My Virtual Tom Gaskins Cypress Knee Museum
Here you will find things related to Tom Gaskins and his incredible Cypress Knee Museum.
If you arrived at this page through a search engine or link, make sure to also check out my other cypress knees, on my
Cypress Knee Collection Page
A man named Tom Gaskins started an amazing museum of cypress knees in Palmdale, Florida. He passed away in 1998. His son, Tom Gaskins Jr. attempted to keep the museum open, but it is unfortunately closed now due to vandalism and theft. I never had the chance to see it, but from what I've read, it sounded pretty fantastic. I was inspired to create an online museum displaying items related to him and his Cypress Knee Museum so that they would never be forgotten. Check out the links below to learn more about him and the museum:
4 Articles about Tom Gaskins
Fisheating Creek Public Hearing Report
Click on each thumbnail below to see an enlarged view.
Informative Booklet written by Thomas Gaskins, "Masterpieces of Nature"
This eight page 5 X 7" booklet explains Tom's fascination with the cypress knee in his own words. Tom also tells of his observations of cypress knee growth and the effects of scarring. The uses of cypress knees in artistic and often functional creations is also described, along with images of Tom's creations. Click on each page below to understand more about why he created the Cypress Knee Museum. I believe that this booklet may have been published before the museum existed, as there is no mention of it.
Tom Gaskins Cypress Knees from my personal collection
The knees are shown from four views, rotated 90 degrees each time.
10 1/4" tall. I believe this may be the oldest knee in my collection, judging by the patina and Tom's woodburned signature. 8 1/8" tall. 6" tall. I included a previous photo shoot of this one as well---it shows how different lighting really can affect the appearance of the knee. 5 5/8" tall. 12 3/4" tall. 13 3/4" tall. 7 1/2" tall. 11" tall. 4 7/8" tall. 4 1/8" tall. 11 3/8" tall. 7 1/4" tall. 16 1/2" tall. 6" tall.
Here are a few others I have not yet photographed from 4 views...10 1/4" tall. 13" tall.
Tom Gaskins Jr. Cypress Knee9" tall.
Travel Brochures for the Cypress Knee Museum
Click on the pictures to read the pages of the brochures
|1950's? Travel Brochure for "Cypress Kneeland", later called the "Cypress Knee Museum."|
|1950's? Travel Brochure for the Cypress Knee Museum|
|1950's? Travel Brochure for the Cypress Knee Museum|
1960's? Travel Brochure for the Cypress Knee Museum
|1960's? Travel Brochure for the Cypress Knee Museum Has handwritten note from Tom that says "This free to you if you ever come to Fla. Tom."|
|1960's? Travel Brochure for the Cypress Knee Museum|
Tom Gaskins Cypress Knee Museum Postcards
Click on each postcard for an enlarged view.
Unused oversized postcard (6 1/2
X 9"), date unknown, but says it requires a 3-cent stamp and phone number
for publisher is only 5 digits.
"Florida Cypress Knees, artistic
Masterpieces of Nature...The Form of a Cypress Knee has been shaped by
Nature. Offspring of the Cypress Tree, growing in the swamps of
Florida, each Knee is so different from another: forms of
mystic, portraits, symbols, curves of Dinosaurs, the crouching shapes
of primal Eves...Thomas Gaskins, who discovered this hidden beauty,
now a valuable collector's item, shows the finest collection of
Cypress Knees in his Cypress Knee Museum near Palmdale, Florida, where
this picture was taken. Explaining the form of the 6 knees of
this photo, he calls them (from left to right): "Chinese
Buddha," "Madonna and Child," "St. Joseph,"
"Gazelle," "Hand," "Poker-face."
