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NATIONAL COWBOY & WESTERN HERITAGE MUSEUM
Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City

End of the Trail Sculopture Cowboy Museum photoWhen I say cowboy, you say Texas…or Montana or Colorado. Bzzz. No. Oklahoma. Originally known as the Cowboy Hall of Fame, this emporium of all things cowboy has grown from a collection of donated rodeo items into an impressive cornucopia of western art, memorabilia, detailed history of the American Cowboy from the early days of open range cattle drives to western Hollywood movies and rodeo. From the first glimpse of the outsized giant statue of Buffalo Bill rearing on his show horse within sight of the highway passing just north of Oklahoma’s capital, to the life size replica indoors western town, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum of Oklahoma City makes for a must visit for anyone with the slightest fascination with that most American of cultural phenomenon and historical past as the riders of the range.

Oklahoma City is home to the largest cattle stockyard in the United States, so fitting as the location of the largest western museum. On entrance, the visitor is greeted by the hauntingly evocative outsized scale of the James Earle Fraser sculpture, the End of the Trail, 18 feet tall image of a horseback Indian exhausted from his long ride, now at rest dramatically glowing in the light through the rotunda windows. After an introductory film narrated by Tom Selleck, a journey through the halls of the museum begins in the Edward L Gaylord exhibition wing with bronzes of Native American figures, past the massive marble white marble cougar, the Canyon Princess, prepared to pounce and into the Atherton Galleries of Art of the American West, featuring some of the finest works of Charles Russell, Frederic Remington and Albert Bierstadt, images of golden mesas, expansive plains of droving cattle, camped cowpokes and dancing pioneers by comp firelight of the trail west. Not only is the gallery a repository of the cowboy, but the Native American artistic voice is expressed as well in the neighboring Silberman Gallery of Native American Art.

Guns and Movie Stars

Colt Pistols John Wayne Collection photoThe museum only begins with art. The weapons and arms of the west are presented in the setting of an English gentleman’s study, with one of the finest collections of American firearms which earned their fame in the American West, gunfighters who hefted iron and railroad range hunters picking off buffalo from half a mile. The Weitzenhoffer Gallery of Fine American Firearms, features over one hundred rare examples of the Colt, Remington. Sharps and Winchester guns from breech loading six shooters to the Buffalo Rifle. The gallery treats the gun as not only a tool, but a functional sculpture with developed with a progression of unique mechanics and decorated as a work of art.

Western Performers Gallery

Roy Rogers and dale Evand Cowboy Museum photoOur images of cowboy and the west are mostly defined by the books written and portrayals of the west, first brought back in the form of the “Dime Novel”, the heroicized tails of derring-do of the lawman and the outlaw and the lonely range brought back to the curious east in printed pages, then the Wild West Show, stage performances of rope tricks and horses trodding the boards of opera houses and Broadway, and finally the Hollywood movie, western matinee serial and television. The Western Performers Gallery presents a rich image of this heritage, some of which is ingrained in our experience and some only vaguely familiar. Memorabilia of famous entertainment figures from Roy Rogers and Will Rogers to John Wayne, crowd the display cases, from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to Gunsmoke, you’ll find costumes, props and personal items of silent movie heroes like William S Hart and Tom Mix, singing cowboys Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (see Pioneertown California), from single items like the signature whip of 50’s matinee idol Lash Larue and iconic chess piece holster of Paladin, to the full section devoted to American films’ most famous star, John Wayne, with a collection of his personal firearms, spot the items of your own personal favorites, to those you never knew.

Cowboys, Indians and the Frontier West

Cowboy Chuck Wagon Display photoThe Gallery of the American Cowboy explores the history and culture of the cowboy with stunning priceless collection of saddles and bridles, boots, hats, western clothes and gear, down to a surprising array of the barbed wire and branding irons. The Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West presents the legacy of the diverse peoples of the west, history of the military, mountain men, hunters, trappers and explorers who discovered and tamed the wilds, and the native peoples told through the collection of the western illustrator, Joe Ruiz Grandee, who used the real artifacts he’d gathered to feature authentic detail in his narrative painting.

Rodeo & Western Town

Prosperity Junction Western Town photoThe American Rodeo Gallery showcases the history of the glory days of the rodeo, set in a lifelike recreation of the rodeo arena from the 1950s, with the history of the champions, equipment, clothing and memorabilia of this most American home grown sport. The top hands and cowboy of the inductees to the Rodeo Hall of Fame can be explored on interactive computer stations. Beyond the museum exhibits of items on display, enter the west itself in Prosperity Junction, where you can walk the street of a western cattle town circa 1900, full-sized buildings entirely indoors, in the dark of dusk, with lights spilling from the life-like shops, western saloon, one-room schoolhouse, sheriff's office and jail, stable, church and hotel.

Visiting the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

Buffalo Bill Statute photoThe museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is $12.50 for adults, $9.75 for seniors (62+) and students, $5.75 for children 4 to 12, under 4 are free. There is ample free parking. The Persimmon Hill restaurant offers lunch, snacks and dining. Museum membership and discounts to special events are available. The museum is located off Interstate 44 (Route 66) about 10 minutes from downtown Oklahoma City. Nearby with a car are the Oklahoma Zoo, the Science Center, History Museum, Firefighters Museum, Softball Hall of Fame and the 45th Infantry Museum.
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National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

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