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47 foot statue of a big cowboy hand-builtThe big 47-foot cowboy

501® Levi ® original fit and tall & big original fit jeans for men.     

Levi jeans began in 1873 and in 1960, these famous Tall and big original fit jeans were made especially for the first and the only 47-foot statue of a cowboy.  That is because there are no other statues of this kind that were ever built.

Today the reputation for the Levi name continues as did the popularity of those original fit blue jeans had earned for the cowboy.



A Reputation Builder!

I would like to personally thank a very dear person, Angelica Paez, who has generously allowed me to show this picture of the big cowboy with his right foot on top of the curio shop porch.   

She is the owner of this picture and is a Vintage photo collector.  I am indebted to her and am proud to display this beautiful picture of my dad’s business and the big cowboy he so dearly loved.

Who Built This Statue of a Big Cowboy?

The big tall cowboy was built by my dad, William Harry Wheeler in 1960, and wore real denim blue jeans, made by the employees of a Levi manufacturing plant nearby.

The big tall cowboy gained his vast reputation throughout the United States, because not only was he the tallest cowboy statue, but that he had the esteem, the art, the love and the recognition for wearing real Levi Strauss jeans.

Tourist loved and remembered the big cowboy even today.
“He’s the one that has the real jeans on him, right?”  they ask.  This is often the response of older people who may have seen or heard about the tall cowboy. 

The cowboy was built well to prepare him for the harsh Texas winds and bad weather.

That foresight was the genius of my dad.  He had his degree in Music; not art, not construction, nor engineering: he just figured it out and planned his steps accordingly and perfectly.

Who made the jeans?

A Levi Sewing Manufacturing Company and the employees got together and made the Levi jeans for Mr. Wheeler and the 47-foot cowboy.

This is the only picture of a newspaper clipping I have of my dad adjusting the new jeans in order for him to sew them on the cowboy.                                                      Wheeler's adjusting the 47-foot cowboy's jeans

Levi Strauss has that same ingenuity and innovation projects especially to bring you a quality product, such as the 501® Levi® original and the tall & big original fit jeans for men.

The 501 ® was the original and the first to be called jeans—an original to fit the big tall 47-foot cowboy!  

With these jeans, dad was able to adjust them next to the cowboy so that he could sew them with sailor’s wire.

Memories Anyone?

I remembered a little about how my dad made the big cowboy, as the cowboy was referred to in those days.  I can not tell fully about how the cowboy was built because I was too young to remember every detail, but I do have lasting memories of some things I observed my dad arduously working to finish.  

I even helped.  Once I put the tile on in the shower at the new motel he was building.  Most of the time he did the work himself, but sometimes he had his friend or his older son, Mike to help with building the motel.

Most of the creative works concerned various aspects of my dad’s curio shop business. My dad worked very hard to build the cowboy; in fact, it took him almost a year to finish the cowboy.  

He worked full time at the air force base about 30 miles away editing training manuals.

But after work and on weekends, he worked on the cowboy.  He used some kind of heavy fencing wire to form the frame of the cowboy.  This picture shows him working on the frame of the cowboy’s face.

                                                                                                                                                                           dad working on the frame of the head
 How did the tourists react?

Tourist would stop to take pictures of the cowboy and then they would go inside the curio shop to buy their souvenirs.  They could touch the cowboy and take their pictures standing next to him.  

Small children even stood or sat on the boot.  People all over the United States took pictures and admired the big cowboy as we lovingly called him. 

looking at their pictures at sunset

Family Memories

After school, my twin sister and I would take turns watching the curio shop to wrap up packages and give out change to the tourist, while my sister then had to wash dishes after the evening meal.  

That arrangement helped my mom to do other things she planned on doing.  I admired my mom, but this story involves only my dad’s artistic abilities.                                                    

My mom and dad both loved to play the piano, but my mom taught piano and composed music.  She also accompanied voice students at West Texas State University.

                                                                       piano and composition sheet music

The next day, my twin sister would take care of the curio shop and I would have the job of washing dishes.  We learned a lot from the tourist as well as from my parents.

Visiting with the tourists helped my twin sister and me to be educated about the various states and other interesting information that kept us from being provincial.

Lasting Memories of Mr. Wheeler

There were a lot of good memories in my life.  I was one of the fortunate ones to have such talent in my family.  My mom was talented too.  She composed music, accompanied musicians on the piano and taught advanced piano students.

My dad, of course, did other amazing things and always kept busy.   When dad sold the business and moved, our love for the cowboy with his real Levi original jeans was never far behind us in our memories.

The  Trick of the Trade!

In 1959, when the jeans were finished at the nearby manufacturing plant, they were then delivered by a truck right to dad’s curio shop, where a crane lifted the cowboy’s jeans out of the package to help dad adjust and prepare them later to be put on the cowboy.  

After the jeans were conveniently placed around the cowboy, dad was then able to sew the jeans on the cowboy.  Burlap had to be wrapped around the cowboy first to protect the jeans from the cemented body.  

