Tag Archives: Museum of the Mountain Man

“The Revenant” and Robert Campbell

If you like the movies no doubt you have heard of the new Hollywood film The Revenant, starring Leonardo diCaprio and Tom Hardy. The film just won the 2016 Golden Globe Award for best drama and DiCaprio received the best actor award.  It has also just yesterday received 12 Oscar nominations.

The film is an account of the travails of Hugh Glass, a mountain man who in 1823 was badly mauled by a bear and left for dead by his companions. Glass survived and made a grueling 250-mile trek to safety. Glass’ exploits became cemented in legend, inspiring three movies, two books (including Michael Punke’s 2002 novel The Revenant, which inspired the film), and numerous songs. While The Revenant is fictionalized, many of the events and characters are real, and showcase the life of mountain men. The Museum of the Mountain Man has an excellent account on the real Hugh Glass; we here present to you how Robert Campbell fits in with The Revenant.

Hugh Glass did not have a dog with him, and came out much the worse-for-wear after his fight.

Hugh Glass did not have a dog with him, and came out much the worse-for-wear after his fight.

Campbell was only then arriving in the West when Glass was busy being mauled by a bear. Campbell was in the employ of John O’Fallon, a St. Louis-based businessman charged with supplying an army fort at Council Bluffs, Iowa. His first posting was across the Missouri from Council Bluffs, at Bellevue, Nebraska. During the cold winter that followed, Campbell’s struggles paled in comparison to Glass’, yet neither had an easy time. Glass was attempting to survive while badly wounded and alone in the wilderness; Campbell began having lung issues which would plague him for most of his life. Things were so bad for Campbell that, upon his return to St. Louis in spring 1824, he was advised by a doctor to go into the Rockies. The doctor added, “I have before sent two or three young men there in your condition, and they came back restored to health and healthy as bucks.” It is likely that Hugh Glass would disagree with the sentiment that the Rockies could make you healthy and long-lived.

Although there is no evidence that Glass and Campbell ever met, Glass’ epic story would have been told and retold around many a fireside among the fur traders. Campbell also personally knew many of those involved. William Sublette, who became Campbell’s best friend and business partner, was among those hired alongside Glass in 1823. Another famous mountain man, Jedediah Smith, commanded Glass and 39 other men during the battle with the Arikara Indians that opens the film. It was Smith who hired Robert for the fur trade in 1825.

Jim Bridger was perhaps the most accomplished of all the Mountain Men, and is believed to have attended every Rendezvous.

Jim Bridger was perhaps the most accomplished of all the Mountain Men, and is believed to have attended every Rendezvous.

Like Glass, Jedediah Smith was once mauled by a bear. Unlike Glass, Smith was carried out of the wilderness by his party.

Like Glass, Jedediah Smith was once mauled by a bear. Unlike Glass, Smith was carried out of the wilderness by his party.












Jim Bridger is the figure who is most central to both Glass and Campbell’s experiences. At 18 years of age, Bridger was in the party when Glass was attacked by the bear. According to some later accounts, Bridger may have been one of the two volunteers who stayed with Glass, but thinking him dead, hastened to catch up with the party. It was a good thing for Campbell that Glass forgave Bridger rather than taking his revenge, as Bridger and Campbell would work closely together for the next decade and maintain a relationships for the rest of their lives.

Campbell and Sublette built Fort William in 1834. The army took it over later and renamed it Fort Laramie, using the site to sign an historic--and controversial--treaty with several native tribes.

Campbell and Sublette built Fort William in 1834. The army took it over later and renamed it Fort Laramie, using the site to sign an historic–and controversial–treaty with several native tribes.

Both men were lieutenants in the Smith, Jackson, & Sublette Company beginning in 1826, leading bands of trappers into the mountains for the winter before heading to the rendezvous. While Campbell had a good head for numbers and management, Bridger was unsurpassed in his knowledge of mountain life, making their partnership a useful one. Their relationship continued even in later life, with both men attending the 1850 meeting that resulted in the Treaty of Fort Laramie.

Glass and Campbell followed very different trajectories in their time in the West. Although Glass clearly had the stamina and skill to survive in the mountains, he never rose very high within the fur company’s hierarchy. Glass seems to have broken from the companies and worked as a free trader. He played a minor role in bringing the American Fur Company, a rival company to Campbell and Sublette, to the 1830 Rendezvous. Glass later began working out of Fort Union and later Fort Cass, both outposts of the American Fur Company.

Robert Campbell's buckskin jacket.

Robert Campbell’s buckskin jacket on display at the Campbell House through April 1.

In contrast, Campbell was made a lieutenant in just his second year in the west. In 1830, Sublette first asked Campbell to join as a partner, but he did not accept until 1831. Campbell achieved his own fame for his role in the 1832 Battle of Pierre’s Hole, which led to a role in Washington Irving’s book The Adventures of Captain Bonneville. Two years later, Campbell and Sublette embarked on a risky strategy by challenging the American Fur Company directly by building Fort William just a few miles from Fort Union, Glass’ old trading point.

The future was bright for Campbell, but not for Hugh Glass. Glass was killed in an encounter with some Arikara Indians in 1833, a somewhat ignominious end (if predictable) for a man who so often defied death. Still, his legend lives on, and if you find yourself in a movie theater, be sure to check out the epic of Hugh Glass, then head online to the Museum of the Mountain Man or downtown St. Louis to the Campbell House for the real deal!

