Elgin History Museum





Permanent Exhibits
The Museum has several permanent exhibits that tell the rich history of our community. Along with 2 levels of scavenger hunt (easy & hard) there are plenty of interactive displays for kids to play with, just look for the hand 👋. 

Pioneer Life

Discover how our city founders, the Giffords, traveled to this area. Learn where the Giffords migrated from and how they packed their wagon 👋. Step into a model of a log cabin just like James Gifford built for his family.

Rivers to Rails

Follow Elgin as it grew from homestead cabins to a burgeoning town, spurred
by its proximity to the Fox River and the resource of water power. This town was a destination for many diverse immigrant groups who contributed their skills and talents.

Boom Town

By 1870, the railroads were crisscrossing through Elgin. With the rails came the skilled immigrants to work at the Watch Company, the creameries, and in the building trades. Others came to work at factories and foundries. Kids can set up shop in Kretchmer’s grocery store and play with old fashioned toys 👋. Elgin was a Boom Town! 

20th Century City

Local and national events are featured from 1910 to 1970, including suffrage, World War I and World War II. This exhibit also explores how Elgin was influenced by Latino immigration, the African American civil rights experience, and a large Laotian immigration during the Vietnam War, followed by urban renewal.

Elgin: A City Run on Time

The Elgin National Watch Company produced watches for 100 years. View the pocket watches, innovations, and complex technology. Learn about the Company’s impact on Elgin, its citizens, and the world.

Elgin Road Race

Elgin was a thoroughly modern city by 1910. The recently perfected autos had all but replaced the horse and buggy in town. The time was ripe for a national auto race right here in Elgin. The rural landscape west of town lent itself perfectly to a race course and the rest is history. 👋 Kids can get behind the wheel of a reproduction road race car or have their picture taken with Ralph Mulford, winner of the first road race held in 1910.

Made in Elgin

The phrase “Made in Elgin” was synonymous with high quality craftsmanship. See the products that have been manufactured here in the past two centuries— you may recognize many iconic brands. Some like Elgin Street Sweeper and Sparkle Glass Cleaner are still headquartered here.

Elgin's Fox River: An Environmental History


The Fox River was the main reason James Gifford started a community here in 1835. How did people use the flowing water? How did they change the river? This exhibit developed in partnership with the Friends of the Fox River and the Elgin Public Museum explores manufacturing, drinking water, river islands and river recreation.