McLean, Texas
Street Address
100 Kingsley Street
McLean, TX 79057
Mailing Address
P. O. Box 290
McLean, TX 79057
phone: 806-779-2225
Free; donations welcome
Museum Type(s)
Delbert Trew, Curator
phone: 806-779-2225
Harold Hagemeir, Curator
phone: 806-779-2225
David Gipson, Museum Manager
phone: 806-779-2225

I hope you don t go into shock as you read of the flavor and spirit of our institution. You will instantly realize we are nonprofessional, unique in mission, and strange in operational practices. But before you toss us aside, please also be aware of our success.

A steering committee of barbed wire collectors was formed in August 1990, to establish a museum to house the many collections, personally owned, and to keep them out of estate sales and auctions conducted by nearest of kin. Our mission would be to collect and display every known wire-related artifact, along with every written word on the subject. The site was to be near the geographical center of the U.S., in a temperate zone, near a major highway, and affordable.

This was accomplished by remodeling a city-owned, abandoned brassiere factory building in McLean, Texas, a town with a population of 850. Adjacent to I-40 and on Old Route 66, the 14,000 square foot building was leased for $50 per month and was already covered by city liability insurance.

The building was completely renovated by volunteers. All materials were paid for from contributions. With the exhibits placed and the organizational work done, the museum opened March 21, 1991.

To date, no grant money has been used within the structure. No labor has been hired for the establishment of the museum, and there are no outstanding debts. We have accumulated a financial cushion, established an endowment fund, and now have a full-time manager, and utilize a green thumb employee. Our volunteer staff varies from approximately 30 to 55, depending on the season. To enhance visitation to a very unromantic-seeming, barbed wire museum, we joined with the local Route 66 association to form the Route 66 State Association. An area was set aside to house old Route 66 artifacts along with the Devil s Rope Museum. A gift store for souvenirs was included and now has sales of $15,000 or more this year. By September 1994, registered visitors had passed the 21,000 mark.

Almost all exhibits are permanent. Our visitors arrive everyday from every state and almost every foreign country. We serve our local community with our Western Heritage Community Room, supported by memorials, by hosting and renting it for collector shows, conventions, banquets, school functions, business dinners, art shows, quilt shows, photography shows, and revivals.

Our Collectors Corner, located in our lobby, exhibits private collections by members and friends. Showing 12 collections at a time and changing every four months, it has been an excellent drawing card for the local people as well as tourists.

Our five-year projection plan includes updating each of the artifact areas with new finds and donations. We have five new projects to raise additional funding. Each will be annual repeating functions. A project to enhance our entrance will include a Tribute to Barbed Wire monument, the only one in the world as fitting to our title as The Largest Barbed Wire Museum in the World . We also plan to publish an original manuscript, never before published, that could be a textbook on the history of barbed wire. It will be a revenue project, we hope.

Our museum has no artifact storage. As our policy states, every item is exhibited, included in a traveling display, given to a museum in need, or sold to the benefit of the museum.

Our visitation has been enhanced by the placement of four huge billboards placed on I-40 each direction from town, and next year, the Route 66 Exhibit will be eligible for four more billboards. We do not charge admission and work with donations only. We are handicapped-accessible and offer wheelchairs for anyone requesting them. We have a video room that looks like the old time theater which shows videos of Old Route 66. We even pop microwave popcorn for the viewers, if we have time. We have been visited by 21 film companies or magazines and have appeared in at least 75 newspapers, magazines, and documentaries.

We don t have any major problems except that we are all getting older, and are losing some members and volunteers. This will all catch up with us someday.

We are already benefitting from our traveling exhibits program, and we re happy to share those resources with others. Some may not be of the quality that some professionals require, but they are in use, travelling, and booked months ahead. Perhaps those requirements of extreme quality by our professionals will be the biggest stumbling block to your Resource Sharing Project because simply that s where the costs skyrocket. We like authenticity, simplicity, and economy. We think this common sense approach is the key to our success.


The Devil's Rope Museum was opened on March 21, 1991, in an abandoned factory building. It was remodeled by volunteers, funded by donations, and no grants have been used to date. The museum has had over 22,000 visitors since its opening, and it is self-supporting.

Artifact Collections

Collections are limited to barbed wire history, artifacts, tools, advertisements, photographs, stamps, publishings, and known periodicals. Estimated 10,000 items. Texas Route 66 Exhibit limited to Route 66 history, artifacts, publishings, and photography. Estimated 600 items.

Research Collections

All is available on display, ready for study. No items in storage.

Educational Programs

The museum has a museum scavenger hunt for lower grades and another for upper grades. Students are provided a list of artifacts within the museum which they are to find. The museum can provide special tours and guided lecture tours upon request, and it presents programs to any group requesting such.

The museum has approximately 1,100 square feet to exhibit traveling displays that may become available. It sponsors a "Collectors Corner" in which people interchange personal collections, by members and friends, of any subject, and is limited to glass-topped table displays of 4' x 6' area. Usually 12 collections are in view at a time, and the museum usually has a waiting list of collectors who want to display.

All exhibits are created by staff. None, except traveling exhibits, are available for loan.


The museum publishes a quarterly newsletter which is distributed to all members, some related institutions, and periodicals. The museum has a catalogue detailing the subject, size, and fractions for traveling displays. Due to expense, the museum mails additions to be inserted. Committees are working on publishing an original manuscript on wire history and reprinting some original wire supply catalogues. The musuem now has a publishing department. The Barbed Wire Collector magazine is published 6 times a year for 350 subscribers. Profits go to general fund. We also publish other newsletters and books.

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