About The Twenty Mule Team Museum
Our Vision and Mission
The mission of the Twenty Mule Team Museum is to acquire and document artifacts pertaining to local history and to the history of borax mining in Death Valley and Boron. These displays and archives are for the enjoyment and enlightenment of visitors and for research by students and others.
Volunteers Need for Restoration Project
Volunteers are needed to help restore a valuable piece of Boron and borax history. Through the generous donation of Mr. Al Stovall the museum has acquired a 1/10th working mechanical model of the Twenty Mule Team and the Borax Wagons. This model works similar to a mechanical horse that you may have grown up with at your local supermarket. When a coin is inserted the wagons go up and down and the legs and feet of the mules move.
If you are a leather craftsman, mechanical engineer, electrician, visual artist, or just an all-around-fix-it type of person we could use your help in restoring this one-of-a-kind piece of Boron history. We will be posting more information on the exhibit as well as a short video of how it works in the next few days. If you are interested in contributing some time to this project, please call Barbara at (760) 762-5810 for more information.
History of the Twenty Mule Team Museum
In the late 1970s, members of the Boron Chamber of Commerce thought that the town of Boron needed a museum. The idea became a possibility when the Chamber was offered a mile-long strip of land between Boron Avenue and the railroad spur to the Borax mine for $8,000.
Most of Boron's residents, former residents, organizations and interested outsiders bought bumper stickers and volcanic ash from Mt.. St. Helens (courtesy of a former Boron resident now living in Washington) to help purchase the land. There were also auctions, dime-a-dip dinners, variety shows with local talent and many other fund raising events. The land was literally bought one square-foot at a time. By March 1977, the community of Boron had pulled together enough resources to make the purchase and the Chamber of Commerce was awarded the deed.
About this same time in history, Pacific Coast Borax changed their name to U. S. Borax and moved their main mining operation from the original encampment used for supporting their underground mining operations in the 1920s to a new facility and location closer to their open pit mine. Many of the old staff houses and cabins that had made up the old mining camp were sold to Borax employees and residents of the town of Boron. These small cabins and offices were moved to various locations around town and served several purposes including tool sheds, garages and children's playhouses. One of the old staff houses was sold to Paul Sigman who moved the structure to Aerial Acres, a remote area about 20 miles from Boron. Learning of the Chamber's need for a building to house the proposed museum, Mr. Sigman generously sold the structure to the Chamber for $1,000. Ten local businessmen donated $100 each to purchase the structure and U. S. Borax gave the Chamber $10,000 to begin the conversion of the old house into a museum.
This old house was moved to its present location on May 24, 1978 and the metamorphosis of the house to a museum began. By June of 1978 weekly work parties had been formed and the citizens of Boron pulled together to bring life and charm back into the old building. Armed with shovels, hammers, saws, and nails the volunteer work force spent countess hours refurbishing, fixing and painting the old structure.
Several local merchants also donated time, materials and money for the project. Potluck lunches were provided by several of the local service organizations including the Boron Hospital Auxiliary, the Outbackers, and the Boron Garden Club. The Boron Federal Prison, a minimum security institution in nearby Kramer Junction, volunteered the services of several of their inmates to help with construction of the museum.
On August 4, 1984, dedication ceremonies were held and the Twenty Mule Team Museum was officially opened to the public. All of the mining artifacts and equipment, antique machinery, one-of-a-kind art work and unique displays depicting the early years of the history of Boron have been generously donated to the museum through the continued support of the community. The Twenty Mule Team Museum's staff and it long-time director, Barbara Pratt, are all volunteers who's only compensation is the satisfaction of preserving a way of life many have forgotten. Their dedication to the museum and their sense of community pride and are a testament to the spirit of small town life found in the community of Boron.
The editor of The Mojave Desert News has called this phenomena of the community pulling together to create something out of nothing and doing it with mostly volunteer labor and time "doing it the Boron way". Almost 20 years after the dedication of the Twenty Mule Team Museum, the Saxon Aerospace Museum was built "the Boron way" right next door. Come by and see them both.