselves physically, emotionally, and intellectually in their work.

American jobs are as diverse as the American workforce.  The opportunity provided by work is central to the American dream and has attracted people to better lives in America.  With strength, ingenuity, creativity, thoughtfulness, and heroics, American workers keep our economy and our society up and running.  Our jobs and lives are interconnected, helping to keep America going strong.

Where We Work
How We Worked
Who Works
Why We Work


Cowan Railroad Museum Companion Exhibit
will become part of the Permanent Exhibit at the
Cowan Railroad Museum

Railroad Tools We Used
This display shows a lineman working on a telegraph pole and an example of tools used to maintain the railroad.

The Way We Communicated
A hands on working example of early telephone and telegraph.

The Way We Traveled
The Cowan depot was (and still is) the face of Cowan, Tennessee and the gateway to the surrounding area.  Train travel was interwoven with the area culture until its demise in 1965.

Coal, Iron, a railroad and a University
Coal was the essential ingredient that brought a railroad, a large steel mill, and a fine university to the South Cumberland area.

Hardwood, Sawmills, Railroad and Neighborhoods
Cowan’s largest employer between 1916 and 1928 was the Davidson, Hicks, and Green Lumber Company.  The enormous timber operation owned three sawmills and over 25 miles of railroad.  The company also built Cowan’s first subdivided neighborhood.

Business & Industries
A historic overview of area businesses.

Other Exhibits

Arnold Air Force Base Display       
“Photo History of Arnold Engineering Development Center”

AEDC is the most advanced and largest complex of flight simulation test facilities in the world.
Display items are a wind tunnel force balance, a slide rule, a period drafting textbook, and a compass/protractor set.

Falls Mill Display                    
“Where There’s a Mill, There’s a Way”

This exhibit details the mill’s textile and grain milling industry.  Focus will be on interaction between the workers and machinery and the products manufactured.

University of the South Display  
“The Way Sewanee Worked”
The display will feature images illustrating the history of the University Farm, the University Press, the University Laundry , the University Quarry and construction of the Domain from 1855-1964. 

Displays in Training Center (next building)

The Work of Howard Coulson
Photo display of local history.

Sherwood – Crow Creek Heritage Preservation Society    
“Crow Creek Heritage Preservation Society”

Our exhibit displays how the people of the Crow Creek Valley made a living as miners, railroad workers, merchants, farmers, teachers, brick makers and in the logging and tanbark industry.

Grundy County Historical Society Heritage Center
“The Way We Worker in Grundy County on Broad Mountain”

#1 - Sam Werner Lumber Company
#2 - Dr. Lilian W. Johnson (1864 – 1956), Advocate for Agricultural Cooperatives
#3 – The Swiss Colony at Gruetli
#4 – The Chautauqua of the South
We will display photographs and artifacts dealing with the principal economic drivers in Grundy County, Coal, Timber, Tourism, and Agriculture.

Franklin County Historical Society
"Franklin County at Work"

Kokomo Grain Co.
"American Agriculture Feeds the World"


Cowan Railroad Museum, in partnership with Humanities Tennessee, Museums on Main Street and the Smithsonian Institution, is proud to bring "The Way We Worked" to the Cowan Center for the Arts for the enjoyment of everyone in Southern Middle Tennessee. We invite you to visit our community and enjoy this exhibit.


The Way We Worked has been made possible in Cowan,TN by Humanities Tennessee. The Way We Worked, an exhibition created by the National Archives, is part of Museum on Main Street, a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and State Humanities Councils nationwide.
Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress.

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