Happy Birthday Charles M. Russell

US #1243 was the fourth issue in the American Painting Series and pictures Russell’s painting Jerked Down.

Artist Charles Marion Russell was born on March 19, 1864, in St. Louis, Missouri.

From an early age, Russell always had a great interest in art. As a child growing up in Missouri, he frequently sketched and made clay figures of animals. He was also very interested in the American West and loved reading stories and listening to the tales of explorers and fur traders passing through town.

Item #126498 – Commemorative cover marking Russell’s 121st birthday.

Russell always dreamed of being a cowboy in the Wild West, and when he was 16, he set out to fulfill that dream. In 1880, he moved to Montana and first tried his hand working on a sheep ranch. When that didn’t work out, Russell met Jake Hoover, a former hunter and trapper, who started a ranch and hired him. Hoover taught him a lot about living in the west and they would maintain a lifelong friendship. Aside from a brief visit to Missouri in 1882, Russell remained in Montana for the rest of his life.

US #1243 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

Over the next few years, Russell worked as a cowboy on several different ranches. In his spare time, he often painted small watercolors of the sights he saw. After the harsh winter of 1886-87, the owner of the O-H Ranch he was working on sent a letter asking how the cattle were doing. Instead of sending back a letter, the ranch foreman sent a postcard-sized watercolor Russell had painted of a lean steer surrounded by wolves. The owner was impressed with the picture and displayed it in a shop window in Helena, Montana.

US #1243 – Plate Block First Day Cover.

In 1888, Russell started living with the Blood Indians, part of the Blackfeet nation. He learned a great deal about Native American culture during this time that would later be reflected in his paintings. In 1892, he settled near Great Falls, Montana and decided to commit all his energy to becoming a full-time artist. Within a few years, Russell got married and moved into the city of Great Falls. There he became a local celebrity for detailed artworks. His wife helped him set up shows in the US and London, leading him to gain national and international acclaim.

US #1176 pictures a portion of Russell’s The Trail Boss.

Russell’s work dramatically recalled his experiences in Montana and brought the Old West to life. Dedicated to his art, Russell created nearly 4,000 scenes during his career. He was also a writer. His “Rawhide Rawlins” stories, published in popular magazines of the day, are among the finest of the period’s western literature.

US #1176 – Fleetwood Plate Block First Day Cover picturing Russell on the cachet.

Russell died on October 24, 1926. On the day of his funeral, all the children in Great Falls were let out of school early to watch his funeral procession.

Click here to view paintings on the official Charles M. Russell website.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.



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  1. Thank you for the biography of this famous western artist. Many famous people have his bronzes & paintings. Occasionally you can find calendars with his artwork & they are worthy of framing each & every month’s drawing or painting.

    1. One of my favorite artists! I Love to go see his work in the Sid Richardson Museum in downtown Fort Worth. I especially love his team portrait of the Indian which was done by three western painting artists, each doing a part of the painting–so original!

  2. While I just learned about this great detail-oriented western artist, I am impressed. He was gifted !! Thanks, Mystic. Another fantastic explanation and update about an interesting American artist !!

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