Monday, October 7, 2019

Model Horse Figurines, Large and Small: The Blackhawk Museum, Danville, California

Children's cowboy dress-up outfits, on either side of
Fred Harman's classic comic strip cowboy
Red Ryder and his horse, Thunder,
with Little Beaver and Papoose at their sides. 

I always enjoy seeing examples of how model horse figurines intersect with other parts of equine history, so I was pleased when I recently visited the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California.

The "Spirit of the West" exhibition strives to show a balance between the experience of Native Americans and settlers. I was interested to see a couple of life-size fiberglass horses on display. This Appaloosa reminds me of the Thoroughbred designed by Gladys Brown Edwards.

On the other side of the exhibit, a large rearing fiberglass horse represents Buffalo Bill's horse. It reminded me strongly of the Breyer Fighting Stallion.

(Not the best fit on the browband of the bridle, but still pretty impressive.)

On the other end of the scale, there were countless tiny horse figurines in the massive (understatement) topographic table of Western US settlement, originally designed by Jerry Fick.  Some of the horses appear to have been made by Britains, Ltd.  Others might have come from farm sets or cowboy sets. And one looked a lot like the Hartland Tinymite Quarter Horse.  

On another floor of the museum, pop culture including several comic book, film, and radio/television cowboys dominated the scene, as well as a coin-operated horse ride often found in front of a grocery store or supermarket.

This part of the exhibit includes an impressive grouping of Hartland Horse & Rider figurines.

(Some sharp-eyed plastic pony collectors have pointed out to me that the solid black horse at the top of this photo appears to be a Breyer, not a Hartland.
Still, as an exhibit curated by non-model horse collectors, it's impressive.)

There was a silver saddle set, along with a silver or silver plated Western horse figurine.

And a team of four Breyer running mares in bay, pulling a stagecoach.  The mirror behind them made it problematic to get a decent picture, but I gave it a try.

 The Western Horse as decorative object was also on display.

Several displays showed things from a time, not all that long ago, when media cowboys were as popular then as the Marvel universe is today.

William Boyd, aka Hopalong Cassidy, and his horse, Topper.

Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.
This is a kid-sized Roy Rogers brand saddle.

These outfits belonged to entertainer Montie Montana.

Here's a link to the website for the Museum:


  1. I agree that's a Hartland Tinymite, or a very good copy. So many friends from childhood here... Oh, the horror: If I'd been on the staff I'd've stopped Buffalo Bill's mechanical hackamore from being put on backwards! And his cinch is way too far back... A team (4) of Running Mares put to a stagecoach was a familiar sight in the Patagonia Horse Museum (southern AZ, c. 1970s), their mouths drilled for the bits and tailtips chopped off to make room for the singletrees. At least these did not suffer that fate. ... Yes, you have a superb Hartland display case there. Thanks for the closeup views of something books have been written about! What a lovely museum. The more I look at your pix the more I like of it.

  2. Wow - what a wonderful display!

    Is there some place where I can get information about donating or selling a collection to preserve its history? I have a lot of remakes and OF Brewers that I don’t want to just disappear when I die, so I’m hoping there is some place for them.

    1. There are many Facebook pages on vintage models! Do a search for groups about vintage Breyers and vintage remakes - that's how I found the ones I joined. Lots of knowledgeable and friendly folks who will be glad to help!

  3. COOL! The mechanical ride SANDY was my first beloved mount as a child (except in palominos I think). Thanks for all the great photos!

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