There’s a lot to see in Big Sky Country — from a wild west history, to Yellowstone and Glacier Parks, this fourth largest state by area seems to have it all. And judging by collector extraordinaire, Gils Mangles’ museum, Miracle of America, it also has one of the largest collections of American historical artifacts.
The most amazing thing about the Miracle of America isn’t the volume of the collection (although with over 340,000 artifacts and growing every day it’s darn big), but rather its diversity. No matter what walk of life you’re from, whether that’s a Montana cowboy or a school teacher from Miami, some part of the collection will spark a memory or strike a chord that fascinates you to learn more.
As a travel writer, I’ve seen a lot of museums, but I’ve never seen one quite like Miracle of America. Part of it is open air museum, with over two dozen fully set up and stocked buildings including a saddle and harness repair shop, a blacksmith and machine shop, and a trapper’s cabin. Part of it is labelled and displayed in a main building that contains grouped displays like the ice cream parlor in the photo at the top of this page. Part of it is outdoor display, like the Big Boys Tonka truck in the image montage below. All of it, though, is Americana.
If you’re visiting Glacier Park, in Montana, adding in a stop at Miracle of America Museum is a must. It’s only an hour from the park on MT-35E.
79+ Reasons to Visit the Miracle of America Museum
There are just so many fascinating things in the museum, that I took a few hundred photos! These are some of the things that caught my fancy, so to speak, sometimes for their rarity, sometimes for their commonness, and sometimes just because they looked interesting. And this was definitely a museum where David identified with a lot more items than I did.
1. See a mint 1953 Harley Davidson motorcycle and sidecar (red – pictured above).
2. Check out a 1948 Harley Panhead motorcycle — the last year to use the springer front forks and first year to change from the “Knucklehead” to the “Panhead” engine design.
3. Flash back to “Happy Days” with a fully restored soda fountain (picture at top of the page), including red stools and all the original glasses, plus signs like Peppermint Flake Ice Cream (before my time!) and Karamel Pecan Ice Cream (would love to try this one).
4. Poster painting of the first men at Vicksburg (19 May 1863 during the War Between the States).
5. Full page advertisement for the 1942 Safticycle — modern, low-cost transportation, or in modern terms a bicycle with a small engine on it.
6. Advertisement for the Whizzer ($109) motorbike that used America’s leading bike motor, along with an owner’s manual.
7. All the equipment you need to make your own home brewed moonshine from the copper pipes to the kettles.
8. Check out a giant tonka toy for grown up boys (pictured above).
9. Red & White Grocery store sign and lights.
10. Advertisement poster for the June 30 to July 10, 1994, Brockton Fair “Wall of Death” featuring Lucky Thibeault — Hell on Wheels.
11. Admire the 65 ft. logging tow listed in the National Register to a bird-point arrowhead.
12. Imagine riding on the 1890s ladies tricycle.
13. Walk around and try to figure out the tools inside the 1500 sq. ft. blacksmith shop.
14. See the beginning of bicycling with the 1890 Colombia Shaft-Drive or chainless bicycle and its wooden handle bar grips.
15. Decide whether the dentist’s chair and tools are really helpful or just instruments of torture.
16. Various different juke boxes from the Golden Age.
17. Hand crafted UFOs and aliens from the 1960s era of “alien abductions.”
18. 1918 Indian Motorcycle flat track racer – the Red Dawn.
19. 1913 Excelsior flat track racer motorcycle.
20. 1917 Smith Motor Wheel cycle — once the motorcycle was rolling, the exhaust valve compression release was closed and the motor would start on its own. (early motorcycles were often gasoline engines fitted to bicycles)
21. Ever used “Gunk?” See a gallon can of Harley Davidson motorcycle Gunk cleaner.
22. A Cushman Air-Drop motor scooter used during WWII — it had two hooks for a parachute to be attached and was pushed riderless out of the plane (not sure how the parachute opened though!).
23. 1942 XA Harley Davidson — a number of these shaft-driven motorcycles were used in WWII.
24. Traps and coyote pelts.
25. Early Mobile Manual for cyclists.
26. 50 pound container of Arctic grease.
27. Decal stickers at .10 cents each.
28. Ask here for Gargoyle Mobiloil sign.
29. Chicago Coins Fantastic Motorcycle Racing Thrills and Spills arcade machine.
30. Rollins Gas Station and Modern Cabins — cabin office building, gas pumps and car from 1930s.
31. Buy Bon Ton Bread tin sign.
32. Drink Nehi Beverages sign. (never heard of them where I’m from).
33. Yarn winder that measured the revolutions by carved wooden gears inside and made a snapping noise for each revolution.
