Mesmerizing Historical Photos From The Wild Wild West
The Wild West in the United States has a rich history full of cowboys, outlaws, lawmen, Native Americans, and opportunity. The Wild West was uncharted territory, and anyone who traveled there to make a life there was taking a risk in hopes that it would pay off. Those who traveled west were pioneers in search of gold, riches, or land. They were fearless, and because of these adventurers, the area west of the Mississippi River was coined the Wild West.
George Armstrong Custer
The era of the Wild West began after the end of the Civil War. George Custer Armstrong was a U.S. Army officer and cavalry commander during the Civil War. After that, his next mission was to go west. In going west, he met up with the Lakota Indians in the Yellowstone area. He went on to have skirmishes and battles with other Native American tribes, but he met his match with the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes at Little Bighorn. Custer and his men were defeated, and Custer was killed, but his pursuits were forever tied to the west.
Young Man Posing with Weapons
He was young, and he had weapons.
Weapons and guns were seen very frequently in the Wild West. Cowboys, outlaws, lawmen, and many others could be seen quite often slinging a gun. There are many famous shootouts that happened in the Wild West, and one of the most popular ones was the shoot-out behind the O.K. Corral. This was the famous shootout between the Earp brothers and the Clanton-McLaury gang.
Men on the western frontier wore cowboy hats. These hats are an iconic symbol of the west, and were adopted from Mexican Vaqueros or cattle drivers. These hats protected men from the sun. Men also wore cotton or flannel long sleeve shirts to protect themselves from the elements. They wore canvas or cotton trousers to prevent chafing while working with cattle or riding on a saddle. Eventually, men in the west would also begin wearing denim, especially, in the coal mines. The west is where cowboy attire came from.
Geronimo was an Apache tribe leader. Mexican soldiers had killed his wife and children. His tribe was also forced into the San Carlo’s Reservation. He led his tribe in a series of escapes, and by doing this became a legend of the West. His attempts against the United States military left politicians and other Americans quite embarrassed, too.
This is a desert located in California. Death Valley got its name when a group of pioneers travelling west, got lost in the winter of 1849. Only one person died in Death Valley, but the experience of all pioneers involved was difficult. Also, the highest temperature that Death Valley has ever reacher is 134 degrees Fahrenheit.
Ambrotype photography was very popular in the 1800s. Because of this, many of the pictures from the Wild West are ambrotype. This type of photography has given these photographs a distinct look because ambrotype photography is a photography that uses reflected light on glass. Eventually, ambrotype would be transformed into tintype photography.
Emigrant Life in the 1800s
Many people traveled west in the 1800s in search of a better life. In order to go west, people and families had to take the long and sometimes treacherous journey. They would pack up their covered wagons with all of their essentials in hopes that they would make it to a land full of opportunity. Many times, they were met with challenges along the wall- not enough supplies, crossing water, and disease were all common encounters on this journey.
Known as the Lady Bandit of the Old West, Pearl Hart, was a female outlaw. She was also the last western bandit to rob a stagecoach, and the only woman ever to have committed that crime. Pearl Hart married a gambler, had a son and a daughter, and lived a life in turmoil. She was originally from Canada, but spent time in Chicago, Arizona, and Colorado. When she was arrested, people traveled to get her autograph in jail. Being a woman bandit was quite unique.
Kit Carson was a legend of the west. He was a trapper, scout, and Indian agent. He used Tao, New Mexico as his headquarters for trading fur, and his trapping expeditions took him all over the west. Carson also was hired as a guide for the west by John C. Fremont. He was a rugged mountain man who knew his way around the west, and this made him the perfect person for the job.
The No-Name Gang
There were many gangs in the Wild West. With an area full of outlaws, it was no wonder that groups of men would form alliances and gang up. There was Billy the Kid’s gang, the Black Hill Bandits, the James-Younger Gang, and many more. These gangs were involved in illegal activity. They would rob, kill, and even terrorize the west.
Rose Dunn was known as the girl of an outlaw. Her brothers were actually outlaws who cleaned up their acts and became bounty hunters. She fell in love with an outlaw, though, named George Newcomb. He was killed by lawmen, and Rose eventually married an Oklahoma politician. She was never involved in crime again.
Terry's Texas Rangers
The 8th Texas Cavalry was known as Terry’s Texas Rangers. They were volunteers for the Confederate States Army in 1861 that was put together by Colonel Benjamin Franklin Terry. They fought 275 battles in seven states, and they did all of this in just four years.
