National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Saturday I spent the day at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It holds the world’s most extensive collection of rodeo photographs and memorabilia, barbed wire and saddlery as well as a collection of Western landscapes and sculptures. It was founded in 1955 and is preserving the culture of the cowboy and the history of the western United States through display of paintings, photographs, sculpture and memorabilia. It also presents native American historic artifacts and art and recognizes the impact of movies, television, books and magazines on how the world thinks about Western culture.
The End of the Trail by James Earle Fraser, first small scale version 1894. Fraser made this 18 foot plaster mold for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and won the Gold Medal for sculpture. Fraser had hoped to have it bronzed but with WWI going on that was impossible. When the Exposition ended the plaster mold was broken and discarded. In 1920 the citizens of Tulare County, California salvaged the pieces and resembled them in Mooney Grove Park near Visalia, California. It remained there deteriorating for 48 years. In 1968 the National Cowboy Hall of Fame acquired it and had it renovated. They had it cast in bronze in Italy and that bronze cast was given to Visalia, California in 1971. In 1994 the original plaster cast was moved to the central lobby of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
As I walked from the lobby into the museum galleries I passed a series of photographs hanging in the hallway (see a few below). I heard several people talking about them, reminiscing about some memory the photos generated for them. That’s what art should do – open up a conversation and help to tell the story.
Above Row 1: Stephen Mopope working on Post Office Mural (WPA project) in Anadarko, Oklahoma, 1939; Bound for Pike’s Pike, 1890, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Corn Dance, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, 1945 photographer, Laura Gilpin Row 2: Tom Mix movie crew at lunch, 1925; Woman, 1905, photographer, Henry M. Wantland in Stillwater, Indian Territory – in the 1900 Federal Census reveals its diverse and immigrant origins. Birthplaces included 44 of the 45 states and 19 countries; Tonkoshee with Wives and Children, Osage, 1900, Ralston, Oklahoma Territory Row 3: Ben Miller, 1995, born in S. Carolina in 1912 he was an active cowboy his entire life; Compressed Beef, Cattle Shipping Scene, 1904, Montana Row 4: John Williams on Weiser Special, Prairie City, Oregon taken by Devere Helfrich on May 24, 1941 in Klamath Falls, Oregon; 101 Ranch Baseball Team, 1910 near Ponca, Oklahoma. 101 Ranch, a 100,000 acre ranch, was founded near Ponca, Oklahoma in 1893 by Colonel GW Miller, a Confederate veteran from Kentucky. He died in 1903 and his three sons created the 101 Ranch Wild West Show. The 101 Ranch was the most famous ranch in Oklahoma.
North and South, watercolor and pencil and paper by Joe DeYong, 1920 Shows a South American gaucho greeting a North American cowboy
A temporary exhibition was showcasing saddles and other tack used in Central and South America (see examples below).
Top Row: Saddle maker Teodore Sanchez, Colima, Mexico, leather 1950; same; Saddle maker Luciano Muguia, Colima, Mexico, leather, silver, brass, piteado 2nd Row: Saddle and Saddle Cloth, Saddle maker Hispanic Southwest; Saddle from Sonora, Mexico, leather, wood – the “armas” protect the vaquero’s legs in heavy brush and cactus in Sonora; Southern Plains Saddle maker: Southern Tsitsistas (Cheyenne), (normally a women’s saddle) wood and rawhide, belonged to Cheyenne Chief Bull Bear or his wives Woman Stands in Buffalo Hole or Pipe Woman 3rd Row: Tapadero – developed in north Mexico to protect the feet of riders that normally wear light shoes or sandals; Quirts, various, from Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, 1880-2004, various materials: wood, rawhide, silver, leather, horsehair; Spurs, unknown maker from Uruguay, brass with silver plating 4th Row: Bridle and Reins, unknown maker from Uruguay; Quirt, 1880, unknown maker from Argentina or Uruguary, Bolas: unknown maker from Argentina, leather and stone, Reins: maker Luis Ortega from California, rawhide; Saddle and stirrups from Morrocco made of wood with leather and crocodile
Below are a few of the displays showing television and movies that influenced people’s opinions of what the west was like.
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Will Rogers Amanda Blake as “Miss Kitty” in Gunsmoke Milburn Stone “Doc Adams” in Gunsmoke Barbara Stanwyck as “Victoria Barkely” in The Big Valley Suit worn by Robert Redford as Sonny Steele in Electric Horseman, 1971 Joel McCrea Tom Selleck in Last Stand at Saber River 1997 Ken Curtis as Festus Hagen on Gunsmoke 1962-1975 Ronald Reagan John Wayne John Wayne Memorabilia John Wayne Memorabilia Walter Brennan Gene Autry Gene Autry merchandise tie-ins Hopalong Cassidy
Before movies and television, books and magazines shaped public opinions of the West.
