LOS ANGELES, CA.-
Now on display in the Autry National Center
s Imagination Gallery is the famous hand-drawn Ponderosa Ranch map that was seen by millions of people around the world during the opening sequence of the popular television series Bonanza.
A true piece of Western history, the map of the Ponderosa, the rambling Nevada ranch that was the setting for Bonanza, remained in the collection of series creator David Dortort for many years. Upon his passing in 2010, the Dortort family generously donated the map to the Autry. It now joins the rest of the David Dortort Archive which is also part of the Autrys collection and includes such items as correspondence, draft and final scripts, audience rating records, awards, photographs, periodicals, and reference books. The archive documents the history and influence of Western television and adds to the Autrys significant popular culture collections.
This July marks the twentieth anniversary of the passing of Michael Landon, and I believe he and the rest of the cast as well as Mr. Dortort would be thrilled to see audiences continue to enjoy Bonanza today, said Daniel Finley, President and CEO, Autry National Center. We are delighted to display this iconic map for all to see.
Bonanza was one of the most popular and longest-running Westerns in television history. The appeal of the show was universal, and it influenced people around the world. Bonanza was on the air for fourteen seasons, spanning 431 episodes and delighting NBC audiences who saw the map every week from September 1959 to February 1973. At the beginning of every episode, a map of the Ponderosa Ranch was consumed by flames to reveal the shows stars riding up on horseback. Because the series was on the air so long and in so many countries, it is possible that more people have seen the map of the Ponderosa than any other map in history.
The show starred Lorne Greene (19151987) as widowed father Ben Cartwright; Pernell Roberts (19282010) as urbane Adam Cartwright, the oldest son; Dan Blocker (19281972) as soft-hearted Eric Hoss Cartwright, the middle son; and Michael Landon (19361991) as hot-headed Little Joe Cartwright, the youngest son. The series, mostly shot in a studio, was known more for its family dramas and for addressing contemporary themes than for Western vistas and traditional cowboy action storylines.
Bonanza was the number-one show on television for several years, said Jeffrey Richardson, the Autrys Associate Curator of Western History and Popular Culture. People of all ages liked Bonanza, and entire families would gather around the television to watch it. For many people, seeing the map was the start of one of their favorite hours of the week.
The map was hand-drawn in intense colors for Dortort by Robert Temple Ayres, a company employee. As designed, the map shows Reno to the west of Carson City. In reality, Reno sits to the north. To fix the error, Ayres drew a compass that points in a northwest direction.