Way back in 1872, there were no high-rise buildings, no suburban neighborhoods, and no residential areas. Instead, there were wide open spaces and barren landscapes that explorers simply chose and claimed for themselves. The rent prices were probably a little cheaper back then…
The Navajo people are the second largest Native American tribe in the United States – and they are notorious for living in some of the most inhospitable environments in the Wild West. They soon claimed the Navajo Nation as their own, and it’s now the biggest reservation in the country! This photo shows the Navajo people traveling across the Canyon de Chelly during with the desert and rocky landscapes in the background. And of course, they have a little doggo in the background, too.
We’ve all seen the movies, and we all know that the Wild West wasn’t exactly the safest era. With bandits and thieves running amok in the mountains, many people often hired armed escorts to lead the way to their next destination. This was to ensure that their produce or lives weren’t endangered. However, many people had to travel without an armed escort, as you couldn’t buy this luxury for the price of a beer; more the price of the whole saloon.
Although most people feared the bandits and thieves, there were some people that got a kick out of being around them – including this little lady, Belle Star. Belle just absolutely loved a bad boy and soon surrounded herself with some of the most notorious bandits of the time. Belle even married a couple of them during her life! Unfortunately, she died a mysterious death in 1889, and we’re not going to point fingers at who may have killed her but…
For most of us, sharing a bath with other people is normally saved for special, romantic occasions (or, you know, everyday life. Whatever floats your rubber duck) – but not for the people of the Wild West. Back in the late 1800s, bathrooms were nonexistent, so everyone had to bathe together. After three months on the road, these Cowboys decided to have a little wash in the river before heading back home. Yep, even horses need a wash too!
With the increase in crime plaguing the Wild West, the Cowboys knew that something needed to be done, so they created their own unofficial police force; the Texas Rangers (nope, they didn’t fight the bandits with their basketball skills). The Texas Rangers formed their alliance in 1823, and this was one of their first photos as a group. They patrolled the streets and kept their homes from harm, and finally expanded enough to create an official law enforcement unit.
The people of the Wild West veered onto numerous career paths (although not ones many of us would choose today), but the most profitable career path during the late 1800s happened to be down the mines. Cooper, Gold, and Silver were highly valuable during this time – meaning you could make a heck load of money. Of course, the businessman who owned the mine itself scored most of the profits, but the workers were also highly paid. Result.
The people of the Wild West got bored pretty quickly and wanted to upgrade their living quarters every so often. Because of this, they mostly lived Nomadic lives and moved around from place to place. To do this, the Cowboys needed some help – and employed the use of their horses and a wagon to carry all of their worldly belongings. But moving around all the time was hungry work, so they had to stop every so often for a spot of lunch.
The Wild West was full of violent and ruthless gangs that would cause havoc and make their money from exploiting others. During the year of 1895, The Rufus Buck Gang were perhaps the most ruthless of them all (even though they look pretty young and harmless). The Rufus Buck Gang would fill their time with robbery, murder, and rape. Soon enough, their faces adorned the ‘WANTED’ posters, and they were eventually caught and punished for their awful crimes.
Of course, before the Wild West settlers found their homes – they were often already inhabited. The Native Americans had spread their Sioux Teepees across the barren lands for years before the Cowboys came along and forced them out of their homes. Although most Native Americans did attempt to fight to keep their land, ultimately the Cowboys were stronger, faster (and carried guns). Because of this, landscapes laden with these Teepees soon vanished, as they were forced to move elsewhere.
Nowadays, we’re used to modern and fully engineered railway systems – it makes us pretty happy to know that we’re safe when we’re hurtling along at 100mph. However, the Wild West was very different. Back in the day, the railroads were haphazardly built across the bumpy landscape and with materials and methods that would not definitely not pass health and safety standards today. Nevertheless, they were vital for trade and transportation during the 1800s, and the people of the Wild West made do.
Death Valley is one of the biggest and most barren landscapes in the Wild West – and is known for miles and miles of barren landscape. As you can tell by the less-than-desirable name, you wouldn’t want to walk through Death Valley. Because of this, many cowboys used wagons and mules to transport get help them through the desert landscape. This photograph depicts a couple of cowboys with their mules as they transport their wagons through the dusty roads.
