Brazoria County Historical Museum's New Collection
There are an assortment of unique items in the Museum’s collection, some of which are brass stirrups. Sometimes they are referred to as Conquistador Stirrups even though they are actually from a later period.
Spanish Colonial Stirrups saw use in Central and South America during the late eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries. Each stirrup has a hole in the bottom that allows for drainage. When a stirrup became well-worn, a newer piece of brass was welded onto its bottom. Stirrups wore out on the bottom from the rider’s boot sliding in and out of the stirrup as well as brushing against vegetation as they rode, reflecting the normal wear of a working pair of stirrups. Some mounted troops throughout South America still use brass stirrups ceremonially today. The detailing and style reflect influences from earlier European forms. Stirrups were such a noted item that in 1869, Friedrich Hassaurek (1831-1885) describes them in his travel log as “… the huge Mexican spurs and brass stirrups in the form of shoes or slippers.”1 Then later in 1888, Journalist William Curtis also describes wooden stirrups as similar in shape to the metal stirrups: “The stirrups of the ordinary citizen are made of two huge pieces of wood, with a hole cut through for the foot, while those of the aristocrat are brass or silver slippers. The wooden affair, the poor man's stirrup, is rudely cut out of oak, or other hardwood, by hand, and usually weighs as much as four or five pounds. The brass one is quite as heavy but much more ornamental.”2 While Curtis discounts the wooden stirrups, there are some that survive today that are quite elaborate and well carved. As with many items, these stirrups run the gauntlet from quite plain to very ornate, depending on how much one wanted to spend on them. These stirrups were not limited to men, as there are smaller children's sizes and some designed specifically for women.
Learn more about the stories these pieces tell on Thursday, January 31, at 6:30 pm as Curator Michael Bailey takes an in-depth look at the Museum’s Mexican Colonial Stirrups Collection. Hosted at the Brazoria County Historical Museum, located at 100 East Cedar in Angleton, the event is free to the public. For more information follow the Museum on Facebook or call 979-864-1208.