Sierra Nevada Mountain Trail
The Sierra Nevada Mountain range is in the Western United States. The California Gold Rush began in these mountains in the western foothills, and exploration of this mountain range began in 1827. By 1855, 300,000 gold-seekers had reached these mountains in hopes of becoming rich.
The Genuine Cowboy Captured Alive
Charley Nebo came from Canada to the west in 1861. He fought on the Union side of the Civil War. After that, he worked as a cowboy in New Mexico and was even friends with Billy the Kid. His partner was Nicholas Janis, and they were both the epitome of the American cowboy.
Tibercio Vasquez was born in a family of early settlers in California. At just 17 years old, he became an outlaw. He committed crimes for 20 years without once getting caught. His luck did eventually come to an end, and in 1875, he was caught and hung. He made excuses for his crimes by telling people that he was punishing the whites for discrimination.
The Buck Gang
The Buck Gang was an interaccial gang of the Wild West made up of African Americans and Creek Indians. This gang was formed by Rufus Buck and became a prominent gang in the Wild West in July of 1895. All members had served time in the Fort Smith jail before their crime spree that took place in July of 1895.
Wild Bill Hickock
Also known as James Butler Hickok, Wild Bill was a hero of the American frontier. He brought order to the west as an army scout and lawman. He was a sheriff of Hays City in Kansas, and he ruled with an iron fist. Because of this he was able to bring order to two of the most lawless towns in the west
Cowboys are symbolic of the Wild West. They worked in the hot sun, rode and took care of horses, and even carried around guns. You could spot a cowboy in the west by their cowboy hat and chaps. They also played an important role in westward expansion, but the life of a cowboy was not for the faint of heart.
Saloon’s were very popular out west. They were very much like today’s bars and nightclubs. It was a place where people could meet up, have some drinks, and they even got rowdy from time to time. Fur trappers, cowboys, lawmen, miners, and gamblers frequented these saloons, and many saloons also had dancing girls.
Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp
We have all heard the name Wyatt Earp when it comes to the Wild West. He was a U.S. Deputy Marshall whose mission was to avenge his brother’s murder. He even got in a gunfight with a local rancher at the O.K. Corral. Bat Masterson was also a lawman, but he was a gambler, too.
Olive Oatman endured tragedy after her family was murdered by Native Americans. Luckily, her and her sister survived, but afterwards they were enslaved by the Mohave tribe. She was able to escape, but sadly, her sister died of starvation. Olive was left with a facial tattoo that had been given to her by the Native Americans.
Belle Star was very beautiful, but her looks were deceiving. She was an outlaw and was even tied to the James-Younger Gang. She was caught stealing a horse and convicted. She was later shot and died in 1889. She was given the name of the Bandit Queen, but her murder was never officially solved.
Thanks to John Grabill, life out west was captured in photographs. He documented life on the frontier, and he sent his photographs to the Library of Congress in the late 1800s. Thanks to him, we can see what life on the frontier was really like, and one of his most famous images is titled The Cow Boy.
The Paiute Indians lived in the Great Basin. This is the area southeast of Oregon. There were many different tribes of Paiute Indians, and they all spoke different languages. There were five bands of Native Americans who we consider to be the Paiute Indians. They are the Cedar, Indian Peaks, Koosharem, Shivwits, and Kanosh groups.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
The Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a huge park in Colorado. It is park of Navajo tribal lands. Navajo people still live here as they have for thousands of years, and they work to manage the land and resources. People can hike and visit this National Monument.
Buffalo Bill and the Wild West
William F. Cody or Buffalo Bill was an American bison hunter, scout, and showman. He started the first Wild West show. It was a huge success, and it even toured around the United States for years and years. He was able to take in the spirit of the west and put it on stage for all to see!
Native American Culture
Native Americans lived differently than those who came to settle the west. They lived on the land had a rich culture. One of their art forms was textile weaving. Native Americans wove beautiful garments, blankets, and clothing. They even traded their woven materials with other people in the west.
Buffalo Soldiers were black Americans who served in the United States Army. They were part of the 10th Cavalry Regiment. The Native Americans gave them this nickname in 1866 when they fought in the Indian Wars. They main job of the Buffalo Soldier was to protect people as they settled the west.
