In 1908, Laura Musser-McColm and husband Edwin McColm moved into their newly built home at 1314 Mulberry Avenue. Laura’s father, Peter Musser, had the house constructed for the newlyweds. Get acquainted with the Musser-McColm family below.
Laura Musser was the youngest child of lumber baron and businessman, Peter Musser, and Tamson Rhodes Musser. Born in 1877, Laura was described in her wedding announcement to Edwin McColm as having “grown up unspoiled and unselfish”. In her youth, Laura studied music at Grant Seminary in Chicago and under Sbriglia in Paris, France, and was noted for her beautiful mezzo-soprano voice.
Laura and Edwin had one child, a daughter named Alice, who died shortly after her birth in 1907. As a married woman, Laura became active in her husband’s business, keeping the account books for the McColm store for many years and often traveling with her husband on his buying trips to Chicago. In 1938, five years after Edwin’s death, Laura married William T. Atkins and became step-mother to Mary Catherine Atkins (McWhirter). Following her marriage to William, Laura mainly resided in Kansas City. She retained ownership of the Musser mansion in Muscatine and made frequent trips to Muscatine, often en route to Minnesota or Chicago.
Edwin McColm & the McColm Dry Goods Store
In November of 1903, Edwin McColm married Laura Musser. Edwin had apprenticed with the Marshall Field’s store in Chicago and worked for the family business, McColm Dry Goods Store. Edwin’s father had opened J. McColm & Sons in Muscatine in 1870. Eventually, Edwin became president and owner of McColm and Company, Muscatine's leading dry goods store.
In 1917, the McColm store occupied the first four floors of a newly constructed building on the northeast corner of Iowa Avenue and Second Street in Muscatine. It was known as the Laurel Building and was named for Laura and Edwin “E.L”. Edwin was the president of the company. The store’s motto was “Merchandise of proven quality at the lowest possible prices”. Edwin passed away in 1933, and Laura took over management of the business with the aid of Walter Freebern.
In 1870, Laura’s father Peter joined with his brothers Richard and John, his nephew Peter Miller Musser, and C. R. Fox to form Musser & Co. The mill was in constant operation from 1871 until its closing in 1905. The Mississippi River Logging Co. was established in 1871 by Frederick Weyerhaeuser with Musser & Co. as an incorporator and large stockholder.
In 1872, Peter became an official of the Mississippi River Logging Co. In 1881, Musser & Co. was incorporated under the name Musser Lumber Co. with Peter as president. Over the next several years, Peter invested in and managed many lumber companies and banks.
A wide range of artifacts and works of art comprise the renowned Musser Collection. Furniture, photographs, dresses, paintings, glass, silver, diaries, music boxes, rugs and other decorative arts are among the items left by the Musser-McColm family.
The Muscatine Art Center regularly hosts exhibits featuring Musser artifacts in the period rooms on the main floor of the family mansion. Laura Musser's heirs, Mary Catherine Atkins and Mary Musser Gilmore, gifted most of the house's contents, along with the house itself, in 1965. Since that time, many other individuals have generously added to the Musser Collection.