The Pickle Barrel House Museum is located on the corner of Lake Avenue and Randolph Street in Grand Marais, Michigan. The House is open daily in July and August from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. In June and September, it is open on weekends from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. There is no admission charge.
Originally situated in the upper peninsula of Michigan along the shore of Lake Superior (Sable Lake), the building functioned as the summer cottage for cartoon illustrator William Donahey and his wife, columnist and children’s writer Mary Dickerson. Donahey was the creator of “The Teenie Weenies”, tiny woodland folk who lived beneath a rose bush.
The Pickle Barrel House was modeled after a small oaken cask seen in an advertisement for Reid Murdock/Monarch Foods that featured the Teenie Weenies.
With the help of the Pioneer Cooperage Company of Chicago, Monarch Foods built the over-sized pickle barrel as a surprise for the cartoonist’s wife.
By 1937, the house had became a tourist attraction, with sometimes up to 200 people a day showing up to view the unique structure. With their privacy lost, the Donahey’s sold the house to a local business man who moved it to downtown Grand Marais, Michigan.
Over the years, the Pickle Barrel House has been used as a visitors information center, an ice cream stand, and a gift shop.
In 2003, the Historical Society restored the building and turned into a museum that showcases the Teenie Weenies characters whose comic strips ran in the Chicago Tribune for over 50 years.
Inside the Pickle Barrel House, there is a living area, a pantry, and a black pot-belly stove. A spiral staircase along the wall winds up to a second level to reveal windows that shed light onto two narrow beds. All around the circular room there are frames on the walls displaying images of Donahey’s Teenie Weenies cartoons. The two-story house stands 16 feet high with an attached 8-foot high barrel in the rear, which serves as a kitchen.
Outside the museum, there is a metal plaque placed by the Michigan Historical Society that provides visitors a short summary about the charming house and it’s creator. The Pickle Barrel House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
NOTE: Born in Westchester, Ohio, on October 19, 1883, cartoonist William Donahey drew “The Teenie Weenies” from 1912 until his death on February 2, 1970, from ill-health.
The Teenie Weenies made their homes from objects used by their much larger human counterparts. An old hat, boot, jug, tea pot, or rusty tomato can would make an excellent shelter for these industrious woodland creatures. Among them, Tessie Bone, Lady of Fashion, Cook, Gogo, The Doctor, Chinaman, Turk, Old Soldier, Paddy Pinn and Clown.
Donahey began The Teenie Weenies cartoon strip on June 14, 1914. The first story told the tale of Top Hat house burning down. Prior to working for the Chicago Tribune, Donahey specialized in children’s cartoons while working for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in Ohio.
William Donahey’s widely syndicated comic was inspired by the Scottish-inspired brownie characters of Palmer Cox, another leading illustrator of the time. While Palmer Cox’s used rhymes throughout his cartoons, Donahey relied on prose to tell his stories.
The Teenie Weenie characters were later used as mascots for Reid Murdock/Monarch Canned Foods as seen in advertisements in the Ladies Home Journal.
Donahey’s cartoon strips also appeared in magazines, such as the Saturday Evening Post, as well as books, school primers, handkerchiefs, tin boxes, decals, dolls, and clothing.
Donahey published several books of Teenie Weenie stories, including:
- The Teenie Weenies (Reilly & Britton, 1916).
- The Teenie Weenies with Effie E. Baker (Beckley-Cardy Company, 1917).
- Teenie Weenie Land with Effie E. Baker (Beckley-Cardy Company, 1923).
- Adventures of the Teenie Weenies (Reilly & Lee, 1920).
- Down the River with the Teenie Weenies (Reilly & Lee, 1921).
- The Teenie Weenies Under the Rosebush (Reilly & Lee, 1922).
- The Teenie Weenies in the Wildwood (Reilly & Lee, 1923).
- Alice and the Teenie Weenies (Reilly & Lee, 1927).
- Teenie Weenie Town (Whittlesey House, 1942).
- Teenie Weenie Days (Whittlesey House, 1944).
- Teenie Weenie Neighbors (Whittlesey House, 1945)
The Pickle Barrel House Museum
Corner of Lake Avenue and Randolph Street
Grand Marais, MI 49839