Life in the American West conjures up images of cowboys and homesteaders, cattle drives and rodeos. The Western way of life was romanticized and popularized in early 20thcentury books by Zane Grey and later in cinema movies. Today the story of the American West is told in Oklahoma City’s National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum through world-class art galleries and exhibits.
Two prominent sculptures in the museum are The End of the Trail and the Canyon Princess. The 18-foot tall The End of the Trail, which stands in the museum entryway, was sculpted of plaster by James Earle Fraser. The sculpture portrays the end of Native American life as they once knew it. It was first exhibited at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and then remained in California until 1968 when the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum acquired it.
The Canyon Princess was sculpted on-site from a 31-ton block of Colorado marble by Gerald Balciar, who donated the piece to the museum. The likeness of a female cougar is double life-size, stands 15 feet tall and weighs over eight tons.
Another sculpture that I particularly liked is the one of John Wayne, created by Edward J. Fraughton. John Wayne, the movie icon of the cowboy, was a great supporter of museum. He led the parade that opened the museum in 1965 and served on the board of trustees from 1968 until he passed away in 1979. Wayne bequeathed his personal collection of artwork, firearms and movie memorabilia to the museum.
Among other exhibits are the Western Performers Gallery, where you can watch western films, and the American Rodeo exhibit. Rodeos evolved from casual roping and riding contests that were held at roundups in the mid-1800s. Rodeos continue today with over 700 sanctioned events every year.
Children’s Cowboy Corral
The Children’s Cowboy Corral, in a separate building across the gardens, gives kids the chance to dress up and play cowboy, cowgirl or homesteader.
Like most museum stores, the one in the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is filled with statuary and memorabilia. In addition, it has a nice selection of western wear.
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, located t 1700 N.E. 63rd Street in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Check the web site for admission fees and other details.
Accommodations: We stayed at the Ambassador Hotel Oklahoma City Autograph Collection during our visit to Oklahoma City. Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.
Disclosures: My visit to Oklahoma City was hosted by the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau. My admission to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum was complimentary; however, any opinions expressed in this article are my own.
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