A collection of lots that speak to President Reagan’s Hollywood past, his love of horses and the traditions of the Wild West — offered in the auction of The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan on 21-22 September
This pair of boots are one from four pairs presented to President Reagan. They were a gift from Rex Allen, a movie actor who made his name as a singing cowboy, and Tony Lama, the Texas bootmaker. The story goes that the President admired Mr. Allen’s boots when they made a campaign appearance together in 1980, and Mr. Allen promised a pair with the Presidential Seal when Ronald Reagan made it to the White House.
An American silver and turquoise-mounted leather gun belt and holster, by Galco International, Phoenix, Arizona. Last quarter 20th century. Each inset with a silver Seal of The President of the United States, within a lucite frame. 15¼ in (39 cm) high, 53½ in (136 cm) wide, overall. Formerly in The Family Residence, the White House, Washington D.C. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. This lot will be offered in The Private Collection of President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, 21-22 September at Christie's in New York
‘The President’s study was his favourite place to write daily notes to Nancy expressing his gratitude and love,’ recalls Peter Schifando, the interior designer and protégé of Ted Graber, who had designed the White House family quarters for the Reagans. ‘The study was designed using the same red upholstery fabric as used in the White House, and the walls hung with American Western art and saddle work, his favourite Western bronzes and photographs of world dignitaries.’
Danish-born Olaf Carl Wieghorst was a largely self-taught artist. A lover of horses, he rode in Danish films and in the circus before moving to New York in December 1918 at the age of 19. Once in America he enrolled in the U.S. Cavalry, then joined the New York City Police Department, Mounted Division, in 1924, becoming a member of the Police Show Team.
After retiring in 1944, Wieghorst moved to California and settled down to paint, whereupon he began to gain recognition. A retrospective of his work was presented at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1974-75. The catalogue for a 1982 retrospective at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, included a dedication page with a tribute from President Ronald Reagan, proclaiming that no artist was more successful in capturing the rugged beauty of the American West than Wieghorst. This is one of six works by the artist that hung in the home office of the former President and which are offered in the auction.
During his long film and television career Ronald Reagan appeared in a number of Westerns, including Law and Order, Santa Fe Trail and The Last Outpost. The boy who would one day become President grew up in Illinois and did not master the art of riding a horse until his move to Hollywood. Borrowing from Winston Churchill, he once remarked, ‘I’ve often said that there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.’ Standing in a row in the hallway of the couple’s ranch-style home on St. Cloud Road in Bel-Air were a series of bronze Western sculptures.
This pony-skin rug was a gift to President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan from William Holden and Brenda Marshall. William Holden (1918–1981) was an American actor who was a major star from the 1950s through to the 1970s. Best known for his role in Sunset Boulevard, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1953. Holden was married to the actress Brenda Marshall from 1941 until 1971, and was best man at the marriage of his friend Ronald Reagan to Nancy Davis in 1952, with Marshall acting as matron of honour.
The frame encloses a photograph of The President, and is seen here together with an enamel hunting frame and a photograph of The President riding his white Anglo-Arab stallion El Alamein at Rancho del Cielo, the 688-acre ranch he bought in 1974. El Alamein was a gift from Mexican President José López Portillo in 1981. Mrs. Reagan’s horse was named No Strings. These frames were formerly in The Family Residence at The White House.
Ronald and Nancy Reagan first set eyes on the property they would name Rancho del Cielo (Sky Ranch) in 1973. It was love at first sight and a year later they bought the estate that sits between the Santa Ynez Valley and the Pacific Ocean, northwest of Santa Barbara. It became their private domain and refuge; a place where they kept and rode horses, welcomed family members and hosted visiting heads of state, including Queen Elizabeth II and Mikhail Gorbachev.
In time, Rancho del Cielo would become known as the ‘Western White House’. Reagan built much of the ranch himself, and The Washington Post called it ‘the place to see the hand of the man’.