Tales from the Tread: The Pleasant Collection of American Indian Art
Tales from the Tread
The newest exhibit at the Tread of Pioneers Museum, “The Pleasant Collection of American Indian Art” opened June 23 and features a stunning array of basketry, pottery, weavings and beadwork from primarily Southwest tribes.
The collection itself is a sight to behold, but the history behind the collectors is a fascinating story of a Routt County family dedicated to arts and culture.
The group of artifacts was the love and hobby of Hayden resident H.B. Pleasant. Originally from Indiana, Hugh Bronson, also known as H.B. or Johnny, made his way to Denver in 1908 with his brother.
H.B. became the owner of the general store in the tiny town of Maybell, and moved to Hayden in 1929 to take over the filling station at the corner of Walnut and Jefferson Streets.
H.B. was well known as a kind and civic-minded community member who was devoted to his family. Any extra time or cash H.B. could acquire went toward his passion project of traveling to reservations across the Southwest to meet tribal families and tradesmen and women, and purchase their artwork.
His charming personality and passion pulled the entire family into American Indian art collecting. His son Richard spent time traveling and learning about the Southwest, and later, his niece Rosamond Carpenter Zars Garcia became a well-versed expert on Indian crafts as “Uncle John’s” traveling companion. With his family’s engagement, H.B. spent over 30 years amassing a collection of Edward S. Curtis photographs, arrowheads, pottery, basketry, beadwork and Navajo weavings.
When H.B. died in 1951, the items were given to his son Richard, who passed away a decade later. Wanting to support local cultural institutions and keep the collection in the county, estate executors Ferry Carpenter and H.B.’s niece Rosamond gifted selections from the collection to the Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs which was established in 1959.
“Few, if any, people from around here were connecting with Native American tribes, much less appreciating and collecting their art,” said Belle Zars, historian and family descendant. “H.B. Pleasant had an affinity for tribal culture and arts. He developed long-lasting relationships with artisans and their families whom he visited regularly. In some ways, he fit into Hayden, running a Texaco station, and in other ways he was counter-cultural — following his own taste and interests in American Indian art.”
“He cared about the people,” Zars added. “He felt they should be treasured and valued, and he just loved their arts and craftsmanship.”
The Pleasant family’s devotion to arts and culture spread out through the generations. H.B.’s oldest son Richard attended Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Dance Camp in Steamboat Springs, where a passion for dance and performance was ignited.
After Richard graduated from Princeton in 1932, he eventually made his way to New York and started making waves in the dance world. His work culminated in the creation of the American Ballet Theatre in 1939. Today, the American Ballet Theatre is of one of the most successful and honored dance companies in the nation.
We hope you will learn more about the Pleasant family and see this extraordinary collection of American Indian art, now on display at the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
Katie Adams is curator for Tread of Pioneers Museum. For more, go to TreadOfPioneers.org.
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