It’s hard to refrain from making barbed jokes about the Kansas Museum of Barbed Wire when it sounds like a half-hearted April Fool’s ruse, but yes, this place is actually real.
(Courtesy Kansas Museum of Barbed Wire)
Located in LaCrosse, Kansas, the museum enshrines over 2,400 barbed wire varieties on display boards, some patented, some homemade, to walk visitors through the storied history of the devil’s rope from a simple invention designed to protect a family vegetable patch to a game-changer in agriculture and territorial delineation.(Courtesy KansasTravel.org)
“Some say it was the six-gun that settled the west. Others know better,” the museum’s website proclaims rather hyperbolically. With the advent of spiked fencing, “the days of the open range were gone.” The Spilger Barbed Wire Collection, a lifetime collection by one man, displays the first successful attempt at creating barbed wire in a coffee mill using grindstone and “some farmer ingenuity.” There are attempts at barbed wire sculptures, including one coiled into the shape of a tornado, entitled Fear.(Courtesy KansasTravel.org)
Another featured exhibit is the Fence Mender, a life-size diorama of a cowboy repairing his broken fence line by moonlight. Run-ins with barbed wire produced all manner of cuts and injuries that created a whole line of dedicated medicines and ointments for treatment. Visitors can eyeball the bottles and ointment tins from the late 19th and early 20th century, testimony to the “medicinal wonders” of that era.
For the riveted few who are interested in learning more about “one of the midwest’s most important contributions to America’s history,” the museum also boasts a theatre showing educational films, the Barbed Wire Hall of Fame, an archives room, and a research library, which is even equipped with study packs for school students to learn about “the transformation of the open prairie into America’s bread basket.”A barbed wire sculpture at the museum called ‘Crow’s Nest’ (Courtesy Kansas Museum of Barbed Wire)