In all fairness, The Wild West was probably one of the hardest times to be alive, because there would always be a lot of brawls, again bringing up the question, how did people stay safe? Apart from all the fights, there were also some new discoveries and a lot of traveling. Without the wild west, we probably won’t be the same today. Are you curious to find out what they actually looked like back then? Or if they looked as accurate as they do in the movies? Luckily, we have a few photos here that can explain all of that. Read on, and you’ll see what they look like.
The Notorious Jesse James
As we mentioned before, the Wild West was known for its outlaws and bar brawls. One very well-known outlaw back then was named Jesse James. This notorious American outlaw was not just an outlaw, but he was probably the most sought-after one back then. We can say that Jesse James officially became the worst person ever, and he became an outlaw because he was also a guerrilla fighter, a bank and train robber, a gang leader, and who can forget, a murderer. Geez, no wonder people were afraid of him!
Together with his brother, James was born in Missouri, and together they formed the James-Younger Gang. It’s safe to say that these two were inseparable and had a sibling bond like no other. They were accused of committing multiple monstrosities against Union soldiers during the war, including their many robberies because they were Bushwacker confederates. Now, there’s a duo you don’t want to mess with!
Olive Ann Oatman
Are you wondering who the woman in the photo is? This rare image shows Olive Ann Oatman. Her family was captured and killed in 1851. Her family was originally from Illinois. When she was fourteen, she and her sister were captured by a present-day Arizona Native American Tribe called the Tolkepayas and later sold the girls to another tribe called the Mohave People. Her sister died of hunger after a few years with the Mohave. Luckily for her, she was able to return to American Society after spending five years imprisoned with the Mohave.
Later on, her tale was retold dramatically in the press in her own “memoir” through speeches, novels, plays, movies, and poetry. Many people still do not know what really happened to her while she was imprisoned, but the tattoos that you see on her face? Those were put on her by the Mohave, which sparked a media story long after her imprisonment.
Jimmy Mckinn Santiago
The Wild West would not be complete without Indians! The photo you see here is of Jimmy Mckinn Santiago. Mckinn lived with his family in the Lower Mimbres Valley in New Mexico. He was around 11 or 12 when he was abducted by a group of Chiricahua Apache Led by Geronimo. Mckinn was with his brother Martin at the time when the group approached them. Unfortunately, the Apache killed his brother, which left him grief-stricken as they took him away. We know, it seems like a lot to experience for a young boy!
Luckily, he was rescued by General George Crook, but surprisingly he did not want to go back with the General anymore, instead, he wanted to stay with Apache. This photo shows him living with his captors for six months, where he learned how to speak their language and learn about their lifestyle.
Here’s a familiar face, Annie Oakley was one of the most well-known shooters in the Wild West, and she also happens to be a woman. Annie rose to fame at the tender age of 15 years old because of her sharpshooting skills. Did you know that Annie Oakley was not her real name? She was born Phoebe Ann Mosey. By age 8, she started hunting, shooting, and trapping to support her family through hard times after her father passed away.
Oakley made a name for herself as a trained shooter as well. She married Frank E. Butler, who just happened to be her former rival and fellow marksman. Later on, the couple joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which turned her into an international star. Definitely one woman with a lot of talent!
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
You’ve seen the name Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show through most of these photos. Are you starting to wonder what kind of show it was? This show has been one of the most influential, with only the best showmen ever. The show has had a reputation for being “wild” all throughout the Old West.
But who is Bill? Buffalo Bill was a scout and a bison hunter. He was never out in the wild, but he was working on this show. These shows were usually a series of traveling shows that romanticized American frontier life. The acts included reenacting, and a wide variety of other acts, one of their most popular was the Incident of Warbonnet Creek, a parade, and many other circus-like acts. You’d never get bored with these shows because there was always something for everyone.
Another woman on our list is Rose Dunn. Like the others, she was also considered a western legend back in her time. At age 15, Rose Dunn, otherwise known as Cimarron, was romantically involved with an outlaw named George “Bittercreek” Newcomb. Everyone in Newcomb’s gang loved her looks and cool demeanor. Let’s face it; she is a looker, after all!
The gang, along with Dunn, went into hiding after a shootout with the US marshals. Eventually, Newcomb and another gang member returned to visit Dunn, and her brothers shot them on-site. Dunn’s brothers collected a $5,000 bounty for Newcomb because he was wanted dead or alive. According to legend, Dunn had tried to set him up, but like most things in the Old West, it is still a mystery.
In the Old West, outlaws and brothels were always good together, but that wasn’t the case for Fannie Porter. What did she do, you may ask? Well, you’ll never believe this, but Porter was an ex-streetwalker. But, she was always respected by many criminals for her sincere and warm attitude. Of course, being a lady of the night, discretion had always been practiced, which is why she won over a lot of outlaw hearts.
She never turned in her customers and was always popular among members of the Wild Bunch gang. One of her frequent clients was Butch Cassidy, Kid Curry, and the Sundance Kid. Other than her reputation, she even brought in more girls to join in on the fun. They all got involved with the outlaws. Laura Bullion, who is shown in the photo, was a Wild Bunch Member and has even been said to have worked at the brothel for a while.
Big Nose Kate
Other than the outlaws we have already mentioned in this list, like Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid, and Jesse James, did you know that there were also quite a few outlaws back in the old west that was female gunslingers? Yup! You read that right! Let’s take Big Nose Kate, for example; she wasn’t just an outlaw but also Doc Holliday’s wife. She helped him escape from jail by setting the entire establishment on fire.
