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Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West Gallery

The Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West Gallery presents the tangible legacies of diverse peoples and historical currents in the 19th-century American West. Sponsored by Herman and LaDonna Meinders, the exhibit interprets singular facets of the region through presentations encompassing 6,500 square feet.

The Grandee Gallery consists almost entirely of the extensive artifact collection assembled by western artist Joe Ruiz Grandee and acquired by the Museum in 1991. Drawing on the strengths of this collection, the installation presents some 500 objects and interprets four significant topics in western history--Plains Native American Horse Culture; Trappers, Traders and Trail-blazers; U.S. Military Life and Culture; and Market and Sport Hunting and the Origins of Conservation.

More Information About the Gallery  

Upon entering the gallery, visitors are transported to the unsullied West of 150 years ago by a dramatic, floor-to-ceiling photo mural of the Rocky Mountains, while a compass pattern on the foyer floor points the way west. Two rare and embellished skin garments are highlighted before the curving mural, hinting at the interpretive presentations in the recessed bays to either side.

Peoples of the Plains: The First Westerners

In an inviting bay to the right of the mural, a series of nine exhibit cases interprets the artistic expression and nomadic life ways of Native American peoples inhabiting the Great Plains. These dynamic horse cultures evolved colorful societies that today represent much of Native American life in the popular imagination.

The Brightened World

Plains Native Americans enjoyed lives rich in artistic expression. Displays of status and wealth appeared in lavishly ornamented clothing and finely decorated objects featuring colorful and intricate appliques of quillwork and beadwork.

Prior to obtaining glass trade beads, Plains peoples used porcupine quills to embellish clothing and personal objects. This distinctive art form entailed wrapping, plaiting or sewing flattened and naturally dyed quills into geometric or banded motifs. Applique beadwork, using overlay and lazy-stitch sewing techniques with "pony" and "seed" beads, evolved and flourished throughout the 19th century.

Women created nearly all the decorative patterns and they alone mastered the intricate application techniques, often as members of honorary quillwork or beadwork societies. Varying from region to region, such adornment ranged from complex geometric motifs on fully beaded backgrounds in the north, to sparse border work combined with broad painted surfaces in the south.

The Portable Life

As nomadic hunters, Plains peoples adapted to transient lives and temporary homes. At various times of the year, foodstuffs, personal possessions and shelters had to be readily packed and transported. Most belongings traveled by travois, a simple, A-shaped frame of two lodge poles with a buffalo-hide hammock that carried the load.

For generations the Plains tribes used domesticated dogs to pull travois, which limited their range and carrying capacity. With the acquisition of the horse, Plains culture experienced remarkable change. The horse's greater size and strength allowed a dramatic increase in the size of living accommodations and the amount of personal property.

Plains Indians created and used a variety of hide or skin cases, envelopes, pouches and containers to package, transport and protect their food, personal property and weaponry. Even babies up to 18 months were housed in elaborately decorated carriers--portable "containers" of varying design that also served as highchairs and sleeping cribs.

The Medicine Dogs

The adoption of the horse between 1680 and 1750 revolutionized Plains Indian culture, bringing it to its zenith between 1800 and 1850. Horses augmented existing nomadic life ways, dramatically expanding the carrying capacity, mobility and range of Plains peoples. As a result, intertribal warfare, buffalo harvesting and the accumulation of material goods increased in turn.

Horses became the primary standard of wealth and medium of exchange among the Plains peoples, and they were an important symbol of male status. For Native American women, particularly among the Blackfeet and Crow, the personal ownership of horses, saddles and trappings brought greater social standing.

Women served as the chief saddle makers among the Plains tribes, manufacturing two distinct patterns. The simple pad saddle--a shaped, pillow-like design--usually was ridden by men for hunting and war. Women more often used a frame saddle having side boards attached to individual pommel and cantle pieces that varied in pattern from region to region.

New Peoples, New Ways: Trappers, Traders & Trailblazers

Moving across the foyer to the left, visitors enter another exhibit bay interpreting the impact and influence of the first Euro-Americans in the trans-Mississippi West. Although relatively few in number, these trappers, traders and trailblazers began processes that ultimately led to American dominion from the Great Plains to the Pacific.

The Free Trappers

Following the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806, Euro-Americans ventured into the Rocky Mountain West in pursuit of the fur trade. Free trappers, who were unaffiliated with the major fur companies, comprised the most colorful segment of these resourceful adventurers.

Free trappers worked under the rendezvous system, remaining in the mountains year-round and selling their skins at annual trade fairs, or rendezvous, held in early summer. Most adopted the life ways of the Native Americans around them and many married Indian women for companionship, security and economic gain.

Exhibited here are objects characteristic of the trapper's life during the era 1820-1850. From the East they brought the tools and weaponry required for trapping and self-defense; in the West they adopted the material culture of Native Americans for everyday living.

The Frontier Traders

Native peoples formed trading networks that sustained distant economies and important alliances long before Europeans appeared in the West. American traders adopted the customs and contacts of Native American trade, instituting a process of cultural exchange lasting well into the 19th century.

Native Americans and Euro-Americans not only traded furs for manufactured goods, they also exchanged customs and values. Trade improved the material life of Native Americans, but it also led to economic dependency and greater environmental exploitation. For the Anglos, the fur trade established an American economic presence in the West that amounted to de facto sovereignty for the United States.

Displayed here are materials typical of the trade between Native Americans and Euro-Americans. In exchange for furs and robes, the Plains Indians received a wide range of processed and manufactured goods--from tobacco and liquor to firearms, tools, metalware, cloth goods and glass beads.

The Trailblazers

Adventurous Americans thoroughly explored the Rockies, crossed the Great Basin and the Columbia Plateau, and penetrated into the Mexican Southwest. Often driven by a spirit of Manifest Destiny, the trailblazers explored not only for profit and adventure, but to promote American expansion and settlement.

