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Collection Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945 to 1982

About this Collection

Includes 41 motion pictures and 28 sound recordings, motion pictures produced from 1945 to 1965 by Leslie Stewart (owner of the Ninety-Six Ranch), 2,400 still photographs drawn from the Center's ethnographic field project conducted 1978-1982 and from historic photos dating 1870-1958. Background essays provide historical and cultural context for this distinctive northern Nevada ranching community. Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982 presents documentation of a Nevada cattle-ranching community, with a focus on the family-run Ninety-Six Ranch. The focus was on the work of buckaroos, as cowboys are commonly called in the region.

Paradise Valley is the name of both a cattle-ranching valley and a crossroads community in northern Nevada's Humboldt County. It is home to persons of Anglo American, Italian, German, Basque, Swiss, Northern Paiute Indian, and Chinese heritage. The valley is a cul-de-sac formed by the Santa Rosa Mountains and watered by their melting snows. Miners and agriculturists arrived at about the time of the Civil War, but the mines played out by the end of the century and the valley was devoted to ranching through the 1980s. Ranching has continued even as improved technology has again made the extraction of gold profitable and mining has been revived.

The documentation for this online collection was largely drawn from the work of an ethnographic field research project in Paradise Valley, Nevada conducted by the American Folklife Center from 1978 to 1982. The project documented more than thirty ranches and numerous other sites and activities, resulting in extensive collection of administrative papers, printed materials, and collected ephemera; 45,300 color and black-and photos; 150 hours of sound recorded interviews; four hours of l6mm motion picture film; one hour of historic motion picture footage (copied to video); and 10 hours of video recordings. The Paradise Valley Folklife Project collection (AFC 1991/021) is available to researchers in the Folklife Reading Room.

The Paradise Valley Folklife Project employed a team of researchers representing different disciplines who documented a variety of aspects of traditional life. Howard W. "Rusty" Marshall, then of the Folklife Center's staff, directed the project. Richard E. Ahlborn documented ranch crafts and horse gear. Marshall and Ahlborn co-authored the publication that accompanied the exhibition (Buckaroos in Paradise. Washington: Library of Congress, 1980. Reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981). Thomas Vennum Jr. interviewed Northern Paiute Indians about their work as ranch hands and buckaroos. James Deetz led a group of historical archeologists (Eugene Prince, Lynn Eisenmann, and Jamey Deetz) in a survey of the valley's former Chinese community and two historic archeological sites on the Ninety-Six Ranch. Margaret Sermons Purser continued to research the early history of the community, culminating in her doctoral dissertation "Community and Material Culture in Nineteenth Century Paradise Valley, Nevada" (Ph.D. diss., University of California, 1987) (AFC 1987/047). Carl Fleischhauer  participated in various roles, notably organizing the project's overall media documentation effort, compiling information about Leslie J. "Les" Stewart and his Ninety-Six Ranch, and producing a videodisc about the ranch, now transformed into this online collection. Fleischhauer was joined in producing media documentation by William H. "Bill" Smock, a filmmaker from San Francisco, who worked as a still photographer and produced the motion pictures included in this online collection.

The project team also included specialist researchers contracted by the Folklife Center. Keith Cunningham documented oral traditions in the town of Paradise Valley. He and his wife, Kathy Cunningham, also prepared a comprehensive index to the field research project's 150 hours of tape recordings. Linda Gasta├▒aga studied the Basque presence. Suzi Jones studied foodways and material culture. William A. "Bert" Wilson studied the annual cycle of work on several valley ranches.

During 1983-1985, materials were selected from the project collection for a laser videodisc. In its first version, the disc provided an interactive video display in the 1983 Library of Congress exhibition The American Cowboy, and in its final form two years later, it became a publication of the American Folklife Center entitled The Ninety-Six: A Cattle Ranch in Northern Nevada. The content and structure of the videodisc forms the basis for this online collection.