Another well-known female outlaw was Calamity Jane. She first started out as a part-time streetwalker who liked to wear men’s clothing and performed in wild west shows. As for sharpshooters, we have the legendary Pearl Heart, Lillian Smith, who was just 15 years old, and Mary fields, also known as “Stagecoach Mary,” who wasn’t afraid to try anything dangerous or, to say the least, start a fight out of nowhere. Talk about women of power, huh?
The California Gold Rush
Are you familiar with the California Gold Rush? This unforgettable time in the old west began in 1848, attracting many men and women from all over the world to get a chance to dig up some gold. The growing population had very few women at the time. Still, eventually, a lot of other opportunities started growing for women in the area, which then attracted more to go to California.
The women you see in the photo took part in the search and brought their husbands along with them for the gold. If they couldn’t arrive with their families, they would have to search for gold on their own. Other popular aside from gold panning involved cooking, housekeeping, washing clothes, dancing, and acting.
Old Tasacosa, Northern Texas
The popular belief is that being a cowboy was just as easy as getting a drink at the bar, riding a horse, or getting into a brawl. That’s likely partly true. In this photo, we see a bunch of cowboys enjoying a drink and a quick chat with the bartender at the Saloon. This was in the year 1907 in Old Tasacosa, Northern Texas.
Back then, going to the saloon was a way to let off some steam and relax. Maybe play some poker, drink, and negotiate cattle. Like the establishments we have today, some saloons were open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and were not just popular among cowboys, but it was also a sweet spot for gold diggers, soldiers, travelers, and, believe it or not, lawyers. Certainly looked like the place to be!
As we mentioned, saloons were a popular go-to place back in the old west. One of the most popular establishments located in Jordan, Montana, in the early 1900s, was Bob’s Saloon. In this photo, we see a group of cowboys just taking a breather outside the saloon in 1904. The photo was taken by LA Huffman.
The owner, Robert Leavitt, was a cowboy, too, and was also one of the first settlers in Jordan. It makes you wonder what these guys would do inside a saloon all day. Many western saloons offered their clients various types of entertainment, which included dancing, card games, dice games, and bowling. Have you ever watched saloon scenes on TV? It’s pretty accurate. Other than the live entertainment, there were also piano players and theatrical skits. Cool!
The Cowboy Look
In the wild west, cowboys were more than just animal herders. In fact, they even had a term called “The Cowboy Look.” This term started with livestock herders from the Spanish Vaquero. These herders required more than just herding skills; they also needed to have physical ability, which needed to be developed at a young age.
Most American Cowboys were white men. There weren’t a lot of African Americans, Mexicans, or American Indians, but they all worked as cowboys by the late 1860s. The look has become iconic since then. They look exactly like they do in the movies, where they wear a bandanna, leather gloves, chaps, boots, a pair of sturdy jeans, and of course, the well-known cowboy hat.
Gould and Curry and the Savage
Other than the saloons, the shootouts, and the outlaws, mining for gold was also a huge pastime or a permanent job. Gould and Curry Mining was a huge part of the Wild West. Lots of towns had jobs in the field of mining. In this photo, we see the silver mine in Virginia City, Nevada. There were two major mines back then: Gould and Curry and the Savage.
The miner that you see in the photo was approximately 900 feet underground, and sadly, it was harder to mine than you think because he was burning a magnesium wire to make it easier for him to see. No, it’s not like today’s mining, where you plug a computer and a bunch of wires into a gadget and wait for it to earn you some money. Nope! Here, you had to do it the traditional way. You had to dig for your wealth. After the discovery of the silver deposits, Virginia City became a boomtown. The city grew to 25,000 residents at its peak. When the mine’s output started to go down, so did the residents. Only 850 people live in Virginia as of 2010. Now, that’s what you call fearless.
The First-Ever Saloon
We all know that saloons were the most popular go-to place back in the old west because they served a wide assortment of folks that included not just cowboys but also fur trappers, soldiers, miners, and many more. Are you curious to know where the first-ever saloon was established? You’ll never guess, but it was in Wyoming in 1822, but quickly popped into the American Frontier.
These were among the more popular establishments available to people in the west by 1880. Bartenders were the most respected men back then because they prided themselves in their saloons’ appearance and their ability to pour their customers a drink. Most of these saloons were used for harlotry, gambling, and opium dens.
One of the several Native Americans to join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was Charging Thunder. Does the name sound familiar? This Lakota chief joined the crew when he was only 26 years old. He married one of the American horse trainers in the crew, eventually. Ah, romance! Such a beautiful thing!
Charging Thunder became a British citizen after the show and started working in Manchester’s Belle Vue Circus as an elephant trainer. Later on, he got sick of the circus and eventually became a factory worker, then changed his name to George Edward Williams.
The Native American Man that we see in the photo is named Maiman. He was a Mojave Native and worked as a guide-interpreter in the 19th century, especially during the 1870s in Colorado. Maiman had a regular named Timothy O’Sullivan, who was a photographer. He would help him find some of the best locations for taking beautiful photographs.
Unlike other photographers out there, O’Sullivan didn’t like the thought of photographing native Americans in a studio. Instead, he liked to capture them in a very realistic way. Aside from many nature shots, he also liked taking many Civil War battlefields. Now, that’s a photographer with a lot of guts!
Billy the Kid
Now, we go to the old west’s favorite outlaw, Billy the Kid. Although he was the most well-known outlaw, he wasn’t always named Billy the Kid. His real name was Henry McCarty. In case you were wondering why he became so famous, he was known for having killed at least 8 men at a young age, and was one of the notorious gunfighters during that time.
