But near Globe,
Ariz., outside the San Carlos Reservation, the Copper Hill Motel offers you a
view of a squared-off mountain of tailings. An insectlike crane inches along
the crest, building a mountain bucketful by bucketful. Junked cars cascade down
nearby hillsides. Remington wrote, in an unpublished manuscript, "The
Americans have gashed this country up so horribly with their axes, hammers,
scrapers and plows that I always like to see a place they have
It is as a
chronicler and historian of the end of an era that Remington is famous, but he
was also an easygoing illustrator of the beginning of one. Remington played in
the first football game to capture national attention, Yale vs. Princeton in
1879; he played a part in transforming football from a privileged Eastern
pastime to a national preoccupation. He saw harness racing develop from a
county fair free-for-all to an organized metropolitan sport; he was on hand to
sketch the opening of the Sheepshead Bay track, which gave flat racing a
fashionable backdrop. Remington painted football games, jockeys, polo players,
horse shows, ice fishing, steeplechasing, fox hunting, tarpon fishing, duck
shooting, moose hunting, deer stalking, canoeing, bicycle racing, quail
shooting, bullfighting, rodeos, a grizzly hunt. If he had not become famous as
a Western artist, he might have been remembered as a pioneer illustrator of the
outdoors and the rise of amateur sport.
to sketch in 1876, when a student at Highland Military Academy in Worcester,
Mass. He was 15 years old and under house arrest for some horseplay in the
armory. While he was confined to quarters his roommate got a letter from a boy
who was taking drawing lessons and who added sketches to his letter. Remington
admired the sketches and wrote to the friend, volunteering to become a pen pal.
"I don't amount to anything in particular," Remington wrote. "I
don't swear much.... I never smoke—only when I get treated...." He offered
to exchange sketches.
was accepted, and he started drawing school scenes, cartoons, self-portraits;
eventually he did a painting of an irritated barbarian captured by a
mean-looking Roman soldier.
father was the collector of customs at Ogdensburg, N.Y., a port of entry from
Canada on the St. Lawrence River, but he was also a horseman, racing trotters
and pacers. A track and fairgrounds had been built near the Remington home, and
during vacations Frederic exercised and groomed his father's horses, learned to
drive a sulky and sketched horses. Some of these early drawings have been
preserved, along with a number of his school sketches. They are lively, often
amusing, but Remington was not a prodigy.
family, the Sackriders, well-to-do conservative folk in Canton, N.Y., regarded
Frederic's artistic aspirations indulgently. They regarded almost everything he
did indulgently. Opposition came from his father's brother, Lamartine Z.
Remington, who was "opposed to having any men artists in the family."
Lamartine, chief clerk in the New York State Department of Public Instruction
in Albany, wanted Frederic to have a political career. Thomas Piatt, the
Republican boss of New York State, was a family friend, and ultimately
Frederic's father would become the political boss of St. Lawrence County.
planned to go to Cornell and become a journalist who illustrated his pieces.
Instead, in the fall of 1878, he wound up at Yale, Boss Platt's old school. The
newly formed art department put Remington to work in a basement classroom
copying a plaster cast of a faun. During his sophomore year Remington was a
forward on the football team; Walter Camp, then a senior, was the captain.
published drawing appeared on Nov. 2, 1878, in The Yale Courant. It depicted a
battered player in his room, bandaged leg propped on a table amid bottles of
liniment, saying, "The doctor says I'll be all right by Thanksgiving and
that's all I care for now." The publication of the cartoon was an important
occasion in Remington's life, for the Courant was edited by Poultney Bigelow, a
rich boy who was Remington's companion in drawing class and who thereafter
claimed credit for launching Remington's career.
Early in the 1879
Yale-Princeton game Remington was buried in a midfield pileup for at least 10
minutes, during which the ball did not move 10 feet in either direction. In
those days the lines met in mass-collision plays, power and weight assaults, in
which yardage—or inchage—was slowly ground out. In an illustration in Harper's
Weekly, Remington's earnest, honest face is clearly visible in a pyramid of
struggling players near the Princeton goal. The artist had plenty of time to
get his likeness: the Princeton line held for another 10 straining minutes
without giving up more than two feet. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, and
Remington came out of it a hero—or one of the lesser heroes, for Walter Camp
was the star.
In August 1881
Remington took off for Montana. All his life Remington had a tendency to lose
things; now, alone in the Montana wilderness, age 19, he managed to lose his
horse. Ever after, in Remington's books and paintings, a man in the West
without a horse was his ultimate image of desperation. "I by good luck made
the camp-fire of an old wagon freighter who shared his bacon and coffee with
me," he reported. During his long life he had followed the receding
frontier, always further and further west. "And now," he said,
"there is no more West...." That was the night Remington began to think
about the long Forever that lay beyond the wild riders and the vacant lands.
"Without knowing exactly how to do it," he wrote, "I began to try
to record some facts around me."