The Brinton is an unlikely museum in an unlikely place. It’s on a ranch. It’s near the tiny town of Big Horn. It’s in Wyoming. It’s really worth seeing.
Bradford Brinton was from Tuscola, Illinois. He had homes in Chicago and New York, but he lived on his ranch in Wyoming 6 to 8 months each year. He apparently fell in love with the property and bought it in 1923 after getting very wealthy selling farm implements. After graduating from Yale, he worked in the family business that became the Case Threshing Machine Company. He was an avid art collector who also loved big game hunting. South of Sheridan, his 620 acre Quarter Circle A Ranch with impressive Bighorn Mountain views was his escape from city life. A visit to the museum should also include a somewhat seasonal ranch tour.
Brinton’s ranch house furnishings and library full of books and hunting trophies are as unlikely as his museum. Queen Elizabeth II visited. There’s a saddle barn, a leather workshop, and a garage containing his last car, a 1936 Buick. He died following gall bladder surgery before it was delivered.
His older sister Helen inherited the ranch and the car. Used to her chauffeured Packard, she put a few dents in it. Helen summered here at her brother’s ranch but wintered in Phoenix. She preserved the property and established the museum as a memorial to him. She wanted to keep his ranch in its natural state, so the oversized museum is quite a surprise.
Expecting to see a modest ranch building with a few paintings and sculptures in it, I was shocked to observe a very modern, immense 3-story art facility built into a hillside. Up 2 flights of dramatic stairs, the museum is built into a 209 feet long rammed earth wall that’s the largest one in North America. It’s not, however, the largest in the world. That would be The Great Wall of China.
Inside and upstairs in the museum are Bradford’s vast collections of Native American artifacts, like the beaded cradle below his Buick, and lots of Western Art. Like most collectors, Bradford doted on Remington and Russell. There was a collectors’ art show, the Bighorn Rendezvous, in progress when Ruth & I were there. Many of the works had won prizes and sported sold tags. “Nocturnal Instincts” by Gregory Packard was my favorite and still available but I didn’t buy it.
I sensed that Mr. Brinton thought of Sheridan as his primary home. He rode in its main 1932 parade. The saddle on his horse that’s on view in the ranch house was decorated with much silver. Also on view when we were there were 2 unusual yellow uranium glass candlesticks.