Gilcrease Announces Purchase for 101 Ranch Collection
Gilcrease Museum recently announced the acquisition of one of the largest collections of Western Americana in the museum’s history with the purchase of “101 Ranch: The Real Wild West.” The exhibit will go on display July 12 and runs through Jan. 25, 2009.
Over 3,700 objects comprise this collection including such relics as rare photographs and posters, costumes and dozens of historical firearms once owned by Wild West show notables like Stack Lee, Tex Cooper, Zack Miller and sharpshooter Lillian Smith, better known as “Princess Wenona.”
“This is one of the most important acquisitions since the time of Thomas Gilcrease,” says Interim Director Gary Moore. “It’s important not just in terms of size and quality but also in regard to historical significance.”
The collection, valued at nearly $2 million, was purchased with help from Randi and Fred Wightman, the Thomas Gilcrease Museum Association Endowment Trust and the City of Tulsa.
The collection was bought from Jerry and Ruth Murphey, 101 Ranch memorabilia and historical artifacts experts. Gathering 101 Ranch memorabilia since he was 15 years old, Jerry wanted the collection to be in Oklahoma and available for everyone to enjoy.
Founded by Col. George C. Miller in the late 1800s near present-day Ponca City, the ranch grew to some 110,000 acres and became the most prominent and profitable farming and ranching enterprise of its time with the help of Miller’s three sons: Joe, George and Zack. The 101 Ranch became an icon of the American West and was proclaimed “the largest diversified farm and ranch in the world.”
In 1905, the Miller brothers gathered together some of the ranch’s cowboys to create one of the most successful Wild West shows of its time. The “Miller Brother’s Real Wild West” show featured 101 Ranch cowboys like Tom Mix, Bill Pickett, Hoot Gibson and Yakima Cannutt. The show later included Ruth Roach, Lucy Mulhall (known as “America’s First Cowgirl”) and Buffalo Bill.
“Although the 101 Ranch is no more, its legacy continues to have a tremendous impact on Oklahoma and the nation, as well as the folklore and history of the American West,” says Michael Wallis, author of “The Real Wild West: The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the American West.”
“On this ranch,” says Wallis, “the West of imagination collided and merged with the West of reality, a spectacle that can never be duplicated.”
The 101 Ranch also became famous for its location of many Western films shot there at the time.
“Some of our first moving pictures were filmed at the 101 Ranch,” says Gilcrease Collections Manager Randy Ramer. “It was a perfect location for filming, with their own hoards of buffalo and steer, cowboys and Native American performers and hundreds of thousands of acres to film on. The 101 had everything.”