LA’s Autry museum recognizes American west history

Autry Museum

The American west comes to life at the Autry National Center in the Griffith Park district of Los Angeles. The museum, named after famed singing cowboy Gene Autry recognizes the American western days through a myriad of exhibits.

During our visit in 2011, our friends Mark and Ron joined us for a visit of the museum. Since I was a cowboy wannabe as a kid, this was hog heaven for me. From actual western items, such as pistols and rifles, to pop culture items, I loved the visit.

Autry Museum in LA

Visitors are welcomed to the museum by a statute of Autry singing next to his horse.

Once inside, the history jumps out at you.

We checked out some Native American art. There was a shawl, as well as some southwestern tribal doll figures.

Native American Art at Autry Museum

I loved a sculpture of a Native American aiming his bow.

Indian w/bow sculture at Autry Museum in LA

A western town front is available for viewing. You can go in some of the fronts, such as the jail and a house.

western town front at Autry museum in LA

The western movie section was truly impressive.

For starters, it included a section on “Hoot” Gibson. Gibson is a Nebraska native born and raised in Tekamah, about 45 minutes north of Omaha. My in-laws lived there. The town has an annual rodeo named after him. Gibson acted in more than 200 movies, while also competing in rodeos.

Hoot Gibson memorabilia

As I mentioned previously, Gene Autry was known as the singing cowboy. He is famous for “Back in the Saddle Again.” He also sang a lot of Christmas songs, including “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Gene Autry memorabilia

Autry was more than a performer. One of his business ventures included owning the California Angels baseball team. He originally sought to get the radio rights to the expansion team, but Major League Baseball owners persuaded him to come aboard as the team’s owner. He eventually sold the team in the mid-1990s.

On display is one of my favorite holsters as kid, a double gun holster. You could have two pistols for both hands. It was awesome!

The double gun holster

Not to be overlooked, the museum pays its respects to another singing cowboy – Roy Rogers. Rogers, along with his horse Trigger, starred in several movies. Some included his wife, Dale.

Roy Rogers memorabilia at Autry Museum

Moving on to television westerns, can anyone recall the burning map of The Ponderosa that opened each episode of “Bonanza?”

Television westerns memorabilia

The Lone Ranger’s costume is on display.

Lone Rangers costumes

I always envisioned James Arness as a large man, but his outfit for Marshal Matt Dillon in “Gunsmoke” didn’t look like it was worn by a big guy. It’s amazing how the TV or movie screen can trick us.


Revisiting my childhood continued as we hit the toy section. I came across the “Best of the West Collection.” It included several of the action figures (toys in my day) that I had. Johnny West, who reminded me a lot of Matt Dillon, was the main dude of the bunch. I also had General Custer, Geronimo, Captain Maddox, and even a Jane West. Who were these guys supposed to date – Barbie? She preferred dating GI Joes.

Western toy collection

My fantasy childhood room was an exhibit. Who wouldn’t kill for an all-western themed room? I wonder if Lisa would let me redecorate our bedroom…

kids western themed bedroom

The Autry museum recognizes the most famous gunfight in the American West – the Gunfight at the OK Corral. The 1881 gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona, lasted about 30 seconds and involved some great names, such as Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne.

Re-enactment of the OK Corral

The museum has some of the costumes worn by the actors in the movie, “Tombstone,” starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer.

Costumes worn by actors in movie Tombstone

“Brokeback Mountain,” a modern western of sorts, has a display featuring shirts worn by one of the characters.

Brokeback Mountain

One of my family’s all-time favorite westerns is “Three Amigos.” The 1986 comedy starred Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short as three down-and-out silent movie actors, who are thrust into action as real cowboys in Mexico to stop the “infamous” El Gaupo. A sombrero, holster set and revolvers used by Chase during the movie are on display.

Three Amigos

A sculpture of the “End of the Trail” is on display. The original artwork is located at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Sculpture of the End of the Trail

The museum takes a look at cowboy life on the trail. Different types of saddles used by cowboys are available for viewing.

Look at cowboy life

After a long day of herding cattle, cowpokes could settle down for an evening’s rest and a good meal of beans.

Long day of herding cattle

Originally, cowboys likely came from Spain. The American cowboy likely grew from South American gauchos.

Origins of the American cowboy

A gun collection is at the museum. All types of revolvers are available, including at least one with a long barrel.

Different types of guns at Autry Museum

Fur traders and frontiersmen wore a lot of tanned hide clothing and used rifles intended for hunting.

Fur traders

After a long trip on the trail or in the mountains hunting, western men would unwind with some drink and some female “companionship.” The museum offers a look at a saloon.

Saloon at Autry Museum

The museum shares a look at western advancements, such as the stage coach.

Stage Coach at Autry Museum

As for weapons, the Gatling gun revolutionized military weaponry.

Military weaponry

As you finish touring the museum, I recommend you check out the outdoor trail. It’s a short walk, featuring a Native American sculpture and a waterfall/brook.

Outdoor trail at Autry Museum

For more information on the Autry museum, please visit its website at