Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Spacemen

Collecting rockets, robots, and cosmic gadgets



Photos by Douglas Foulke

John Kleeman and his son, Peter, are collectors. They have been collecting Space Age cultural artifacts for 25 years: rockets, flying saucers, life-size robots, toys, amusement-park rides, and much more. They view their collection as a vehicle for telling the story of man’s quest into outer space. Blastoff was in 1988, when John took Peter on a road trip to the Brimfield flea market in south-central Massachusetts. They decided to look for a space toy and came home with a little, red ray gun—a 1936 Wyandotte—and that launched the start of an astronomical collection. 

At a picturesque farm in Litchfield, an enormous dairy barn houses thousands of the Kleemans’s treasures. Mr. Bolts, a larger than life-size robot, stands guard over the mothership of this collection—a 40-foot rocket replica of Terra IV, a battleship cruiser from the 1950s television series, “Space Patrol.” The rocket once housed a theater that had seating for 40 children to watch films of rocket liftoffs, all while it shook and rumbled. The Kleemans found the replica in Arizona, and after jettisoning rats, mice, and rattlesnakes, they had it trucked back to Connecticut. It now hovers next to a Douglas D-558-2 Sky Rocket, one of only four made. The Sky Rocket was the first aircraft to fly at over twice the speed of sound, although the Kleemans’s rocket never left the ground; it was used for testing. Rounding out the fleet is a flying saucer that has seating for at least four Earthlings. Every acquisition has an interesting story, and the Kleemans’s search includes uncovering as much information as they can about each discovery.

While John grew up with Buck Rogers, and Peter during the “Star Wars” era and the beginning of the Space Shuttle, the Space Age was a time when everyone began to imagine traveling in outer space, a time when Americans were personally engaged in the exploration of space—and that is the dream John and Peter have tried to preserve. The Space Age influenced design in every aspect of American culture, from architecture and household products to TV shows like “The Jetsons,” “Lost in Space,” and “Star Trek.”

TVs, toasters, salon hair-dryers that cocooned woman’s heads like space helmets—everything had fins or wings. And the Kleemans have it all, including a vast collection of photography that captures the nation’s fascination with outer space. 

“As the collection grew, we gained more perspective and a deeper interpretation of it,” says Peter. “Collectable products, their design influenced by this era—like teapots shaped liked flying saucers—became of less interest, and folk-art space creations became more of a focus.” 

“We started thinking of the collection as the Space Age Museum,” John adds. “And we never would have been able to do all this without my wife, Veronica. She is ground control. It energizes us to feel the importance of this and to experience the process of discovery and seeing the collection come together.”

The Kleemans are obviously passionate about their collection, a collection that starts with Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon and evolves into the age of television with Captain Video and Tom Corbett. The journey continues with the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space missions of the ’60s and ’70s when dreams of space travel became reality, culminating with man’s voyages to the moon. The Kleemans have worked hard to make their collection representative of all those eras. 

“It’s amazing that someone took a very popular comic strip starring Buck Rogers and created toys so children could actually become their hero,” says John. In 1934 when Macy’s opened its doors to sell the Buck Rogers XZ-31 rocket pistol, over 2,000 parents and children were waiting to buy it in a line three blocks long. Though Macy’s was not exactly the “final frontier,” the Space Age had well and truly arrived for American households.

In what little spare time he has between his day job and the Kleemans’s so-called “Space Age Museum,” Peter has been hitting the road to photograph Space Age roadside memorabilia in America—imaginative works of signage that were common during the time but are now fading. “We feel a sense of duty to the collection and want to share it with others,” he says. The Kleemans’ mission is to present parts of the collection as a traveling exhibition and eventually to find a permanent home in order to preserve the cultural history of the Space Age. To facilitate this, they need to secure sponsorship and funding. To see the collection online and for more information, visit spaceagemuseum.com.

Add your comment:

Connect With Us    

Sign-up for our event 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

November 2018

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Join Art Rodia, an instructor with over 30 years of yoga teaching experience, as he guides this gentle yoga class. Created for people over fifty and beginners who need a gentle and accessible...

Cost: 10 per class

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Harper Keehn is a professional knife sharpener based in New Haven. Bring your knives, serrated knives, pizza cutters, scissors, food processor blades, and other edge tools to be sharpened on site....

