Join us for a lecture by award-winning author Lynn Downey, who discusses her latest book, American Dude Ranch, from noon–1 p.m. on July 23 in the Coe Auditorium. Following the talk, she signs copies of the book at the Center’s Points West Market. The Center’s Papers of William F. Cody hosts the program in recognition of National Day of the Cowboy.
True West magazine say, “if you love the popular history of the Wild West you will want to read American Dude Ranch.” Downey’s history considers dude ranching across the years, tracing its influence on everything from clothing to cooking, and showing how ranchers adapted to changing times and vacation trends.
Downey’s work demonstrates that the tradition of the dude ranch, America’s original western vacation, is deeply connected with the culture and history of the American West. These vacation resorts hosted and inspired famed Hollywood stars such as Gary Cooper and Elvis, as well as renowned author Ernest Hemingway, who recreated at various Wyoming dude ranches. Screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz wrote portions of Citizen Kane at a California dude ranch.
Downey’s book also offers a rare look at women’s place in this story, as they found personal and professional satisfaction in running their own dude ranches. Downey also examines resorts that catered to African American and Jewish clients, as well as famed stripper Sally Rand’s dude ranch for nudists.
Lynn Downey is an independent author, historian, and archivist from northern California wine country. She is the author of Arequipa Sanatorium: Life in California’s Lung Resort for Women and the award-winning debut novel, Dudes Rush In. She was the company Historian for Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco and wrote the first biography of its founder, Levi Strauss: The Man Who Gave Blue Jeans to the World.
Downey received a research fellowship from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in 2019, allowing her to study the vast dude ranching collections held by the Center’s McCracken Research Library, as well as many Wyoming dude ranches.