Explore this exhibit: Buffalo Hide Trade

Winners and losers involved in the frontier’s first economic boom.

The discovery that buffalo hides were suitable for industrial leather created an industry that transformed frontier Texas. Soon after the Civil War, eastern capitalists ordered as many buffalo hides as could be supplied. Hunters responded, first decimating the herds on the Northern Plains, and then coming after the millions of Texas buffalo. A government treaty protected the Texas buffalo for Indians, but hunters ignored it. The military “looked the other way” as the loss of buffalo would force the Indians onto reservations. Texas buffalo were killed out in less than a decade.