West Center

Award-winning author Lynn Downey discusses her latest book, “American Dude Ranch,” at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West on July 23 from noon to 1 p.m. in the Coe Auditorium.

Downey’s story considers dude breeding over the years, tracing its influence on everything from clothing to cooking, and showing how breeders have adapted to changing times and holiday trends. The work shows how the tradition of the ranch, America’s original western vacation, is deeply tied to the culture and history of the American West.

These resorts have hosted and inspired famous Hollywood stars such as Gary Cooper and Elvis, as well as famed author Ernest Hemingway, who recreated at various Wyoming ranches, and screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz who wrote parts of Citizen Kane in a California ranch.

Downey’s book also offers a rare look at the place of women in this story, as they found personal and professional satisfaction in managing their own ranches. Downey also examines resorts that catered to African-American and Jewish guests, as well as the nudist ranch of famous stripper Sally Rand.

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Downey received a research fellowship from the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in 2019, which allowed him to study the extensive dude breeding collections held by the McCracken Research Library, as well as numerous dude ranches in Wyoming.

Downey is a freelance author, historian, and archivist of the Northern California wine country. She is the author of “Arequipa Sanatorium: Life in California’s Lung Resort for Women” and the award-winning debut novel “Dudes Rush In.” She was the corporate historian of Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco and wrote the first biography of its founder, “Levi Strauss: The Man Who Gave the World Blue Jeans.”

The talk is followed by a book signing at Centre’s Points West Market. This program is organized by The Papers of William F. Cody in recognition of National Cowboy Day.


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