On my August business trip to Texas, I found myself in a town I never had visited before, Fort Worth. At first opportunity, of course, I went to the Stockyards Museum to see the 1908 Palace Theater light bulb, the second oldest still-working bulb in the world. (The oldest is in Fire Station 6 in Livermore, Calif.) I feel a kinship with the Palace bulb in its centennial year, as we share a birthday; come Sept. 21, it will be exactly 56 years older than me.
The bulb was all I had hoped for, but I was delighted to discover the museum's many other attractions, which included: a display of dozens of different patented barbed-wire designs, with annotations; a vintage "bad luck wedding dress" that seems to have inspired at least one novel (by Geralyn Dawson); copies of the meatpackers' newspaper The Armour Oval, featuring "News and Views of Armour Crews"; a years-old cast model of a proposed Fort Worth monument to the great black cowboy and rodeo star Bill Pickett, a monument that unfortunately seems never to have been erected; a giant framed movie poster for Pickett's 1921 "all-colored" Western The Crimson Skull, co-starring Anita Bush, Lawrence Chenault and Steve Reynolds, "the One-Legged Marvel"; a 19th-century washtub with a sign offering "First Water" for 15 cents, then cheaper rates for bathwater that already had been used once, twice, etc.; and a circa 1915 Meilicke Payroll Calculator, essentially a tabulated card catalog as long as my forearm. (The instructions note, for example, that "42¾ hours at 34c per hour is found on card tabbed 34, intersection of 40 and 2¾ -- $14.54.") All this is interspersed with signs that say things such as "Please don't lean on this creaky ol' case." In short, the Stockyards Museum is well worth your time.