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.
There are several art galleries in the museum of various media, some permanent and some changing.
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.
If you visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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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5 thoughts on “National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum: Exploring Life in the American West”
My husband would LOVE this place – he’s a big fan of cowboys and westerns! I’m wondering whether to show him this post or not…
What you do is find all the things you want to do in Oklahoma City and then throw in the cowboy museum to lure your husband to the city. I used to do something similar with my husband. If there was a city I wanted to visit, I’d also find a railroad museum in the area, and he’d jump at the chance to go. Honestly, though, you’d probably enjoy the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, too.
Looks so interesting! I love that they offer cowboy movies. It’s a part of our American culture that’s faded but brought the western lifestyle to life for me as a kid through television. Would have to leave my credit card out of sight if I made it into the store!
What a great museum. I especially like that first statue you showed us. They are quite smart in including such a child friendly area. The items in the museum store look really high quality, too. I kind of want that jacket now.
You’re right. The items in the museum store are really high quality. There was a vest i was tempted to get, but the price tag held me off. I may have to go back and get it, though, the next time we pass through the city.