Ed Haberman, collector of oil rags

Ed Haberman of Tama, Iowa collected oil rags. The kind used in garages to clean oil dip sticks. He started collecting them in 1956, and by the time he died in 1988 he had over 1300 of them.

Quad City Times - Feb 4, 1973

In 1968, he talked about his collection to a reporter from the Des Moines Register (Nov 10, 1968):

It all started in 1956 when the walk-in cooler in the now defunct Haberman's Royal Dairy here sprang a grease leak. To keep the grease from dripping on his clean floor, Haberman went over to Wilkinson's service station and bought an oil rag for 8 cents. After that it was one oil rag after another.

"I kept exchangin' dirty oil rags for clean ones at Wilkinson's," he says. "Pretty soon, I decided I needed more than one rag. I guess it was when I had about nine oil rags that it suddenly occurred to me to collect them. Pretty soon, I was watchin' for discarded oil rags all the time — you can find them almost anywhere. When I'd find one, I'd take it back to Tama and exchange it for a clean, new one."

There is little rhyme or reason to Haberman's method. For example, he quickly discarded the idea of keeping dirty oil rags because his wife, Eleanor, 52, would have none of it.

"I don't even care much for his CLEAN oil rags," she said last week. "In fact, I think the whole idea is pretty stupid. It gets pretty nerve-racking when we're out on a trip and he keeps stopping the car every time he sees a dirty old oil rags. But I guess as long as he keeps them in a neat pile and out of my way, it's all right."...

"People come to my basement," Haberman says, "Look at my pile of rags and just stand there laughing. I know they're probably laughing at me, but I don't care. Really, I don't. They don't understand. I just laugh along with them. But, all the time, I know I've done something no one else has.

"It's important for a man to accomplish something. For me, it's collecting oil rags. I happen to enjoy doing it."

Quad City Times - Feb 4, 1973

     Posted By: Alex - Sun May 29, 2022
     Category: Collectors

Well, this collection is easier to move than all those damn National Geographics.
I have a friend who collects the floats from used lobster traps.
Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 05/31/22 at 11:03 AM
I hope they are all cleaned of oil. That's a fire waiting to happen!
Posted by KDP on 06/01/22 at 09:44 AM
@Virtual: I threw out my father's National Geographics, but kept the maps.
Posted by Richard Bos on 06/04/22 at 08:25 AM
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