Originally featured in Points West magazine in Spring 2018
Beaded Trousers with Suspenders, ca. 1920s, Northern Arapaho
An impractical but spectacular clothing item, these circa-1920s beaded trousers with attached suspenders represent the resurgence of Plains Indian artistic traditions during the Reservation Era. The trousers, sized for an adult male, were made by a Northern Arapaho artist. Both the front and back feature glass beadwork on hide. The trousers belonged to Tim McCoy, famed Hollywood actor known for his roles in westerns such as War Paint (MGM 1929), and Two-Fisted Law (Columbia 1932) alongside John Wayne and Walter Brennan.
McCoy lived and worked on the Double Diamond Ranch on the Wind River of Wyoming where he returned to a quiet ranch life between films and other entertainment-based ventures. He often employed members of the Northern Arapaho tribe in films, as well as his short-lived “Wild West”-style show in 1936.
McCoy gifted the trousers to Florence Trimble Ames, after which they were acquired from Trimble’s daughter by the Buffalo Bill Museum in 2001. While the trousers reside in the collections of the Buffalo Bill Museum as a memento of a bygone era of Hollywood westerns, they are also of interest to the Plains Indian Museum as a vivid example of cultural expression in the rapidly changing times of the early twentieth century.
Trousers and suspenders, ca. 1920s. Northern Arapaho. Leather, beads. 1.69.5935