Accomplishments in the American West - The Black Experience on Stamps

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Since the founding of the United States, African Americans have played a pivotal role in American history and heritage. This series of exhibits showcases the black experience in the United States through the lens of American postage stamps.

Accomplishments In The American West

During his life as a frontiersman, James P. “Jim” Beckwourth was a miner, guide, fur trapper, company agent, army scout, soldier, and hunter. On a scouting expedition in the early 1850s, he discovered a pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Sacramento Valley, opening a clear pathway to California.

Looking West to Beckwourth Pass on CA 70.

Accomplishments In The American West

Courageous African-American soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments helped patrol the West after the Civil War. Their bravery and toughness won them respect from Native Americans, who honored them with the name “Buffalo Soldiers” after the rugged plains animal that they revered. Buffalo Soldiers also served with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in the battle of San Juan in the Spanish-American War.

Accomplishments In The American West

William M. “Bill” Pickett invented the cowboy sport of steer wrestling, also called “bulldogging.” Employing a technique he saw ranch dogs use, Pickett would bite the steer’s lip to make it more docile and easier to control. Starring in this event, he and his horse Spradley became a box-office draw in rodeos at home and abroad. Pickett was voted into the National Cowboy and Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1971

In Pickett's hometown of Tyler Texas, a historical marker at the Heritage Square states:

(ca. December 1870-March 25, 1932) The son of a former slave, Willie M. (Bill) Pickett grew up in Taylor. Working as a cowboy in central Texas, he pioneered the art of bulldogging, in which a cowboy jumps from his horse to twist a steer's horns to force it to the ground. One of the few black cowboys on the rodeo circuit, Pickett became a sensation, performing in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Europe. He retired in Oklahoma in 1930 and died two years later from injuries sustained in a riding accident. In 1971 he became the first African American cowboy inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum
Credits: Story

The National Postal Museum extends thanks to the United States Postal Service and to its employees who assisted in the creation of this exhibit: Angelo Wider, Roy Betts, Michael Tidwell, Sheryl Turner, Robert Faruq, Meg Ausman, and Pamela Hyman.

Many of the subjects appearing in this exhibit and on U.S. stamps in general are suggested by the public. Each year, the Postal Service receives from the American public thousands of letters proposing stamp subjects. Every stamp suggestion meeting criteria is considered, regardless of who makes it or how it is presented.

To learn more about the stamp selection process, visit the following link to the Postal Service's web site:

Visit the National Postal Museum's Website

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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