Museum of the Mountain Man
Featured Exhibit 2015: National Geographic Pronghorn Passage Photo Exhibit
In the early-to mid- 1800s, the fur trade was booming in America and Europe. Beaver pelts were in high demand for fashions, especially headwear, and the mountain men in the Rocky Mountains were able to make a living trapping and trading pelts. Mountain men like Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, Thomas Fitzpatrick and William Sublette carved their legends in the Wind River Range with employment in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and blazed a new beginning for the pioneers of the Oregon Trail heading west.
The Museum of the Mountain Man is a display of Pinedale's history and culture, and it attracts about 12,000 visitors during its six-month season. The Sublette County Historical Society's goal is to preserve the history of the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade era, and to specifically highlight Pinedale's role as the fur trade's center of operations. The museum also details the economics of the fur trade and its eventual downfall, and the challenges of initial settlements in this region by pioneers heading west. New exhibits are displayed every year, whether adding to the permanent collection, or as traveling displays. The Museum hosts fundraisers, as well as many history-oriented educational events and entertainment for the annual Green River Rendezvous, held the second weekend in July.
The Museum's permanent collection includes many relics of the fur trade era, including Jim Bridger's rifle, Native American clothing, Winchester firearm displays, and Archaic evidence detailing earliest habitation in this area. A Shoshone bow made from the horns of a Bighorn Sheep and authenticated to be one of the oldest specimens of its kind is on display, with information about its discovery in the nearby Gros Ventre range. Arguably its best but largely unseen jewel is a priceless research library with many rare and classic books on early Wyoming history and the fur trade era, acquired mainly through private donations.
Admission Adults - $7, Senior Citizens - $6, Children - $6 Ages 6 and under - Free
Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Era
The Rocky Mountain fur trade era was a crucial stepping stone in the westward movement of settlers in the young United States. By leading the way for the largest voluntary mass migration in history, mountain men like Jim Bridger and Kit Carson helped expand the United States from the Missouri River to the Pacific Coast. The mountain man has become one of the first true American icons, and their way of life captures the American imagination even today.
The golden years of the Rocky Mountain fur trade can be traced to March 1824, when Jed Smith led a party of trappers into the Green River Valley, finding an abundance of beaver and a lack of hostile Indians to contend with. The mountain man, the annual springtime rendezvous, and overland supply system that followed this discovery ultimately characterized the classic Rocky Mountain fur trade era. The rendezvous of 1840 was the last of what is now known as the golden era of the fur trade industry.
Archaic Camp 5000 BC.
"Plains Archaic" is the designation archaeologists have given to the hunter-gatherers who lived in the American plains between about 5600 BC and AD 500. Significant amounts of evidence has been uncovered and dates back to people living in the Upper Green River Valley 5,000 to 7,000 years ago (during the "Archaic" time period). Over 5,500 cultural sites including surface sites, rock alignments, bone beds, animal sites and ancient game processing areas have been unearthed. A three-dimensional representation of what one of these houses may have looked like is on display at the Museum.
Chief American Horse Warrior Society Tipi (circa 1876)
This is one of only two buffalo-hide tipis still displayed in the nation and is elaborately set up complete with furnishings, buffalo robes, utility bags, a hand-painted drum, parfleches, headdresses, buffalo bull neck shield, bow and arrows, elaborately painted buffalo hide liner, war lance, pipes, Indian kitchen, and more. Step back and experience history with this unique and awe-inspiring look at Native American life when the West was still young.
Jim Bridger's Rifle (circa 1853)
Louis Vasquez, a good friend and business partner of mountain man Jim Bridger had a .40 caliber half-stock rifle engraved "J.Bridger 1853" and presented it to Jim for reasons yet unknown. Jim Bridger was an iconic figure in the American mountain man culture. He spoke conversational French, Spanish, and several native languages. He was a large and physically fit man, well up to the challenges of living in the harsh Rocky Mountain region. He was one of the first white men to see the wonders of what is now Yellowstone National Park, as well as the Great Salt Lake in Utah. He blazed the Bridger Trail which shortened the Oregon Trail by over 60 miles, and was famous for his tall tales. He truly embodied the American spirit of exploration.
Shoshone Sheephorn Bow (circa 1690)
Lewis and Clark observed the Shoshone Indians constructing short bows with the strong, curved horns of Bighorn Sheep and recorded their use on trail maps and travel logs throughout this area. The most powerful short bow of the Native American horse culture, sheephorn bows were backed and wrapped with sinew for increased strength and recoil. Such a bow was a prized possession in the Shoshone culture. This specimen is one of the oldest authenticated, and was constructed using stone tools. It was discovered in the nearby Gros Ventre mountain range.
Annual Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Journal
The Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Journal is an academic publication intended to promote knowledge and further discovery of the Rocky Mountain fur trade era. It is released annually at the Green River Rendezvous. Research grants are available for contributors, and accurate submissions are widely accepted from all parties interested in publication.
Mountain Man Encampment
The American Mountain Men, formed in the 1970's, are a group of individuals who are wholly dedicated to the research and study of the American Mountain Man. The history, traditions, tools, and methods of survival for trappers and traders in the western states is studied and replicated by this group. Their research includes academic research, but is focused heavily on experience, reenactments, and the authentic ways of the Mountain Man.
American Indian Clothes and Artifacts
When the Mountain Men came to the Rocky Mountains, they entered a world that had been occupied by Native Americans for thousands of years. Tribes such as Shoshone, Crow, Arapaho, Ute, Blackfeet and many others were an integral part of the fur trade era, and companies such as the Rocky Mountain Fur Company were created in direct response to laws prohibiting trade of alcohol and other goods between white men and Native Americans. The Museum has gathered a large collection of Native American Indian artifacts including tools, weapons, clothing, as well trade goods that were typical of the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade era.
Winchester Arms Collection
Over 100 commemorative Winchester rifles, shotguns, revolvers and pistols can be seen on permanent display at the Museum. Many of the collection are rare, limited-edition pieces that have never been fired. Winchester Commemoratives were first introduced in 1964 with the Wyoming Diamond Jubilee. Each Commemorative was issued to specifically honor a significant person, group, event or institution relating to U.S. or Canadian history. The full commemorative gun collection includes the Wyoming Centennial Commemorative Rifle.