My wife and I are on a mission to visit all the oversized local landmarks throughout Minnesota. This blog chronicles those visits and covers other related topics.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

World's Largest Ball of Twine by 1 Man

May 13th, 2007 - Darwin, MN


On our way home from Willmar, we decided to take Highway 12 so we could stop in Darwin for the twine ball. Francis A. Johnson built the twine ball, by himself, 4 hours a day for 29 years from 1950 to 1979. In 1979, the Guinness Book of World Records honored Johnson by giving his work the title of World's Largest Ball of Twine. The Guinness Book withdrew that title in 1994 when another twine ball surpassed Johnson's. Johnson's twine ball weighs 17,400 pounds, is 12 feet in diameter, and approximately 40 feet in circumference.

Francis Johnson died in 1989, partly from emphysema cause by the chemicals used to treat the twine. Love is a cruel mistress. Believe it or not, Ripley's tried to buy the twine ball after Johnson's death but they were unsuccessful. The city of Darwin moved the ball from Johnson's farm to a plexiglass-walled gazebo in the center of town. Every August, on the second Saturday of the month, Darwin celebrates Twine Ball Day.


There are two balls that are larger than the Darwin twine ball and a third up-and-comer.

The one that currently holds the record for gigantism is the ball of twine in Cawker City, KS. It was started in 1953 by Frank Stoeber and reached a diameter of 11 feet in 1961 when he turned it over to the city. Stroeber passed away in 1974. To honor Stoeber, the city took on the ball as a city project and holds a Twine-a-Thon every year so the ball keeps growing.

The other ball that is larger is owned by Ripley's Believe It or Not! and is made out of lightweight plastic string and was also a team effort. It's on display in Branson, MO.

There is one twine ball in Wisconsin that is a legitimate contender. It's the work of James Frank Kotera. Kotera tightly ties his twine making his twine ball much heavier than the rest. JFK's twine ball weighs an estimated 19,336 pounds.

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