Cost: 1.25/inch

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Website »

More information

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Join New Morning Market’s new knitting club! We’re crafting wearable items for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury and welcome all levels to join! Instructors will be on-hand for beginners. Yarn,...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

(Litchfield, Conn.) Brandywine Living at Litchfield will be hosting their 6th Annual Ladies Night Out Charity Shopping Event on Thursday, November 15th  from 5-7 PM. This spectacular community...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Brandywine Living at Litchfield
19 Constitution Way
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Brandywine Living at Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-9500
Contact Name: Amber Chapman
Website »

More information

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

More information

Art That Speaks: Exhibition and Opening Exhibition October 1-November 15, 2018 Artist Reception: October 8, 4pm to 6pm.Fuel Bistro​, 293 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230 Gabrielle...

Cost: free

Where:
Fuel Bistro
293 Main Street
Great Barrington, MA  01230
View map »


Sponsor: Walk Unafraid
Telephone: 413 717 0031
Contact Name: Gabrielle Senza
Website »

More information

Brandywine Living at Litchfield's 6th Annual Ladies Night Out Charity Shopping Event.  Thursday, November 15, 2018, from 5 pm to 7 pm. Join us for food, signature drinks, fun and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Brandywine LIving at Litchfield
19 Constitution Way
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Brandywine Living at Litchfield
Telephone: 860-567-9500
Contact Name: Nanette Bergin

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

EVERY THURSDAY | 7:30 PM - 10:00 pm Music | Spoken Word | Comedy | More Hosted by Don Lowe Hunt Hill Farm is excited to announce OpenMic night every Thursday night.  Please stop by to...

Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
Website »

More information

Join New Morning Market’s new knitting club! We’re crafting wearable items for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury and welcome all levels to join! Instructors will be on-hand for beginners. Yarn,...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Meet us under the Dome and catch all the excitement! Come out for the 16th Annual Festival of Trees to benefit Ann’s Place at the Danbury Sports Dome for a weekend filled with live events...

Cost: Ages 3 to 64, $10; Seniors, $5; kids under 3, free.

Where:
Danbury Sports Dome
25 Shelter Rock Ln
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 203-790-6568
Contact Name: Michelle Frosch
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Meet us under the Dome and catch all the excitement! Come out for the 16th Annual Festival of Trees to benefit Ann’s Place at the Danbury Sports Dome for a weekend filled with live events...

Cost: Ages 3 to 64, $10; Seniors, $5; kids under 3, free.

Where:
Danbury Sports Dome
25 Shelter Rock Ln
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 203-790-6568
Contact Name: Michelle Frosch
Website »

More information

Byrde + the b is pleased to announce an exhibit of Walter Fields new  artwork opening on Friday November 2 from 5-7:00pm at Byrde + the b, 10 Titus Rd, Washington Depot, CT 06794.  The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Byrde + the b
10 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Byrde + the b
Telephone: 212 255-6247
Contact Name: Steven Miller
Website »

More information

KMR Arts presents Mark Seliger: Platinum Prints. The exhibition opens on Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 3-6 pm with a reception and book signing of the monograph, MARK SELIGER PHOTOGRAPHS, with the...

Cost: no charge

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: KMR Arts
Telephone: (860)868-7533
Contact Name: Kathy McCarver Root
Website »

More information

The League of Women Voters of Litchfield County will co-sponsor a talk with the Litchfield Historical Society on Saturday, November 17 at 4 p.m. entitled “Nation of Immigrants" featuring Kevin...

Cost: Free

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Lithfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Litchfield Historical Society
Website »

More information

St Joseph High School's Maroon & Gold Gala is a scholarship event that casts a spotlight on the school’s strong commitment to community service and leadership. It is a fabulous...

Cost: $150

Where:
The Waterview
215 Roosevelt Drive
Monroe, CT  06468
View map »


Sponsor: St Joseph High School
Telephone: (203) 378-9378
Contact Name: St Joseph High School
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Ten Minutes With Abigail Pogrebin

This Litchfield resident has produced for some of the biggest names in television journalism—including Charlie Rose, Bill Moyers, and Mike Wallace.

A Great Ride

Most of Bostwick’s books share a common thread: they’re about women facing myriad hardships in life -- that have happy endings.
Edit ModuleShow Tags