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July 15, 2005

World's Largest Twine Ball


It resides in Darwin, Minnesota, birthplace of Charles Darwin.

In an alternate universe the Darwin Awards for the year's best accomplishment in twine are held in Darwin with a world–wide TV audience looking on.

But that's there and we're here.

In our strange excuse for a universe one Francis A. Johnson began to wrap twine in a ball in March of 1950.

He kept at it, four hours a day, seven days a week, for 39 years.

He lifted it with a crane to continue proper wrapping.

Eventually the ball was moved to a circular open air shed on his front lawn (below).


Johnson died in 1989 and the city of Darwin moved the giant ball of twine into a special lot created for that express purpose across from the park.

In its final incarnation the ball was 12 feet in diameter and weighed 17,400 pounds (8.7 tons).

They built a gazebo (top) that allows viewing from all sides through Plexiglas panels — hey, you never know when one of those "kill the Mona Lisa" types will show up in a place like Darwin — but "you have to crouch close to a vent for a good whiff."

Darwin holds an annual "Twine Ball Days" festival on the second Saturday in August, so start making your plans for a once–in–a–lifetime experience in friendly Darwin.

But wait — there's more.

One Frank Stoeber of Cawker City, Kansas saw Johnson's twine ball as a challenge and decided to create a bigger one.

He eventually had over 1.6 million feet of twine rolled into a sphere 11 feet in diameter, only a foot shy of the Darwin champion — and then Frank Stoeber died.

Residents of Cawker City have continued to add to the ball started by Stoeber, such that it is now larger than the ball in Darwin.

However, it's not looking very svelte anymore (below).


So that would seem to wrap up the subject, but no: there's one more contender.

In Branson, Missouri, at the Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, sits a multicolored ball of string measuring 13.2 feet high.

It was completed in 1992 by J.C. Payne, a rancher.

Officials in Darwin maintain that Payne's ball, like the one in Cawker City, is the result of a group effort and therefore not the work of one man, like theirs.

Meanwhile, Cawker City twine scholars note the Branson ball uses "plastic string" and is therefore not a real twine ball.

From such distinctions does lifelong immersion in things like the Talmud result.

July 15, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink


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I've actually seen the multicolored ball of string in Branson. All I've really got to say is..... it's still bigger, no matter the efforts (of building) or materials.

*Note: You end up at such silly places at the end of your Branson trip, when there's nothing left to do, everyone is crabby, and you're itching to use up the rest of your camera film.

Posted by: Jamie | Jul 15, 2005 10:55:26 AM

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