Barbed Wire Museums Take On A Prickly Subject

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]

The Lincoln Highway: Following The Main Street Across America

Route 66 is often called “The Mother Road,” and a drive along it brings up all sorts of nostalgia for those simpler days when there was no app for that and nobody could call you while you were driving.

It wasn’t the first cross-country road, however. The Lincoln Highway, which we should perhaps call “the Grandmother Road,” was finished in 1913 as part of an ambitious project when automobiles were still in their infancy. As you can see from the map, it stretched 3,389 miles from New York to California and included 13 states in all.

Much of Lincoln Highway is now U.S. Route 30, and you can still drive along it. While it doesn’t have the aura and popularity of Route 66, a dedicated band of fans are trying to change that. The Lincoln Highway Association is gearing up for the road’s centennial next year with celebrations all along the old road. The association already has a great state-by-state guide to the Lincoln Highway online listing points of interest. The highway passes by dozens of national and state parks, sights of historic importance, as well as some important cities.

The Europeans are getting into it to, with a Centennial Tour by a hundred vintage vehicles that will be flown to the United States and driven along the entire route. The best way to see the United States is by car, after all!

Since it’s been largely bypassed by the Interstate, you’ll find lots of unspoiled nature as well as little old towns that seem lost in time. Old settler’s cabins sit lonely in the Nevada desert, and in Utah you pass ghost towns, while occasionally you can spot bypassed sections of Lincoln Highway meandering off into the wilderness, its surface cracked yet clearly visible after a century. Like on Route 66, some old businesses along the way have been lovingly restored to their early condition. Check out the old gas station in the photo gallery!

Map courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


Photo of the Day – Route 66 Signage

Route 66, the legendary roadway of American lore, may be no more, but ghostly vestiges of its existence still remain. Take the lovely stretch of retro hotel signs in Albuquerque New Mexico – part of the old Route 66 route. Just off the University of New Mexico campus, you’ll find a scattered collection of these aging neon beauties, sprouting like weeds among discount furniture stores, flophouses and trendy coffee shops. Today’s gorgeous example is brought to us by Flickr user Christian Carollo Photography. Pop quiz – can any of our Gadling readers name the TV show this exact sign recently appeared in?

Have any great travel photos you’d like to share with the world? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Photo Gallery: Abandoned Americana

The old America is all around us. Americans used to be farmers. They used to go to drive-in movies. They used to think Route 66 was the greatest highway in the world. Some still do.

If you drive out of the city and leave the strip malls and cookie-cutter suburban homes behind, you’ll find it soon enough. Head down a county road and you’ll pass dilapidated farmhouses and overgrown gardens, the handiwork of people from our grandparents’ or great-grandparents’ generation. Like this old farm in Clay County, Missouri, near the Jesse James farm. I was with a couple of friends on a Jesse James road trip and we drove many of the back roads of western Missouri, places where Jesse committed his crimes and hid out from the law.

Everywhere we went we found this old Americana. On the outskirts of Kansas City we found a drive-in movie theater unchanged since the 1960s, and still open for half the year. To the west of Lexington we followed a potholed country road that led to a tributary of the Missouri River. Half a century ago there was a ferry at the end, popular enough that this road was lined with gas stations, hotels, and nice homes. The ferry disappeared when I-70 was built, and one by one the homes and businesses were abandoned.

Then there’s route 66, half ghost highway and half tourist trap. And old boom-and-bust mining towns like Bodie, California, now a State Historic Park. Not to mention all the failed businesses, the empty big box stores and bankrupt shopping malls that are creating the new ghost towns of the U.S. Much of industrial Detroit looks like an archaeological site.

Next time you go on a road trip in the U.S., get off the Interstate and take a county road. drive slow and look around. You’ll find the old America that hasn’t quite left us.


Drive across the USA in four minutes

Haven’t we all dreamed of taking that cross-country road trip? That amazing opportunity to just jump in a car and blast across the United States from coast-to-coast? The trouble is that not many of us have actually had a chance to do it. There’s any number of reasons why, ranging from the oft-cited lack of American vacation time to the hassle of logistics planning such a trip. Well my friends, the days of your road trip excuses are numbered. Because before your next coffee break this Friday, we guarantee you will get to travel across the entire United States by car. And you’re going to do it in just about four and a half minutes.

Did Gadling somehow discover how to bend the laws of physics? Well, not quite – but we did find this sweet time lapse road trip video by YouTube user physiciandirectory. During their recent cross country road trip from San Francisco to Washington, these traveling filmmakers set their camera to take a photo once every 10 seconds. The result is a tour of our vast country taken at breakneck speed. It’s fun to watch the scenery rapidly change from desert to grassland to town as the pair motors along, accompanied by the fast paced soundtrack. If you’re still looking for reasons to make that cross country trip a reality, consider this as your inspiration.

[Via Metafilter]