I was amazed to see the intense public interest in what would happen to Trigger, Roy Rogers’ famous stuffed and mounted horse, at Christie’s second auction last week of the Roy Rogers and
Dale Evans Museum collection. Clearly, Trigger and his owner still have a lot of fans.
“Over the last 24 hours, I’ve received so many e-mails of thank you, just wonderful letters, saying ‘Thank you for saving Trigger’,” RFD-TV owner Patrick Gottsch told the Associated Press. He said he plans to feature both animals on the set of a Saturday program that will air Roy Rogers movies.
Earlier this year, the Autry did acquire one
of Roy’s showiest saddles, a one-of-a-kind plastic blue and white model he rode as Marshal of the 1952 and 1977 Tournament of Roses Parades. It is now on display in the Autry’s lobby, and Roy Rogers fans can see it this Saturday during the Autry’s celebration of National Day of the Cowboy and Cowgirl.
Autry officials and trustees also kept tabs on the Roy Rogers auction to see what other items would fit in with the museum’s collection. They set their hopes on Roy’s first
guitar, a spare little model made by Aida, a Cincinnati guitar maker, that Rogers bought for $20 at a second-hand shop when he was still Leonard Slye, a 17-year-old with stars in his eyes.
“Aida Mandolins and Guitars was a small company that sold instruments in the Cincinnati area,” said Jeffrey Richardson, Autry associate curator of film and popular culture. “Besides their association with Roy Rogers, very little is known about the company.”
The guitar has a presentation plaque that reads: “THIS IS YOUR LIFE ROY ROGERS Jan. 14, 1953 ‘Young Leonard Slye bought this guitar for $20. He learned to play it and to sing — and so became Roy Rogers, America’s most beloved cowboy star.’ ” A shocked Rogers was presented with the guitar on that date, when the producers of the popular television show, This Is Your Life, featured him in an episode.
The guitar, originally valued at between $2,000 and $3,000, finally sold for $8,750. Its purchase was made possible by Autry trustees Lora and Bob Sandroni, with additional support provided by Stuart Simon and Jo-Carole and Gary M. Zechel. The guitar is scheduled to be delivered to the museum in the next several months.
“When a young Leonard Slye purchased his first guitar in 1929, no one could have imagined that
he would one day become Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys,” Richardson said. “Roy was a hero to millions, and the guitar that started it all is a true piece of Americana. The Autry is honored to add the guitar to its permanent collection.”
And that is not all. The Autry in May was already the lucky recipient of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archive, a collection of correspondence, news clippings and other personal papers that allows a unique backstage look at the work lives of two of the first multi-media stars in Hollywood history.
Autry Library personnel are still sorting through those papers so they eventually can make them available to researchers and to the public through the museum’s library catalog and Collections Online feature, said Marva Felchlin, director of the Autry Library.
“We take great pride in being the new home of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archive,” said John Gray, the Autry’s president and CEO. “We are reaching out to their fans to help us preserve this collection.”
Roy Rogers fans can also see him in action on the big screen Aug. 14, when the Autry shows the movie Under Western Stars as part of the What is a Western? film series.
The This is Your Life episode that featured Roy Rogers and his guitar is below: