One of my favorite parts of my trip to LA, was our visit to the Autry Museum of the West.

Outside of the Autry Museum

I learned the most from the sections of the museum devoted to the real history of the West, not the TV or movie versions we grew up with. They displayed artifacts and photos from the West that painted a less glamorous and more nitty-gritty portrait of life in the old West.

Booklet on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake
Photo of the actual damage done by the San Francisco earthquake of 1906
Indian saddle with beautiful detail work and colors
Samuel Colt and his line of guns

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was a big part of our image of the West.

Poster advertising Wild Bill Cody’s Show
The real Annie Oakley, a star of the Wild West Show

Life in the West was rugged and hard. Here are some artifacts of that life.

A cowboy’s spartan kitchen
Ad for a coach
Closeup of the beautiful and colorful artwork on the side of a coach

I found this 1915 phonograph fascinating! It apparently was used in saloons and saved the saloon keepers money on live entertainment!

Coin operated phonograph from 1915
Information about the phonograph


  1. My daughter would find this interesting – she’s doing the American West in history at the moment as part of her GCSE course. I’ll show her your pictures of Annie Oakley and Bill Cody, and the fascinating artefacts, like the Indian saddle and that cowboy’s kitchen. Very impressive place. And I love the phonograph – so much more stylish than a jukebox! Looks a great museum.


    1. It’s always fun to see what iconic historical figures really looked like. Annie Oakley was nothing like I had pictured. She dressed like a girl scout and looked like your average matron. The cowboy kitchen was an eye opener – so little space to work in and store food items as well as tools of the trade. Cowboy cooks must have been very efficient and inventive. I also loved the phonograph that you had to pay to use, like a juke box! Such great insights into life in the old west.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It added a layer of fun going through the museum because I was documenting my visit for an audience. And there were so many things there worthy of sharing! We know that Garry loves old westerns so Tom took a bunch of photos especially for him. And I also took a lot in the movie and TV section of the museum, with Garry in mind.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ellin, love the pics, especially the stagecoach. I don’t recall seeing such a beautiful stagecoach in any of the ga-zillion westerns I’ve watched.
    Must belong to an evil, rich land baron with good taste.


    1. I was struck by the stage coach too. They are very plain and dowdy in all the westerns I’ve ever seen. But apparently at least some of them were beautifully decorated. When this particular stage coach was discovered by the museum, it looked solid black. But as they started to clean it and restore it, the art work underneath came through. Maybae that’s why we always thought they were plain and solid – because historians never bothered to try to clean and restore them and discover what was underneath all the years of dirt and wear. It’s like the Greek and Roman sculptures – we think they were all solid white when in fact they were brightly painted and clothed. But the paint wore off over the years and left us with a totally false impression of GrecoRoman sculptures.


    1. There weren’t many Indian saddles on display, so maybe they weren’t that common. Or they just weren’t preserved down through the years by the people who write the history.


  3. It was the McClellan Cavalry saddle. They still make them, though I don’t know why. I rode one a couple of time. I think it was the only saddle that fit that particular horse, but it was vicious. I had no problem with standard English and jump saddles or any kind of Western saddle, but the McClellan was truly a pain in my butt.

    Also, most of the old Chinese porcelain I have were painted. If it wasn’t glazed, it was painted. Most of my pieces still have tiny pieces of paint clinging to them here and there. Garry thinks it’s pretty strange that no one thought to clean up the stagecoaches. He has a point.


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