The Kid was originally born in New York City and later moved to New Mexico. This guy was already a rebel because he even fought in the Lincoln County War. Because of his many indiscretions, he was arrested and put in jail. Unfortunately, in an attempt to escape from jail, Sheriff Pat Garrett shot and killed him. He died at the age of 21, but his legacy did not end there. Rumor has it that he didn’t die in the gunfight, but over the next few decades, many people committed the same crimes and claimed to be Billy the Kid.
General Custer’s Men
The photo you see before you is a photograph of the Dakota Territory, which is now North and South Dakota. The photo also shows General Custer’s men crossing the plains. If you don’t remember your history lessons back in school, General Custer was an officer of the United States Army during the Indian and Civil wars.
This photo was taken by W.H. Illingworth, who is a famous British photographer. In the 1860s and 1870s, Illingworth once accompanied an expedition to the Montana Territory, also through the black hills of the Dakotas.
The old west was filled with ladies of the night and elite madams. In fact, some of them were so successful and popular among the crowd, that they ended up becoming millionaires. Despite the harsh conditions they had to endure, these women came from all parts of the world to do what they are known for.
Back then, women did not have normal names like what we have now. They gave themselves surprisingly poetic and different nicknames, which all depended on the region in which they originated. If they were from California, they would go by the name of “soiled doves” by the cowboys and “ladies of the line” or “sporting women.” Other nicknames given were “Doves of the roost,” “fallen frails,” “Nymphs du praire” and “Fallen angels.” Their names were certainly unique, and as we mentioned before, they are good at keeping their identity hidden!
Wheeler Survey Group
The happy-looking people in this photo were called the Wheeler Survey Group. These guys were led by Captain George Montague Wheeler, who was on an expedition to survey the Western United States. Their expedition led to the creation of topographic maps of the Southwest from 1869 to 1879.
Among the areas that they surveyed were named after Captain Wheeler: Wheeler Peak in New Mexico, Wheeler Peak in Nevada, and Wheeler Geologic Area in Colorado. If you really think about it, having three areas named after you is not a shabby deal at all! Good Job!
Who can forget Wyatt Earp? We are pretty sure the name sounds familiar because we might have all heard it somewhere in the movies. Yes, he is a real person, and he was a good friend of Doc Holliday. In the old west, he was known as a proficient gambler, but even though he was known for that, he still had a normal day job as a deputy sheriff in Arizona. Everyone back then had almost the same job, but he was quite different, to say the least.
He gained his reputation as a gambler during a gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He killed three cowboys. From that moment on, he was known as a shooter, especially in Tombstone, Arizona. Until his death in 1929, he continuously got into brawls with other cowboys. Woah!
In case you’re wondering, Wyatt Earp wasn’t the only Earp. We have heard plenty about the Earp Men so far, but not so much about the ladies. Louisa Earp was Morgan Earp’s Wife. As they said, behind every great man, there is a woman, and that was exactly the case for Morgan Earp. Although they seemed to be the perfect couple, no one really knew that they got married.
For some time after they got married, the two of them lived in Montana. When Morgan moved to Arizona, he left his wife Louisa behind. Since he thought it was just going to be a short trip, it ended up in disappointment because they never got to meet again.
Aboriginal Life Among the Navajo Indians Near Old Fort Defiance, New Mexico
This photograph that was taken by Timothy O’Sullivan entitled, “Aboriginal Life Among the Navajo Indians Near Old Fort Defiance, New Mexico,” was printed in 1873. As you can see, the photo shows the Navajos at their home and abandoned the military post back in the Old Wild West.
These Indians were known for being very fierce but intelligent and are one of the most wealthy aboriginal tribes in the United States. If you noticed, you can see the ears of corn that they have cultivated and the looms, which were used to make blankets. Very crafty, indeed!
Another incredibly well-known gunfighter during the wild west was all-around man Doc Holliday. He was a good friend of Wyatt Earp. one occupation you would have never guessed; he was also a dentist and a gambler. A little hard to believe for a man like him, huh?
At 20 years old, Holliday became a dentist, but later on, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and became a gambler in Arizona. After earning his reputation as a deadly gunman, he knew he couldn’t stay away from the gun, so he stayed that way through the remainder of his years.
Old Mission Church
One very good example of the Spanish Colonial era was the Old Mission Church, located in New Mexico. This church was established back in 1630, and the mission itself was relatively small but unique.
Curious to go on and visit this place? You still can! It’s one of the long-standing pieces of history in that area. It also played a big role in the Pueblo Revolt. Until Mexico gained independence from Spain, this old church was inhabited by Franciscans for some time. Now, it is a tourist attraction in Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico, and a lot of people come from all over the world to visit it! Amazing!
Sioux Indian Teepees
One of the largest tribes to have lived in the Great Plains was the Sioux Indian Teepees. As we may have known, real Indians really make use of teepees. They aren’t just shown in movies and books. Interestingly enough, there were actually 3 different tribes under one nation, which were: Western Dakota, Eastern Dakota, and the Lakota Tribes.
All of them were nomadic tribes, that hunted bison. As you can see in the photo, they built teepees, which was a high point of their lives living on the great plains. Although we are not very sure where this photo was taken exactly, it is probably safe to guess that it was somewhere in the Dakota Territory. Wherever they ended up, what they did was pretty awesome!
