You may know her as the author of the “Little House” series of children’s books. Or perhaps you’re familiar with the popular television show based on her books. Little House on the Prairie, starring Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon, ran from 1974 to 1983. The show, which focused on the Ingalls family’s lives in 19th century western America, still plays in reruns today.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the “Little House” book series, based on her real-life experiences, while she lived in her Mansfield, Missouri, home. Today you can tour the home and browse the adjacent museum for glimpse at the life of the author. Here are a few fun facts I learned about her and her family on my visit:
- Laura Ingalls Wilder started her journalism career at age 44. She was 65 when she began writing the “Little House” series. She wrote a total of 18 books, which have been translated into 40 languages.
- It took 17 years for Laura and her husband, Almanzo, to build their Mansfield house. When they first bought their farm, they built a one-room log cabin. When they could afford it, Almanzo built the house, one room at a time. On the tour, you enter the back door into the kitchen, the first room that was built. Of course, at the time, it wasn’t the kitchen; it was the entire house. The house grew, room by room, until 17 years later, it was finished. The tour takes you through the rooms in the order in which they were added.
- Everything in the house is original, with the exception of fabric items and wallpaper, which are copies. Some pieces are set in the exact arrangement as they were on the day Ingalls Wilder died in 1957.
- Laura Ingalls Wilder typically received 50 pieces of mail each day, which she read at the table under a lamp that Almanzo made. On her last birthday, her 90th, she received over 1000 pieces of mail.
- Pa looked nothing like Michael Landon. The museum, full of memorabilia including “Pa’s fiddle,” includes lots of pictures. I wasn’t the only one who noted the dissimilarity in looks between Landon and the real-life, shaggy-bearded Pa. I heard other guests mention it, too.
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum, open March through mid-November, is located at 3068 Highway A in Mansfield, Missouri. Check the web site for hours and admission.
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