Friday, September 12, 2008

The Palace light bulb and the Stockyards Museum

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.


Anonymous said...

I was "stuck" in Fort Worth on business for 10 weeks many years ago. It has a special place in my heart. I spent many hours escaping my coworkers on the weekends driving around and exploring.

I prefer Ft Worth to Dallas, many times over. It contains amazing source material for stories.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.


Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

Funny thing is, I immediately want to know where the third and fourth longest lived light bulbs are. (grin)

Dr. Phil

Andy Duncan said...

Oz, this was my first visit to Fort Worth, and I believe I prefer it to Dallas as well. It certainly seems quirkier and more interesting. I do love Dallas' Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse, though, and Dealey Plaza and its Sixth Floor Museum mesmerize me; I just can't stay away from them.

Andy Duncan said...

Phil, if you find out that information, please -- uh -- illuminate us.