Timothy O’ Sullivan
Ah, the famous photographer of the Native Americans, Timothy O’Sullivan. Finally, we will be talking about the guy that single-handedly took all of those gorgeous photos back in the Wild West. This awesome photographer was born on Staten Island, New York. He became one of the most influential photographers in the Civil War.
O’Sullivan joined the geological survey team back in 1871, which gave him the opportunity to travel around the United States to take picturesque photographs, which he is known for, especially in the pueblos of the Canyon de Chelly. Back then, there was nobody as talented as him when it came to photography. His photographs are exactly what you would expect the old west to look like, and they were super accurate.
As we mentioned, there wasn’t just one Earp man in the wild west; they were a whole group. Morgan Earp is one of them, and he was Wyatt Earp’s brother. Morgan only spent his time in Tombstone, Arizona confronting outlaw cowboys like his brother. Once, the Earps interfered so much that they all had targets on their heads.
Eventually, those targets got to Morgan, and he got killed by an ambush. Wyatt Earp took matters into his own hands and avenged his brother after he got ambushed. He did all of this outside of the law. Can you imagine that? It sounds like something out of a Western Movie.
Pagosa Hot Springs
The image you see in front of you is of the Pagosa Hot Springs in Colorado, which is still around to this day.
Personal Hygiene was a big thing before; don’t you just want to take a dip in those waters as well? These waters were known to have minerals, which could supposedly cure any ailments that you might have had, including the man you see in the photo.
Remember Bob Marley’s iconic song Buffalo Soldier? Well, now we know where he got the term. In 1890, nobody was too sure who this specific soldier was, but his face will forever be known throughout history. These were the names given to the 10th Cavalry of the United States Army between 1866 and 1951.
The term Buffalo Soldier was given to black soldiers by the Native Americans when they fought during the Indian Wars, and the name has stuck with them ever since.
John C.H. Grabill
Here’s another great photographer, John C.H. Grabill. He mostly took photographs of the Dakota Territory. He also had a studio in Chicago. The photo you see now is of the Deadwood Coach. It was another icon of history that is the most well-known in stagecoach existence.
The stagecoach was also included by Buffalo Bill in all of his shows throughout Europe and America.
Sturgis, South Dakota
This photograph is of the frontier life in Sturgis, South Dakota. It was taken in the Library of Congress. The photographer behind this amazing photo is John C. H. Grabill. Do you think you can survive in a place like this for a long time?
The majority of Dakota Territory’s people were mostly prospectors, cowboys, hunters, and teams of oxen.
The Rodeo Queens
Believe it or not, cowboys weren’t the only ones who joined the rodeo back in the old west. In fact, some women were brave enough to join. The girls you see in the photo are called the Rodeo cowgirls, or the Rodeo queens.
Some of the most famous cowgirls at the time were Calamity Jane, Dale Evans, and Annie Oakley. Who says women can’t do what men can? Girl Power!
Alfred A. Hart
Another influential photographer to add to the list is Alfred A. Hart, who was named the official photographer of the Western half of the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s.
This photo you see in front of you is a line of cliffs in Palisades, Nevada. Ain’t it a beauty?
Timothy O’Sullivan’s Darkroom Wagon
We all know how important wagons were back in the old west. The Wagon that’s in this photo is actually Timothy O’Sullivan’s Darkroom wagon.
Yup, he also had a wagon! All the photos that you see on this list that came from him were all developed in this wagon you see before you. The photo was taken in Carson Sink, Nevada.
Black Canyon, Colorado
Have you guys heard of the Black Canyon of Colorado? If there’s a Grand Canyon, there’s also a Black Canyon. Sounds funny, but it’s true! It’s one of the famous landmarks in Nevada and Arizona. It’s located where the Hoover Dam would eventually be built on the Colorado River.
The Canyon is also surrounded by beautiful mountains and full of hot springs. We think it’s absolutely gorgeous!
Utah Big Cottonwood Power Station
Here’s another beautiful scene. This is a photo of the Utah Big Cottonwood Power Station. It’s located in Salt Lake City, Utah, and you can see the Pelton wheel working in the Stairs Power Station.
Are you a nature junky? Located near the Big Cottonwood Canyon, this would be the best place for you! This canyon is also great for catching fish, and up until now, it still remains the same beautiful scene.
Do you want to know who the most well-known outlaw was in the old west? It was Johnny Ringo. Johnny and his group, called the Cochise County boys, were the ultimate menaces back then and the most feared.
He was involved in the shooting of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, which is why they were known for being the wild group of Tombstone, Arizona. Yikes!
Villa of Brule
This photograph is of the Villa of Brule near Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and was taken by John C.H. Grabill. There was even a great Indian camp on this villa.
Do you see all the teepees? How many do you guess are in this photo? This photo was taken in 1891, and it looks like something out of a photo book!
The Railroad Workers
In the old west, there were also a lot of railroads. Who can remember a western movie without a railroad scene? Of course, nothing would have been possible without the railroad workers.
Unfortunately, because of labor problems and financial problems, most companies refused to provide Chinese workers with a place to stay, which meant that they became extremely overworked.
Colorado Browns Park
This photo is of the Colorado Browns Park, which was located on the Utah Colorado Border. It was originally called Brown’s Hole. Are you a fan of dinosaurs?
Well, this isolated mountain valley contains Flaming Gorge Dam and ends at Dinosaur National Monument. Historically, it has been the safe haven for many outlaws like Butch Cassidy and Tom Horn. Super cool!
