Time Before Now, October 1861 – Abraham Lincoln, nearly a war time president, arrived in Washington in February after a Fort Sumter supply ship was fired on in Charleston Harbor on January 9. Sam Houston was ousted as Governor of Texas in March and in a controversial event at the Pony Express Station at Rock Creek, Nebraska, Wild Bill Hickok shot and killed rancher David McCanles. Boston confectioner William Schrafft urged the public to send his new Jelly Bean candies to soldiers and Philadelphia printer, John P. Charlton, patented the post card. Western painter, William Henry Jackson, had reproduced paintings and photographs on small cards in corresponding with his family the previous year.
October 4, 1861
On this day, celebrated illustrator of the mythic Old West, Frederic Remington, was born “back East” in Canton, New York.
Never much of a Westerner himself, his painterly portrayal of the frontier made him one of the 19th century’s must successful artists and one of the most prolific. In a span of a little over two decades he produced more than 3,000 drawing and paintings and twenty-two bronze sculptures, a number which still grace White House credenzas today. A novelist and a playwright, as well, he authored dozens of articles and stories for the popular press, authenticating the American public’s vision of the nation’s character as heroic and independent.
He was the only child of a prosperous family. His father, Seth Remington, (right) was a founder of the St. Lawrence Plaindealer newspaper, which ceased publication only in April of 2019.
Despite their deep Yankee roots, the Remingtons were steeped in frontier culture. The artist’s pedigree includes family ties to famed Western artist, George Catlin, (right) sculptor and rodeo cowboy, Earl Bascom and Western painter, Frank Tenney Johnson, “father of the moonlight technique.” A cousin to Eliphalet Remington, founder of the Remington Arms Company, he was also related to a trio of mountain men; Jonathan Warner, Robert “Doc” Newell and the famous Jedediah Smith (right) and even George Washington himself.
After a mere three semesters at Yale’s prestigious Department of Fine Art, however, Remington’s formal training came to a screeching halt when his father died at 45. Becoming a reporter, one of his first assignments took him to Montana Territory. He sold his first sketch of cowboys to Harper’s Weekly in 1881.
Caught up in the frontier mystique, he worked at a Kansas sheep ranch before returning home to wed his childhood sweetheart, Eva Adel Canton and bought an interest in a ranch of his own. But financial difficulties and the harsh living conditions quickly soured Eva on frontier life. She returned to her family in Gloversville, New York in less than a year.
Following his wife’s defection, Remington traveled across the Southwest where he developed the dramatic, tension-filled style that made both the era and his paintings famous. Returning to the East Coast, he reunited with Eva. It permanently ended his only full-time residency West of the Mississippi and made him a perennial frontier tourist instead.
Mastery of the horse in “Cold morning on the range, 1904”
Two important commissions in the mid-1880s cemented his reputation as an avatar of the nation’s he-men. In 1866 Harper’s Weekly assigned him to cover the government’s pursuit of Geronimo. It didn’t result in an encounter with the illusive Apache but it gave Remington the opportunity to collect artifacts and observations to take back East.
A year later he received a commission to produce 83 illustrations for the book “Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail,” by future president, Teddy Roosevelt. The book, serialized in “The Century” magazine led to an agreement with Harper’s for “first options” on his work. During the next decade Remington’s images of cowboys, soldiers and Native Americans flooded popular publication with romantic images of the Old West minus the dust, drought, fleas and bad food.
His association with the young Roosevelt fostered a fast friendship. But when Remington accompanied Rough Rider Teddy to Cuba, the realities of war inspired strong pacifist views that remained with him throughout his life.
By the turn of the century Remington was enjoying both critical and popular acclaim. His “faux cowboy” image made him sought after as a banquet speaker and guest, expanding his career opportunities. It unfortunately expanded his waistline, as well, creating a problem of obesity that continued to plague him. (Above, with Eva and widening girth)
In the 1900s he took on a new challenge, delving into sculpture and mastering the medium in record time. His first bronze, “The Bronco Buster” (left) is still his most celebrated work and continues to be conspicuous artifact in the Oval Office of American presidents from the time of Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama.
Remington’s life was unexpectedly cut short in 1909, however, dying of complications from an appendectomy in New Rochelle, New York at just 48. He was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in his hometown of Canton.
His work continued to have a cultural impact past his lifetime. Director John Ford’s 1949 “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, was based on his writings. starring John Wayne (left), it won an Oscar for cinematography. And one of Remington’s cowboy drawings was reportedly the inspiration for the iconic “Marlboro Man” ad campaign of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Frederic Remington Art Museum. 303 Washington Street, Ogdensburg, New York, affords a trip Out West closer to home for Easterners. The museum houses an unparalleled repository of Remington’s works, the majority obtained from the Eva Canton Remington estate in 1918. In addition to numerous works by the artist, the museum features estate furnishing, annotated scrapbooks, photographs and personal artifacts ranging from his brushes and easel to his elk’s tooth cuff-links.
The museum is located in the in historic 1810 house built by David Parish. Open summers May 15 through October 15, 10 to 5 Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 Sunday. Winter hours, October 16 through May 14 are 11 to 5, Wednesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 Sunday. The museum is closed Thanksgiving Christmas, New Years and Easter.
Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for senior, $7 for students and $5 for active military and their families. For more information to fredericremington.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call (315) 393-2425, or write Frederic Remington Art Museum, 303 Washington Street, Ogdensburg, New York 13669.
Sid Richardson Art Museum, 309 Main Street, Fort Worth, Texas, features one of the largest private collections in the country of art by Frederic Remington and Charles Russell. Founded in 1942, Texas oil man Richardson’s interest in the Western genre was not limited to Remington and Russell included works by other lesser known 19th century Western painters. Located in Fort Worth’s Historic Sundance Square, it is in walking distance of many of the city’s other important facilities including the Fort Worth Convention Center and Bass Performance Hall.
Admission is free and free parking is available with validation. Regular hours, 9 to 5 Monday through Thursday, 9 to 8, Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 on Sunday. Closed major holidays and early closings on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. For more information go to sidrichardsonmuseum.org, e-mail email@example.com, call (817) 332-6554 or write Sid Richardson Art Museum, 309 Main Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102.
Before visiting, click on the websites listed above for the most recent information on Covid-19 guidelines.
© Text Only – 2020 – Headin’ West LLC – All photos – public domain or fair use.
*Head On West strives for historic accuracy and uses a number of sources considered reliable. When research differs on significant facts, the various points of view will be cited.