Out of the Museum

Visit the Lincoln Area Archives Museum this holiday season
-A +A


Where: Beermann Plaza at 640 5th St.

When: Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays

Free: Donations always accepted



This item is featured at the Lincoln Area Archives Museum at 640 5th St. What is this week’s mystery item?

Send your answer to

Answers will appear in next week’s newspaper.


Last week’s mystery item

Pearlene Munson was the first reader with the right answer last Thursday afternoon.

“The mystery item is a Masonic voting box,” Munson said. “I don’t know the exact way it worked but it’s where the word “blackballed” originated.”

Barbara Banks said, “This is a voting box for Eastern Star. One black ball and the person was not selected.”

Barbara Vineyard answered that the object “is a black box used by Masonic lodges members to  vote on new members.  A white ball is a yes vote; a black ball is a no vote. That is probably how the statement being blackballed came about.”

Gretchen McCarthy emailed, “Pictured is a ‘ballot box.’ I have belonged to an organization for 61 years that used that kind of a box. Thankfully it is no longer used.”

These three residents were right on.

Last week’s mystery item is indeed a ballot box used by one of the local fraternal orders of the 1800s and into the 1900s. Today, just a few organizations still use the ballot box.

When a perspective new member came up for a vote of acceptance in a fraternal order, members would vote by casting a marble. White marbles and one or two black marbles would be in the “voting” section of the box. Pearlene, Barbara, Barbara and Gretchen are correct in saying this is how the term, black balled, developed.

If a black marble was cast, the prospective member would not be allowed to join the organization.

The Lincoln Area Archives Museum docents stressed that fraternal orders have basic ideals, which encompass friendship, bonding of members and betterment of communities. The docents aren’t sure which of Lincoln’s fraternal organizations used the black box.

Visit the Lincoln Area Archives Museum between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays, with the exception of this Thursday through Saturday when the museum will be closed for Thanksgiving. The docents always have fascinating historical displays and information to share.

- Carol Feineman