In honor of this movie event come to Campbell House before April 1 to see Robert Cambpell’s magnificent buckskin jacket on display in his bedroom.  Contact us for an appointment.

Interested in learning more?  Hear fur trade historian Dr. Jay Buckley discuss the fur trade, Hugh Glass and the role of Campbell House in this fascinating story on NPR’s St. Louis on the Air with Don Marsh. 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday Update » 6.11.12

Welcome back to Monday, everyone! We hope you’ve been enjoying your summer so far. As usual, we’ve been busy here and we have some fun things to report to you:

Facelift for Campbell House
Actually, more like a coat of paint. 2012 marks the 10-year anniversary of the completion of the exterior renovation of the house, and we’re due for another paint job. Fortunately, we’ve secured a generous grant from the Robert J. Trulaske, Jr. Family Foundation for the funds to have the brick, windows and cornices repainted. Since the house is so big and tall, this is going to be an exciting process because the painters will have to use a series of lifts to reach the highest points of the house. Work will likely begin this summer after we complete spot tuckpointing, and we’ll be sure to share pictures as the work progresses. Three cheers for the Robert J. Trulaske, Jr. Family Foundation for helping us keep the Campbells’ home in tip-top shape!

We ♥ Our Interns
Campbell House has a full complement of six interns this summer. Though most of them are from St. Louis, they represent universities from all over the country, (Vassar, Wartburg College and Washington University) and a variety of disciplines including art history, chemistry (really) and American culture studies. They’ll get the full museum experience this summer by giving tours, conducting research, inventorying the Campbell collection as well as all of the other day-to-day stuff that needs to get done (i.e. watering the garden, booking tours, working on membership renewals, etc). Check back in with us as we post intern profiles to the blog. These dynamic — and wickedly smart — students breathe new life into this house, and we’re fortunate to have their fresh perspective. While they’re learning the museum biz, we get new insight and ideas for making this old house current and relevant to a young demographic. Are you interested in joining us for an internship, too? Email Executive Director Andy Hahn at andy [at] campbellhousemuseum.org.

Interior of Fort Laramie by Alfred Jacob Miller
Watercolor, 1858-1860

Retracing Robert’s Route
This week, Intrepid Researcher Tom™  and our illustrious Executive Director Andy are taking a trip out to the wild west to visit Robert’s old stomping grounds. Beginning at Fort Laramie, the pair will meet Robert’s great-nephew Alan (who is coming all the way from Northern Ireland) to see the annual Rendezvous that reenacts the yearly event where trappers would meet with merchants to trade furs for goods. Fort Laramie is significant because Robert founded Fort William, which was Fort Laramie’s precursor. This year’s event will commemorate artist Alfred Jacob Miller’s 1837 trip to the rendezvous. Miller produced some of the most famous images of the Oregon Trail and Fort Laramie, including the one on the right. After the rendezvous, the trio will visit Museum of the Mountain Man, Pierre’s Hole (the site of the famous battle in which Robert and pal Bill Sublette played a major role), and finally — if they have time — a trip to Fort Bridger. We’ll be sure to post pictures after the travelers return.

A picture from the process: the entire keyboard was removed from the body of the piano.

Music to Our Ears
In what proved to be a five-month project, the Campbells’ piano is DONE! JoAnn Kaplan of Kapstan Piano Services worked tirelessly to clean, fix and/or custom-fabricate new parts, and finally tune the old Schomacker. We didn’t do all that work for nothing — we’ll start hosting parlor concerts later this year. Check back for details.

Tours on Tap
Did you miss our wildly successful Lucas Place/Tap Room walking tour last fall? Have no fear — we’ll offer it again and then some. This week we’re meeting with our friends at Landmarks Association of St. Louis to put together some fun and informative tours. As soon as we work out the details we ‘ll get a schedule of events posted. Do you have an idea for a building, neighborhood or special tour of Campbell House? Let us know! Send your bright idea to shelley.satke [at] gmail.com and we’ll see what we can do.

Detail of the reupholstered piano bench. That’s silk velvet and yes, it feels as good as it looks.

Facelift 2.0: Bidet and Piano Stool
The house is getting repainted, and two pieces of furniture have been reupholstered, too. The fabric on Virginia’s bidet cover had deteriorated to nothing more than threads, and the piano stool wasn’t in much better shape. Board member and interior designer Tim Rohan generously donated new fabric and had the tops of both pieces of furniture reupholstered over the existing fabrics so we would not lose the original material (what was left of it, anyway).

New Geocache
Are you into urban treasure hunting? We have a new geocache in our garden….dig up your GPS or download a geocache app to find it, and add your name to the list!

Board President Fritz Clifford with St. Louis Ballet dancers.

We’re the Daaaahncers
Last week we welcomed a crew of St. Louis Ballet dancers who performed at our Magical Spring Thing in April. They got the VIP tour with Andy and Board President Fritz leading the way.  Do you have a special group that would like to have a special behind-the-scenes experience at Campbell House? Contact Andy (andy [at] campbellhousemuseum.org) or Shelley (shelley.satke [at] gmail.com) and we are more than happy to accommodate you!

Bye, Bob
Bob’s going away….for now. The beloved garden gnome that was left on our front steps as a prank will be vacationing back at the DeMenil Mansion until we launch a secret expedition to bring him home.  <super sadface>

….and that’s all the news that’s fit to print for now. Have a spectacular week!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,