The Cattle Raisers Museum is inside of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, in the form of a special exhibit, however it could be a museum in its own right. While the rest of the museum has a more child-oriented vibe, the Cattle Raisers Museum provides a scholarly perspective into Texas’ cowboy culture and its relationship with the cow.
The exhibit starts by describing the introduction of horses to North America. Following this came artifacts of the Mexican vaqueros, which eventually morphed into the American cowboy. The cattle industry became critical for the Texan economy during and after the American Civil War. Union soldiers’ taste for beef drove up the price of cattle. As a result, as shown by an informative plaque, “a six-dollar Texas steer was worth forty dollars in Chicago.”
Cattle drives were central to the Texan economy, especially in Fort Worth. The Chisholm Trail, the most famous cattle drive, moved cows from the south, through Fort Worth, across Oklahoma, and to the railroad junctions of Kansas, specifically in Abilene.
The railroads became another innovation to Texas. Here are some of the following railways that connected Fort Worth to the Gulf of Mexico, Northeast, and California.
Chicago, Rock Island And Texas Railway (1893): Chicago- Fort Worth- Houston
Texas and Pacific Railway (1876): New Orleans- Dallas- Fort Worth- El Paso- Yuma
Fort Worth and Denver City Railway (1881): Fort Worth- Amarillo- Denver
Along with the museum exhibits, there are paintings as well as everyday objects used by cowboys and their families. There are posters warning against cattle rustlers, branding irons, and spurs. There is a Native American headdress decorated in feathers, which was passed down by Quanah Parker, one of the last Comanche chiefs to cave in to settlement.
There’s also a collection of strands of barbed wire, which was a huge innovation for the Great Plains, where cattle needed to be fenced in. Without the availability of trees, barbed wire became essential. Another artifact is an 1890’s .44 Caliber Smith and Wesson, which looks like it had just been oiled yesterday.
But the most artistic aspect of this gallery is a room with numerous paintings by Tom Lea, who uses oil on canvas to depict America’s cow-herding heritage. There are detailed paintings of cows, calves, cowboys, and even one showing the Spaniards offloading the New World’s first cows into Veracruz harbor.
Due to its authenticity, insight, and relevance within Texas, I give the Cattle Raisers Museum 5/5 Stars.