Cowboys and Presidents

The Cowboys and Presidents exhibit at the Autry National Center blended cowboy and presidential culture

Explore the fascinating and ongoing intersection of cowboy culture and presidential politics from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush during the Autry National Center’s premiere exhibit of Cowboys and Presidents, which runs April 12 through September 7 in Los Angeles.

The exhibit features a century of photos, newsreels and newspaper stories; film, TV and radio clips; artworks; and presidential memorabilia from private lenders and collections belonging to the Autry as well as presidential and university libraries. The exhibit reveals how the presidency became intertwined with the emerging image of a heroic American cowboy at the turn of the 20th century and explores the ways that U.S. Presidents have used this powerful iconographic symbol to define themselves and their administrations to the nation and the world. The exhibit also shows how the press, foreign governments, and domestic political opponents have found cowboy imagery useful in criticizing presidential policy and leadership.

Exhibit highlights range from whimsical to sentimental, including LBJ’s much-photographed Stetson hat; drawings inspired by the film “High Noon,” which Bill Clinton made as a child; the intricately carved Saddle of Independence dedicated to 9/11, which was a gift from the Black Hills Stock Show Foundation to George W. Bush; and Calvin Coolidge’s electric exercise horse (which resembled a mechanical bull).

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