Historic Battleship USS Texas Taking In Water, Leaking Oil


The USS Texas is America’s oldest battleship. Commissioned in 1914, it fought in both World War I and World War II. Since 1948 it’s been utilized as a museum at La Porte, Texas, on the outskirts of Houston.

Now the vessel is in peril. It’s sprung a leak and is taking on water. So much water entered the ship that it started noticeably listing to port. The old oil tanks got flooded. While the tanks had been emptied decades ago, they’d never been cleaned, so oily water spread out into the bay.

The oil is being cleaned and the water pumped out. While problems continue, the ship doesn’t appear to be in danger of sinking. The Houston Chronicle reports the ship is taking less water now, from a high of 850 gallons a minute down to 100. Repairs will hopefully start Monday and the ship will be closed for the foreseeable future.

Despite its current troubles, the future may be bright for this floating bit of history. In 2007 a state bond issue raised $25 million to dry berth the ship. This would help preserve it for future generations. Now it’s estimated the project may cost twice that. Getting the money will be difficult in this economic climate, but the project would create jobs and preserve a major tourist attraction.

Check out the video to learn more about this amazing vessel.

Museum Month: Cockroach Hall Of Fame & Museum, Plano, Texas


We’ve covered some pretty weird museums this month here on Gadling. One that may take the prize for the weirdest is the Cockroach Hall Of Fame & Museum in Plano, Texas.

Museum curator and professional exterminator Michael Bohdan opened the museum so he could educate people about a bug that’s got a serious knack for survival. As Bohdan points out, cockroaches have been around more than 350 million years and survived a lot of Earth’s upheavals that have killed off lesser species, so we might be able to learn something from them.

Wearing his roach-lined fedora, Bohdan takes visitors around the displays, showing off little dressed up bugs such as Marilyn Monroach and Ross Peroach. There’s even a Liberoachie that plays the piano. More serious displays tell about roach biology and the amazing ways they’ve adapted to a wide range of habitats.

For more strange educational experiences, check out more of our articles on weird museums!

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]

Want To Learn How To Drive a Model T Ford? This Museum Will Teach You

The Model T Ford was the most successful car design in history. From 1908 to 1927, more than 15 million were sold at a price so affordable that cars went from being playthings of the wealthy to a common item for any middle class household. For better or worse, today’s car culture is a direct product of the Model T.

Now the Collin County Farm Museum is offering courses in driving the Model T Ford. This isn’t just your standard stick shift. It takes up to fifteen minutes and a fair amount of strength to start, and has all sorts of peddles and cranks unfamiliar to anyone accustomed to driving modern cars. The license will allow you to drive the museum’s very own restored Model T, part of its large collection of vintage vehicles.

The Model T appeared at a time when paved roads were rare, and it was made tough enough to stand driving over fields and up steep slopes. They could take a lot of abuse, which is probably why there are so many left today. There’s a limit to what they can take, though. Don’t drive them like they did in this slapstick comedy or you’ll fail the course and probably get arrested.