Gold Hill, Nevada
Here’s another nice nature photo. This one is of Gold Hill, Nevada, which is located just south of Virginia City. It became a famous place for mining the Comstock Lode. It was once a mining city, but now it only has a total of 191 inhabitants.
Sadly, if this place gets emptier, it will turn into a real-life ghost town! Scary! Now we are starting to wonder if it’s haunted! What do you guys think?
Pyramid Lake, Nevada
Since we have been seeing a lot of landscape photos on this list, here’s another one for you to appreciate. This photo is of Pyramid Lake, Nevada, which was the naturally occurring sink of the Truckee River Basin in Reno, Nevada, near Lake Tahoe. As you might have assumed, yes, this lake is extremely salty, and if you were to take a dip in it, we would all like to think that you wouldn’t like the taste of the water.
A lot of big battles also took place in this area, and one was the Paiute War.
Timothy O’Sullivan’s Self Portrait
And yet again, we run into another Timothy O’Sullivan Photograph. But unlike the others, this one is of the man himself. Now we are starting to wonder who took this photo of him.
Actually, he became a civil war photographer after becoming part of the war himself. After the Civil War ended, O’Sullivan set out to explore the Western landscape and embarked on a long cross-continental expedition.
Another member of the famous Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was Whirling Horse. All the Native Americans on the show were called “show Indians,” but they all came from different Native American tribes. In one of their shows, they would usually reenact historical battles, and perform some of their native dances for their audience.
In a lot of ways, the show helped cool down the tension and public opinions towards the end of the American Indian War after years of US propaganda against Native Americans. It’s nice to find out about their culture, you know?
Bath House Hot Springs, Arkansas
This photo is of the Bath House Hot Springs, Arkansas. Of course, where there are hot springs, there is healing. It is known to have medicinal properties and was a popular place to go to among Native American Tribes. Up until now, it still remains the same, but it also houses the oldest Federal Reserve in the United States.
Are you feeling any pain in your body? Go down to the spring and take a dip!
Shoshone Falls, Idaho
From Timothy O’Sullivan’s collection of gorgeous photos, this landscape is of Shoshone Falls, Idaho, which is located in the Snake River.
These falls are so giant that it is referred to as the “Niagara Falls of the West” and shortly became a great tourist attraction up to this day.
Apache Spirit Dancers
Who remembers those cartoons of the old west, where you see Indians dancing in circles, then the rain comes down? The dance actually is real! This photo is of the Apache Spirit Dancers; this group consists of several Native American tribes that originated in the Southwestern United States. These tribes had to adapt to their own territories and live off the land. They had a hard time collecting food sources as well because of the harsh climate.
The dancers have believed to hold the ability to summon the spirits from the underground realm, which they have led to believe would also protect the Apache people.
The Anti-Saloon League
Back in the Wild West, respectable women were not given equal rights to a drink at the saloon. Meaning that they always had a hard time getting their share of beer or hard liquor. Unless they were saloon girls, harlots, or dancers, women were barred from even entering almost all saloons up until World War I.
There were some, however, that allowed women – but mostly through the back door. A few years later, it was those women who were denied a drink that helped find the Anti-saloon League, which was the most powerful prohibition lobby in America.
Like many other things in the old west, Fortune telling was a favorite pastime. When you think of a fortune teller, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Of course, Gypsies or Romani People.
Common fortune-telling methods are through tarot card reading, palm reading, and crystallomancy, in which crystal spheres are used to predict your future. Most of these methods are still used today.
Poker is another favorite pastime in the old west. If you were not a gambler, you weren’t a cowboy. It was a popular form of entertainment, too, and a crowd favorite.
This game was originally developed in the United States during the 19th century and was documented as early as 1836 in a book called “Dragoon Campaigns to the Rocky Mountains” by James Hildreth. Today, it still remains a favorite! Do you play poker?
Known for her stagecoach robberies, Pear Heart was another woman from the Old West that had a lot of spunk! She was the gutsy gal that escaped from prison and reached celebrity status during her lifetime. Although she is a famous robber, she wasn’t always involved in serious crimes. In fact, she was well-educated and came from a wealthy family.
After suffering physical abuse from her husband, she left him several times and eventually escaped from his clutches to move to Phoenix. Now, that’s a brave woman right there!
The Respectable Madams
Streetwalking was a big thing back in the Old West. Even though it was mostly illegal, brothels were common and in plain sight. Some respectable madams even donated most of their profits back to society.
Since working in the gold mines was mostly lonely and cold, that’s when scarlet women and madams came along.
This photo is of the Queen of the Red Light District, Josephine Airey or otherwise known as Chicago Joe. She was a business owner and popular streetwalker from Helena, Montana.
Aside from being the successful madam that she is, she also owned a few brothels, theaters, dance halls, and saloons, as well as a whole lot of land. Wow!
Back then, any kind of liquor was not cheap, especially Rotgut Liquor. For saloons to generate more money, owners would dilute their good liquor by adding other ingredients into it, like ammonia and turpentine. Woah, that sounds like a dangerous combination!
Besides, hard liquor, some of the most popular drinks included the Allston Cocktail, which was made with peppermint schnapps, gin, lemon juice, and a classic mix of brandy and soda called B&S. No wonder people were always drunk! The drinks back then were super deadly!
A Bullet Dance
In the photo you see before you, there are several men firing their guns at another man’s feet in an unknown old western saloon, which was possibly located in Wyoming.
Back then, the only way a poor man could avoid getting shot was if he jumped as fast as he could, which was called a “Bullet dance” As you can see, we don’t think it was all fun and games for these guys!