When you think of cowboys and bandits, you probably think of the Hollywood bandit – with the black and white shirt and the cotton bag with a dollar sign on it. And most of the time, the bandit is male. However, the real Wild West was vastly different, and there were numerous female bandits. One of the most famous was Pearl Hart, who made a name for herself as one of the most notorious stagecoach bandits of the time.
Although they weren’t quite up to the standard of today, the Americans of the Wild West were at the height of engineering at the time. During the latter half of the 19th Century, they knew that they needed an easier way to transport goods out of the Wild West and into larger populated areas. From this, the Pacific Railroad was born. The railroad took a whopping six years to create but provided a route for goods from Iowa to San Francisco.
Whether you were a bandit or a good ol’ fashioned cowboy (or cowgirl), there was nothing better than coming back from a long day of cattle farming to a nice cold one in the local saloon. There are numerous depictions of the Wild West saloon in movies and cartoons – but do you know what one really looks like? This photo shows a true Wild West saloon. Yeah, we could imagine having a few drinks with the lads here.
Although most Native Americans despised the Americans for their colonization of the Wild West, there were many who gave into the Western ways to enable them to continue living in their settlements and avoid confrontation and certain death (which often occurred). This photograph of the Paiute Tribe shows a perfect mix of traditional Native American clothing mixed with Western clothing and accessories – such as cowboy hats, jackets, and pants. They continued to live alongside the cowboys and are still recognized today.
When it comes to waterfalls, there’s always one that sticks out; Niagara Falls. However, there is another waterfall in the US that could definitely compete with it. The Shoshone Falls are located in Idaho and is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. During the late 1800s, many cowboys, Native Americans and tourists would travel to the Falls to see the beauty for themselves, have a swim in the pool below and cool down after a hard day.
Even if you don’t know much about the Wild West, you’ve probably heard of Buffalo Bill. Buffalo Bill, who was actually named William Cody at birth, was the founder of one of the most famous ‘Wild West’ shows of the time. His traveling show featured epic gunfight re-enactments – and many people would travel far and wide to witness the show for their very eyes. His original concept is still used today by numerous historical sights and shown at Wild West exhibitions.
It’s best not to get these two confused. Bloody Bill was a lot more…well, bloody….than Buffalo Bill. This bandit was the leader of Quantrill’s Raiders who fought for the Confederate side during the American Civil War. Bill seemed to get a taste for blood and would murder hundreds of Union soldiers at a time – just because he felt like it. However, Bloody Bill was notoriously secretive, and this is only the second photograph ever recorded of him.
Whenever you watch a Western movie, you can almost guarantee that there will be a scene where a bunch of cowboys congregate in the saloon, drink a couple of beers and play a few rounds of poker. However, this is historically incorrect. Instead of playing poker, most cowboys played another game called Faro. This game originated in France but made its way over the US, and had a similar concept to Poker – although the odds in Faro were much better!
Although they lived completely separate lives, the cowboys of the Wild West saw the benefits of having Native Americans close by – mainly because their products were so beautiful. Many Native American tribes have their own form of weaving which can create intricate rugs, blankets, and clothing. The Western Americans absolutely loved these products, and would often trade these woven goods for their own Western attire, food or materials. The Native Americans soon lived up to the demand and weaved more every day.
During the late 1800s, it was all about status. However, your status wasn’t decided by the clothes you wore or the house you owned. Instead, your status was determined by how big your gun was. Nearly everyone in the Wild West owned a gun, as it was vital to survival – and everyone was proud of their own. To show just how proud they were, most cowboys posed with their precious gun in every single photograph they took.
As Buffalo Bill’s traveling ‘Wild West’ show picked up more and more traction, he wanted to expand his show and provide more variation for his audience. This photograph shows Buffalo Bill’s Grass Dancers – called Elk and Black Elk. They were Oglala Lakota Natives and were brought into the show to display their traditional Grass Dancing skills, while they wore bells and shells on their costumes. The dancers proved so popular they continued to tour the world with Bill.