As the beaver trade declined in the late 1830s, many former mountain men applied their valuable knowledge of the West as guides to scientific and military explorations. But the most important role of the great trailblazers lay in leading the swelling tide of immigrant wagons to Oregon and California starting in the 1840s.

Exhibited here are artifacts typical of western guides and overland immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s. During this period, 250,000 pioneers traveled the difficult routes to the Pacific Coast seeking new lands in Oregon or riches in California.

Instrument Of Empire: The U. S. Army In The West

Moving west--through a portal in the foyer mural--visitors enter a large exhibit area dominated by the dramatic, life-sized figure of an African-American cavalry trumpeter riding at the gallop. Bugle calls and marching airs intermittently sound, lending an additional dimension to this area interpreting the role of the American military in the West.

Frontiersmen in Blue

To the immediate right in this area are three exhibit cases introducing the principal service branches active in the frontier West--the infantry, dragoons and cavalry. Except during major campaigns, these troops remained scattered in units of 50 to 200 men at more than 100 forts and outposts.

Dating to the nation's founding, regular infantry regiments possessed the longest tradition of service in the U. S. Army. In the West, however, infantrymen often lacked the mobility required for an effective frontier constabulary. Yet, during the 1870s and 1880s, the infantry proved effective in several major campaigns involving a strategy of converging columns and sustained pursuit.

Confronted by vast distances and highly mobile adversaries, the frontier army required mounted forces to fulfill its various missions. The first formal units, established as the First and Second Regiments of United States Dragoons, took the field in the 1830s. These horsemen were among the first representatives of national sovereignty encountered by Native American peoples in the West.

Although the dragoons forged a gallant record on the frontier, they were supplanted by new cavalry regiments starting in 1855. All saw action in the West during the 1870s and 1880s, including the famed Ninth and Tenth regiments, whose enlisted ranks were African-American volunteers. Although supported by infantrymen during critical campaigns, the U.S. Cavalry was the most active combat arm of the Indian Wars era.

Arms and Equipment of the Frontier Army

Moving farther into this area, the visitor encounters a 30-foot exhibit installation evoking a military barracks. Here are displayed the weapons and associated equipment used by the three service branches throughout the Indian Wars, including a rapid-fire, carriage-mounted Gatling gun.

During six decades of campaigning in the West, the U.S. Army employed an evolving array of firearms, edged weapons, saddlery and associated leather goods. Military firearms, in particular, underwent important technological changes in this era--from smooth-bore, muzzle-loading, single-shot arms utilizing flint or percussion ignition; to rifled, breech-loading or repeating weapons employing self-contained metallic cartridges.

Those Who Served

Passing back to the far end of the military exhibit area, one finds another barracks-like installation treating the people of the frontier army--a multi-faceted society embracing diversity in rank, nationality, race and gender. Displayed here is a panoply of uniforms, accouterments and personal effects reflecting the station of officers, enlisted men, women, African-Americans and Native Americans.

Line Officers

While staff officers managed the army's administrative and technical departments in the East, line officers directed the troops on the frontier. West Point graduates predominated among frontier commanders, but some veteran volunteers from the Civil War also held prominent rank.

Line officers enjoyed various privileges and comforts unknown to enlisted troops, but their overall morale suffered from meager pay and slow promotion. Lack of advancement often resulted in mediocre leadership and poor performance. Nevertheless, during the 1880s and 1890s, many line officers sought professionalism through the Schools of Application for Infantry and Cavalry, and through associations like the Military Service Institution.

Enlisted Men

Known as the rank and file, enlisted men provided the manpower of the frontier military. Veteran sergeants and corporals held noncommissioned rank and supervised the common soldiers. Within the enlisted ranks specialists such as blacksmiths, farriers, hospital stewards, musicians and saddlers enjoyed slightly better pay and lighter duty than regular troops.

Comprised solely of volunteers, the enlisted ranks varied widely in background and character. Few tradesmen joined the army; most recruits were common laborers with scant education. Irishmen, Germans and other foreigners made up nearly half the enlistees in the decades following the Civil War. Although petty criminals, drunkards and chronic deserters were not uncommon, most frontier soldiers were men of dependable character.

Army Women

Women played an influential role in the masculine culture of the frontier army. Their presence leavened the commonness of garrison life and helped to enforce the Victorian mores of the period. With sacrifice, hardship and adventure, army women experienced what one called a life of "glittering misery."

Officers' wives possessed the greatest influence at any post. They provided a measure of social refinement, organizing dinners, concerts and theatricals. Some, like Elizabeth Custer, recorded fine accounts of army life in the West.

Prior to 1878, regulations allotted four laundresses to each company of soldiers. Often wives of noncommissioned officers, these women also worked as midwives and nurses in emergencies.

Buffalo Soldiers

Organized in 1866 as the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry and Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Infantry, African-Americans garnered a distinguished record for discipline and valor during their army service in the West. Black troops were considered praiseworthy adversaries by the Plains Indians, who called them "buffalo soldiers."

Known in the military as "brunettes" and "blacks in blue," African-American troops endured years of racial prejudice and segregation. Nevertheless, they recorded the lowest desertion rates and the highest reenlistment rates in the frontier army, and 14 black soldiers won the Congressional Medal of Honor in western service.

Native American Scouts

The military employed Native Americans as auxiliary scouts throughout the Indian Wars era (1865-1890). Acting as guides, trackers and occasional combatants, Indian scouts helped the army compensate for the superior mobility of the hostile tribes. These "red bluecoats" proved most effective in the Apache conflicts of the 1880s, when Apache scouts trailed renegade Apache warriors.

During the early 1890s, the army raised a number of companies of Native American regulars within its western regiments. Aimed at assimilating the Indian, this admirable experiment proved fruitful, but it was dropped in 1895. Still, the effort presaged a distinguished record of Native American service throughout the 20th century.

