National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

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Wikimedia | © OpenStreetMap
LocationOklahoma City, Oklahoma
TypeHall of fame

Fountains in front of the imposing entrance to the then named National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in May 1972.

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is a museum in Oklahoma CityOklahomaUnited States, with more than 28,000 Western and American Indian art works and artifacts. The facility also has the world’s most extensive collection of American rodeo photographsbarbed wiresaddlery, and early rodeo trophies. Museum collections focus on preserving and interpreting the heritage of the American West. The museum becomes an art gallery during the annual Prix de West Invitational Art Exhibition and Sale each June. The Prix de West Artists sell original works of art as a fund raiser for the Museum. The expansion and renovation was designed by Curtis W. Fentress, FAIA, RIBA of Fentress Architects.



Bulldogging photo of “Cowboy Morgan Evans“, 1927 World Champion

It was established in 1955 as the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum, from an idea proposed by Chester A. Reynolds, to honor the cowboy and his era. Later that same year, the name was changed to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Museum. In 1960, the name was changed again to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center. The American Alliance of Museums gave the museum full accreditation in 2000, when it took on its present name.

To maintain the memory of the founder, the museum grants the Chester A. Reynolds Memorial Award. This prize is granted to a person or institution contributing to the preservation of American West history and heritage.


The museum encompasses more than 200,000 sq ft (19,000 m2) of display space. The museum’s collection includes over 2,000 works of western art, the “William S. and Ann Atherton Art of the American West Gallery”. The 15,000 sq ft (1,400 m2) exhibit space contains landscapesportraits, colorful still lifes, and sculptures by 19th- and 20th-century artists. Its over 200 works by Charles Marion RussellFrederic RemingtonAlbert BierstadtSolon Borglum, Thurmond Restuettenhall, Robert LougheedCharles Schreyvogel, and other early artists lead to the Museum’s prize collection of contemporary Western art created over the last 30 years by award-winning Prix de West artists. The first winner was a large oil by Clark Hulings, “Grand Canyon – Kaibob Trail”, about a mule team barely crossing a Grand Canyon trail in deep winter snow. The collection also includes over 700 pieces by Edward S. Curtis, and over 350 from Joe DeYong.The Hunters’ Supper (detail) by Frederic Remington, circa 1909

The historical galleries include the American Cowboy Gallery, a look at the life and traditions of a working cowboy and ranching history; the American Rodeo Gallery, fashioned after a 1950s rodeo arena, provides a look at America’s native sport; the Joe Grandee Museum of the Frontier West Gallery exhibits some of the more than 4,500 artifacts once belonging to Western artist Joe Grandee; the Native American Gallery, focuses on the embellishments that Western tribes made to their everyday objects to reflect their beliefs and histories; the Weitzenhoffer Gallery of Fine American Firearms houses over 100 examples of firearms, by ColtRemingtonSmith & WessonSharpsWinchesterMarlin, and Parker Brothers.

The museum also houses Prosperity Junction, a 14,000-square-foot (1,300 m2) authentic turn-of-the-century Western prairie town. Visitors can stroll the streets, peek in some of the store windows, listen to antique player pianos, and actually walk into some of the fully furnished buildings. The town comes alive with historical figures once a year during the museum’s annual holiday open house, “A Night Before Christmas”.

Western Heritage Awards[edit]

Further information: Bronze Wrangler“The Wrangler” in bronze

Every year, the museum gives “The Wrangler”, an original bronze sculpture by artist John Free, annually during the Western Heritage Awards to principal creators of the winning entries in specified categories of Western literaturemusicfilm, and television. Past winners have included Owen WisterWilliam S. HartTom MixHoot GibsonKen MaynardTim McCoyHarry CareyRoy RogersGene AutryTex RitterRex AllenJohn WayneRandolph ScottJoel McCreaRichard WidmarkJames StewartBuck TaylorHoward R. LamarBen JohnsonPernell RobertsArthur Allan SeidelmanSkeet Ulrich and Tom Selleck.

The Rodeo Hall of Fame recipients are not honored during the Western Heritage Awards. They celebrate at another event and inductees receive medallions instead of “The Wrangler”.

In 1974, the western painter Arthur Roy Mitchell of Trinidad, Colorado received a special award, the “Honorary Trustee Award”, having been cited as “the man who has done the most for southwestern history” through his collective art.[1]

In 1975, the gelding horse Steamboat was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Along with Clayton Danks, the rider, Steamboat is the model of the Wyoming state trademarkBucking Horse and Rider.[2]

In 2012, Guy Porter Gillette (1945-2013) and his brother William Pipp Gillette (born 1946), sons of the photographer Guy Gillette received the Wrangler Award for Best Original Composition of the year for the Waddie Mitchell song, “Tradeoff.”[3]

Rodeo Halls of Fame[edit]

Cowboy Morgan Evans” 1928 World Series Rodeo Contest entry chit

Rodeo Historical Society (RHS) awards the Hall of Fame awards, which are determined through voting by the Society membership.[4] The museum includes three halls of fame, including the Hall of Great Westerners for actual people who lived through the frontier era to present. Other halls include the Hall of Great Western Performers, for actors only, and the Rodeo Hall of Fame.

These are a few of the members of the Rodeo Hall of Fame, followed by the year they were inducted:

Award yearNameNotes
1982Chris LybbertAlso inducted in 2006 in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.[5]
1988J.C. “Doc” Sorensen
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