The history of James Earle Fraser's "The End of the Trail"
This doleful image of a battle-weary brave on his war pony is one of the most recognized symbols of the American West. By many it is viewed as a reverent memorial to a great and valiant people. To some Native Americans, however, it is viewed as a reminder of defeat and subjugation a century ago.
The monumental, 18-foot plaster sculpture was created by James Earle Fraser for San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and received the exposition’s Gold Medal for sculpture.
The subject of immediate popular acclaim, the image was widely reproduced in postcard, print, curio and miniature form.
Although Fraser hoped his masterpiece would be cast in bronze and placed on Presidio Point overlooking San Francisco Bay, material restrictions during the First World War made the project impossible. Instead, in 1920, the city of Visalia, California, obtained the discarded statue and placed it in Mooney Park, where it remained, in a gradually deteriorating condition, for 48 years.
In 1968, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum acquired this original plaster statue, restored it to its original magnificence, and made it a focal point of the museum. Fraser regretted that he never copyrighted the sculpture.
Fraser never registered copyright of his sculpture. Today, even his unregistered copyright has expired. Original contemporary images inspired by his sculpture, such as mine, may be copyrighted, as they are substantially the intellectual property of the artist.