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The Most Unusual Museums in America

There are museums honoring Pez dispensers and salt and pepper shakers. There is also one that honors ventriloquist dummies, and one that celebrates Spam.  

| BY Kent McDill

You can have a collection in your garage of which you are proud (or of which you don’t want anyone to know). But it’s not a museum until you invite someone in to see it and ask them to pay for the privilege.

The editors and reporters at Travel + Leisure magazine have discovered the most unusual collections in the United States that are on public display, and they include showings of bananas, human hair and barbed wire.

For example, there is the:

Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia – Sure, you have a couple of Pez dispensers lying around your home, but do you have one that depicts President John F. Kennedy? Probably not. But Gary Doss of Burlingame, Calif., does. He has 900 different Pez dispensers and depictions of Pez dispensers. And if you don’t think Pez will hold your interest beyond a few minutes, he also houses the Banned Toy and Classic Toy Museum.

Leila’s Hair Museum (Independence, Mo.) – It is what is says it is, a museum of hair. But, to add to its credibility, it does have hair samples from four U.S. Presidents among its collection of wreaths and jewelry created from human hair.

SPAM Museum – The food item which fed our troops in wars and conflicts is celebrated in this museum in Austin, Minn. where the Hormel factory is. And like any worthwhile museum celebrating food, there is a restaurant nearby which specializes in Spam-laden items.

International Banana Museum – Yes, it is international, which makes sense, since most bananas come from places other than the United States. But the museum is in Mecca, Calif., and is dedicated not to the fruit itself so much as it is to the depiction of the fruit in costume, in toys, in balloons, in all the ways one can celebrate bananas. Banana smoothies are available in the museum’s (non-alcoholic) bar.

Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum – A museum so nice, it’s been done twice. The original is in Gatlinburg, Tenn., holding half of the 80,000 salt and pepper sets collected by Andrea Ludden. The other half of her collection is in a museum in Spain.

Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum – In Fort Mitchell, Ky., you can visit the more than 750 ventriloquist dummies on display, including one used by one of the world’s most famous ventriloquists, Edgar Bergen. But if you are at this museum, and you see any of the dummies wink at you, keep it to yourself.

Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire Museum – Located in McLean, Texas, the museum contains stories about the history of barbed wire, and many examples. Imagine the possibilities.



About the Author

Kent McDill

Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.

In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.

McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.

McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy  Buffett and all things Disney.