Rufus Buck Gang
This photo of rugged young-looking dudes was known as the Rufus Buck Gang. Originally formed by a guy named Rufus Buck, this multi-racial gang of outlaws robbed ranches and stores in the late 1890s in the Arkansas-Oklahoma area.
They were eventually captured outside Muskogee, OK, and received a death sentence for killing several men, including a US Marshall named John Garrett.
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets
A novella written by Stephen Crane called “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets” The plot had centered around a young girl from Bowery, whose life had taken an unfortunate turn because she was seduced by a friend of her brother’s, which eventually ended her life tragically.
The story was considered risque at the time because it was followed by a second novel called “George’s Mother” written by the same author.
Cowboys Playing Poker
Have you tried watching those old western movies, only to find a group of cowboys playing a game of poker before getting into a bar fight? Well, to make it more interesting, people actually took gambling seriously back then, no matter how illegal it might have been.
In fact, gambling back then was a big deal, especially in the 19th century. Believe it or not, some of the first structures built in the old west were gambling halls. It was a favorite pastime, so if you were hanging out at the saloon, the first thing you’d expect to see are girls, bar fights, drinking, and poker games!
The Louisiana Purchase
The timeline of the Wild West (sometimes referred to as the Old West) generally begins around the time of the Louisiana Purchase (in 1803). The Wild West in American history is often characterized by the western expansion of settlers to develop land west of the Mississippi River. But even though the expansion officially stopped, it doesn’t mean the West was truly settled by then.
In this photo, we see a photo of the perfect cowboy vs. Indian image. It’s a great photo, too, because it is exactly what we would imagine the old west to be, the same as in the movies. The expansion of the west certainly did not come without its consequences. In fact, you didn’t need to search too far to find out about trouble on the frontier. When it wasn’t warring groups shooting at one another, it was frontiersmen and women who faced long odds to survive the journey. The Old West was definitely a tough time for many people.
Annie Oakley, a Pure Talent
Another photo of Annie Oakley is on this list. Annie Oakley was known for her incredible sharpshooting talents as part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
If you are not aware of the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, as we previously mentioned, it was one of the most famous traveling shows back in the old west. Oakley, seen here in an image from 1899, was born on August 13, 1860, and died on November 3, 1926. In this photo, you can even see how serious she is with her shooting, and it would probably be a good idea not to piss her off.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
Finally, a proper photo of the famed entertainer of the late 19th Century, William Frederick Cody or otherwise known as Buffalo Bill.
This photo was taken in 1900. His famous Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was a touring performance act that displayed the stories of many Native Americans and Cowboys.
“Wild” Bill Hickok
One of the most famous frontiersmen of the Old West was “Wild” Bill Hickok. He gained his reputation because of his tales of adventure.
Unfortunately, in 1876, he was killed while he was playing a game of poker. Some disgruntled men shot him because he was holding two pairs of aces and eights, which at the time was known as a “Dead Man’s Hand.”
Gender Roles in Native American Culture
Back then, gender roles were quite progressive as compared to other areas of Native American Culture. Men and women learned the same skills, which included sewing, cooking, riding horses, skinning leather, and using weapons.
In the photo that was taken back in 1910, we see a young Piegan woman wearing a traditional beaded dress on top of a hilltop.
Little House on The Prairie
In this photo, we see a family of settlers posing in front of a covered wagon. Makes you wonder what was inside, huh?
In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase began the massive expansion of Americans into western territories.
Broncho Charlie Miller
One of the last remaining survivors of the Pony Express is this Broncho Charlie Miller. Miller performed later on in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
This expression helped establish communication between the East and the Western United States, which eventually made letter writing more expedient across the country.
We see a Native American Cowboy riding his horse to the edge of this cliff located in Monument Valley.
Such a beautiful photo! Due to the popularity of the setting, many Hollywood films were shot here, and it has become the epitome of the American West Image.
The Peace Commission
This is a photo of the Dodge City Peace Commission back in June of 1883.
The city was known for being a lawless town until Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson formed the Peace Commission to help maintain security and the order of things.
The Gold Rush
Here we see a group of Gold Rush prospectors posing with their gear and a horse before they go out to the site and search for their riches.
The photo was taken in 1867 in the Northwest U.S.
A Sioux Woman
Culture and clothing are synonymous in many parts of the world, and the Old West was no different.
Here we see a young Sioux woman wearing a special ceremonial dress for a specific occasion. Most of these Native American tribes have their own taste when it comes to clothing and garments, which is why other tribes could pick them out from a distance.
The Crow Indians
In this photo, we see eight Crow Indians on horseback, silhouetted by the rising sun behind them in 1908.
This image was taken in Montana. These Indians were known to live in large areas around the Yellowstone River, which consisted of modern-day Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota.
The Land Rushes
In this 1900’s image, we see a man on his horse while waving his hat. Back then, groups would race to claim the land they were interested in, which were often referred to as land rushes.
Sometimes, as many as 50,000 people participated in these races just to get a chunk of the land for themselves. Now, that’s competitive.
Barbara Rush in “Taza, Son of Cochise”
Many of the portrayals in most old Hollywood films were of Native American Tribe Women.
In this image, we see Barbara Rush from the 1954 film, “Taza, Son of Cochise,” wearing a Native American Costume. In the movie, she was the chief of the Chiricahua Apache tribe and a key leader during the Apache wars.
Brulé Sioux Native Americans
Here we see a photo of the Brulé Sioux Native Americans when they traveled horseback across the plains.