First Row: front piece for a book by Francis Parkman “The Oregon Trail…” published in 1925 artist: NC Wyeth; cover illustration for 10 Story Western Magazine, 1937 artist: Jerome George Rozen; illustration for the story “the Admirable Outlaw” by M’Cready Sykes in Scribner’s Magazine, 1906 artist: NC Wyeth Second Row: for the story “The Squaw Woman” by Arthur Stringer for The Saturday Evening Post, 1930 artist: Wilhelm Heinrich Detlev Koener; for the story “Billy Fortune and the Lady Who Spoke Her Mind” by William R. Lighton for The Saturday Evening Post, 1915 artist: Harvey Thomas Dunn; Showcase of Western books and magazines
Below: Barbed Wire – The Museum had 1,300 “different kinds of barbed wire available for study…” “The examples are organized according to Roberts T. Clinton’s classification system based on physical characteristics.” The Museum advertises it has the largest collection of barbed wire in any one place in the world – below.
Branding iron symbols – below
I thought it was interesting how the brand ties in with the name of the ranch.
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum has one of the largest collections of rodeo memorabilia in the world.
The museum also has one of the largest collections of rodeo memorabilia in the world Trophy saddle – World’s Championship Rodeo 1944 Trophy saddle – World’s Champion Trick Roper 1966 I saw a rodeo in Cody, Wy. My favorite part was the Rodeo Clown! * see comment below Now they compete in barrel running * Bronze titled Bonnie Mc Caroll/1915/Pendleton Round-Up – accurately follows the photo by Walter S. Bowman Bronz Rider Bonnie McCarrol was thrown from Silver at the 1915 Pendleton, Oregon Round-Up
BEST OF THE BEST — PRIX de WEST –Since 1973 the National Academy of Western Art has been holding an annual competition to recognize the best Western Artists. Historically, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum has purchased each year’s winning submittal and then sold the rest of the submittals from that year at auction to the public to raise funds for the museum. These winners are exhibited in a special gallery. I have included my favorites below.
Top Row: Blasting a Route Through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, 1865 Central Pacific Railroad by Mian Situ, 2018; Target Practice by Tom Lovell, 1986; Silence and Sagebrush by Jeremy Lipking, 2014 2nd Row: Sundog by Ken Riley, 1995; Buffalo Sunrise of Portuguese Marble by Oreland C. Joe, 2006, Father and Daughter at the Crew FAir by Bettina Steinke, 1978 3rd Row: The Dance by Morgan Weistling, 2001; On the Better Pastures by Tom Cox, 2003; Bluebirds by Morris Ripple, 1979 4th Row: Teller of Tales by Martin Grelle, 2002; Moving Day on the Flathead by Howard Terning, 1981; Sunrise in the Golden Gate: Downeaster “Benjamin F. Packard” by Christopher Blossom, 2010 Last Row – My Favorite: Ocean’s Cradle by Kent Ullberg, 1998 (Two Views)
Below are the Windows to the West Triptychs which hand in the Special Events Center of the Museum. On the day I was there a college was having a graduation of its Physician Assistants in the Center. The Triptychs were commissioned from Wilson Hurley, a Tulsa, Oklahoma artist in 1991. It took him five years to complete the five paintings.
New Mexico Suite – Sandia Mountains outside Albuquerque California Suite – Pacific Ocean off Point Lobos near Carmel, California Arizona Suite – Grand Canyon Utah Suite – Monument Valley Wyoming Suite – Lower Falls of Yellowstone
Western Artists and Art
A Hot Trail by Charles Schreyvogel, 1900 Saving the Mail by Charles Schreyvogel, 1900 Nearing the Fort by Charles Schryvogel, 1902 The War Chief by Charles Schreyvogel, 1901 Going into Action by Charles Schreyvogel, 1911 Blackfoot Reservation, Montana, with Tipi by Charles Schreyvogel, 1901 Indians Besieging Troops by FS Remington, 1890 – 91 The Quarrel by FS Remington, 1907 Ray’s Troops by FS Remington, 1903 When Wagon Trails were Dim by Charles Martin Russell, 1919 Wolves Attacking in Blizzard by Charles Martin Russell, 1890 Smoke Talk by Charles Martin Russell, 1924 When Mules Wear Diamonds by Charles Martin Russell, 1921 Wildman’s Truce – Pipe of Peace, by Charles Martin Russell, 1914 Caught in the Circle, by Charles Martin Russell, 1903 Gunfight at the OK Corral, Nicholas Eggenhofer, 1955 The Good Life, James Reynolds, 1971 Antlers in the Aspen, Wayne E. Wolfe, 1982 Fight on the Frontier by Frank Tenney Johnson, ND Rough Riding Rancheros by Frank Tenney Johnson, 1935 Night Herd by Frank Tenney Johnson, 1936 Canyon Princess by Gerald Balciar Abraham Lincoln by James Earle Fraser shoes by Teri Greeves, Kiowa, ca. 2000, converse shoes and glass beads