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Mrs. Grant E. Ashby Rodeo Collection

Mrs. Grant E. Ashby Rodeo Collection
Creator: Mrs. Grant E. Ashby
Dates: 1924-1983
Quantity: 1 foot 3 inches
Accession: 2001.048



Personal letters to Mrs. Grant E. Ashby written by Marie Gibson, Dorothy Hunt, Lorena Trickey, and Vera McGinnis from 1924 to 1983 are the greatest part of the collection. In addition to personal letters, the collection includes 36 photographs, published materials, and clippings related to the 1924 and the 1934 London rodeo. Organized by Charles Cochran, and managed by Tex Austin, the June 14 – July 5, 1924 London rodeo of Wembley, was the First International Rodeo. The National Sporting Club Ltd., under the direction of Tex Austin, presented the 1934 London rodeo held at White City, London, June 9 – July 6, 1934.


Mrs. Grant E. Ashby , also known as Freda Ashby, resided within the district of Friern Park, London, England. She attended the 1924 and 1934 London rodeos and developed personal relationships with many rodeo women, maintaining friendships through correspondence. Although a rodeo fan, there is limited information regarding Mrs. Ashby’s life. Personal letters from Vera McGinnis refer to Mrs. Ashby’s work with a hospital and references within the collection refer to the British Charities Association and The Hospital Charities of Great Britain. Letters written by Marie Gibson and Vera McGinnis refer to Mrs. Ashby’s love of music,and art. Unfortunately, no other information is known about Mrs. Ashby.

A major portion of the collection contains 56 years of letters from Vera McGinnis to Mrs. Grant E. Ashby. Since Vera McGinnis is a prominent figure within the collection, a biographical reference has been added.

Born in Missouri, November 12, 1892, Vera McGinnis became America’s premier rodeo champion. Her riding life started on a burro at the age three, after the family moved to Clayton, New Mexico. What began at age three developed into a lifetime passion for rodeo and racing. Nicknamed “Mac” by her rodeo friends, Vera won her first race in 1913 and developed the reputation as a superior jockey. Competing against male jockeys on the 1916 Colorado racing circuit, she led the way for future woman jockeys. In 1924 she traveled with Tex Austin to London for the First International Rodeo, won two championships, and introduced a new women’s style of dress, long pants. At the conclusion of the rodeo, she traveled throughout Europe and Asia exhibiting her unique talent for trick riding and racing. In 1926, she became the first woman to win all four days of the Pendleton rodeo and established herself as the foremost woman rodeo champion. Unfortunately, in 1934 her rodeo career ended prematurely when she sustained a tragic racing accident. She incurred a collapsed lung, three broken ribs, a broken hip, a broken neck bone, and broken back in 5 places when a horse named China Rose somersaulted on top of her. Suffering a near fatal accident, the doctors thought she would never walk again. Surprising everyone, Vera left the hospital on her feet in six weeks. Although unable to ride on the rodeo circuit, she returned to her “Farraway” ranch with her husband of three years, Homer Farra. Devoted to her ranch, and husband, she lived a quiet life attending to her horses, family and friends. Vera died in 1990, but not before she was inducted into The Cowgirl Hall of Fame and this museum’s Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Scope & Content Note

The collection is organized into five series. The Ashby Rodeo Collection contains personal letters written to Mrs. Grant E. Ashby of London, England, from rodeo women Marie Gibson, Dorothy Hunt, Lorena Trickey and Vera McGinnis. Three letters from institutions make up the remaining letters within Series 1. The collection also contains published materials, clippings, and photographic materials related to the 1924 First International Rodeo held at Wembley, London, and the 1934 World’s Championship Rodeo of White City, London directed by Tex Austin. The original order of the collection is unknown. For ease of research, the collection was organized into 5 Series reflecting probable original order. Additionally, historical accuracy through chronological order was instituted within the personal letter series.

Series 1: Letters to Mrs. Grant E. Ashby (1924-1983)
Contains personal letters between the years 1924 to 1983, written by Marie Gibson, Lucien Gibson, Dorothy and Fred Hunt, Lorena Trickey, institutions, and Vera McGinnis to Mrs. Grant E. Ashby, also known as Freda Ashby. A small number of personal photographs were enclosed with the letters. Artifacts in the form of handkerchief gifts from Vera McGinnis to Mrs. Ashby are stored within the Collections area. Series 1 is located in Box 1 and 2, and chronologically arranged within the folders.

