If you happen to be a savvy collector of art and items from the days of the Westward Expansion — and even if you aren’t a collector yet but just love Western memorabilia — there’s a gem of a gallery in Jackson Hole you’ll want to put on your trip’s checklist of places to visit.
Cayuse Western Americana is a cozy, welcoming cornucopia of authentic Western collectibles and art, located just off Town Square. As soon as you walk through the door it immediately feels as if you’re stepping back into the early days of Jackson Hole and the Old West.
“It’s one of the only places where people will really be able to get a real feel for Western history that’s not sort of glossed over or become kind of kitsch.” — Mary Schmitt , owner
“A lot of people don’t know what to expect when they walk in,” says Mary Schmitt, Cayuse’s owner and an expert in the collection of cowboy, Native American Indian and National Park artifacts. “They think they’re going to find a while lot of ‘cute’ things, but instead they see items that serious collectors look for and try build upon.”
The two-story historic house the gallery inhabits features all manner of one-of-a-kind, Western art and antique items ranging from cowboy belt buckles to early 20th century Yellowstone Park advertising posters, to Wild West Show beaded gloves and genuine Native American Indian-made silver and turquoise jewelry.
When people come into Cayuse and look around they say it feels like a museum. However, unlike at a museum, here a person is encouraged to pick things up and take them home and enjoy them.
What sets this 19-year-old historical emporium apart from other galleries and stores in Jackson Hole that carry Western memorabilia is Mary’s attention to the authenticity, condition and aesthetic of the items she curates.
“I try to curate things for people they can be very proud of and that those items can stand the test of time and authenticity.”
“Are these authentic rodeo gloves or manufactured by somebody over in Yugoslavia? I need to believe in the piece myself,” she says. “I’ve developed an adage over the years—I better like it enough that if I don’t sell it and I have to keep it, I’ll enjoy it. That makes it easier to have a passion for the pieces I have in the gallery.”
Address: 255 North Glenwood Ave.
Hours: Monday-Wednesday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sundays 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Contact: (307) 739-1940; firstname.lastname@example.org;
Native American Jewelry
Cayuse prides itself on carrying authentic Native American-designed and crafted jewelry. While some people can put turquoise into a silver bracelet and it has the superficial look of being Native American, a real Navajo or Zuni Indian may not have created the piece. At Cayuse, however, Mary can answer how old the item of jewelry is and whether or not it employs the techniques of a particular tribe’s legacy. This makes it easy for visitors to respond to the jewelry offerings and appreciate the range of beauty and originality. Pieces range from earrings to pendants to cuffs—even bolo ties!
Authentic Cowboy Collectibles
The same emphasis on authenticity in Western heritage collectibles in Cayuse applies on the cowboy side as well, whether an item is 100 years old or is crafted today by those who are continuing the legacy of the old cowboy-style of designing and producing.
For instance, the collection of cowboy buckles is a feast for the eyes and all feature a real Western aesthetic. The same holds true for the breadth of cowboy-themed art and home design accessories, such as pillows, saddles, candlesticks, lamps, saddle blankets and more. The occasional vintage fringed leather jacket may appear in store, or an elaborate pair of chaps from a Wild West show or cowgirl split riding skirt. And the amazing, high-end vintage cowboy boot collection features footwear that is both displayable and wearable art.
“You should be ready to see some things that you never expected to see and get a real taste of the West and how things were crafted.”
Also in the gallery are treasures from the early days of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service so Cayuse will be highlighting a number of special items to commemorate this milestone.
No matter what you come across in Cayuse Western Americana, Mary and her knowledgeable staff can tell you the history and heritage behind each treasure.
BONUS: Items and collectibles from Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are currently being curated by Cayuse to help celebrate this summer’s 100th anniversary of the national park system.