They are sometimes referred to as Burnt Thigh Nation and were called Brulé by the French settlers.
Fans of Buffalo Bill
If you think these people were going into battle, you might have been wrong. This image shows a large group of Native Americans lining up in the 1890s.
They were lining up for the Famous Buffalo Bill Wild West Show to participate. Now, that is a long line!
Sacheen Little Feather
Back in the old west, Native Americans were subject to a wide array of brutal treatment for many centuries. In this photo, we see Sacheen Little Feather, who became one of the leading activist voices for Native American civil rights.
Little Feather gave a speech at the 45th Annual Academy Awards in 1973 for actor Marlon Brando, to decline the award for Best Actor, because he needed him to protest the treatment of Native American people in the show business industry.
The Cast of Buffalo Bill
In this photo, we see two native Americans beside a cowboy on a bale of hay. These three guys were part of the Buffalo Bill show.
Cool photo, indeed!
Western Settlement of Tonopah, Nevada
This photo of the main street in the Western Settlement of Tonopah, Nevada was always full of people.
The covered wagons brought goods to the trading posts, which were either to be used for sale or for trade.
Deadwood, South Dakota
As part of the Omaha Board of Trade, a procession of stagecoaches carries passengers down a mountain road near Deadwood, South Dakota. Yes, you read it right; we said Deadwood!
This image was captured in 1889, when it was later to be the setting of the famous HBO western series “Deadwood,” which showed the history of the town. Yup, are you guys mind blown? Because we are!
This guy is a legendary figure from the Wild West — Bass Reeves. This gentleman was born a slave in 1838 in Crawford Country, Arkansas. After the 13th amendment was passed, Reeves became a free man. Interestingly, his time with the Native population landed Reeves his first job as a tour guide of Native territory.
What makes Reeves a legendary figure is that he became the first deputy US marshal of African descent. He quickly rose up in the ranks because of his solid reputation in law enforcement. All in all, he made 3000 arrests of dangerous criminals.
Horse theft was a serious thing back in the Old West. No one knew this better than Belle Starr, who would eventually be arrested for this crime in 1883. Starr would go down in US history as one of the most famous female outlaws.
While it is not clear what part she played in the crimes her gang committed, she ran in the same circles as Jesse James and the Younger Brothers gang. Whether she was a mastermind criminal or simply guilty by association, Starr styled herself as a Queen bandit, because she dressed in velvet, feathers, or buckskin.
Citadel Rock, Green River Valley
A part of photographer Andrew Joseph Russell’s collection “Sun Pictures of Rocky Mountain Scenery,” we have this historic photograph showing the construction of railroad lines in Green River Valley in Wyoming. In the backdrop is the landmark Citadel Rock. What is iconic about Russell’s photograph is that it captures a historic moment: railroad construction across the USA.
During the 19th century, railroads spread across the USA. We see the construction workers as well as the smoke of the arriving train. Yet, also in the background, there is the interesting rock formation of Citadel Rock.
This is probably one of the grisliest photographs in the collection. It is a reminder of some of the darker times of the Old West. During the mid-19th century, there was a great demand for bison bones. In this photo, we confront the true reality of that demand. Herds of bison were eradicated, resulting in a graveyard of massive proportions.
Here we see thousands upon thousands of bison skulls laying upon one another forming a mountain. And the reason for this massive extinction? Well, in this case, was fertilizer. Bison bones were ground up and sold across for fertilizer.
Black Cowboys on Horseback
One of the more obvious stereotypes of the Wild West is cowboys. However, one of the lesser-known facts of this period was African American cowboys. While the photographer of this picture is unknown, we know it was taken in 1880. These African American cowboys are suited out in their cowboy gear: jeans, leather gloves, bandana or scarf, and the stereotypical cowboy hat.
They are clearly professional cowboys because they are comfortably posing for this photo while being on horseback.
Geronimo, Leader of the Chiricahua Apache
Here we have a picture of Geronimo. Actually, the Native American leader’s real name was Goyathlay, translating to “One Who Yawns.” While Geronimo is definitely one of the most famous Native Americans, many people don’t know about his tragic life. His mother, wife, and children were killed by Mexicans.
And after the Apache were moved from their homeland, they turned on their leader. Following the murder of his family, Geronimo rose to the rank of an Apache leader and became a fierce warrior. The sheer determination and ferocity of this chief are captured in this photo.
It is hard to imagine that this young man photographed here is actually one of the most infamous outlaws and bank robbers of the Old West. Robert LeRoy Parker, along with his accomplice, Harry Longabaugh (aka “The Sundance Kid”), would torment the southern US states.
Parker worked briefly at a Wyoming butchery, where he would earn the name “Butch.” In 1894, Butch Cassidy was imprisoned after his first bank robbery of a San Miguel Valley Bank. This photo is a memento that survived Butch Cassidy’s first arrest and time in prison.
Chinese Field Hands
The Gold Rush saw a mass exodus of native peoples leaving California. The state soon attracted much investment in federal projects in agriculture. As there were fewer Native Americans and Mexicans living in the area, the state soon saw a flux of Chinese immigrants into the state, where they would become field hands.
This photo taken in 1898 captures this moment in the past where we see four Chinese fields hands posing for this iconic shot. Without this photo, this moment would have faded into obscurity because soon afterward, Japanese immigrants were used instead of their Chinese counterparts.