Life In The Frontier Army

Moving back toward the center of this area, visitors find four exhibit cases interpreting various facets of life in the frontier army. Bound by custom and tradition, the western military formed a distinctive subculture characterized by strict discipline and a rigid caste system. Whether in field or garrison, morale suffered from meager budgets that left the western forces poorly supplied and constantly under-manned.

Life on the Post

At virtually all the garrisons and posts in the West, soldier life meant isolation, monotonous routine, strict discipline, inadequate living quarters, poor food and low pay. Many troops reacted to such conditions by deserting the ranks. Between 1870 and 1890, more than 30 per cent of all new recruits deserted.

Officers often found comfort in the company of their families, and most enjoyed the occasional dance, concert or formal dinner. Enlisted men spent their leisure time reading or playing games such as poker, cribbage, checkers or dominoes. Although it was illegal under military law, gambling accompanied nearly all contests and games in the army.

Routine Duty And Labor

For both officers and enlisted men, life at a western fort meant long months of boredom punctuated by occasional moments of adventure. Set apart by privilege and rank, officers supervised regimental and company administration and directed all activities on the post and in the field. Faced with little chance of timely promotion, many officers stagnated in the West.

Unlike officers, enlisted troops faced the regular drudgery of fatigue duty. In addition to policing post buildings, grounds and stables, common soldiers cut stone and timber for construction projects, maintained the post garden, built roads, harvested hay and even gathered ice. Many enlisted men referred to their posts as "government workhouses."

Life In The Field

Field service meant regular hardship, sporadic adventure and occasional danger. Routine patrols and major campaigns relieved the boredom of garrison life, but they often promised weeks of privation. Extremes in climate, enormous distances and rugged terrain challenged the men, while an inadequate supply system resulted in poor food or meager shelter.

Life in the field usually involved daily marches of 15 to 20 miles followed by a camp routine of fuel and water details, food preparation, animal care and picket duty. Regular field rations of salt pork ("Cincinnati chicken") and hard tack ("angle cake") sometimes were augmented with dried ("desecrated") vegetables and wild game. Coffee washed down every meal.

The Indian Wars

Assigned to enforce treaties of removal between the government and the Native Americans of the West, the army joined in a clash of cultures lasting nearly 60 years. Peoples like the Nez Perce, Lakota, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche and Apache valiantly resisted attempts to restrict them on reservations, engaging the army in several major campaigns and hundreds of unsung skirmishes.

Native American warriors favored raids and running battles for which military troops were poorly prepared. After defeats like the Custer Massacre, the army introduced marksmanship training and small-unit tactics. Commanders also adopted a strategy of relentless pursuit, employing converging columns and conducting winter campaigns to catch and defeat the enemy.

Hunting The American West

Again passing west through another portal, visitors encounter a realistic, life-size diorama of buffalo hunters in mid-1870s Texas. This dramatic presentation forms the centerpiece of the final gallery area in The Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West. Finished with rich, dark woods and a panoply of game mounts around the walls, this section interprets the history of market hunting and sport hunting in the 19th-century West.

Market Hunting

Market hunting--the systematic harvesting and processing of selected wildlife species for profit--flourished in the West throughout the 19th century. The practice originated among the fur trappers, who devastated western beaver populations between 1810 and 1840.

It reached its disastrous zenith with the professional buffalo hunters, who virtually exterminated the American Bison on the Great Plains between 1872 and 1883. By 1900, when the Lacey Act effectively stopped market hunting, big game populations in the West had declined dramatically.

Demand and Depletion

To the left of the large diorama, a single case presents an overview of market hunting in the West. Between 1850 and 1900, professional hunters slaughtered literally millions of wildfowl and game animals for profit. While the sport hunter might shoot four deer or a pair of buffalo on a single outing, the commercial hunter often killed as many as 20 deer or 50 buffalo.

With the demise of beaver trapping around 1840, market hunting in the West turned to harvesting buffalo for robes and tongues. The robe trade, in which Native Americans played a crucial part, took up to 250,000 bison a year by 1860.

As railroads entered the West, fresh meat became a larger part of the harvest. From 1865 to 1895, tens of thousands of game birds and mammals--from prairie chicken and duck to elk, deer and antelope--were slaughtered every year to feed frontier laborers and urban gourmets alike.

Pursued year-round, the commercial harvesting of meat and hides not only eliminated natural surpluses, it also reduced breeding stock. Western wildlife populations fell markedly as railroads linked remote hunting grounds with eastern markets. By 1900, many wildlife populations in the West stood on the brink of collapse.

The Great Buffalo Hunt

On the opposite side of the diorama another case displays the arms and equipment of the buffalo hunters. In 1871, the tanning of buffalo hide into serviceable leather opened a new market for professional hunters. Employing powerful, single-shot rifles, the hidemen adopted a still-hunting technique in which as many as 100 buffalo might be killed by a single hunter in a few hours.

Known as "getting a stand" or "mesmerizing the buffalo," this hunting method assured the maximum number of kills within the smallest possible arena, greatly aiding the laborious skinning process that followed. Thus, a hunting company of four or five men might harvest as many as 5,000 hides in a five-month outing.

From 1872 to 1883, commercial hide hunters slaughtered five to six million buffalo, all but exterminating an entire species in the American West. An ecological disaster, the "Great Buffalo Hunt" also contributed to the collapse of Native American culture on the Great Plains by destroying its main source of sustenance.

By 1880, the loss of the buffalo forced most Plains peoples onto reservations. And, although the hide hunters cleared the plains for a thriving cattle industry, the near-annihilation of a seemingly unlimited natural resource permanently tarnished America's cultural, environmental and economic history.

Sport Hunting

Sport hunting--the selective harvesting of game mammals and wildfowl "in fair chase" for recreation--enjoyed increasing popularity in the West throughout the 19th century. At first the realm of explorers, naturalists and foreign aristocrats, the pastime gradually expanded to include ardent sportsmen from many levels of American society.

