The University Libraries are excited to announce a newly available digital collection from the Archives, just in time for National Day of the Cowboy on July 27. The Clifford P. and Therese S. Westermeier Digital Collection contains over 300 historic photographs and photo-postcards related to rodeo history, with particular emphasis on women in rodeo and the Rocky Mountain region.
Clifford P. Westermeier (1910-1986) and Therese S. Westermeier (1902-1986), both former professors at the University of Colorado Boulder, were prolific collectors on the topic of cowboys, rodeo history, and the American West. In his long career as an artist and historian, Clifford Westermeier published four books and more than twenty articles on the history of rodeos and the American cowboy. Their papers and research collections, which were donated to the Archives in 1986, contain hundreds of books and periodicals, thousands of photographs and postcards, and even a series of diverse barbed wire samples, mounted in custom display cases.
Though Clifford Westermeier began publishing on general rodeo and cowboy history as early as the 1940s, his interest in the topic evolved into new and unexpected directions by the end of his career. His research files from the 1970s began to challenge accepted assumptions about gender and race in western history, with a focus on women in rodeo, labor struggles among rodeo performers, sexuality and homosexuality in American cowboy history, and Black, Hispanic, and American Indian vaqueros and rodeo performers.
The digital collection, newly available on the University of Colorado Digital Library, is a curated collection of over 300 images from 1907 to the late 1940s. Though many images were published and circulated by rodeo fans as individual photo postcards in the early 20th century, they have not been readily available online or as a published collection before now. The collection includes images of men and women participating in all the classic rodeo events—bronc-riding, steer-wrestling, and calf-roping — as well as spectacular performances by trick riders, trained animals, and rodeo clowns.
Unique within the collection is also personal material obtained by the Westermeiers from trick riders and rodeo performers Jim Eskew, Florence Randolph, Leonard Stroud, and Mayme Saunders Stroud. Mayme Saunders, particularly, was raised in Lafayette, Colorado and began her career as a “fancy” rider in the Denver-based Sells-Floto Circus from 1909 to 1914. Her collection of photographs give a fascinating peek into the behind-the-scenes life of women in the circus and rodeo culture in the American West.
The digital collection was curated by project archivist Jamie Marie Wagner with support from the Westermeier gift fund. The Department of Special Collection, Archives, and Preservation would like to thank Adrienne Wagner and Erik Radio for their collaboration in digitizing this material and making it available online. A description of the collection is available online. Materials are also available for access in the Special Collections and Archives reading room. Send an email to Special Collections, Archives and Preservation for more information.
The Libraries welcomes everyone to browse the Clifford P. and Therese S. Westermeier digital collection, as a way to experience the uniquely western summer sport of rodeo from the comfort of your air-conditioned home.