Soldier, artist, bugler, wolf killer and conservationist George Nicholas Ostrom was born in 1888, in Spencer, Iowa, a small town in the northwestern part of the state. After playing in a band in Iowa, homesteading in North Dakota, driving cattle in Texas and working as an artist in Minneapolis, 25-year old George eventually moved with his widowed mother to the hamlet of Springwillow, 20 miles east of Sheridan, Wyo., in 1913.
Doubtless to fill his pockets with some additional spending money, young George joined Sheridan’s National Guard Company D. That same year he acquired a colt, “a very beautiful sorrel, two white stockings and silver mane and tail and a blazed face,” he remembered years later, that he named Redwing. As a young man, George showed considerable artistic and musical talent, and received a limited amount of professional art training.
Throughout his military service on the Mexican border and in France, Ostrom prepared nearly 20 drawings of military life—in combat and behind the lines. He originally made these sketches in pencil in the field, on whatever paper he could scrounge. His son, George Ostrom Jr., recalls that after he returned home, his father would spend his evenings inking in the pencil sketches on the family’s kitchen table.
Ostrom also worked as a commercial artist, painting signs for the city of Sheridan and highway billboards, and created a wealth of art based on his own experiences as a soldier, hunter, rancher, musician and cowboy.
Today, his sketches are considered a national treasure of soldier art, and his wildlife and Wyoming artwork are considered among the finest created by a Wyoming artist.
Ostrom was active in veterans’ organizations and bands throughout his life. He was a popular character at veterans’ reunions, where with a stick of chalk he was known to draw the “bucking broncho” on sidewalks for drinks. George and his bugle were a fixture at Wyoming veterans’ ceremonies and funerals.
He died in Sheridan in 1982 at the age of 97. His family remains in Sheridan, and has entrusted his military drawings and artifacts with the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum in Casper.
Article excerpts from wyohistory.org
by DOUGLAS R. CUBBISON