By the early 1870s, as railroad access increased and firearms performance improved, sportsmen enjoyed a golden age of hunting amid the West's diverse and still-relatively-abundant wildlife populations. Many of these sport hunters also became the most vocal advocates for wildlife conservation.

The Early Years

Across from the buffalo hunting display, three cases interpret the early years of western sport hunting. Between 1800 and 1860, such hunting was largely the domain of a handful of naturalists and aristocrats. Through their writings, however, these avid sportsmen stimulated an appreciation for western wildlife and the thrill of the chase.

First among the hunter-naturalists, Captain Meriwether Lewis introduced the world to mule deer, bighorn sheep and grizzly bear in his reports of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806). Nearly 40 years later, John James Audubon hunted the same Upper Missouri country, gathering specimens for his famed artistic work, The Quadrupeds of North America.

European nobles were the most colorful of the early western sportsmen. Sir William Drummond Stewart of Scotland hunted over the Northern Plains between 1833 and 1844, commissioning artist Alfred Jacob Miller to record his adventures.

Most notorious of the aristocratic hunters, Sir Saint George Gore of Ireland plundered the West in the mid-1850s with 40 servants, cooks, gun-bearers, dog-handlers, teamsters and guides. Gore's slaughter of 2,000 buffalo, more than 100 bears, and 1,500 deer and elk emphasized the crucial need for hunting regulation even among so-called sportsmen.

The Golden Age

To the right, three more cases treat the golden years of western sport hunting. Between the late 1860s and the mid-1880s, several factors combined to create this golden age of hunting in the American West. Railroad expansion provided easier access to remote regions, and some lines actively promoted hunting parties and excursions with special trains.

Constantly improved arms and ammunition furnished the sportsman in the field with greater firepower, accuracy and range. Most important, the large game animals, from buffalo and grizzly bear to bighorn sheep and elk, remained relatively abundant--while hunting regulations still were virtually unknown.

During the 1870s and 1880s, aristocratic sportsmen, like Ireland's Earl of Dunraven and Russia's Grand Duke Alexis, continued to seek hunting adventures in the West--often with famous guides such as Buffalo Bill Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro. Scores of American gentlemen-hunters joined in, including artists Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt, military officers George Crook and George Custer, and eastern blue-blood Theodore Roosevelt.

All these devotees of the chase enjoyed a hunter's paradise in the late-19th-century West. Some of them, like Teddy Roosevelt, recognized that it was rapidly disappearing.

Sport Hunting and Conservation

In an ante-room at the end of this area, another exhibit case treats the development of the hunter-conservation movement. By 1875, many sport hunters realized that western game species were fast declining, largely because of unregulated market hunting. Journals such as Field and Stream (1873) and associations like the Boone and Crockett Club (1887) began to instill a greater appreciation of America's wild resources in the public mind.

Many prominent hunter-naturalists, men like William T. Hornaday, George Bird Grinnell and future president Theodore Roosevelt, preached a new code of hunting ethics and lobbied for state and federal laws regulating sport hunting and abolishing market hunting.

By the 1890s, their efforts resulted in a multitude of state game laws establishing protected species, hunting seasons and bag limits. Influential sportsmen also pushed federal passage of the Lacey Act, which in 1900 virtually prohibited market hunting across the country.

A later generation of responsible hunters backed the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act, which still funds wildlife management and habitat restoration through excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition. Vanguard of wildlife preservation in the West for more than a century, dedicated hunter-conservationists continue to ensure that the region remains a hunter's paradise.

The Western Hunter's Camp

At the opposite end of this area, another small anteroom houses a diorama portraying a solitary hunter's camp in the late 19th-century West. Here, cooking and packing gear sit in front of a simple lean-to holding saddlebags, binoculars and a Model 1895 Winchester sporting rifle.

By 1900, skilled guides and outfitters set up wilderness camps for moneyed sportsmen seeking exceptional trophies. For devoted western hunters, camping in the majestic back country provided one of the pleasures of the sport. Often naturalists as well as sportsmen, many turn-of-the-century hunters found wilderness camping as attractive as the chase itself.

The rich diversity of artifacts, artworks and historic images in The Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West gallery captures much of the colorful drama that was the 19th-century American West.

Text by Richard Rattenbury, Curator of History

Selected Gallery Images  

Man's Skin Shirt Man's Skin Shirt
Middle Missouri Region
Lakota or Cheyenne, 1850-1860

Fashioned in poncho style from the native-tanned skins of two bighorn sheep, this man's shirt is decorated with blue paint on the upper body, pony-beaded strips sewn over the shoulders and arms, distinctive flaps at the neck adorned with stroud cloth and pony beads, and skin and horsehair fringing. Among the Lakota during the early 19th century, decorated shirts like this one were bestowed on promising young men as a mark of honor by the Shirt-Wearer's Society. By the 1870s, however, such garments, usually called deer-leg shirts or warshirts, had become common apparel for native men across the Plains.

Knife Sheath and Knife Knife Sheath and Knife
Lakota, 1870-1880
J. Russell & Co., 1870-1875
91.1.3677 A&B

Accommodating a massive, "Green River Works" butcher knife, this handsome sheath probably belonged to a woman skilled in processing buffalo in the field. Constructed of rawhide, the face of the sheath is fully ornamented with richly colored, lazy-stitch beadwork in rectangular and diamond patterns.

Lattice Cradle Lattice Cradle
Central Plains Region
Lakota, 1880-1890

Serving as a crib, highchair and baby carrier, the lattice-pattern cradle first appeared among the Kiowa people on the Southern Plains and gradually migrated to the Cheyenne and Lakota on the Central Plains. This highly portable article consisted of a deep, straight-sided skin bag that attached to a wooden, V-shaped framework secured with cross members. Like most specimens, the bag on this cradle is fully beaded in lazy-stitch applique featuring multi-colored, geometric motifs on a white field, and is secured at the front using several thong ties.

