Out of the Vault: The Story of Our Toys

Posted on June 1, 2021 by Tim in

Welcome to “Out of the Vault.” This is our blog series where we take you behind-the-scenes to show off our newest acquisitions and why we think they are an important addition to the Museum’s mission to tell you the diverse stories of the West.

Did you know that the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum preserves more than amazing art and artifacts in our vault? We also have a large collection of real-life playthings owned by children from the past and present. Many of the toys were donated by family members or sought out by our team of curators. Who knows, maybe you, your pa, or grandpa played with toys like these!

According to Michael Grauer, McCasland Chair of Cowboy Culture/Curator of Cowboy Culture and Western Art, the story of the American West had a huge influence on the lives of the children who played with these toys.

WHAT IS THIS?

A Roy Rogers’ Western Town.

WHERE DID WE GET IT?

A local woman whose brother owned and cherished the game donated it to the Museum. The young boy who owned the game kept it in great condition. Nearly all the pieces are still together, but looks like a youngster Cookie had to do some doctoring on this cowboy.

WHY DID WE ACQUIRE IT?

The “B Westerns” and “Singing Cowboy Westerns” influenced popular culture and play. There were 48 Western shows on TV by the early 1950s. This game was part of the merchandise that came from the popular Western shows.

WHAT IS THIS?

A Jane West Action Figure.

Jane was part of a ‘family’ of action figures who were ranchers. The family and other make-believe characters came with cardboard buildings, changes of clothes and tools. This toy is probably from the 1960s.

Aside from her outfits, firearms and campfire cooking equipment, Jane West even walked around with a little box of GOLD.

WHY DID WE ACQUIRE IT?

The Museum has several of the other action figures in the “Johnny West” play world. It was important to acquire Jane West both to move closer to completing the set and to show how deeply the story of the West affected every part of peoples’ lives.

This action figure helps debunk the myth that the West was only for ‘rough and tumble’ cowboys. Women and girls were always a part of the story. Jane’s firearms show that she had an active role in her Western world (even if it was made of cardboard).

The Western Heritage Fund helps make acquisitions like this possible. The West is full of different cultures, peoples and stories, and you can help us share those stories.

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About Tim

Director of Security & Operations Services (and sometimes social media)