My Idaho: A museum with a bang

Posted at 7:57 PM, Feb 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-07 21:57:48-05

The Old Idaho Penitentiary is filled with stories of blood, sweat and tears.

But since the Old Pen closed its cell doors for good in 1973, the prison grounds have been home to more than just distant memories. Its history is filled with cutthroats and thieves, some better, some worse. At the end of the building where inmates once worked on their laundry and punched out license plate sits a very priceless exhibit.

Hayley Noble with the Idaho Historical Society explains. "In a place like Boise, it's not necessarily predicted that when you can come to a prison, this going to be here." A gun and weapons museum. In fact, it's one of the world's largest gun collections in the world. J. Curtis Earl didn't have a gun and weapons collection; he had a fortress. "At the time of his death, he wanted some sort of legacy," said Noble. Mr. Earl dedicated the exhibit over twenty years ago in memory of all those who served and fought, especially those who paid the supreme sacrifice in defense of the country he loved so dearly.

History flashes past you from the muskets of the early days of the Revolution to the game-changing Gatling gun of post-Civil War, to the trenches and battlefields of World War I and World War II.

It's all there, right in the same prison yard where inmates once dreamed of any kind of a reprieve that would get them over those 17-foot sandstone walls.

J. Curtis Earl would have advised them not to try.