Los Angeles, CA 90027
The Autry National Center explores the experiences and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West, connecting the past with the present to inform our shared future.
About the Autry National Center
The Autry National Center celebrates the American West through three important institutions: the Museum of the American West, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, and the Institute for the Study of the American West. The Autry was established in 2003 following the merger of the Southwest Museum, the Women of the West Museum , and the Museum of the American West (formerly the Autry Museum of Western Heritage). Through innovative exhibitions, a broad range of programs and extensive collection of art and artifacts, the Autry National Center explores the distinct stories and interactions of cultures and peoples, and their impact on the complex, evolving history of the American West.
Griffith Park in Los Angeles, home of the Museum of the American West.The Autry National Center, formerly known as the Museum of Western Heritage, was co-founded by Gene and Jackie Autry and Monte and Joanne Hale. With the opening of the Museum in 1988, Gene Autry realized his dream 'to build a museum which would exhibit and interpret the heritage of the West and show how it influenced American and the world.' Mr. Autry was a legendary recording and movie star whose illustrious career spanned some 60 years in the entertainment industry. He was also a broadcast executive and major league baseball owner.
Mt. Washington in Los Angeles, home of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian..The Southwest Museum of the American Indian, the oldest museum in Los Angeles, was founded by Charles Fletcher Lummis. Mr. Lummis was the first city editor for the Los Angeles Times. He was also a photographer, amateur anthropologist, and prolific historian of the southwestern United States who helped popularize the idea of Los Angeles as a multicultural city.
Gene Autry, 1907-1998
Gene Autry, founder of the Autry National Center.Gene Autry's career spanned some 60 years in the entertainment industry, encompassing radio, recordings, motion pictures, television, rodeo and live performances. He also became a broadcast executive and major league baseball owner.
Known as 'America's Favorite Singing Cowboy', he is the only entertainer to have five stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, one each for radio, records, film, television and live theatrical performance (including rodeo). In his ability to transcend media and in the sheer scope of his output, Gene Autry was unsurpassed as a popular image-maker of the American West.
Born in Tioga, Texas, on September 29, 1907, Orvon Gene Autry bought his first guitar at the age of 12 for $8. By the late 1920s, he was working as a telegrapher for the railroad in Oklahoma. While he was singing and playing in the office one night, Gene was discovered by the great cowboy humorist Will Rogers. Rogers advised the young Autry to try radio, and the rest is history.
Gene Autry is the only entertainer to have five stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, one each for radio, records, film, television and live theatrical performance.
Gene Autry began his radio career in 1928 and made his first recordings a year later. His first hit came in 1931 with That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine, the first record ever certified gold for having sold more than a million copies. Gene made his film debut as a dude ranch cowboy singer in the 1934 Ken Maynard film In Old Santa Fe. In 1935, he made his first starring appearance in the science fiction Western serial The Phantom Empire. By 1937 he was America's Favorite Cowboy, voted the Number 1 Western Star by the theater exhibitors of America. In 1940 the theater exhibitors voted Autry the fourth biggest box office attraction, behind Mickey Rooney, Clark Gable, and Spencer Tracy. Autry remained in first or second place among cowboy stars in terms of box office draw until he retired from motion pictures in 1953.
He appeared in 93 feature films and made 635 recordings, more than 300 of which he wrote or co-wrote. Some of his best known movies are based on his hit records, including South of the Border (1939), Mexicali Rose (1939), Back in the Saddle (1941), The Last Round-Up (1947) and Strawberry Roan (1948). Gene's recordings have sold more than 60 million copies and brought him more than a dozen gold records. Be Honest With Me was nominated for an Academy Award in 1941. Gene Autry's beloved Christmas and children's records Here Comes Santa Claus (1947) and Peter Cottontail (1950) went platinum (for more than two million copies sold), while Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1949) remains the second best selling single of all time, with sales totaling more than 30 million.
In addition to his movie and recording success, Gene Autry's Melody Ranch was heard weekly over the CBS Radio Network between 1940 and 1956. During World War II, Autry enlisted for service on the air during a broadcast of the show, going on to serve his country as a flight officer with the Air Transport Command. From 1943 until 1945, he flew large cargo planes in the China-Burma-India theater. When the war ended, Autry was assigned to Special Services, where he toured with a USO troupe in the South Pacific before resuming his movie career in 1946.
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