As Americans settled west, they took more and more land from Native Americans. Native Americans were forced onto reservations, and settlers took over the majority of the land this way. On reservations, Native Americans could live the way that they wanted to, but they did lose so much and had less access to resources.
In the Valley
This is Little Cottonwood, Utah. As more and more people went west, towns began to be built. People made their lives here. The Little Cottonwood Valley lies within the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Like many towns that popped up during westward expansion. Little Cottonwood became a ghost town in 1930, but reemerged in 1938.
Jesse James was an outlaw of the Wild West who robbed banks and trains and even had his own gang called the James-Younger Gang. He was from Missouri, and became famous during this time because of the crimes he committed. He stated that he committed these crimes as a type of revenge that he and his family endured from Union soldier during the Civil War.
The Pacific Railroad is also known as the first Transcontinental Railroad. The goal of this railroad was to connect the east with the west. It was 1,912 of continuous railroad that was built between 1863 and 1869. Many men left their homes to be a part of building this transformative method of transportation.
Black Hills Expidition
The Black Hills Expedition was an expedition that was led by the United States Army in 1874. Colonel George Custer led the expedition, and the goal was to find gold. Part of the goal of this expedition was to find a spot in the Black Hills to make a fort as the United States began to focus more on settling the west.
Grass dance or Omaha dance is a style of pow pow dancing by Native American men. It came from warrior societies on the Northern Great Plains. Elk and Black Elk were two dancers who were part of Buffalo Bill’s show that toured around the world.
Chinese Railroad Workers
The Great Northern Railway was built thanks to so many Chinese immigrants. It is recorded that between 15,000 and 20,000 Chinese immigrants worked on this railway and made it a reality. This was a major contribution to the United States that this group of immigrants deserves great recognition for.
Boat Crew at Diamond Creek
Diamond Creek is located off of Route 66. Lieutenant George Wheeler is known for conducting a survey that followed the Colorado River in Black Canyon. He completed this in 1871. Today, it is a tourist attraction that has a road less traveled vibe, and people can even go white water rafting!
The Gold Rush is what brought so many people out west. The hope for becoming rich by striking gold was high. Because of this many mining towns popped up in the west. It was a big business, and the first miners who made it west really did strike it rich!
The Game of Faro
This card game was very popular in the 1800s in the west. It was played in saloons and it is known people like Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp played Faro. Faro was not poker, but it was a gambling card game. A player can win or lose based on what cards the banker turns up at the end.
Mining was a huge industry in the west. Men went out west to become miners in hopes of striking gold. Many times they did strike silver or copper, too. Working conditions were rough and dangerous for miners, but they could make a very good living doing it.
Buffalo Bill's Cowboys
Buffalo Bill’s Cowboys were performers in his show. They were sharpshooters and horse performers, and they really showed audiences the persona of the American cowboy. Cowboys could audition to be a part of the show, and it was a big deal to become one of Buffalo Bill’s performers!
This is a group of Navajo Indians who are travelling by horseback in the Canyon de Chelly. Today, there are still 300,000 registered members of the Navajo tribe in the United States. They are the second largest federally recognized tribe and have the largest reservation in the country.
Quanah had a white mother and a Native American father. His mother had been kidnapped as a child and brought into the tribe. Quanah later became a war leader for the Quahandi Band of the Comanche Tribe. Quanah was a great leader and lead his people forcefully but with down to earth leadership.
Charlie Siring wrote the book A Cowboy Detective. He was a detective at the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and his book is about his own life experience. He worked to solve crimes and capture gang members. His exciting and informative experiences are all part of this book.
Time for a Scrub
Cattle driving was hard work in the hot sun. Cowboys and cattle drivers would take advantage of watering holes to cool down and get clean. They did not do this all the time, though, because there were rumors that this unclean water could make people sick. Maybe it felt so good because many times bathing was just getting wiped down at this time.
Bloody Bill was one of the most notorious Confederate leaders of the Civil War. In the summer of 1864, he killed hundreds of people which is how he got his name. Union soldiers caught up with him and his gang, though, and he was killed in an ambush in Albany, Missouri. He was only 24 years old at his death.
Here people who lived in Deadwood, Dakota Territory celebrated the huge accomplishment of completing a streetcar railroad. This is also a photograph that John Grabrill took and became a part of the archive for the Library of Congress. There was a parade and many people came out to celebrate such an accomplishment.