Pad Saddle Pad Saddle
Northern Plains Region
Plains Cree, 1885-1895

Typically the equipment of an active young warrior, the pad saddle enjoyed widespread distribution among Plains peoples well prior to 1800. This late-19th-century example is made with two elongated "pillows" of native-tanned deerskin stuffed with deer. The corner medallions and side flaps are adorned with graceful floral designs in overlaid beadwork applique. Tubular glass beads on yarn tassels hang from the flaps.

Frame Saddle Frame Saddle
Central Plains Region
Lakota, 1880-1890

Although inspired by Spanish examples, Plains Indian saddles were the result of native ingenuity using familiar materials and construction techniques. This specimen incorporates the typical, carved pommel and cantle pieces attached with sinew to the side boards, and encased in a rigid rawhide covering. Commercially tanned leather rigging and bent-wood stirrups complete the outfit. The saddle rests on a Lakota saddle blanket (91.1.4016), an H-shaped canvas specimen finely embellished with lazy-stitch beadwork of intricate geometric design and completed with sewn-in fringing and small brass bells.

Caped Skin Coat Caped Skin Coat
Plains Cree or Metis, 1860-1870

Patterned on European designs, this deerskin coat features a polished cotton collar, integral shoulder cape, extensive fringing, and colored thread embroidery of floral-arabesque pattern. It is secured with ribbon ties and an embroidered and fringed skin sash. In the 18th century, French Catholic missionaries taught this floral embroidery technique to the Native Americans in the Great Lakes region and it gradually migrated westward. Although this particular coat post-dates the zenith of the fur trapping era in the trans-Mississippi West, similar garments commonly were worn by the post trader, or bourgeois, in the Upper Missouri country during the 1820s and 1830s.

Skin Coat and Pants Skin Coat and Pants
Northern Plains Region
1850-1860 and 1830-1840
91.1.1756 A&B

Fashioned of native-tanned moosehide, this composite outfit reflects the typical costume of Anglo-American fur trappers operating along the Upper Missouri and in the Rockies from the 1820s to the 1840s. The blending of Euro-American style and Native-American decoration in garments like these often sprang from the intermarriage of white trappers with Indian women. The frock-pattern coat features colorful, quillwork medallions and petal motifs on the back with quill-wrapped fringing over the shoulders, at the back center and around the bottom. (Mink trim on the collar and cuffs is a later addition.) The fall-front pants are embellished along the outseams with flamboyant, 14-inch, quill-wrapped fringing.

Trade Goods Trade Goods

The 19th-century fur trade transformed the material life of Native peoples in the West, both enhancing and diminishing their traditional culture. While realizing profits of from 100 to 300 percent, honest traders attempted to provide the most desirable materials. Manufactured goods ranged from baubles like beads, tin cones, hawk bells and small mirrors to more utilitarian items like awls, needles, knives, copper and iron cookware, blankets, cloth and firearms. Processed goods, like liquor, tobacco, coffee and sugar, also were highly favored and commanded high prices.

Muzzle-loading Trade Rifle Muzzle-loading Trade Rifle
Maker Unknown, PA (?), 1825-1835
Caliber .50

Exhibiting adaptations common on the fur trapping frontier, this Kentucky-pattern trade rifle was probably altered from flint to percussion ignition before 1840. Its original 36 to 42-inch barrel was replaced around 1850-1855, when a 30-inch octagon, S.HAWKEN-stamped barrel in .50 caliber was fitted, probably for easier carriage on horseback. Even in the early 1860s, the Hawken name remained in high regard for accuracy and dependability among veteran frontiersmen. Reflecting its frontier usage, the trigger guard of this rifle is crudely inscribed: J. RENET/WIND R[IVER] 1842.

Muzzle-loading Plains Rifle Muzzle-loading Plains Rifle
Samuel Hawken, St. Louis, MO
Caliber .53

A product of the famed Hawken gun shop, this half-stocked, percussion, Plains-pattern rifle incorporates a relatively short barrel ideal for carriage on horseback, and a large bore for bringing down big game like buffalo. The 12-pound piece, stamped S.HAWKEN ST.LOUIS, features a patent breech with snail guard and extended tang, double set triggers and fine open sights. The Hawken name earned a reputation among trans-Mississippi frontiersmen for unexcelled power, superb accuracy and rugged dependability. The rifle's renown became such that traveler William Hamilton remarked in 1842: ...in those days the best rifles used were the Hawkins [sic] and they carried three hundred and fifty yards.

Cavalry Trumpeter Cavalry Trumpeter

This striking, life-size figure of an African-American cavalry trumpeter captures the color and drama of the frontier military during the Indian Wars era. Representing a trooper of the famed Ninth Cavalry, both rider and horse are furnished with accurate clothing and equipment reflecting issue in the mid-to-late 1870s. The trumpet calls and marches heard in this part of the gallery would have been familiar to soldiers throughout the West during the latter half of the 19th century.

Arms and Equipments Arms and Equipments

During six decades of campaigning in the West, the U.S. Army used an evolving array of weaponry and associated equipment. Although the Ordnance and Quartermaster Departments embodied conservatism, they did issue new arms and accouterments in response to advances in technology. Military firearms, in particular, underwent constant testing and improvement over the years. Other military materiel, like associated leather goods, field equipment and saddlery, also received periodic design improvements.

Ringgold Dragoon Saddle Ringgold Dragoon Saddle
Contractor Unknown, 1844-1846
U.S. Mounted Pattern of 1844

Patented by Major Samuel Ringgold of the United States Army, this heavy, iron-reinforced saddle copied the French Hussar pattern of 1841. About 1,150 Ringgold saddles were produced between 1842 and 1847 for the mounted dragoons and the light artillery. This pattern saw extensive service among mounted troops on the Great Plains and during the Mexican - American War. Horse "equipments" displayed with the saddle include a non-regulation valise, a pair of horseshoe pouches, and a pair of pommel holsters secured with the surcingle over the seat.