34. WWII recruitment poster: Sub Spotted – Let ’em have it! Lend a hand, enlist in your navy today.
35. Dozens of WWII shells and missiles.
36. Early 1900s steam tractor — wow, is it big!
37. A full room of taxidermy including a 2800 pound American bison (believed to be largest found in Montana), which is displayed with a painted background of Glacier Park and additional Montana birds and animals.
38. 300+ pieces of cycling memorabilia.
39. Iron steeds and leather britches (for bikers).
40. 1931 Henderson motorcycle and sidecar.
41. Easy Rider motorcycle.
42. 1954 Harley Davidson motorcycle.
43. One of a kind snow crawler used in Glacier National Park.
44. Largest collection of Glacier National Park memorabilia, including the snow crawler and two other vehicles.
45. 30 Military vehicles from motorcycles to jeeps to tanks.
46. 6 Military aircraft including a helicopter and A7D Corsair jet attach bomber.
47. Vintage tennis rackets.
48. Hundreds of little girls dolls from china dolls to barbie dolls.
49. Boys’ toys, including matchbox die-cast cars and trucks (remember those little cars the kids used to leave all over the house that hurt your bare feet when you stepped on them?).
50. Collection of 12 vintage toys dating back to the late 1800s (includes wooden toys, china figurines, and storybooks).
51. A Nazi flag taken at the Battle of the Bulge.
52. Home built go carts.
53. Crosley automobile.
54. 1960s Fox Trac snowmobile.
55. 1949 Ford truck Flathead Cherry Hauler.
56. Polson Police Car #2 from the 1950s.
57. Measuring stick for gas tanks for Model T gas tanks — instructions: Place measuring stick vertically in gas tank and compare wet spot to the column. For 1 of 4 different shaped Model T gas tanks.
58. Original packaging and instructions for No. 100 Ford End Thrust Bearing with Price, each, $1.00.
59. Ford Emergency Kit (for Model Ts) containing 1 spark plug, 1 tire repair kit, 1 tail lamp bulb, 2 head light bulbs supplied by Ford Motor Company.
60. Early ice boxes and refrigerators.
61. 1951 King Midget Auto – Lowest priced 2 passenger car. Drive it for 75 cents a week with amazing comfort! From Midget Manufacturing in Athens, Ohio.
62. 1952 Tucker snocat tracked truck size vehicle manufactured in Oregon.
63. Full track sno crawler made by the Glacier National Park maintenance shop using a 1938 Ford Flathead engine and running gear.
64. 1953 door-size business Merry Christmas sign.
65. Vintage snowmobiles including brands like Ski-Doo, Manta, Scorpion, Mercury, Polaris Mustang, Arctic Cat Kitty Kat and Evinrude.
66. Model T truck.
67. Cream cans of various different sizes (I remember going to town with my dad to drop off the full cans at the train station to ship to the creamery in Regina!).
68. Assortment of old gas pumps from the very earliest ones through the 1960s.
69. Farm equipment from old tractors and hay mowers to threshing machines and post hole augers.
70. A picture made of rattlesnake bones and rattles, and another of crocheted human hair, which was made in 1889.
71. Dozens of cast iron tractor seats.
72. A John Clarke sculpture carved from a single piece of wood that depicts a dramatic incident involving a mother bear, her foot caught in a trap, two cubs by her side and an advancing, rifle-toting hunter.
73. Large collection of different types of barbed wire displayed in an old two-story barn filled with farm machinery.
74. Assortment of fire trucks and fire fighting artifacts.
75. Collection of harps and music.
76. 1880s vintage hearse.
77. Old time fully stocked general store.
78. Marcus Daly III’s sporty boat, a Garwood runabout.
79. Buggies and wagons from the horse and buggy days of transportation.
Help the Miracle of America
While Mangles’ collection started when he began collecting at the age of three, and grew as he did through purchasing interesting “things” at auctions, it’s now a non-profit corporation. It continues to grow, but now through the support of community and benefactors. Currently, the next needs are to purchase nearby property and to create an antique gunsmithing shop set up like the late 1700s to the late 1800s, with the artifacts in the collection.
You can help the museum by visiting (at $6 for an adult, it’s the steal of the 21st century) and by donating. Click here to read the Spring 2017 Museum Newsletter to learn more about its needs and how you can help.