|Unused oversized postcard (6 1/2 X 9"), date unknown, but says it requires a 3-cent stamp and phone number for publisher is only 5 digits. "A FLORIDA CYPRESS KNEE: A Masterpiece of nature is this rare cypress knee. This knee was found on Fish-eating Creek by Thomas Gaskins, the man who started the Cypress Knee Industry. This Cypress Knee is the rarest and most unusual among the many superb knees on display in The Thomas Gaskins Cypress Knee Museum, on U.S. 27 Highway, at Palmdale, Fla. This strange beauty is 50" tall, is probably two or three thousand years old. Look close and you may see, among other things, Mrs. Hippopotamus wearing a Carmen Miranda hat..." Color photo by Ernest C. Graham|
|Unused postcard, date unknown "This magnificent cypress knee is considered the most outstanding specimen in Tom Gaskins Cypress Knee Museum of rare cypress knees. It is 53 inches tall, at least 1000 years old, and many say resembles a lady hippopotamus wearing a Carmen Miranda hat. This famous collection began in 1934 by the originator of the cypress knee industry."||Unused postcard, date unknown "How would you describe this Cypress Knee? Words fail me. His name is Bona Lisa. His home is the Tom Gaskins Cypress Knee Museum on U.S. 27 west of Lake Okeechobee, Palmdale, Fla., 33944. Originator of the Cypress Knee Industry. On your map."|
Unused postcard, date unknown
"Some of the characters in the collection of rare
cypress knees in Tom Gaskins Cypress Knee Museum: Seal, Hand, Joe
Stalin, F.D.R., Dog, Squirrel and Elephant. These are natural formations
in wood. The collection was begun in 1934 by Tom Gaskins, originator of
the Cypress Knee Industry."
Unused postcard printed in November 1955
"The swamp walk in Fisheating Creek swamp at
Tom Gaskins' Cypress Knee Museum."
Unused postcard, date unknown
"The 2000 foot catwalk in a beautiful, wild, virgin
cypress swamp. The catwalk meanders by the world's first experiments in
controlling growth in cypress knees, which began in 1938."
|Unused postcard, date unknown "Cypress Knees drying on railroad at world's first Cypress Knee factory, Factory and catwalk in Cypress Swamp part of Tom Gaskins Cypress Knee Museum on U.S. Highway 27, Palmdale, Fla. 33944, Fisheating Creek Campground nearby."|
|Unused postcard, date unknown "Cypress in the Swamp --- Cypress is the only tree with knees. No one knows why. See these masterpieces of nature at Tom Gaskins Cypress Knee Museum west of Lake Okeechobee on U.S. 27, Palmdale, Fla., 33944. World's largest collection, Cypress knees begun in 1934. From 23 states. Originator of Cypress Knee Industry. On your map."||
Unused Postcard, date unknown
"This 2,000-foot catwalk in beautiful, wild, virgin
Fisheating Creek Swamp meanders past the world's first experiments in
controlling Cypress Knees' growth by the originator of the Cypress Knee
Industry in 1934. Fisheating Creek campground nearby. Tom
Gaskins Cypress Knee Museum west of Lake Okeechobee on U.S. 27,
Palmdale, Fl., 33944."
|Used postcard with 4-cent stamp, dated 2-15-63 and unused postcard with back shown "Canoeing amidst moss festooned cypress on beautiful Fish-eating Creek near Tom Gaskins Cypress Kneeland at Palmdale, Florida. Color Photo by Robert F. Wasman"||
Postcard mailed in 1974
"Cypress Knees drying and suntanning on the
Cypress Knee Railroad at Tom Gaskins Cypress Knee Museum."
|Unused Postcard, date unknown "Cypress swamp as seen from the 2000 ft. catwalk at Tom Gaskins Cypress Knee Museum. On US Hwy. 72. Fisheating Creek Campground nearby. Palmdale, Fla."||Unused Postcard, date unknown "John Murray dreamed it up and Russ Smiley painted it because Ed English told me a gobbler came in his camp and stole his turkey call. There are other such rumors. Top this one if you can. 7 postcards, Ppd., $1.00. Tom Gaskins, Palmdale, Fla. 33944."|
Unmailed Postcard with writing, date unknown
"Beauties of Nature, from the catwalk at Tom Gaskins Cypress
Kneeland, on Fisheating Creek, Palmdale, Fla."
