Alonzo Lon Megargee Arizona Cowboy Artist 1883-1960
Arizona Cowboy and Artist
Alonzo "Lon" Megargee is thought to have been born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1883, although later in his life he claimed to have been born in Tombstone, Arizona. He was such a character that maybe he should have been born in Tombstone. Sources claim that Lon left Philadelphia at age 14 after the death of his father. He joined his two aunts who lived in Arizona in the Phoenix area and his biggest dream was to be a "real" cowboy. After a stint on his aunt's dairy farm, he bought a horse and saddle and left to find work as a cowboy. He found work at Tex Singleton's Bull Ranch in Wickenburg Arizona, where he learned how to "bust" wild horses and perform trick roping.
Later, Lon's stories about this period included having been kidnapped by Poncho Villa, sleeping with wild Indians, fighting other cowboys, dealing poker and breaking bones while "busting" wild horses. Telling cowboy campfire tall tales was welcomed as great entertainment, but biographers of Megargee differ wildly on what Lon actually did. This is also true of the story of how Lon became an artist. Some sources say that Megargee attended the Los Angeles School of Art and Design, while later he claimed to never have had any type of formal training. After showing his paintings at an art fair in Territorial Arizona, Lon wrote to Arizona's first governor George P Hunt in 1913 after Arizona had become a State. He convinced Hunt to give him a commission on 15 large paintings for the new Arizona State Capitol. Hunt approved the commission and paid Megargee from leftover monies that Congress had approved for the statehood.
While I'm in no way an art critic, Megargee did make good on his promise to Gov. Hunt to capture the diversity and beauty of Arizona. He painted the stark contrast between irrigated and non-irrigated land, miners, cowboys, Native Americans, Spaniards, the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, the San Francisco Peaks and Canyon de Chelly. Governor Hunt's favorite was the painting of "The Prospector" and had it hung in his personal office. My favorite is titled "Spirit of Arizona" which has a Grecian goddess holding a Native American basket of citrus against a backdrop of citrus trees, cacti and mountains. The paintings still hang near former Gov. Hunt's office in the portion of the Arizona Capitol building that is now a museum on the second floor. I often wonder how many people pass the paintings without knowing anything about Lon Megargee.
Lon worked at a variety of jobs, in a variety of places. He tried running an art supply store in California, and worked as a sketch artist for the Denver Post newspaper. Someone in the Stetson Hat Company loved his cowboy and horse sketches so much that Megargee's painting of a cowboy and his horse drinking from the cowboy hat called "The Last Drop of Water" was used silk screened and used on the liner inside of "better" Stetson hats.
In 1930, Lon was living in Phoenix again in the area that would eventually become Paradise Valley. He used an existing studio on the property, but he continued to add buildings and allowed friends to stay at his Casa Hermosa (Beautiful House.) He hadn't really intended to start a guest ranch, but his constant problems with money and women (he was either married six or eight times according to gossip) kept him allowing guests to stay. After an ugly divorce in 1941, Lon sold the property and moved close to Sedona in Northern Arizona. The Casa Hermosa property is now, Lon's Hermosa Inn, an upscale small hotel and a gourmand restaurant.
Lon loved painting sexy long legged women, and critics charged that his paintings of them were better suited to pulp fiction covers than Western art. When Lon received a contract to paint advertising art for the A-1 Brewing Company of Phoenix, the series of four paintings became his best known works. The first painting, Cowboy's Dream, featured a sleeping cowboy on the ground, with one of Lon's long legged nude women a top of a horse inside a cloud. The second in the series featured Black Bart in a barber's chair with a political campaign poster for a sheriff hanging on the wall. The series of the four prints has become quite collectible. The Curteich of Chicago Postcard Company produced two series of Megargee's paintings as postcards.
Lon continued to paint until an accident where he rolled his pick up truck. He later died at the Cottonwood Arizona (closest) hospital In addition to viewing Megargee's paintings at the Capitol, many are owned by the Dos Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona.
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