UW AHC Receives Wyoming Movie Posters From Dwight Cleveland Collection

World-renowned poster collector Dwight Cleveland has made a significant donation to the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center (AHC) that expands its vintage movie poster holdings.

The collection consists of 28 movie posters and lobby cards focusing on Western films, especially those whose stories took place in Wyoming.

Cleveland is a nationally and internationally known movie poster collector whose collection at one time numbered more than 45,000 items. He began collecting in 1977 and, in the 47 years since, has become recognized as among the world’s experts on the history of film posters as advertising.

He regularly curates poster exhibitions and, in 2019, wrote the book “Cinema on Paper: The Graphic Genius of Movie Posters.” Cleveland was recently appointed associate visual cultural curator at Dartmouth University, where a National Endowment for the Humanities grant is enabling the digitization of thousands of lobby cards from his collection.

Cleveland’s donation of Western film posters to UW’s AHC focuses on movies set in Wyoming and made during World War II and its aftermath. Nine have the state’s name in the titles, while five titles feature “Cheyenne” and one refers to Laramie. Most of the films advertised on the posters come from Republic Pictures, a studio that concentrated heavily on Western films, with a few from Universal Studios and other companies.

Republic Pictures supplied the seemingly unlimited interest in Westerns in the 1940s. In its heyday, the company released more than 20 films a year. Four of the donated posters feature Roy Rogers and his horse, Trigger. Most of these are rare posters and are for films made before Rogers met his best-known co-star -- his wife, Dale Evans. These include “In Old Cheyenne” (1941) and “Man from Cheyenne” (1942). Evans appears with Rogers on the poster for the 1951 film “Pals of the Golden West.”

One poster portrays the singing cowboy Gene Autrey’s film “Sunset in Wyoming,” released in 1941. He is joined by Smiley Burnette -- who frequently played the hero’s sidekick in Republic Westerns. Burnette also appears on a donated poster for “The Laramie Trail” (1944). Another favorite sidekick was Gabby Hayes, whose poster designers used to sell films such as “Wagon Tracks West” (1943), “In Old Cheyenne” and “Man From Cheyenne.”

Maureen O’Hara gets top billing in the 1953 film “The Redhead from Wyoming,” produced by Universal Studios; Cleveland’s gift includes two different posters for the film. Other actresses are featured on a poster for “Winter Wonderland” (1946) -- a ski movie starring Lynne Roberts from Republic Pictures -- and on a lobby card for “Green Grass of Wyoming” (1948), where Peggy Cummins played the lead role.

“At the AHC, we are pleased to see the appearance of Buddy Ebsen on a poster,” says AHC Director Paul Flesher. “Ebsen played many Western film roles and was one of the stars in ‘Rodeo King and the Senorita.’ This poster constitutes a welcome complement to the AHC’s large collection of Buddy Ebsen materials.”

For more information, visit the AHC website