The Abe Hays Spirit of the West Collection started in the 1940s, when the collector, my father, was just a teenager. Abe’s father, my grandfather, also had an interest in collecting, so some of his items form part of the collection. For over half a century, my father’s goal has been to collect artifacts that have been made and/or used in one or more of the nineteen western states. Westerners should, therefore, have no difficulty finding artifacts made by skilled craftsmen from their area. You will find that the collection is divided into seven categories: Working Cowboys, Wild West Shows, Western Gear Made in Prisons, Rodeos & Fairs, Western Movies & Parades, Outlaws & Lawmen, Western Saloons, and Illustrations. Almost all of the works are of the highest quality and are marked by an artisan renowned in his specialty. A special emphasis has been made to collect saddles by a wide variety of saddle makers and saddle-making companies, because saddles were vital to life in the Old West.
Due to the collection’s size and scope, the visitor will be able to enjoy at least thirty examples of many different items, such as gun rigs, holsters, spurs, bits, saddle bags, cuffs, revolvers, and rifles. There are at least ten examples of saddles, bridles, chaps, scabbards, bronco belts, reatas, quirts, knives, hats and billheads (invoices). While every artifact on display captures a part of our history, some are exceedingly rare.
Whether you are a Westerner, or are just visiting, we hope that this collection will help you to gain a deeper understanding of the Old American West, a romantic era in our history that lives on through collections such as this and the memories of those who take the time to enjoy them. James H. Hays Tempe, Arizona