Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sharlot Hall Museum

Sharlot Hall Museum sheds light on Southwestern history



A display at the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, Ariz., shows an American Indian Clovis point hunter.

            The Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, Ariz., a living history museum, now has a 4-acre campus and seven historic buildings with a fine collection of artifacts. Hall originally opened the museum as the Old Governor’s Mansion Museum.

            We started our visit at the John and Helen Lawler Exhibit Center, where a section focuses on the founder, Sharlot Hall, who lived a very interesting life as a writer and activist for women’s rights at a time when most women’s lives were very limited by household duties and raising children.

            Hall wrote, “Unless an unmarried woman is a hopeless lump of stupidity, she has a hundred times wider opportunity for an emotional life full to overflowing than it is possible for an ordinary married women to have.”

            Born on the frontier in 1870, Hall was appalled at men’s treatment of women and became one of our first liberated women. She was a territorial historian who had an influence on Arizona being admitted to the union as a separate state from New Mexico. When Calvin Coolidge won the presidential election in 1925, she was the elector who delivered Arizona’s votes to Washington.

            The dress and copper accessories on display was the ensemble she wore at the inauguration, and it became her uniform when she gave lectures about Arizona. She was given the Governor’s Mansion to form the basis of the museum in 1927 and she added to it in the 1930s when federal relief projects allowed her to bring in more historic buildings. Hall had published over 500 articles, poems and stories before she died in 1943.

            Each of the six major buildings has a well-trained volunteer to share knowledge about the building and its contents with visitors. All of them have had a 16-week preparation course, and two of the five we talked with had masters degrees in history.

            A movie provided background not only on the history of the farmers, cowboys and miners who had settled Arizona, but also the Indian tribes who had made up the original people of the region. A second film covered more than 150 years of what the lives of sheriffs were like, with hangings, shootings and trouble between miners and cowboys.

            One room was filled with historical items used in law enforcement during this period. Cases held guns, uniforms and stories. One of the sheriffs featured in the museum was one of the famous Earp brothers. An unusual artifact on display was the trapdoor of the gallows used in the last hanging held there.

            During Prohibition, one sheriff always gave a warning by first driving past the speakeasy or still when he was about to raid it. He was re-elected. A later sheriff took Prohibition more seriously. He was not re-elected.

            The major portion of this building is given over to prehistorical exhibits, which includes material on the animals of the area, many of which became extinct, such as the giant bison, American lion, mammoths and short-faced bears.

            Especially impressive in their realism were two striking displays portraying Clovis point hunters; one with an elk pierced by an arrow lying at his feet, the other throwing a spear at a running deer. With the extinction of the large animals such as mammoths, the Indians had to change their lifestyle, develop agriculture and hunt small animals. The exhibit also pushes back to the arrival of Indians in this area several thousand years.

            In our second story on the Sharlot Hall Museum we will share findings from our visit to other major buildings included in this living history museum.

The museum has dioramas showing living conditions in Arizona in the early days

A Clovis period hunter throwing a spear at a running deer



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