The Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center: A Magnificent Shrine

by Lynne Rostochil.  Brochure from Lynne’s collection.

Awhile back, I ran across one of the most beautifully illustrated booklets I’ve ever seen and much to my delight, it was one dedicated to the future Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center (now the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum) in OKC.  The brochure was put together to distribute to people to entice them to contribute to the building fund for the museum.  While drawings for the museum were completed by architects Begrow & Brown in 1957, it took several years of fund raising before ground finally broke and the museum was completed in 1965.   So, this booklet likely dates between 1957 and 1963 or so.  Enjoy all of the colorful eye candy!

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The Hall of Fame of Great Westerners

As the man on a horse dominated Western expansion, the man on a horse is the central theme of the Western Heritage Center … a legendary figure representative of every builder of the West.  In the towering Hall of Fame of Great Westerners are honored the trail blazers an empire builders … the colonizers and captains … the me who, with self-tutored brilliance, composed state constitutions.  Here, the immigrant stands by the native-born, strong men in a land where the weak died unknown.  Each of the persons elected as honorees by the trustees of the Hall of Fame represents a unique breed.  They were men after whom towns and counties were named … men whose impressions survive them still in every corner of the West.  They were the men who held the respect of their fellow Americans everywhere … the Great Westerners who rose above their times and their fellows as the men who loom tall in the saddle shadow those who merely walk.

From the sculptured bronze plaques in the Hall of Fame of Great Westerners, their faces look down on today’s American.  Their deeds of greatness are recorded for posterity in the written words which reflect their own inimitable language, displayed below their portraits.  Through the uncluttered expanse of this Hall, so characteristic of their own lives, these honorees from every Western state and from America itself pledge their heritage of enlightenment and inspiration to coming generations.

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Founders’ Hall

Legendary greatness settled upon the shoulders of a comparative few men of the West.  But, behind every man whose name reached immortal proportions stood ten score more, each built of the same unflinching moral fiber: cattlemen, bankers, merchants … writers, artists, tillers of the soil … the men who laid the rails and stretched the wires and the women who toiled by their sides.  A lasting tribute to these unsung pioneers is paid in Founders’ Hall.  Here, the founding benefactors of the institution, or those whom they choose to memorialize, are honored with sculptured busts and plaques and with laminated record cards bearing the name, photograph, and biography of each benefactor, living or dead.  Here, their names will be remembered, along with the preservation of history their gifts have made possible.

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Heritage Hall

No matter what feeling of nostalgic romanticism may be attached to the West by the individual imagination, a greater feeling — a feeling of deep reverence — surrounds the era in the hearts of those who knew it best.  Perhaps the magnificence of the Western terrain fostered it: cathedral-like mountains surrounded by towering pines, with a freshness about the air that nurtured the freshness in men’s minds … clear stars shining above a vast expanse of lonesome prairie, where a man could indeed feel close to his God.  Heritage Hall stands as a visible representation of this reverence.  In its chapel-like quietude, today’s visitor can view an outstanding scene of natural beauty from each of the sponsor-states, painted in its alcoves … can perhaps achieve that same inner peace the Westerner once knew.

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Museum of Western History

Historically, the American West is a chronicle of America itself.  Its vast area and unlimited resources drew men from every nation: the conquistadores of Spain, the voyageurs of France, the Britons and Scots eager for a place of their own.  After them came the Irish and Dutch, the Germans and Slavs … the men of Connecticut and Virginia, of Illinois and the Carolinas, all seeking a new life in a new land.  As these people carved their futures from the land, they wrote a new page in history.  The Museum of Western History records their story with a fresh, accurate picture of the events and actions that add up the face of the Old West … a history that inspires as it entertains and instructs.

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Research Library of Western Americana

The story of the West has long lured the writer.  The frontier journalist started the trend with his chronicles of the roundup or the long wagon trains that pushed into unknown territory.  When the range gave way to the ranch, the cowtown to this bustling city, he loosed the journalistic reins way to the novelist’s romantic tales and the scholar’s prolific research.  As a result, an accurate Western record exists in the Research Library of Western Americana.  Authors have contributed to the literary files with diaries, historical novels, reminiscences, ballads, lyrics and tall tales.  Through these writings the man of the West still rides into the hearts of a fascinated America.

