“Scots in the American West,” an exhibit produced by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming, heads to New York to celebrate the 13th Annual Tartan Day on Ellis Island, March 28 – 30, 2014. The exhibition shares stories and images of individuals of Scottish descent in the American West.
Collaborating to take the Buffalo Bill Center of the West “Scots in the American West” exhibit from Cody, Wyoming, to Ellis Island is the Clan Currie Society, one of the country’s leading Scottish heritage organizations and which also produces Tartan Day. The Ellis Island event launches New York Tartan Week, a two-week festival of all things Scottish, including a musical tattoo (drum and marching performances), Scottish fashion show, whisky tastings, a gala dinner, some of the finest Scottish entertainment in New York City, and the annual parade.
The presence of Scots in America began in the late 1600s when Glasgow, Scotland, was the European center for the Virginia tobacco trade, and Scots-Presbyterian dissenters in search of religious freedom established their own colonies in South Carolina and New Jersey. In the 1700s, population growth, agricultural modernization, and political upheaval in Scotland were the driving forces behind more than 50,000 immigrants crossing the Atlantic to America.
At the end of the eighteenth century, when the new Republic in America looked West, many of the earliest “over-mountain men” settling the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys were of Scots or Scots-Irish descent. It is little wonder that in the 1800s, as the United States expanded into the areas now considered the American West, the hardy Scots were so much to the fore.
The Ellis Island exhibition also explores the profound impact of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show on the people of Scotland during his European tours, which took place between 1886 and 1889.
“How wonderful that this important exhibition has found its way to Ellis Island—the Golden Door to America for so many Scottish and Irish immigrants,” remarked the Center’s Buffalo Bill Museum Curator Jeremy Johnston, who is also the exhibition curator. “This is the place of the first steps of their journey to the American West.”
Visit Tartan Day’s Facebook page to follow exhibit plans and preparations.
Since 1917, the Buffalo Bill Center of the West has been committed to the greatness and growth of the American West, keeping western experiences alive. The Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, weaves the varied threads of the western experience—history and myth, art and Native culture, firearms, and the nature and science of Yellowstone—into the rich panorama that is the American West.