The cement was the kind that would not crack easily, but I do not know what it was called.

More Work on the Cowboy

Dad built his own scaffolds which allowed him even to reach the top of the hat and the face to paint as well as to sew the rest of the cowboy’s clothes.  

Both shirt and jeans were sewed on with strong Sailors’ thread by my dad who had little experience in sewing!

Today, that task is easily accomplished by a self-driven automated truck and that would have helped dad tremendously with the arduous work he labored to sew on the cowboy’s clothes.

Artist William Harry Wheeler’s cowboy, with the real Levi jeans and the curio shop named the Corral Curio Shop, were soon to become a landmark in people’s estimation everywhere— then and today!

The heritage. Texas Historical Commission

“Harry Wheeler’s vision, dedication, and attention to detail sealed his creation as a Landmark and Tourist Attraction. The giant cowboy became Wheeler’s lasting contribution to Texas Heritage and History.”

Yes, those jeans were the ‘hit of the day’.  Levi®’s had been about coveralls, but it was the teenage group that started calling them jeans or just Levis®.

Those jeans the cowboy wore were the symbol of the new look by the young people who saw or perhaps heard about the cowboy who wore his jeans so proudly.

Now, people everywhere remembered their moments when they fell in love with their jeans.

The Sewing Factory Closes

I am not sure the 501® Levi® original fit jeans were the style meant for the big cowboy from those wonderful employees from the sewing manufacturing plant, but I am sure they were the blue denim jeans for that cowboy; I for one love so much.  

Unfortunately, there were forced to close when LS&Co were closing their factories to have them made overseas.

A Real Life Magazine Story?

In 1960 we were told Life Magazine was interested in taking pictures and doing an article with an interview with the artist about the cowboy soon after the cowboy was finished.  

We were all excited since Life magazine was well known everywhere.   It would have been great publicity for the curio shop and Motel. 

LIFE magazine

Unfortunately, at the last moment, they changed their mind.  We never learned the reason for their cancellation.  

When we thought they were still interested in writing an article with pictures, dad had me stand next to the sign that gave the specifics of the cowboy while he took a picture.

By that time the cowboy had his denim blue jeans and a real shirt was sewn on his cement frame that had been wrapped in burlap as mentioned before.

If you look closely, you can see part of the name Levi Strauss and also part of the name of the builder, William Harry Wheeler. (sorry, this is the only picture I have)

                             Standing next to the sign.

I remember those happy days showing the big, tall cowboy comfortably wearing his blue denim Levi jeans and the yellow shirt with the stripes and snap buttons clearly shining in the sun and under the stars at night.

Dad had his creative ideas many times in his life that were quite exceptional; yet, he remained humble.  

Perhaps if dad had sent a script or a letter to the editors of Life magazine and included pictures of everything (dad could really write an entertaining story!), I believe they would have scheduled a different time to do the article.  

But alas, dad was not the type to promote his own artwork.   He never called or wrote them.


 What Kind of a Cowboy Was He?

The cowboy’s image was of the 1950’s American cowboy and a rancher who worked very hard all year long on the ranch; at a time soon fast disappearing.

The American Cowboy, produced in 1950 focused on the time in the 1940s and 1950s about the stalwart cowboy rancher my dad had already known about.  That was the cowboy’s image.




Here is a quote from Youtube about the definition of a “cowboy.”

“A cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches in North America, traditionally on horseback, and often performs a multitude of other ranch-related tasks. … In addition to ranch work, some cowboys work for or participate in rodeos.”   

Here is the video.   Only watch if you have plenty of time.  I believe it is about 45 minutes or longer, but this movie shows the true image of the 47-foot cowboy that Mr. Wheeler built.



It is your story also, dedicated to the rugged men who love their jeans; being either from cowboy “country” to the sophisticated city streets of New York City and whether involved with work or at play.

Not all of you are cowboys, but you are men who enjoy and are comfortable wearing 501® Levi® original and tall & big original fit jeans for men from all over the United States.

Many of you have worn jeans for many years, but reading about the cowboy here and learning a little about his story,  I hope when you buy your jeans that you will remember the handsome cowboy who has been around for over 50 years and is still standing!!

Please comment on this story.   I would be very excited to hear from you.   

You can make a short statement or ask me a question.   Thank you for reading my dad’s story.   His name was William Harry Wheeler.   I am his 75-year-old daughter, Judy.

I am very interested in hearing from you. and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.  

Thank you for reading about the Big, Tall 47 foot cowboy

Judy  Kingsberry, founder of my website, https://findmejeans.com                           The big cowboy

I have edited my story here.   I have had so many wonderful responses and am thankful for such positive feedback.

Please email me and write your comments.     Judith@findmejeans.com  It means a lot to hear your viewpoints and feedbacks.

  Thank you all.  My motto:  “Everyone has a story.”  Be sure to read my other pages and posts.   They are entertainment for all my visitors!

                                   smiles on a bench

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