Buffalo Bill Center of the West

Amelia Earhart’s flight jacket – in Wyoming

AmeliaEarhart-LeatherJacket

Amelia Earhart flight jacket – courtesy Buffalo Bill Center of the West

I’m putting finishing touches on a presentation I’ll be making at the Washington Museum Association conference this week about objects museums have that they rarely or never show to the public.

One of the treasures I’ll be featuring is Amelia Earhart’s flight jacket.

Not the one she was wearing on that last flight, of course, but one she clearly treasured.

The jacket is in the collection of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming (formerly the Buffalo Bill Historical Center) and there are photographs from the 1920s and 1930s showing her wearing jackets that look just like this one.

According to the museum, Earhart wore this jacket during a two week visit to a friend’s Wyoming ranch in 1934, when she an her husband were on a delayed honeymoon – and when they asked the friend to begin building a cabin for them on property they’d purchased in the Cowboy State.

In 1937, as Earhart was preparing for what would become her final flight, she began sending personal possessions – including this coat – out to Wyoming to have for use in her cabin.

But, as we know, Earhart and and her navigator, Frederick Noonan, vanished over the South Pacific on July 2, 1937.

That cabin never got finished and the jacket ended up in storage at the museum.

AmeliaRanchPhoto-OnFence

Amelia Earhart with with Carl Dunrud, who was building a cabin for Earhart and her husband in Wyoming. Courtesy Buffalo Bill Center of the West. Charles J. Belden, photographer, 1934.

Not TSA-approved. Ever

Multi-bladed folding knife 3

The TSA’s plan to allow passengers to once again carry small knives on board airplanes got nixed a while back.

But even if it had gone forward the knife pictured above would never had made the, uh, cut.

Made around 1880 as an advertising item for a store window in New York City, the knife’s 100 “blades” include a cigar cutter, a button hook, a tuning fork and pencils.

Look closely and you’ll even spot a .22 pinfire revolver.

That tiny revolver is why the knife is on display at the Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.

The knife is on loan to the museum until 2015 along with 63 other historically significant firearms from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, which began collecting firearms in 1876.

Along with the many-bladed knife, the items on loan include a rifle made for Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia with a velvet cheek piece so that her royal face would not rest directly on the stock.

Catherine the Great rifle 2

(All images courtesy the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center, via Buffalo Bill Center of the West)

The surprising home of Amelia Earhart’s flight jacket

Buffalo Bill

Courtesy Buffalo Bill Center of the West

I recently had the great pleasure of spending a day touring the five first-rate museums that make up the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. Formerly the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, the recently expanded center is home to the Cody Firearms Museum, The Plains Indian Museum, The Draper Natural History Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum and, my favorite, the Buffalo Bill Museum, which tells the story of the American West through both the private life of William F. Cody and his public life as the showman who created the pageant known as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.

Buffalo bill poster

One of the great treats during my day at the museum with a few other journalists was going on a private tour with the curator of each museum and having a chance to see the back rooms.

And – lo and behold – when we went behind the scenes at the Buffalo Bill Museum with John Rumm, senior curator of American History and the curator of the museum, he showed us a box that contained Amelia Earhart’s leather flight jacket. This is the jacket Earhart is  seen wearing in a lot of photographs from the 1920s and 30s and which she likely wore on her historic flight across the Atlantic.

AmeliaEarhart-LeatherJacket

Light brown leather jacket owned and worn by Amelia Earhart on several of her historic flights. Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, WY, USA.

What’s that jacket doing in the collection of the Buffalo Bill Museum?

According to Rumm, Earhart and her husband, George Palmer Putnam, had bought property in Wyoming around 1934 from a friend of theirs, Carl Dunrud, and asked him to begin building a cabin on the site.

Then, in 1937, before heading out for that ill-fated attempt to circumnavigate the world, Earhart began sending Dunrud some of her personal possessions for safekeeping. Included among those items was the flight jacket and a buffalo coat from the 1870s (below) given to her by the Western movie star William S. Hart.

AmeliaEarhart-BuffaloCoat

Rumm says for many years the buffalo coat was displayed and identified as having belonged to Buffalo Bill. But when Rumm took a close look at the records, he cleared up that mistake.

AmeliaRanchPhoto-OnFence

Amelia Earhart and Carl Dunrud at the Double D Ranch in northwest Wyoming, ca. 1935. Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, WY, USA.