The U.S. Capitol, Notre Dame, the Space Shuttle Challenger and many more are all made out of matchsticks and all built by Patrick Acton of Gladbrook.
"The most typical response is that man must have the patience of Job, and I respond there's all kinds of patience because I'm not a very patient individual," said Pat Acton.
Acton has completed more than 60 pieces. You can see a lot of his work on display in Gladbrook at the Matchstick Marvels Tourist Center. Acton said he ran out of room at his home and wanted a permanent place in Iowa to display his matchstick creations.
"I was approached by people in the community to help if I would consider keeping that here, which is wonderful and a dream to have it right here," said Acton.
On display at the tourist center is Acton's second matchstick piece, a barn he gave to his father. It's definitely a small project compared to the others.
So, how does a hobby like this get started?
"I'd seen a news filler when I was a child of a farmer who made a model of his farm acreage out of matchsticks, and that stuck in the back of my mind for years and years," he said.
Pat Acton started working with matchsticks after he graduated from the University of Northern Iowa. He said he worked nights and needed something to do during the day.
"I would buy the actual matchsticks off the grocery shelf, and I would cut the tips off and build buildings," said Acton.
After about ten years of cutting off the tips, he contacted Ohio Blue Tip Matches and got a deal on matchsticks without the tips. His gluing technique changed, too.
"For years I used white Elmer's glue and after awhile switched to yellow carpenters wood glue. All put on with a little school bottle," he said.
Many of these projects used between 400,000 and 600,000 matchsticks and took two to three years to construct. But Acton expects to start turning out a new project every year.
He just retired from his job as a career counselor and accepted a deal with Ripley's Believe It or Not. Ripley's has already purchased more than a dozen of his pieces. Now, he'll be building for Ripley's full-time. Soon he plans to get started on Ripley's first request, a model of the new World Trade Center in New York City. That project should put Acton over the four million matchstick mark.
"It's a lifelong passion. It's been fun, and a lot of people don't know this exists in their backyard," said Patrick Acton.
The Matchstick Marvels Tourist Center is open everyday from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, click here.
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