Joe Black Fox
This is one of the lesser-known figures of the Old West. With his deeply serene gaze, we are looking into the eyes of Joe Black Fox, who was a Sioux chief. The word ‘Sioux’ might seem challenging to say, but it is much easier than its full name, Nadouessioux.
This impressive Native American tribe was composed of two divisions that lived in the Dakota Territory, Montana, Nebraska, and Minnesota. Little is known of this Sioux chief, but we know that he joined Buffalo Bill’s traveling shows. Like others, Joe Black Fox would tour the USA and Europe.
Jim Young With Tombstone
You might be surprised to find no gravestones in this photo or struggle to find Jim Young among this group of people. Tombstone is the name of the town. And Jim Young is the name of the African American man standing by the back of the stagecoach.
It might be a bit tricky to spot him among all the Tombstone residents. Taken in 1912, this photo shows how the townspeople accepted Young as one of their own. The former slave was asked to go on the trail of the Apache kid. Though he failed, Young became a Tombstone resident.
Cowboys and Bar Girls
This photograph of a bar scene from 1910 is proof that the Wild Wild West was really wild. Here were have cowboys and bar girls in a saloon living it up. The bar is absolutely packed, there is plenty of alcohol to go around, and everyone is wearing their finest garments.
The cowboys are sporting bandanas, and hats, and one certainly looks like he is carrying a pistol. The bar girls sport a range of hairstyles. The next time you watch a cowboy movie with a saloon scene, do not be surprised if the bar turns rowdy.
The Klondyke Dance Hall & Saloon in Seattle
It’s hard to imagine that just over 100 years ago, this was a scene from the Emerald City. However, this is proof that the Old West spirit even spread to Washington state and its capital. Not all saloons were open to women. Some even strictly forbade women, but this particular saloon could make an exception by also being a dance hall.
Women were allowed to attend dance parties. However, it’s hard to make out whether the women are pleased about the exception or not.
19th Century Nebraska Mug Shot
The Old West was full of outlaws – even some unknown ones. There is a whole collection of mug shots taken in Nebraska during the 19th century. Here is one of 23-year-old James Collins. During the day, Collins’s legal trade was as a tailor. However, the young man also dabbled in burglary.
Here is Collins’s mug shot after he was arrested. As you noticed, his head was bandaged in the photo, suggesting that he did not go easily. Collins would later escape from prison and would be arrested later again and sent to Nebraska state prison.
Judge Roy Bean’s Courthouse/Saloon
There’s probably a reason why the Old West was called the Wild West. It would be hard to believe that a courthouse could also trade as a saloon. We’re guessing not the most thorough of examinations took place. Yet, if you go back in time to 1882 to Langtry, Texas, you will find just that – a courthouse that also acts as a saloon.
Perhaps, it is not all that hard to believe. There is, after all, that saying “in vino veritas,” translating to “there is truth in wine.” This could be the way Judge Roy Bean got his confessions.
While swarms of people flocked to California in search of gold, the state of Colorado’s natural beauty and vegetation remained undisturbed. That is until the gold-rush fever spread to Colorado. During the late 19th century, miners started searching Colorado’s mountains for gold.
In this photograph from the 1870s, we see a group of miners camped in the San Juan mountains scanning the landscape for a trace of gold. Interestingly, it was not gold that the prospective miners would find but silver. And towards the end of the century, Colorado experienced a silver boom.
Did you notice that the patrons of this bar are sitting on chairs that are seemingly made from bear coats? That’s right – this bar’s furnishings include bear-lined seats. The story behind the seats is the barman, Seth Kinman. Apparently, this barman had a passion for hunting, specifically grizzly bears. It is claimed that during his life, he killed 800 grizzly bears.
This scene from his bar in California in 1889 seems to suggest that Kinman’s exploits are true, especially since the proof is in the pudding, or rather in the whiskey.
This grizzly photo (no pun intended) shows the result of a bear hunt in 1874. In a Black Hills expedition, General Custer and Colonel Ludlow killed the first grizzly bear of their hunt.
At the time, the Old West was in the throws of converting wild lands into livestock pastures, so free-roaming bears became fair game for landowners and those looking to prove whatever point they felt they needed to prove.
Celia Ann Mattie Blaylock
We cannot imagine that farm life was completely attractive to everyone who grew up in the Old West. And one such individual who turned away from farm life was Celia Ann “Mattie” Blaylock.
Known for her association with Wyatt Earp, the American lawmaker, and being his common-law wife, Celia Ann Blaylock turned away from life on a farm at a young age. After fleeing, she had little choice but to turn to harlotry. And one of her major destinations was Dodge City, a city renowned for its significance during the Wild West.
With individuals like Ike Clanton, we learn that there are many gray areas when it comes to distinguishing outlaws from law enforcement. Tombstone, Arizona, was a boomtown. And boomtowns were targets for criminal activity because of their massive wealth.
Clanton and his cronies from the gang, The Cowboys, became embroiled in a conflict with the Earp law enforcers. Clanton’s kid brother died during such a conflict on October 26, 1881. Law enforcement was not punished. It is believed that Clanton was part of a plot to assassinate Virgil Earp, but there was not enough evidence to prove it.
Mine in Montana
In 1852, gold was discovered in Montana. However, only ten years later did prospectors begin flocking to the state. As seen in this photograph, discovering gold in the state was anything but easy. The rugged, harsh mountains in the backdrop are one of the reasons why.
Much of Montana’s gold deposits are found in the mountains between Montana and Idaho, but this makes for difficult conditions to mine in. In 1889, this photo was taken – a clear reminder of how difficult mining was 130 years ago.