Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wild West Show Rides Again....

Annie Oakley bottle

On March 4, I published a blog post about my father's collection of Wild West whiskey decanters, many of which he designed himself.

Since my parents' house was for sale and, in fact, three days later, on March 7, I signed the paperwork that placed the house in escrow, I was desperate to find a home for these bottles. There were thirty-three of them -- too many for me to display at my house, too many for me to even store at my house. I was hoping to find a place, a museum of some sort, preferably, where the decanters would forever be safe, and still be able to be seen by the public.

Thanks to Cory Doctorow, my blog post was cross-posted on -- and between the two posts, the response from readers was overwhelming, with suggestions of possible resources both in and outside the state. I was elated. I contacted the Autry National Center (formerly the Autry Museum of Western Heritage) and the Santa Clarita Historical Society, among others, and I even visited Walker '47 -- a Western-themed gun store in Anaheim only three and a half miles from my parents' house, with quite the historical display throughout the shop, and chatted briefly with owner Andy Cauble.

Within a couple weeks I had actually found a home for the bottle collection, but I haven't been able to say anything until now: the official "Deed of Gift" forms have finally arrived.

My father's collection of Wild West whiskey bottles have been acquired by the Autry National Center (Twitter: @TheAutry); from their website:
The Autry is an intercultural history center dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West. Located in Griffith Park, the Autry’s collection of over 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts, which includes the collection of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, is one of the largest and most significant in the United States....

My initial email communications were with Jeffrey Richardson, Gamble Curator of Western History, Popular Culture, and Firearms at the Autry National Center. I provided him with a link to my March 4 blog post, and then provided whatever additional information I was able to in response to his many questions. After expressing an interest in the collection, Jeffrey introduced me, virtually speaking, that is, to Steven Walsh, Registrar & Project Manager at the Autry National Center. There were some telephone calls along the way as well. Steven arranged a meeting at the house on Thursday morning, March 22, to pack up all the bottles and transport them to the Autry.

Steven arrived on schedule, along with a couple dozen or more bankers boxes, a ton of styrofoam packing peanuts, plastic bags, bubble wrap -- and a car that I thought was far too small to hold everything -- but it did!

Even though the collection was now in the Autry's possession, it was still not a done deal. On Wednesday, April 4, the Accession Committee was to meet to review my donation of the ceramic decanter collection. The final decision was up to this committee. Later that day I received a telephone call from Jeffrey Richardson, informing me that the collection donation had been accepted by the Autry. But, it still wasn't official just yet: I had to wait to receive the "Deed of Gift" forms, which, as I have already said, are now in my hands. These forms consist of thirty-one pages (two pages contain two entries) describing each of the thirty-three decanters, with a place at the bottom of each page for my signature and date. The letter that accompanied the "Deed of Gift" forms states in part:
It is with great pleasure that the Autry National Center accepts your donation for the museum. The Accession Committee, whose members review each donation to ensure that it meets our acceptance criteria, were delighted with the donation and feel that it will make an important and lasting addition to the museum's collection.


Please accept our thanks for your gift to the Autry National Center. Your interest and support is greatly valued, and your generosity in making this donation is sincerely appreciated.

[signed] Steven Walsh, Acquisitions Registrar

I, in turn, wish to thank all the readers -- both here and at -- for their support, and especially their suggestions. I didn't know there were so many speciality museums! I particularly want to thank Pamela Kruse-Buckingham, who went the extra step with some additional suggestions on museum donations.

Jeffrey Richardson has informed me that the museum plans a special exhibit in 2013 that will focus on the Wild West in American pop culture, which will include my father's decanter collection.

Thanks again, everyone!


  1. Rad! Boing Boing and blog readers to the rescue again! I am so glad that there is a happy ending to this story for you. I can only imagine the emotional stress and involved in cleaning out the years of history in ones parents home and am so glad to see that you able to find a home for this important piece of your own personal history as will as such a beautiful and important piece of American western culture and art. Congratulations!

  2. Hi, Devan,

    Thanks ever so much for your kind comments and support. When I received word from the Autry that they were interested, it was like this huge weight being lifted. I actually got a bit misty-eyed, which isn't typical of me.

    Cheers, and thanks again.
    - marty