During the late 1800s, cameras and photography were relatively unknown concepts – especially in the Wild West. Thankfully, we have Timothy H. O’Sullivan to thank for some of the most intricate photographs of this period. However, taking photos in this harsh environment wasn’t easy, and Timothy often struggled. As you can see in this photo, he had to permanently transport a darkroom around with him so he could develop his photographs. This was carried through the desert by four strong mules.
Although life in the Wild West may seem pretty simple compared to our stressful and busy lives in the 21st-Century, they were anything but. In fact, many people struggled to survive in the harsh conditions of the desert heat and the rough and rocky terrain of the nearby mountains. This proved especially difficult for those who had to travel to work, find food, trade or graze their cattle. This photograph proves just how difficult it must have been.
Of course, there is one thing that the old Western Hollywood movies have got right. In popular culture, we’re shown these images of cowboys riding their steeds across a barren landscape, with a cowboy hat on top of his head, a lasso hanging off his arm and a bunch of cows in front of him; ready to be herded. And that’s exactly what they did. Whether or not they shouted ‘Yee-Haw’ at the same time is yet to be established…
Although the desert plains of the Wild West were there to be taken, the civilized Americans knew better than to simply take the land for themselves. In fact, as the town’s started to grow, so did leaders and businesses. To buy new land, the townspeople congregated together to bid on the land which was being auctioned off to the highest bidder. If you didn’t have the money, you would get the worst (and cheapest) land in the area.
This group of (fairly unhappy looking) men was the Wheeler Survey Group. These men took part in an exhibition that was headed up by Captain George Montagu Wheeler. The aim of this mission was to create a topographic map of the Wild West and took them a whopping ten years to complete. After doing so, Wheeler – being the humble man that he was – decided to name numerous locations after himself; including Wheeler Peak and Wheeler Geologic Area.
Gold Hill became famous for one thing (wonder if you can guess?) – Gold. This little town in Nevada was a breeding ground for miners, businessmen, and crooks during the late 1800s. The town once thrived and featured numerous saloons, the famous Gold Hill Hotel, houses and more. However, the gold soon ran out, and the miners were forced to leave the area. Although the town is still going today, there are only around 190 people who live there!
Rose Dunn, who was also called the ‘Rose of Cimarron’ was an extremely famous figure from the American Wild West. She rose to fame when she was still a youngster (around 14 or 15-years-old) after she entered into a notorious relationship with one of the most violent outlaws of the time, George ‘Bittercreek’ Newcomb. Of course, her family wasn’t too fond of her choice in a boyfriend – so her brothers murdered him two years later. Oops, that must have been awkward.
It’s fair to say that Olive Oatman didn’t exactly have the best of lives. When she was just a small child, the whole of Olive’s family was murdered by a tribe of Native Americans but spared Olive. They marked her chin with a traditional Mojave tattoo and taught her the ways of the Native Americans. However, she was also treated as a slave. She was eventually saved by a group of Western Americans but struggled to reintegrate herself into society.
As you can tell from pretty much every cowboy movie ever made, the cowboys in the Wild West were incredibly proud of their work and stopped at nothing to ensure that their livestock and farms were protected at all times. However, the open landscape is often prey to other animals – who will feast their eyes on their cattle. To stop this, the Cowboys patrolled their land and caught any animals who threatened their livelihood. Like this wolf.
Although there were many Native American tribes who simply watched as their lands were taken away from them, there were also other tribes who fought back. Chief Joseph was one of the most famous chiefs during this time. As the leader of Nez Perce tribe, Chief Joseph didn’t want to stand by and watch as his people were murdered. Instead, he led his tribe on a mission to Canada to start a new life. Unfortunately, the mission was unsuccessful.
The history of the Wild West is shrouded in stories surrounding Cowboys. However, there were hundreds of cowgirls who were equally as able – and some were even better shooters than the men! These cowgirls would often join forces to run their own farms, look after their own livestock and practice their sharp shooting skills. But of course, just like all of us (including the men) sometimes you just have to stop and rehydrate at the watering hole.
During the late 1800s, John C. H. Grabill worked as a miner – but soon decided to change his career path and enter into the world of photography. As he took photos of the Wild West, he took this photo of a Cowboy working the land and going about his daily life. Nowadays, this photograph is known as the most accurate depiction of what the typical Cowboy looked like back in the day. We especially like the leather Chaps.