Barbed Wire Museums Take On A Prickly Subject

barbed wire
I’ve always loved museums on obscure subjects because they teach you how overlooked objects can have a big influence. Barbed wire is one of those objects.

While various inventors started experimenting with barbed wire in the 1850s, the founder of barbed wire is generally considered to be Joseph Glidden, whose 1873 design soon stretched across the American West. Before then, it was nearly impossible to enclose the vast rangelands of the West. There were constant fights over whose animals were on whose land. With the advent of barbed wire, land became enclosed, and the fights turned to passage rights and boundary disputes.

It’s often said barbed wire tamed the Old West, and while that’s true it also led to its demise. The West became more organized; freedom of movement suffered, and bigger and bigger ranches began to enclose huge swaths of land. Barbed wire was a boon to some and a curse to others. Many called it “the Devil’s rope” or “the Devil’s hatband.”

There are three major museums devoted to this humble but important invention. The Joseph F. Glidden Homestead & Historical Center in DeKalb, Illinois, is devoted to the inventor of barbed wire and his carefully restored home, barn and blacksmith shop. The museum has a blacksmith who gives live demonstrations of his traditional craft including, of course, wire making.

%Gallery-155001%The Devil’s Rope Museum on Route 66 in McLean, Texas, has a huge collection of barbed wire. The original design inspired countless variants and supposed improvements. Also, thefts of barbed wire led manufacturers to design specific wires for large companies and ranches. Hundreds of these variants are on display, as well as art created from barbed wire and a room devoted to the history of Route 66.

Over in LaCrosse, Kansas, there’s the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum, which has more than 2,000 varieties of wire as well as wire-making tools and displays of barbed wire being used in peace and at war. It’s the headquarters of the Antique Barbed Wire Society, one of several societies of collectors and historians. Yes, there are collectors for everything, and with so many variants of wire and so much history for each one, the hobby has attracted some devoted followers.

Lots of historical societies and pioneer museums have small displays of barbed wire, so the next time you pass one on the highway, stop by and check it out. Just remember: look, but don’t touch!

[Image courtesy Coyote Grafix via flickr]

Postcrossing celebrates five years of postcard revolution

There’s something very special about sending or receiving a postcard. It’s one of the simple joys of travel, yet in the age of email, Skype, and social networking, you’d think the old-fashioned postcard would have become a thing of the past.

It hasn’t. Thanks to Postcrossing, a postcard trading organization, postcards are undergoing a revival. Postcrossing turns five years old this week and in that short time it has racked up some staggering statistics–more than 4.7 million postcards have been sent by more than 190,000 members to about 200 countries. Those postcards have logged 25,771,990,953 km. That’s 643,093 laps around the world!

One odd aspect of Postcrossing is that most correspondents are complete strangers. Postcrossing wants to start a “postcard revolution” by getting people to start sending more postcards, not just to their friends and family, but to random fans around the world.

Postcrossing is free to join. Members put their address into a secure database. When you request to send a card, another member’s address is sent to you. Once your card is received and registered, you’re next in line to get a card from another stranger! It’s a lot of fun and a good way to spread international friendship and teach geography to your kids. I and at least one other Gadling blogger are Postcrossing members. So if you’re tired of only receiving junk mail in your mailbox, give Postcrossing a try.

In case you’re wondering, this is the mailbox just outside the post office in Harar, Ethiopia. That’s the left arm of yours truly sending some cards to my son and some fellow Postcrossing members.

Gadlinks for Wednesday 6.10.09

Here’s a sampling of the best of the rest from around the travel world:

  • Planet Eye brings us a great list of eco-travel mistakes. After a month of traveling back and forth between the mainland and Hawaii I’m feeling like I should memorize this list.
  • This summer could be the year of traveling by hobby, and the Independent Traveler has a cool list of outfitters and online resources to get you started.
  • MSNBC breaks down the world wide web’s newest online travel sites.
  • Why do you need to write a good travel story when you can write a bad one? World Hum brings us a humorous list of suggestions on how to write crappy travel tales.
  • Do you like dim sum — or just staring at the meat hanging in Chinatown store windows? BootsNAll brings us a great list of the world’s best Chinatowns.

‘Til tomorrow, have a great evening.

For past Gadlinks, click HERE.

Travel to nourish your quirks

We live in a world where it’s not hard to (temporarily) kindle our passions, obsessions or quirks, especially with the uproar of travel-businesses that allow you to do a crash course in the quirky hobbies you have never had the balls to nurture in your daily life. Hobby tourism is nothing new, but the options have definitely widened into ones out of the ordinary. Here are some such options:

  • Scotland: Learn to make perfume while you travel — yup, sniff out your own scent as you wade through Scottish wilderness.
  • Spain: Be a stand-up comedian — always wanted to see if you can really make an audience laugh with your nonsense? Do a 5-day course in Catalonia and find out!
  • Florida, USA: Make believe that you are a NASA astronaut through the Astronaut Training program at the Kennedy Space Center.
  • New York, USA: Who doesn’t want to be a DJ? The Scratch Academy offers 5-day intensive courses for beginners that covers equipment, music theory, mixing and blending, scratching and beat making
  • Israel: Krav-Maga holidays — tour Israel whilst learning the Israeli martial art of self-defense.
  • Las Vegas, Monte Carlo: Poker holidays — getaway and gamble to glory!
  • Worldwide: Dance holidays! Travel to learn how to dance whatever, wherever you want!

Check out this link for full details on these options.