Hinton Historical Museum

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A large collection of antique telephones.
Art Peters, curator of the Hinton Historical Museum.
The barbed wire collection is the second largest in the nation.
One of the carriages on display.
The museum’s carriage collection is the largest in the state.

Hinton Historical Museum

Hinton Historical Museum, about five miles south of Interstate-35 at Exit 101, overflows with surprises.

It houses the largest carriage collection in the state with 25 buggies of all sizes. Antique phones too numerous to count include a wall of early day wooden models to styles from the 1930s and ‘40s to colorful princess phones. The museum’s accumulation of 1,600 barbed wire strands is the second largest in the nation. It came from one donor, too.

All that would be impressive anywhere, but this museum is in a town that boasts a population of about 3,200. What’s more, the museum didn’t buy a single item.

“We have what people bring us,” said Art Peters, museum curator.

The museum opened in the summer of 2003 and its two floors are filled corner to corner – and not just with information and displays that reflect Hinton’s history. Exhibits show a progression from horse-drawn buggies to automobiles and scrub boards to ringer washing machines that occurred across the United States, not just in Hinton and Oklahoma.

Some tidbits relating to Hinton are fun, though. In 1906, only 36 telephones were in Hinton and out of 50 homes in town, just seven had bathtubs.

Much of the museum’s focus is on life in the late 1800s to the next 30 or 40 years. Displays include farm implements, school desks and saddles, American Indian ceremonial garments, telephone switchboards, a galvanized bathtub and Oklahoma inventions like the shopping cart.

Included in the phone collection is a prison pay phone with a noticeably short cord to prevent inmates from using the handset or cord as a weapon. A small, portable folding typewriter on display was the predecessor to today’s laptop. Other exhibit items range from a mammoth jawbone and tooth found in 1998 12 miles southeast of Hinton to a 1917 bicycle with wood rims.

There are even remnants from a ghost town. Canyon was a nearby town that existed from 1904 to1906 and had only three or four buildings. Artifacts include a bed spring, iron headboard and footboard and a medicine bottle.

One of the museum’s more recent displays showcases artifacts located on wagon roads in what is now Custer and Roger Mills counties. Peters explores and documents the roads that date from the mid 1840s to 1860s, carefully preserving his findings that include nails, shotgun shells, a pocket knife and a toy zinc plate. He even discovered a wagon train campsite on a plot of land not suitable for farming. No plows or machines had been near it.

A visitor could easily breeze through the museum, but it would be the waste of an opportunity. Peters knows the history of the carriages, bicycles, telephones, wagon roads and barbed wire. He’s at the museum most days and is eager to share stories about the collections and exhibits. He’s excited about the museum of today and tomorrow.

Peters said he could easily fill another building about the same size – some 25,000 square feet — with items and collections that have been promised in the future.

Impressive, indeed.

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