Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Out of the Archive - Remington in Punta Gorda among the "Cracker Cowboys"

When Frederic Remington, the well-known illustrator of the western Frontier, encountered the Florida cracker cowboys, they did not meet the romantic view that the artist held based on his travels west. Unfortunately, he thought that the Florida version of his idealized cowboys “lacked dash.” Nonetheless, he took the time while in the Punta Gorda and Arcadia area to capture in words and drawings  these “picturesque” wranglers in their “unearthly wildness.”

It’s viewed that Remington gave Harper’s Magazine readers for whom he wrote and illustrated a piece about the Florida Cracker Cowboys in August of 1895 a biased picture "wild-looking individuals, whose hanging hair and drooping hats and generally bedraggled appearance would remind you at once of the Spanish-moss which hangs so quietly and helplessly to the limbs of the oaks out in the swamps". It’s been noted that what Remington encountered in Florida had already been civilized out of the West. The Old West by the time he had traveled there was no longer part of the frontier and that visiting Arcadia and Punta Gorda in 1895 must have been been like visiting Lincoln County, Nevada in the 1870s , when the west was the Wild West.

When Remington took the train to Punta Gorda, he stayed at the Hotel Punta Gorda, and enthused in a letter to a friend about the tarpon, the hunting, the birds of paradise. He sketched a tarpon fishing scene and panels of hunting adventures.

The Punta Gorda History Center will contain some of the Remington prints and documents from his visit to Punta Gorda.