For Immediate Release: April 16, 2012
Portraits of Oklahoma's most famous Wild West show personalities,
Gordon "Pawnee Bill" Lillie
and Lucille Mulhall were unveiled Monday in the Senate.
Artist Tracey Harris addresses the Senate.
Portraits' sponsor Bob Funk thanks Charles Ford and the Senate
Preservation Fund for
capturing Oklahoma's proud Western heritage.
(Also pictured: Janine Regier and Fund president Charles Ford.)
Senate unveils portraits of Wild West show personalities
On Monday, the Senate added two more paintings to
its diverse collection of artwork depicting famous Oklahomans
and special events in the state’s history. The newest additions
depict two of Oklahoma’s most famous Wild West Show personalities,
Gordon “Pawnee Bill” Lillie and Lucille Mulhall.
The portraits, by Tulsa artist Tracey Harris, were sponsored by
Bob Funk and commissioned by the State Senate Historical Preservation
World-renowned Wild West showman Gordon “Pawnee Bill”
Lillie was born in February 1860 in Bloomington, Illinois but
the family later moved near Wellington, Kansas, after their flour
mill burned down. There in 1875, Lillie started his life-long
relationship with the Pawnee people, who were wintering in the
area during their removal to the vicinity of Pawnee, Oklahoma.
Lillie made his way into Indian Territory while working as a trapper
with “Trapper Tom” McClain’s outfit, waiting
tables, and working as a cowboy. He served as a teacher at the
Pawnee agency and was also appointed as interpreter and secretary
to Maj. Edward Bowman, U.S. Indian Agent. During this time, he
became known as “Pawnee Bill.”
In 1883, he was recruited to help coordinate the efforts of the
Pawnee troupe in the first-ever Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild
West show. In 1888, after persuasion from his in-laws, he began
touring the country with “Pawnee Bill’s Wild West”,
but the show proved to be a financial failure.
However, that same year, Pawnee Bill was named leader of the Boomer
Movement, a group dedicated to the opening of Oklahoma’s
Unassigned Lands to white settlement. He led a group of 4,000
in the Land Run of April 22, 1889, into the center of present
Kingfisher County. This gained him national attention and he reestablished
a successful Wild West show called “Pawnee Bill’s
Historical Wild West, Indian Museum and Encampment,” which
traveled the U.S. and Europe, starring his wife May Lillie as
the Champion Horseback Shot of the West.
In 1908, Lucille Mulhall joined forces with Buffalo Bill’s
Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East,” a Wild
West show that had no equal at that time. Legend has it that Roosevelt
told her if she could rope a wolf, he would invite her to his
inaugural parade. She brought him one three hours later.
She was among the first women to compete in roping and riding
events against men and earned such titles as “Champion Lady
Steer Roper of the World” at the Winnipeg Stampede. She
starred in Mulhall’s Wild West show, the Miller Brothers’
101 Ranch Wild West show, and in vaudeville. In 1913, she formed
her own troupe and in 1916 produced her own rodeo, Lucille Mulhall’s
Roundup. She retired around 1922 to the family ranch in Mulhall.
She was killed in a car accident on December 22, 1940.
Raised in Fort Gibson, Harris is an emerging artist specializing
in contemporary representational painting. She has exhibited internationally
and nationally winning numerous awards. After completing her Bachelor’s
degree at the Kansas City Art Institute, she moved to London,
England to study painting where she received her Master’s
degree in visual arts. She has taught Art History, Drawing and
has work in the collections of several national collectors. She
now lives and paints in the Tulsa area.
This and other art commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical
Preservation Fund can be found on the Internet at www.oksenate.gov
under “Senate Artwork”.