Western Frontiers: Stories of Fact and Fiction


The Autry in Griffith Park

About the Exhibition

This new exhibition illuminates the sweep of American Western history through its definitive artifact: the firearm. The examples featured—by iconic manufacturers such as Remington, Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Winchester, among others—are some of the finest specimens of the gun maker’s art, in terms of historic value, provenance, and pure beauty, that have ever been brought together in the United States.

The exhibition explores the many roles guns have played in the history of the West, from the opening of the frontier in the late eighteenth century through television Westerns in the middle of the twentieth century. Themes explored include hunting and trapping, the impact of technology on firearms, the conservation movement, and the West in popular culture.

From the Colt and Winchester firearms Teddy Roosevelt used in the West, to Annie Oakley’s gold-plated handguns with pearl grips, to a Remington revolver once owned by Gettysburg hero General George Meade, this evolving display reflects the real and imagined stories behind the people who owned those guns. The exhibition also features historical documents, artworks, and artifacts, including Winchester advertisement lithographs, colored-glass target spheres used in sharp-shooter demonstrations, and a gun belt once owned by actor Steve McQueen, all of which place the firearms in a rich cultural and historic context.