Museum Papa Burger.
Papa Burger hoists his root beer 'n' bun for a new generation.

Museum Papa Burger

Field review by the editors.

Albany, New York

The Papa Burger at the New York State Museum -- the first member of The A&W Burger Family to garner recognition for his cultural achievements -- arrived with a painted-on mustache and a sagging frame. He came from either Rochester or Syracuse, and sat in storage for 17 years until he was noticed by Karen Quinn, the museum's new senior historian and curator of art and culture. "Everybody loved him, but we had no information," said Karen. "Then I typed in 'fiberglass figure holding burger and mug,' and there you were. Your website" (which Karen described as "a wonderful rabbit hole to go down") "helped us figure out who he was."

The museum began a four-year restoration to return Papa Burger to his original appearance. As his layers of paint were stripped away, a surprising discovery was made: his shirt originally had sheen of painted metal flakes, and early photos of the other Burger Family members -- all shot in black and white -- suggest that they did as well. "We were as shocked as anyone, but we went with what we found," said Karen. "It wasn't anything we made up." Some Burger Family fans, including statue collector Mark Smith, remain skeptical. "Maybe a small group of them had that; not all of them," said Mark, although he ventured that sparkly paint, in car headlights, would make the statues more visible after dark.

Papa Burger in storage.
Tired-looking Papa Burger in 2015, before his restoration.

For now, at least, the New York State Museum Papa Burger -- which was unveiled at the museum with fanfare and a press release in September 2019 -- is the benchmark standard of what a Burger Family member looked like when the statues first arrived at A&W root beer stands in 1963. "It warmed my heart that we were able to do this, personally and professionally," said Karen. "It's almost irrelevant that he was an advertising tool. He's endearing."

Museum Papa Burger

New York State Museum

Address:
222 Madison Ave., Albany, NY
Directions:
On the fourth floor of the New York State Museum. South edge of downtown, on the south side of US-20/Madison Ave. between Eagle and S. Swan Sts. There are paid parking lots on either side of the museum.
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