Military Officer's Dress Coat Military Officer's Dress Coat
Brooks Bros., New York, NY
U.S. Army Pattern of 1879

Fashioned of dark-blue broadcloth, this officer's frock coat is double-breasted with two rows of nine buttons stamped "I" for the infantry branch. It features finely braided shoulder knots with silver-embroidered spread eagles designating the rank of colonel. Gold bullion aiguillettes attach to the right-hand knot and drape across the coat. The GAR medal indicates Civil War service.

Military Non-commissioned Officer's Dress Coat Military Non-commissioned Officer's Dress Coat
Contractor Unknown, 1885-1900
U.S. Infantry Pattern of 1884

Although military units in the West spent several decades at rude frontier posts, morale and discipline nevertheless were maintained with habitual inspections and frequent full-dress ceremonies. Formal uniform coats like this striking example were donned on a regular basis even at the most dilapidated and isolated garrisons. Decorated with white facings for the infantry branch, the coat bears chevrons and service stripes of gold lace showing the rank of quartermaster sergeant with 30 years' enlisted service. The non-commissioned officer who paraded in such a uniform set the standard of deportment and steadfast discipline for all the soldiers around him.

Life in the Field Life in the Field

Campaigning troops carried nearly 50 pounds of equipment, while those on patrol toted little more than food, water, weapons and ammunition. For comfort in the field, many soldiers wore non-regulation clothing and gear. This exhibit case presents a typical selection of the clothing, equipment (including a Sibley stove) and personal items used by officers and enlisted men when operating away from the post.

The Indian Wars The Indian Wars

Assigned to enforce treaties of removal between the government and the Native Americans of the West, the army joined in a clash of cultures lasting nearly 60 years. Still, real combat was a rare event for most frontier soldiers. This exhibit case presents typical weapons and clothing elements employed by the adversaries on the Great Plains the mid-1870s. The army finally won the Indian Wars through the application of superior discipline, organization and technology.

Market Hunting Market Hunting

This exhibit area presents a selection of the firearms and associated equipment characteristic of market hunting in the West between 1850 and 1890. Professional hunters generally favored weapons providing long-range accuracy and knock-down power. Although some used lighter, repeating rifles for deer and antelope, most desired heavier, high-powered single-shot arms capable of bringing down even buffalo over long ranges. This presentation illustrates the commercial meat and hide hunter's preference for accurate breech-loading rifles using powerful metallic cartridges.

Sport Hunting Sport Hunting

Exhibited here is a selection of arms, associated equipment and clothing typical of sport hunting in the West during the period from 1830 to 1860. While individual artisans produced most hunting weapons and accouterments prior to 1850, by the 1870s large firearms manufacturers and specialty outfitters supplied the sportsman's needs. Many dedicated sport hunters sought the latest technology in firearms.

Man's Skin Hunting Coat Man's Skin Hunting Coat
Maker Unknown, United States

No doubt custom-made by a skilled furrier for a well-to-do gentleman hunter, this deerskin coat is lavishly ornamented with semi-quilted, machine-sewn floral motifs and extensive, applied fringing. The garment also features flapped pockets, two rows of individually sewn cartridge or shotshell holders over each breast, and handsome elk-tooth buttons suggestive of origin or use in the West. Such an ornate and costly coat typified the deluxe clothing and equipment favored among the wealthier western sport hunters during the late 19th century.

Getting a Stand Getting a Stand

This diorama depicts the hunting technique used by a majority of professional hunters during the "Great Buffalo Hunt" (1872-1883). Unlike most sport hunters, who liked to chase and shoot buffalo from horseback, market hunters attempted to "get a stand" on the ground. This still-hunting method often allowed the hidemen to shoot dozens of animals within a much smaller arena. Hunting in this efficient manner, they slaughtered some six million buffalo in a mere dozen years.

Suggested Readings & Links  

The following materials are available for review in the Research Center.

Frontier West

E179.5.B63 1960 Billington, Ray Allen. Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier. 2d ed. New York: Macmillan, [1960].

E78 .W5N3 1995 Capps, Benjamin. Native Americans. Rev. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, [1995, 1973].

E185.63.C37 Carroll, John M. Black Military Experience in the American West. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, [1971].

E185.925.C65 1993 Cox, Clinton. The Forgotten Heroes: The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers. New York: Scholastic, [1993].

F592.C93 1997 Crutchfield, James Andrew. Mountain Men of the American West. 1st ed. Boise, ID: Tamarack Books, [1997].

QL737.U53D37 Dary, David. The Buffalo Book: The Full Saga of the American Animal. Chicago: Sage Books, [1974].

UE443.D67 1999 Dorsey, R. Stephen and McPheeters, Kenneth L. The American Military Saddle, 1776-1945. Eugene, OR: Collectors' Library, [1999].

F596.E25 1996 Eales, Anne Bruner. Army Wives on the American Frontier: Living by the Bugles. Boulder: Johnson Books, [1996].

QL85.F58 1995 Fleharty, Eugene D. Wild Animals and Settlers on the Great Plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, [1995].

E185.63.F66 1996 Fowler, Arlen L. The Black Infantry in the West, 1869-1891. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, [1996].

TS533.2.G36 1984 Garavaglia, Louis A and Worman, Charles G. Firearms of the American West. 2 Vols. 1st ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, [1984-1985].

F594.G765 1989 Grierson, Alice Kirk and Leckie, Shirley A. The Colonel's Lady on the Western Frontier: The Correspondence of Alice Kirk Grierson. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, [1989].

F800.F87 1997 Hafen, Le Roy Reuben and Despain, S. Matthew. Fur Trappers and Traders of the Far Southwest: Twenty Biographical Sketches. Logan: Utah State University Press, [1997, 1972].

