Blazing the Trail West

Comprised of more than six thousand artifacts, the museum's general history and Joe Grandee collections are among the most inclusive assemblages of Western material culture in a public institution.

Peoples of the Plains
Native Americans inhabited the West for centuries before the first Europeans appeared. Affiliated by band and tribe, they developed a rich diversity of lifeways and traditions. Their colorful societies and dramatic histories represent today much of Native American life in the popular imagination both in the United States and abroad.

Throughout the Plains and Plateau regions, Native American men wore untailored poncho-style shirts during most of the nineteenth century.

New Peoples, New Ways
In the four decades after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, many new peoples entered and opened the immense territory of the trans-Mississippi West to the United States. Although few in number, these trappers, traders, and trailblazers exerted far-reaching influences as the vanguard of American settlement. 
A Change in Fashion 
During the early and mid-nineteenth century commercial and cultural interaction between Indian and white communities brought changes to indigenous clothing styles. This garment, closed with ribbon ties and an embroidered-and-fringed skin sash, would have been favored by many denizens of the mid-nineteenth century, trans-Mississippi frontier. 

The U.S. Army operated as the federal government's principal agent of Western expansion during most of the nineteenth century.

Operating between the worldviews of Euro and Native Americans and serving as the tool of conflicting attitudes between East and West, the military fulfilled its various roles with both glory and disgrace.

Shooting 300 rounds a minute, the Gatling gun represent a tremendous advance in military firepower, however had little application in the fast-moving tactics common to the Indian Wars in the West.

For hunters of all kinds the nineteenth century American West harbored an amazing abundance of wildlife. However, unregulated hunting had a profound and far-reaching effect on the Western environment.

The Herd, 1860
During the Great Buffalo Hunt, most market hunters attempted to “get a stand” on the ground rather than chase the beasts on horseback. This still-hunting method often allowed the hidemen to shoot dozens of animals within a much smaller arena, easing the laborious skinning work that followed. 
The End, 1883
Hunting in this efficient manner, the hidemen slaughtered some four to five million buffalo in a mere dozen years.
The Weapon of Choice
The choice of most professional hunters, the Sharps falling-block, fifty caliber sporting rifle undoubtedly killed more bison than any other make. Often termed a “Poison Slinger” or “Big Fifty,” the rifle features the plain open sights, double-set triggers, and shotgun-pattern buttplate preferred by professional hunters—features ideal for the incessant, yet accurate shooting demanded in “getting a stand.”

Amid fierce competition in the mid-1800s,the Winchester Repeating Arms Company became pacesetters among arms industry marketers.

Referred to by collectors as the “Single W” or “Big W” board, Winchester’s 1890-pattern cartridge display presents an eye-catching 142 cartridges and shotshells with assorted bullets and primers.

Credits: Story

Come explore the West at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

Exhibit produced by,
John Spencer, Director of Media & Content Production, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.

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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