Coffee-Can Mousetrap

Before cows could be branded, they needed to be rounded up. Buckaroos, during line drive season in the fall, rode out over the countryside in ones or pairs to round up and bring the cattle back to the line camp, a procedure which required several days of hard riding. At this time, buckaroos slept in temporary housing--either canvas-walled tents or well-constructed cabins of frame and sheet metal. Each shelter or line cabin was supplied with food and the cowhand’s gear. It was not close to grocery stores for restocking. So this coffee can mousetrap, made in 1979 by rancher Leslie Stewart, of Paradise Valley, Nevada, was a necessary part of housekeeping, protecting the ingredients that would go into several evenings of meals before early to bed and early to rise the next day to complete the job. Dinner often consisted of steak, beans, biscuits, and coffee, with second helpings, provided the mice didn’t get there first. Contrary to what was often shown in movies and on television in the early to mid 20th century, buckaroos didn’t sit around a campfire after meal to sing cowboy songs. They were so tired that they went to bed early to get up early to do the same tasks the next day until the job was done and winter set in, leaving plenty of time to face undesirable chores on the ranch back home.
Les Stewart was descended from German pioneers. When not a rancher, he filled in off hours as a leather worker and furniture maker. He made this coffee can mousetrap in 1979 as a prop for a bunkhouse displayed in an exhibition on the community at what is now the National Museum of American History. At the time, he planned to retire from the buckaroo life but appreciated the chance to share a small part of his culture with the Smithsonian and the American Folk Life Center of the Library of Congress.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1979
Stewart, Leslie J.
Place Made
United States: Nevada, Paradise Valley
location where used
United States: Nevada
Physical Description
tin (overall material)
paint (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 33.6 cm x 24.1 cm x 24.1 cm; 13 1/4 in x 9 1/2 in x 9 1/2 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Pest Control
See more items in
Division of Cultural History: Community Life
Industry & Manufacturing
Artifact Walls exhibit
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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