A few years ago during a visit to California we took time to visit the Autry Museum of the American West. I was slightly crushed over the fact I didn’t blog about it, which was for a combination of reasons. First, it was very overwhelming! There is so much stuff at the Autry, and my eyes couldn’t stop darting around at all of the wonderful stuff there was to see! Additionally, museums are notoriously difficult to photograph. And the few photos I did take in the first room turned out so horrible I didn’t bother to continue. But we returned recently and I took loads of photos! Some are still not as great as I would like them to be, but I still want to share some of the Autry’s treasures with you! But before we get to that, let’s take a peek at what I wore, because it was pretty darn awesome.
This suit is one of the most prized pieces in my western wear collection, and one I didn’t even find. In fact my dad found it at the Portland Antique Expo, and sent an image of it to me and only eyeballed the measurements, and when it arrived I was overjoyed that it fit perfectly! It’s by Rodeo Ben, who is one of the pioneers in western wear in the 20th century, along side Nathan Turk and Nudie Cohn. Many credit Rodeo Ben with developing the snap closures, and photographs show his work using snaps as early as 1933. It should be noted however that Rockmount was the first manufacturer to use snaps, beginning 1946. Like Turk and Nudie, Rodeo Ben did work for the likes of such western legends as Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. And the Autry even has pieces by Rodeo Ben in its collection.
I paired my suit with another prized piece, a vintage sterling silver and 14 karat gold ranger belt made by Edward Bohlin. Bohlin is hailed as a true artist with it comes to cowboy belt buckles and saddles. His gorgeous “Big Saddle” (there is an image of it after the cut) is on display at the Autry, with a plaque reading it “reportedly took fourteen years to complete and weighs approximately seventy pounds.” The belt is not just an amazing artifact by a well-known maker, but it means a lot personally. It originally belonged to my grandfather, my dad’s dad, who was a bit of a cowboy himself. While born in Oklahoma, he grew up on a ranch in Texas. And in the photos I’ve found while working on our family’s genealogy I’ve uncovered more than one image of the man riding, along with images of my grandmother and dad riding as well. I even found some of him with a lariat.
For those interested in what The Autry has to offer, keep reading!