Tim McCoy, Western Star

Tim McCoy on a horse, 1930’s. Tim McCoy Collection, Coll. # 6415. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

Thanks to a continuing grant from the NHPRC, the American Heritage Center has recently processed the Tim McCoy papers and a new, online inventory is available for this collection.

Tim McCoy was a mid-20th century Hollywood Western movie actor, military officer, and promoter of the American Wild West. He was born in Saginaw, Michigan on April 10, 1891, the son of an Irish Union Civil War soldier and Police Chief. As a young man he had a desire to go west and while attending college he decided to seek his adventure and purchased a one-way train ticket. He ended up in Lander, Wyoming where he worked as a ranch hand and learned Native American sign language and customs from the Indians in the area, eventually he settled in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

Tim McCoy with children at Fort Larned, Kansas, 1958, Tim McCoy Collection, Coll. # 6415. University of Wyoming, American Heritage Center.

He joined the army and served in the cavalry during World War I and became Adjutant General of Wyoming after the war. In 1922, he resigned his commission in order to assist with recruiting Indians and translating for the Western film “The Covered Wagon.” McCoy and his Indian group toured the U.S. and Europe promoting the film. When McCoy returned to Hollywood after the tour, MGM signed him to a contract to star in a series of Westerns. McCoy rapidly rose to stardom, making scores of Westerns and occasional non-Westerns, transitioning from silent film to talkies. By the mid 1930s the popularity of Tim McCoy and his Western films was beginning to wane, partially because of the Depression. In 1935 Tim McCoy left Hollywood to tour with the Ringling Brothers Circus and later formed his own wild west show called “Col. Tim McCoy’s Wild West and Rough Riders of the World,” in 1938 his show went bankrupt and closed.

He returned to films in 1940, but World War II would call him back to the Army. After the war he retired from both film and the military, but continued to make occasional movie and television appearances including his own television show, “The Tim McCoy Show” in 1952. He also wrote short articles, stories, and poetry about the American West, Indians, and cowboys, including his autobiography, “Tim McCoy Remembers the West,” in 1977. During his life he was married twice, first to Agnes Miller, which ended in divorce in 1931 and then to Inga Arvad until her death from cancer in 1973. He had a total of five children, three with Agnes and two with Inga. On January 29, 1978 at the age of 86 Tim McCoy died of heart failure at the Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center/Hospital in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

–Jamie Greene, Processing Archivist

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9 Responses to Tim McCoy, Western Star

  1. Caleb N. says:

    Interesting guy! Does anyone know if his poems were ever written under the name “T. E. McCoy”? I have a framed poem but the author is listed as T. E. McCoy…
    If anyone has any information that would be great! Thanks!

  2. Edd Johnson says:

    Is this the one?
    . . . . When the range cows stand and shiver, too plum weak to even graze.
    And the hump that’s in their middle cheats a camel forty ways.
    When the whole darned landscape’s covered with a blanket soft and white.
    That’s the time to hit Wyoming, if you want to hit ‘er right.

    And it goes on from there. My old Wyoming mother used to recite parts of this poem to us when we were kids in Wyoming.

    Edd Johnson

  3. Kent Stockton says:

    The poem from which the above lines were taken was indeed by Col.Tim McCoy: it was titled “The Real Thing” and is thought to have been written around 1921. I got my copy from folklorist Sharon Kahin of Dubois, Wy., in (I think) 1987.

  4. Barbara Hemby says:

    As a child, I watched Tim McCoy on black & white TV. I remember him explaining the sign language of native Americans & explaining how to pronounce words used by a tribe of American Indians. He kept me spellbound. At age 74, I still remember how interesting he was. Three of my four grandparents were born in Indian Territory before it became Oklahoma. I did not realize at that time there was a lot I could have learned from them. My great-grandfather sometimes lived on a reservation in OK.

  5. K davison says:

    A great american role model thats
    missing today

  6. Kathleen M Smith says:

    I remember moving to La Canada, Calif. about 1960 at about age 13, where we lived a few streets away from the McCoy house on Daleridge Rd. Recalled they had a Halloween scare house at their home which I was told they would do. Remember walking by it, but decided not to go in. They seemed to be very friendly.
    Glad to see his memory is being preserved. His wife had quite an interesting history who reportedly had relationships with Hitler, JFK.

  7. Pingback: Col. Tim Mcoy – cowboyron.com

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