E78.G73H33 1980 Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology and Hail, Barbara A. Hau, Kola!: The Plains Indian Collection of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. Providence, RI: The Museum, [1980].

SK40.L38 1990 Laycock, George. The Hunters and the Hunted. New York: Outdoor Life Books, [1990].

F596.L433 1996 Laycock, George. The Mountain Men. New York: Lyons & Burford, [1996].

UA3110th.L4 Leckie, William H. The Buffalo Soldiers: Narrative of the Negro Cavalry in the West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, [1967].

UD373.M33 1995 McChristian, Douglas C. U.S. Army in the West, 1870-1880: Uniforms, Weapons, and Equipment. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, [1995].

E98.C7M25 McNitt, Frank. The Indian Traders. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, [1962].

TS535.2.H64M4 1987 Meadows, Edward Scott. U.S. Military Holsters and Pistol Cartridge Boxes. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Co., [1987].

SK45.M47. 1985 Merritt, John I. Baronets and Buffalo; The British Sportsman in the American West, 1833-1881. Missoula, Mont: Mountain Press Pub. Co, [1985].

F592.P78 1987 Prucha, Francis Paul. The Sword of the Republic: The United States Army on the Frontier. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, [1969].

QL84.2.R43 1986 Reiger, John F. American Sportsmen and the Origins of Conservation. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, [1975].

F594.R53 Rickey, Don. Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay: The Enlisted Soldier Fighting the Indian Wars. Fourth printing. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, [1972].

SK297.R63 1995 Robinson, Charles M. The Buffalo Hunters. Austin: State House Press, [1995].

T21.5.W4R87 Russell, Carl Parcher. Firearms, Traps, & Tools of the Mountain Men. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., [1967].

UE443.S83 Steffen, Randy. The Horse Soldier, 1776-1943: The United States Cavalryman - His Uniforms, Arms, Accoutrements, and Equipments. 1st ed. 4 Vols. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, [1977].

E78.G73B78 Time-Life Books. The Buffalo Hunters. New York: Time-Life Books, [1993].

E61.F56 1992 Time-Life Books. The First Americans. New York: Time-Life Books, [1992].

F594.S49 1996 Time-Life Books. Settling the American West. New York: Time-Life Books, [1996].

E83.866.U87 1974 Utley, Robert Marshall. Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian, 1866-1891. New York: Macmillan Company, [1974].

UA25.U8 Utley, Robert Marshall. Frontiersmen in Blue: The United States Army and the Indian, 1848-1865. New York: Macmillan Company, [1967].

F592.U87 1997 Utley, Robert Marshall. A Life Wild and Perilous: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific. 1st ed. New York: Henry Holt and Co., [1997].

E81.U74 Utley, Robert Marshall and Washburn, Wilcomb E. The American Heritage History of the Indian Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster, [1977].

G1201.S1W44 1995 Wexler, Alan and Waldman, Carl. Atlas of Westward Expansion. New York, NY; Facts on File, [1995].

E757.W75 Wilson, R. L. And Wilson, Gregory C. Theodore Roosevelt: Outdoorsman. New York: Winchester Press, [1971].

Juvenile Reading Materials on Cowboys and Western History

F591.C47 Chilton, Charles. Book of the West. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, [1962].

E185.925.C65 1993 Cox, Clinton. The Forgotten Heroes: The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers. New York: Scholastic, [1993].

GV1157.O3F59 1998 Flynn, Jean. Annie Oakley: Legendary Sharpshooter. Springfield: Enslow Publishers, [1998].

HT123.5.W38K35 1999 Kalman, Bobbie. Boomtowns of the West. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, [1999].

HQ792.U5K317 1994 Kalman, Bobbie. A Child's Day. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, [1994].

HQ792.U5K32 1991 Kalman, Bobbie. Early Settler Children. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, [1991].

TS2130.K35 Kalman, Bobbie. The Gristmill. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, [1990].

TT160.K26 1993 Kalman, Bobbie. Home Crafts. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1993].

F596.K353 1999 Kalman, Bobbie. Homes of the West. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, [1999].

TX653.K29 1993 Kalman, Bobbie. The Kitchen. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1993].

PE2839.K35 1994 Kalman, Bobbie. Settler Sayings. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, [1994].

F596.K358 1999 Kalman, Bobbie. The Wagon Train. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, [1999].

F591.K18 1999 Kalman, Bobbie. Who Settled the West? New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, [1999].

F596.K359 1999 Kalman, Bobbie and Lewis, Jane. Women of the West. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, [1999].

E185.925.K37 Katz, William Loren. The Black West. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc., [1971].

P593.K54 2000 Kimball, Violet T. Stories of Young Pioneers in Their Own Words. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company, [2000].

F596.K76 2000 Krohn, Katherine E. Women of the Wild West. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications Co., [2000].

F593.L58 1999 Littlefield, Holly. Children of the Trail West. Minneapolis, MN: Carol Rhoda Books, [1999].

F596.M537 1995 Miller, Brandon Marie. Buffalo Gals: Women of the Old West. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, [1995].

F1095.Y9 M87 1999 Murphy, Claire Rudolf and Haigh, Jane G. Children of the Gold Rush. Boulder: Roberts Rinehart, [1999].

F593.O27 1997 O'Brien, Mary Barmeyer. Heart of the Trail: The Stories of Eight Wagon Train Women. Helena: Twodot, [1997].

F390.C45O74 1997 O'Rear, Sybil J. Jesse Chisholm: The Story of a Trailblazer and Peacemaker in Early Texas and Oklahoma. Austin, TX: Eakin Press, [1997].

GV1834.5.R53 1992 Rice, James. Cowboy Rodeo. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, [1992].