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Institute of Western Art

The author was not alone in attempting to create the true picture of the West.  This majestic country and its inhabitants inspired another area of culture, and artists and painters captured the feeling of the West in everything from rude sketches to magnificent oil paintings.  Here was a wealth of material that ran the gamut of emotion: the lonely range rider, stark against a turbulent sky … the restless, surging herds of cattle … the grandeur of the mountains and the brooding drama of the prairies.  And men like Charles Russell and Frederic Remington grasped he feelings and record them for countless generations.  Today’s artists, too, have witnessed this infectious land, and their works mingle with the masters of hte Old West in the Institute of Western Art.  Together, they create a visible portrait of the land they extol … a world far removed from today’s fast-moving America.

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Institute of Western Music and Folklore

Neither the men and women of the West nor their colorful, exciting adventures have escaped the discerning eye of the Western poet and ballader, who in simple verse and melody preserved the lusty songs and activities of an elusive, romantic era.  Music of that day was functional as well as entertaining, and simple deeds became great through the repetition of the storytellers.  The Mormon settlers seeking the promised land of Utah used musical instruments to pull the group together in a folk-dance and sing, and brought an almost therapeutic relaxation to a weary people … the caressing voice of the herd rider kept his cattle calm and his own spirits lifted.  And here, in the Institute of Western Music and Folkore, as on the plains of yesteryear, the same music floats softly through the air … the tales that regaled an eager campfire audience are set down for posterity.

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Rodeo Hall of Fame

A bright, somewhat-neglected thread runs through the rich tapestry woven around the American West, but through the years it has gained in vitality and brilliance: the great sport of the cowboy know today as rodeo.  Early exhibitions of cowboy skill were frequent in the West, as the men depended on their daily activities to provide what little sport and relaxation they had.  Certain men, naturally, proved themselves superior in various phases of riding or roping, and were pitted against the best men of rival outfits.  Out of these simple competitions has emerged our modern rodeo — the tournaments and contents of today’s cowboy.  Here, in the Rodeo Hall of Fame, is perpetuated the best of the cowboy sport … tangible evidence from hundreds of American communities of a people’s desire to revive one of the most colorful spectacles of the past.

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Hall of Fame of Western Television, Motion Pictures and Dramatic Art

The Western journalist’s pen introduced the cowboy to an eager nation, but it remained for a more modern medium to make his name a household word.  And with all his daring and chivalry, this legendary figure came galloping out of the West onto the silent screens of the world, and has continued to ride high as the hero of countless motion pictures and radio and television programs.  The cinema, radio and television, and even the stage of the legitimate theater, continue to offer a high degree of perpetuation to the Western hero.  Although the approach is new, the effect on the young is no different than in the days when the youth of America read their dime novels and were lure westward.  In this memorable section of the shrine are honored the famous names of the entertainment world who have contributed so much to the popularity of the Western theme … the classics from the dramatist’s art that have stirred a thousand Americans.

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Museum of Western Agriculture, Commerce and Industry

A desire for land opened the gates of hte West, but not other factor contributed so compellingly to its rapid settlement as the discovery of precious minerals.  With the growing civilization came the railroad, and with the railroad came the farmer and an ever-expanding agricultural opportunity.  Cities supplanted Western settlements as industry eventually made its giant force felt throughout the land.  Emerging from the activity was the New West, still vital and fresh of countenance, but with a new refinement and grace.  This section of the Western Heritage Center tells the monumental story of commerce and industry of a vast land: the story of livestock and meat packing, banking and finance, railroads, mining, oil and petroleum, forestry, wool, shipping.  Here is a thrilling story, as current as today’s headlines, of a vital force in our nation’s economy.

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Western Flora Gardens

Like the variegated backgrounds of the pioneers themselves, no single tree or plant can be claimed as indigenous to the American West.  Instead a multitude of flora, as varied as the terrain  on which it grows, abounds throughout this land.  The Pacific coastal areas and the mighty Rocky Mountains boast towering pines and the giant sequoias which reach skyward on mountainsides and along the shore.  In the early-morning dew, delicate blossoms grace the thorny cactus of which a hundred prickly varieties are scattered throughout the Southwest’s arid regions.  The yucca plant, the blooming sagebrush, the restless tumbleweed — all have lent their form to the adornment of the West.  In the Western Flora Gardens of hte nationals shrine these creations of nature are reproduced in an open sanctuary that is indeed a composite of the entire West itself — a fanciful wonderland of greenery and blossom that only God could create.

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