"How Cawker City Got its Name" poker game starkly illustrates America's continuing male mannequin crisis.

How Women Won the West: Male Mannequin Crisis Still Acute

The shortage of male mannequins in the nation's small museums may be decades old, but we first paid attention during a visit to the Glore Psychiatric Museum, St. Joseph, Missouri in 1991.

The displays of old therapeutic equipment and pastimes were invariably populated by female glamour mannequins, making it look like they were at a day spa, not an insane asylum. We agreed to help curator George Glore find some males; then we found out how grim the male mannequin scene is....

Treatment exhibit at the Glore Psychiatric Museum.
Treatment exhibit at the Glore Psychiatric Museum.

This summer, our travels delivered us to a string of museums in the West and the Plains. The male mannequin shortage continues, and is much worse. From one historic diorama to the next, we spied ladies disguised as cowboys, gunslingers, and criminals, with nary a male dummy in the crowd.

The ramparts off the wooden fort that is the Fort Cody Trading Post, North Platte, Nebraska are guarded by gals with painted on beards and soldier uniforms (in fact, these appear to be just heads on wooden frameworks).

Small town clothing stores gone belly up are ripe resources for dummies.That's how the Cawker City staffed the card game tableau in a store window on the main drag of Cawker City, Kansas, home of the World's Largest Twine Ball. The scene recreates the poker gambit where Mr. Cawker won the hand that let him name the town -- with four female mannequins. Cawker City, where are your men?

Jail cell in the Thermopolis County Museum.
Jail cell in the Thermopolis County Museum.

In the Hot Springs County Museum in Thermopolis, Wyoming, a rough looking character is curled on a jail cot in the basement. But wait -- it's a girl with dirt smeared on her face to fake whiskers!

At the same museum, an Indian chief wears burlap mittens and a burlap hood to obscure his feminine features. In fact, the curator admits that she had to change the museum's lone male mannequin--a wild west bartender--into a Korean War soldier for a 50th anniversary display. His 19th century sideburns were a problem.

Meanwhile, in Tarpon Springs, Florida, we've heard Spongeorama is about to be plowed under for redevelopment into a restaurant. The Sponge Museum includes several handsome "Greekified" male mannequins. There are no women sponge divers here. We wonder where these men will end up.

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July 13, 2020

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