Marie Gibson, Lorena Trickey and Vera McGinnis participated in the 1924 London Rodeo, also known as the First International Rodeo or Cowboy Championships. All the letters are dated after their participation in the 1924 London rodeo. Marie Gibson’s letters date between 1927 until her death in 1933. Lorena Trickey wrote one letter in 1927, while Vera McGinnis’ letters are dated between 1924-1983. Dorothy and Fred Hunt participated in the 1934 London rodeo, consequently, the two letters within Series 1 were sent to Mrs. Ashby after the 1934 London rodeo.

Of particular significance in Series 1, Folder 1, is a letter written October 7, 1933, by Marie Gibson’s eldest son, Lucien Gibson. The letter informed Mrs. Ashby of Marie Gibson’s accidental death and contains three photographic postcards of Marie with a clipping about the rodeo accident.

A letter written November 24, 1927, by Lorena Trickey is significant due to her recent “troubles” and “freedom” from incarceration. This is the only letter in the collection written by Lorena Trickey.

The bulk of the collection contains the personal letters of Vera McGinnis to Mrs. Grant E. Ashby (Freda), between July 21, 1924 and September 1983. Most of the letters begin as thank you notes for gifts Mrs. Ashby sent Vera throughout the years. Birthday and Christmas gifts of scarves, handkerchiefs, gloves and hose are among the many items sent from England over their 56 years of correspondence. The letters contain personal information written before and after her accident of June 12, 1934. From 1931 to 1983, Vera was married to Homer Farra and refers to herself as Vera Farra. All the letters are personal reflections of her daily life, covering a wide range of topics, which contain a limited number of personal photographs.

Of particular interest is a letter detailing the confusion and lack of medical attention after her near fatal accident in 1934. This was the accident which led to her early retirement from rodeo. Vera also reveals in a letter dated September 17, 1953, that she was married at age 17 for seven months in Missouri. Most biographical information acknowledges only two marriages. In a series of letters from 1950 to 1953, McGinnis discusses her enthusiasm for L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics.

Overall, the letters contain very few details about rodeos or well-known cowboys or cowgirls. In a limited number of letters, Vera mentions Dorothy Hunt, Jo Casey, Reba Perry, Hoot Gibson, and “Polly.”

Series 2: Clippings (1924 -1934) 
Contains British clippings of the 1924 London rodeo, Wembley, and 1934 London rodeo, White City. Most of the 1924 clippings in Folder 4 are related to the protest and court summons initiated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (R.S.P.C.A.) in regard to steer roping as a rodeo event. Folder 4 also contains published accounts of the cowboys’ travel aboard the ship Menominee and visits within London. Three clippings concerning the cowboys’ 1934 visit to England and one betting program from the ship are located in Box 2, Folder 5. Folder 6, Miscellaneous, contains British clippings concerning various rodeo subjects — The Calgary Stampede; the Salinas, California rodeo;”Montana Bob” at Wembley fields; Ruth Magden, rodeo sweetheart; an English rider; and Nevada postal carrier; along with two clippings regarding the cancellation of a Christmas and 1925 rodeo in England.

Series 3: Published Materials (1924 – 1934)
Contains a copy of the June 15, 1934, London Rodeo, White City, London Programme. The 1924 and 1934 Official Programme and Souvenir, advertisement flier, and admission ticket stubs are located in Box 3. The 1924 and 1934 daily afternoon and evening programs are in File Cabinet #2, Drawer #1. Some of the daily and souvenir rodeo programs have been removed to the Rodeo Program Collection.

Series 4: Photographs (1924)
Contains publicity photographs from Personality Photo Press Ltd., 22 Furnival Street, Holborn, E.C. and depicts rodeo participants saddle bronc riding, steer riding, and roping. The photographs are numbered and cataloged on the Research Center’s in-house database. The original mailing envelope used by Marie Gibson is enclosed with the photographs. In addition to the 1924 London photograph collection, one negative from the Personality Photo Press photographs is located in Negative Cabinet #3, Drawer 5.

Series 5: Postcard (1924)
Comprised of one photograph postcard depicting the rough seas on the transatlantic voyage to London. The postcard is cataloged on the Research Center’s in-house database, 20001.048.2.0001.