Other Tom Gaskins Memorabilia
|9" tall card with poem by Don Blanding entitled "Not Chance Alone"|
|Tag with information about the Museum (purchased alone, but presumably from someone's Tom Gaskins knee purchase at some point in time) 9" tall by 4" wide at bottom|
|Special envelope mailed from the museum, containing brochure shown above with the others, and a 5 1/2 X 8 1/2" instruction sheet for the Gaskins call, with hand-written note from Tom.|
|The World's Best Turkey Call made by Tom Gaskins with original shipping box. Tom is also very well-known for these turkey calls. Some turkey hunters will use nothing but a Gaskins call.|
This turkey call is not part of my
collection, but belongs to Dale Summers. He provided these photos for me
to display for all to enjoy. This may very well be one of Tom's first
calls. It is made from one solid piece of cedar. The "scratcher"
is unlike those pictured with other Gaskins calls.
|Article about how Tom Gaskins made his turkey calls from "Turkey Call" Magazine October 1978|
Tom Tells Tall Turkey Tales book
Published by Tom Gaskins in 1965
Florida Facts and Fallacies book
Published by Tom Gaskins in 1978
|We Talk Turkey book Published by Tom Gaskins in 1983 Contains stories from wild turkey hunters||Tom Gaskins Jr. video "Secrets of Osceola Turkey Calling --- Featuring the World's Best Turkey Call"|
Photographs of the Cypress Knee Museum after closure
If you have any pictures of Tom, Tom Jr., the museum (open or closed) or anything else Gaskins-related, please send them to me at email@example.com and I will post them for all to enjoy (and give you credit, of course).
Photos courtesy of Jenn Mesk
These photographs were taken by Jenn Mesk in April 2003. At this time, all of the signs that had been scattered along US-27 had been gathered and taken back to the museum. One can imagine how much fun it must have been traveling along the road, reading all of Tom's creative signs on the way to the museum.
Photos courtesy of Rocky Stio
These photographs were taken by Rocky Stio on March 1, 2006, after the museum had been closed for about four years. One can see how it was set up, although no knees are displayed in the glass cases. The mural of cypress trees on the wall was painted by Russ Smiley.
Photos courtesy of Mike Frazier
These photographs were taken on February 10, 2013. While the main structures still remain, vandals have left their mark on just about everything. Seeing Russ Smiley's cypress tree mural completely defaced and painted over with graffiti brought tears to my eyes. The 11th photo is the sign just after clearing the northwest end of the museum road.
Personal Stories about Tom, Tom Jr. and/or the Museum
If you have any stories to tell of Tom, Tom Jr., the museum or anything else Gaskins-related, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post them for all to enjoy (and give you credit, of course).
Response left in the Kozmic Dreams Blog by Sharon Smiley Hoyt (daughter of Russ Smiley, Cypress Museum muralist)
Thanks for the wonderful trip I just took down memory lane. Let me explain...I spent quite a lot of my growing up years in Palmdale, at Tom & Gin’s home where the Cypress Museum was located. Tom Jr. and his sister, Gina were my friends. Many a night, my Mom and Gin would heat water for the old tub so I could get some of that good ‘ole Palmdale dirt off! One never wore shoes while there! As I remember, I always had plenty on me! Since I was there each and every hunting season (spring and fall), as I remember, some were really cold and dressing by an old wood burning stove in the dining room was the norm in their Cypress home. I would fall asleep listening to all the tall tales from Tom & Tom Jr. (that’s when Tom Jr. wasn’t scaring me half to death by climbing up in the open rafters of his Cypress home) and Bob Esslinger, Bill Hudson, my Dad (Russ Smiley) and countless others that were ALWAYS welcomed into the Gaskins home…Ahh the exploring that one could do…just amazing, just walking out in the swamp via the boardwalk was an adventure! And at the end, riding in the canoe on Fisheating creek was breathtaking. I remember the water was always brownish, but that didn’t keep me from swimming in it! Thank you for jogging an ‘ole ladies memory (64 this August )...I truly was blessed to have known such wonderful people back then! My Dad was the artist that did the large mural in the museum when I was just a toddler, that was just yesterday…right !!! Sincerely, Sharon Smiley Hoyt, Ocala, Florida.
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