GV1834.45.S73S54 2000 Sherman, Josepha. Steer Wrestling. Chicago: Heinemann Library, [2000].

F596.W85 1997 Wukovits, John F. The Black Cowboys. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, [1997].

F594.W85 1996 Wukovits, John F. The Gunslingers. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, [1996].

F594.J27W84 1996 Wukovits, John F. Jesse James. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, [1996].

Juvenile Reading Materials on Native Americans

E99.M87A75 1991 Armitage, Peter. The Innu (the Montagnais-Naskapi). New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1991].

E99.H7B66 1994 Bonvillain, Nancy and Porter, Frank W. The Hopi. New York: Chelsea House, [1994].

E99.H9B66 1989 Bonvillain, Nancy and Porter, Frank W. The Huron. New York: Chelsea House, [1989].

E99.E7B685 1995 Bonvillain, Nancy and Porter, Frank W. The Inuit. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1995].

E99.M4B66 1997 Bonvillain, Nancy. Native American Medicine. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, [1997].

E98.R3B65 1995 Bonvillain, Nancy and Porter, Frank W. Native American Religion. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1996].

E99.S23B65 1995 Bonvillain, Nancy and Porter, Frank W. The Sac and Fox. New York: Chelsea House, [1995].

E99.S22B66 1997 Bonvillain, Nancy and Porter, Frank W. The Santee Sioux. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, [1997].

E99.T34B66 1994 Bonvillain, Nancy and Porter, Frank W. The Teton Sioux. New York: Chelsea House, [1994].

E99.Z9B66 1995 Bonvillain, Nancy and Porter, Frank W. The Zuni. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1995].

E99.M76B74 1999 Brody, J. J. and Bacchin, Giorgio. A Day with a Mimbres. Minneapolis: Runestone Press, [1999].

E99.P8C547 1987 Clifton, James A. and Porter, Frank W. The Potawatomi. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1987].

E185.925.C65 1993 Cox, Clinton. The Forgotten Heroes: The Story of the Buffalo Soldiers. New York: Scholastic, [1993].

E58.4.D4 1997 De Angelis, Therese. Native Americans and the Spanish. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, [1997].

E99.C91D5 1993 Dial, Adolf L. The Lumbee. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1993].

E99.P6D63 1989 Dobyns, Henry F. The Pima-Maricopa. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1989].

E99.A6D64 1989 Doherty, Craig A. and Doherty, Katherine M. Apaches and Navajos. 1st pbk ed. New York: Franklin Watts, [1991,1989].

E99.S4D73 1997 Dramer, Kim and Porter, Frank W. The Shoshone. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, [1997].

E99.A4 Fox, Vivian. The Winding Trail: The Alabama-Coushatta Indians of Texas. 1st ed. Austin, TX: Eakin Press, [1983].

E99.O3C72214 1996 Freedman, Russell and Bad Heart Bull, Amos. The Life and Death of Crazy Horse. New York: Holiday House, [1996].

E78.M82F74 1992 Freedman, Russell and Bodmer, Karl. An Indian Winter. New York: Holiday House, [1992].

Lovell Studio Exhibit / E9 Fronval, George and DuBois, Daniel. Indian Signals and Sign Language. New York: Bonanza Books, [1985].

E98.A7G56 Glubok, Shirley. The Art of the Woodland Indians. New York: Macmillan, [1976].

E99.C92H693 1997 Hoyt-Goldsmith, Diane. Buffalo Days. New York: Holiday House, [1997].

E99.S35H83 1995 Hubbard-Brown, Janet. The Shawnee. New York: Chelsea House, [1995].

GT617.W47K35 1999 Kalman, Bobbie. Bandannas, Chaps, and Ten-gallon Hats. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, [1999].

F799.K35 1997 Kalman, Bobbie and Nickles, Greg. Spanish Missions. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1997].

E98.R28K37 1986 Katz, William Loren. Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage. New York: Atheneum, [1986].

E99.T35K44 1998 Keegan, Marcia. Pueblo Girls: Growing up in Two Worlds. 1st ed. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers, [1999].

E98.M6K46 1996 Klots, Steve. Native Americans and Christianity. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, [1997].

E99.A6L33 1990 Lacapa, Michael. The Flute Player: An Apache Folktale. 1st ed. Flagstaff: Northland Publishing Company, [1990].

E99.S54L33 1995 Lacey, Theresa Jensen. The Blackfeet. New York: Chelsea House, [1995].

E99.P3L33 1996 Lacey, Theresa Jensen and Porter, Frank W. The Pawnee. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1996].

E99.P9L38 1998 Lavender, David Sievert. Mother Earth, Father Sky: Pueblo Indians of the American Southwest. New York: Holiday House, [1998].

E99.D1G77 1994 Matthaei, Gay and Cvijanovic, Adam. The Ledgerbook of Thomas Blue Eagle. Charlottesville, VA: Thomasson-Grant, [1994].

E98.F6S74 1997 Max, Jill and Annesley, Robert. Spider Spins a Story: Fourteen Legends from Native America. Flagstaff: Northland Publishing Company, [1997].

E78.G73P6 1971 Powers, William K. Indians of the Southern Plains. New York: Putnam, [1971].

E99.C85R65 1989 Rollings, Willard H. The Comanche. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1989].

E99.C5S645 1996 Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk and Himler, Ronald. The Cherokees. New York: Holiday House, [1996].

E99.C53S63 1996 Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk and Himler, Ronald. The Cheyennes. New York: Holiday House, [1996].

E99.T52S7 Steiner, Stan. The Tiguas: The Lost Tribe of City Indians. New York: Crowell-Collier Press, [1972].

F592.U.S123T56 1997 Thomasma, Kenneth and Talbot, Agnes Vincen. The Truth about Sacajawea. Jackson, WY: Grandview Pub. Co., [1997].

F1435.T8 1990 Trout, Lawana and Porter, Frank W. The Maya. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, [1991].

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