Missouri is home to many museums, but perhaps the quirkiest of them all is the National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum.

In the late 1990s, the National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum was founded in Knightstown, Indiana, by members of the Cookie Cutter Collectors Club. In the early 2000s, the museum moved to the Joplin Museum Complex.

“It is an ideal situation ... as it is in the heart of America,” museum Director Lee Stephenson said in an email.

Managed by five volunteers and two curators, the museum is an independent nonprofit organization supported by members of the Cookie Cutter Collectors Club and other interested parties. It relies on donations of cookie cutters, as well as monetary donations, to continue.

Inside the museum, 12 showcases and more than 5,000 cutters can be found, though not all are displayed because of space limitations.

Cutters are made from tin, aluminum, stainless steel, brass and copper, as well as plastic. Types of cutters include outline cutters and those with impressions in them, as well as cutters for faces, numbers, alphabets and animals.

One of the oldest cutters is the Egg Baking Powder Biscuit cutter, distributed at the 1903 Chicago World’s Fair. Some new cutters, such as those based on Star Wars are also presented, as well as those created with 3-D printers.

Also displayed are cutters from Sweden, Egypt, France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia and more.

Every season the curators change displays in the revolving case, with special ones for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and the Fourth of July.

Visitors are astounded by the variety and often reminisce about cutters as they walk around, Stephenson said.

“They’re all excited to see cutters that their grandmother used to have,” she said.

The museum places a special emphasis on the history of the cutters. As Stephenson said, many years ago peddlers would tour the country and make cookie cutters out of scrap metal on demand.

“But those days are long gone. And very few of those cutters are left,” Stephenson said.

Thus, one of the main goals of the museum is to feature the work of American craftsmen, tinsmiths and coppersmiths. The museum has an inventory of 100 tinsmith and other craftsmen, and because handmade cutters are still being made, they are hopeful the skill won’t die.

The museum also has archives where magazines, periodicals and books about cookie cutters can be accessed with permission from the curators.

Each visitor leaves with a free everyday cutter. On average, the museum hosts 600–800 school tours every year, and visitors come from nearly all parts of the U.S. as well as other countries.

Other museums inside the Joplin Museum Complex include a History and Mineral Museum, the Joplin Sports Hall of Fame and the Merle Evans Miniature Circus.

  • Community reporter, spring 2020. I'm a graduate student studying magazine editing and writing. Reach me at aimanjaved@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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