What do a chicken and a high explosive artillery shell have in common? This sounds like the beginning of a very bad joke, but here in McLean County, they do in fact share something in common! This 8" diameter shell weighing well over 100 lbs (without its payload) and pictured here was manufactured at Batavia Metal Products, Inc. in Batavia, IL, with the purpose of being fired from a World War II naval vessel. However, it was never sent off to action. Instead, the shell made its way to the Miller Hatchery in Bloomington. Like other local businesses, the hatchery sold war bonds to support the war effort. Thinking that it was good to see what the money from those bonds was actually being used for, the hatchery's owners placed this artillery shell in their window to provide a visual. The McLean County Museum of History loves to find unique objects like this to add to our collection; however, we do not collect live ammunition. This shell contains no explosives, only a wonderful story!
The Miller Hatchery can be found in the Bloomington city directory from 1932 to 1963; yet, its roots began much earlier. In 1912, Mrs. Emma Miller, affectionately known as Mother Miller, started a chick hatchery in her Heyworth bedroom as a hobby. By 1941, two Miller Hatchery stores were open in Bloomington. The first located at 208 – 212 W. Grove St. would remain dedicated to poultry, while the second, located at 109 S. Madison St., would expand its services to include farming, plumbing supplies, and livestock feed. By 1946, the hobby that started with Mother Miller's purchase of a 200 egg capacity kerosene incubator had morphed into an organization that hatched 3 million eggs annually, sending chicks to every state in the country.