- The End of the Trail
- by James Earle Fraser
- 1876 - 1953
- This lone figure on his weary horse is one of the most recognized
symbols of the American West. By many it is viewed as a reverent memorial
to a great and valiant people. To some Native Americans, however, it is
viewed as a reminder of defeat and subjugation a century ago.
- James Earle Fraser, who lived as a boy near an Indian reservation in
Dakota Territory, created the first model for The End of the Trail in 1
894 out of a desire to depict the dispossession and tragedy of Native
Americans. This monumental, 18-foot plaster version was made for San
Francisco's 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and received the
exposition's Gold Medal for sculpture. The subject of immediate popular
acclaim, the image was widely reproduced in postcard, print, curio and
- Fraser hoped his master-piece would be cast in bronze and placed on
Presidio Point overlooking San Francisco Bay, but materials restrictions
during the First World War made the project impossible. Instead, the
plaster work was cut up and discarded when the exposition closed. In 1920,
the city of Visalia, California, obtained the discarded pieces and
reassembled the statue in Mooney Park, where it remained, gradually
deteriorating, for the following 48 years.
- In 1968, The National Cowboy Hall of Fame acquired this original
plaster statue and placed it as the centerpiece in the Fraser Memorial
Studio building on the Museum grounds. Following restoration, molds were
made and a full-scale bronze sculpture was cast in Italy and unveiled in
Visalia in 1971. The entire reclamation project was underwritten by Mr.
and Mrs. Dean A. McGee, Nona S. Payne and the Kirkpatrick Foundation. In
1994, through the generous funding of the Kerr-McGee Corporation and the
Robert S. and Grayce B. Kerr Foundation, The End of the Trail was moved to
its current location and received extensive conservation treatment,
assuring its continued enjoyment by museum patrons for decades to come.
- The End of the Trail: A Native American American View
- In 1894, when James Earle Fraser completed his model of The End of the
Trail, American civilization stretched from shore to shore. Most
Euramericans believed the frontier period was over and that such progress
was inevitable. Many viewed Native Americans as part of the past, a
vanishing,, race with no place in the twentieth century. Popular
literature portrayed Indian people as "savages," noble or otherwise.
Fraser's The End of the Trail reflects this legacy: a nineteenth century
Indian warrior defeated and bound for oblivion -- frozen in time.
- By the 1890's Native Americans knew their trail had become steep and
rocky, but they believed it would continue. Confined rarely to
reservations and ravaged by disease and starvation, the Indian population
declined dramatically. Indian children were forced to attend federally
supported boarding schools that attempted to replace traditional tribal
values with American culture. Although denied citizenship and a voice in
determining their future until 1924, Indian people persisted.
- World War ll brought dramatic changes to most Native American
communities. Modern warriors enlisted in the armed forces, while other
Indian men and women moved to urban areas to work in defense industries.
Increased cultural pride following the war led many Indian people to seek
employment and other opportunities in the non-Indian world. Others
supported themselves within the old reservation communities. Today almost
half of all Native Americans live in major metropolitan areas. From a low
of approximately 250,000 in 1890, Native American population in the United
States now numbers slightly over two million.
- Modern Indian people have combined the best of traditional tribal
values with the opportunities afforded by contemporary American society.
Although some Native Americans still follow the time-honored ways of their
ancestors, others have assumed prominent roles within society in
education, politics, business, medicine and agriculture. Unlike Fraser's
sculpture, "being Indian" has never been cast in stone. Today, Native
Americans ride forward on a trail into the future.
- R. David Edmunds, Ph.D.
- Indiana University
- Cherokee 1994
- About the Artist
- Born in Winona, Minnesota, James Earle Fraser grew up around Mitchell,
Dakota Territory, amidst stories of the "Old West" and Native American
lore. The family moved to Chicago in 1890 and Fraser became an assistant
in the studio of sculptor Richard Bock while attending classes at the Art
Institute of Chicago. He later remarked that the sculpture exhibited at
the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 inspired his career in that medium.
- At the age of 20, Fraser went to Paris to study at the l'Ecole des
Beaux Arts and later serve assistant in the Paris and New Hampshire
studios of noted sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. In 1902 he opened his
own studio in New York City and, two years later, became an instructor at
the Art Students League.
- During a creative and prolific career, Fraser executed a number of
prominent commissions, including, the "Theodore Roosevelt Memorial" at the
American Museum of Natura History in New York City and the "Tomb of Robert
Todd Lincoln" at Arlington National Cemetery. Today, Fraser is recognized
as one of the leading American sculptors of the early twentieth century.
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