May 24, 2013

How Charlie Russell Took Over Washington D.C.

by Matthew M. Peek
Photograph archivist Matthew Peek works on the Lee Metcalf Photograph and Film Collection, a project funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources.
On a cold St. Patrick’s Day in 1959, a “cowboy caravan” paraded through Washington D.C. The occasion was the permanent relocation of John B. Weaver's statue of Charlie Russell from the Smithsonian Institution to the U.S. Capitol Building. To commemorate the move, the Montana congressional delegation arranged an elaborate parade through the capital.
Mansfield, Murray and Metcalf watch "cowboy caravan."
Mike Mansfield, James Murray, Lee Metcalf, and an unidentified belle oversee
the "cowboy caravan" through Washington, D.C. [PAc 2008-27]
"A stagecoach, carrying shotgun guards and girls in Gay Nineties costumes” towed the truck hauling the upright Russell statue, accompanied by a contingent of Blackfeet Indians in native dress. The 456th Army band followed the parade playing western tunes.

On the steps of the Senate Office Building, Senators Mike Mansfield and James Murray, along with Representative Lee Metcalf, stood watching as the coach passed by. It was driven by fellow representative Leroy Anderson, decked out in full Western attire. 

Charlie Russell in his place in Statuary Hall.
Charlie Russell in his place in Statuary Hall.
Metcalf had planned to accompany Anderson on the horsedrawn coach (hence, his cowboy duds), however, at the last minute, the vehicle's insurers refused. Evidently the risk to such a highly visible Congressman was too high. Metcalf retreated to the viewing stand instead.

As the parade concluded, a D.C. police officer was heard to remark:

“It says here that after we get to this point, the riders will 'turn and gallop off into the sunset...' It’s now 10:30 a.m. How we gonna arrange it?”



“Russell Statue Paraded in D.C.,” The Montana Standard (Butte, Montana), Vol. 83, No. 230, Wednesday (March 18, 1959): pp. 1.
“Tribute to Cowboy Artist Makes It a 21-Horse Town,” Greenberg Daily News (Greenberg, Indiana), Wednesday (March 18, 1959): pp. 4.