Series 6: Sheet Music (1924)
Includes music from the 1924 London rodeo such as piano arrangements of America! A Medley of Favourite American Tunes, Dreamy Melody, Espana, Pasadena – An American Love Song, Angus MacDonald, What’ll I Do, Ain’t That a Grand and Glorious Feeling, and Just Another Day Wasted Away.

Subject Terms

Personal Names:
Arden, Elizabeth
Ashby, Grant E., Mrs.
Austin, Tex, 1887-1941
Beery Jr., Noah, 1916 –
Beery, Wallace
Blakely, Reba Perry
Casey, Jo
Cooper, Gary, 1901-1961
Farra, Homer
Gibson, Hoot, 1892-1962
Gibson, Lucien
Gibson, Marie
Harris, Helen
Hubbard, L. Ron (La Fayette Ron), 1911-
Hunt, Denny
Hunt, Dorothy
Hunt, Fred
Farra, Homer
McGinnis, Vera, 1895-1990
Parks, Dorothy
Perry, Reba
Robbins, Bill (Skeeter), 1883-1948
Robbins, Dorothy (Morrell), 1888-
Sharp, Dave
Shelton, Mike
Simpson, Earl
Smith, Pam
Swift, Kay
Trickey, Lorena, 1893-1961
White, Father – Jesuit Priest
Will, A., Mr.

Corporate Names:
Aqua Caliente racetrack
Bingling Stables
British Charities
Hoot Gibson Ranch
Lasky Picture Company & Ranch
Maine Chance Farms
Santa Anita racetrack

Rodeo Fans

The Virginian

Subject Headings:
Patriotic music
Popular music
Rodeos-Great Britain-London
Rodeos-Great Britain-1920-1940
Sports for women-United States
Women athletes-United States

Processing Information

The Mrs. Grant E. Ashby Rodeo Collection was donated to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in an unknown year by Mrs. Grant E. Ashby.

During the 1980s, Willard H. Porter collected materials for rodeo magazine articles. The Mrs. Grant E. Ashby Rodeo Collection was part of the materials acquired for the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum archives. Prior to 2001, the collection was chronologically sorted and placed in archival folders. Maintaining the integrity of the previous work, the collection was organized into five series in 2001. All materials within the folders are chronologically organized to maintain the true historical integrity. All photographs enclosed with personal letters are maintained with the letter and envelope. The 1924 rodeo photographs do not have any dated order. Artifacts from Vera McGinnis’ letters are accessioned in the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum collection.

Preferred Citation

Mrs. Grant E. Ashby Rodeo Collection, Box ##, Folder ##, Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Container List

Series 1: Letters to Mrs. Grant E. Ashby

Box Folder Folder Title / Description
1 1 Marie Gibson, 1927-1933
1 2 Dorothy and Fred Hunt, 1934-1936
1 3 Institutions, 1924-1934
1 4 Vera McGinnis, 1924-1930
1 5 Vera McGinnis, 1931-1936
1 6 Vera McGinnis, 1937-1943
1 7 Vera McGinnis, 1944-1946
1 8 Vera McGinnis, 1947-1948
1 9 Vera McGinnis, 1949-1950
1 10 Vera McGinnis, 1951-1953
2 1 Vera McGinnis, 1960-1976
2 2 Vera McGinnis, 1977-1983
2 3 Lorena Trickey, 1927

Series 2: Clippings

Box Folder Folder Title / Description
2 4 London Rodeo, Wembley, 1924
2 5 London Rodeo, White City, 1934
2 6 Miscellaneous, n.d.

Series 3: Published Materials

Box Folder Folder Title / Description
FF D51 Daily programs, London Rodeo, Wembley, 1924
3 1 Tickets, London Rodeo, Wembley, 1924
3 2 Program, broadside, London Rodeo, Wembley, 1924
2 7 Program, London Rodeo, June 15, 1934
3 3 Ticket, London Rodeo, 1934
3 4 Program, London Rodeo, White City, 1934

Series 4: Photographs

Box Folder Folder Title / Description
3 6 Publicity photographs, London Rodeo, Wembley, 1924 [40]

Series 5: Postcard

Box Folder Folder Title / Description
3 5 Ocean voyage, London Rodeo, 1924 [1]

Series 6: Sheet Music

Box Folder Folder Title / Description
FF D51 Sheet music, London Rodeo, Wembley, 1924

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