We’ve all heard stories about the Wild West and tend to associate it with handsome, strong cowboys, gunfights, Native Americans, ranchers, and a lot of style. While much of it is true, there was a lot more to the Wild West than just this. Having been an active community between the years 1865 and 1895, inhabitants had a tough and dangerous life, having to source food and water and work on the infrastructure of their towns themselves. Some were farmers and some miners, while others traded fur and other goods for a living. Our love for the movies largely stems from watching old cowboy shows and movies. The mystery and charm of the Wild West have long held us all enthralled.
Did you grow up loving the TV Series Gunsmoke? Then you’ll be thrilled to know that the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas, actually existed! The original saloon served various drinks, including alcohol, lemonade, and tea. It was sadly burned down in a fire in 1885 but was later rebuilt as a tourist entertainment center replete with a bar.
In 1855, the American Army imported camels in bulk from the Middle East. They believed that camels would survive the Texas heat much better than horses would and formed the Camel Corps dedicated to their missions. However, many camels escaped into the wild during the Civil War.
It was customary to photograph the dead bodies of outlaws in the Wild West to convince the public of their certain demise. Bodies were propped upright against walls and photographed. This was used to confirm the outlaw’s death, and the reward could then be claimed.
There is a gory but true story of an outlaw named Elmer McCurdy. A robber of trains and banks, he was finally killed in an encounter with the law. His embalmed dead body was used as a slideshow exhibit of a traveling carnival for 60 long years! Onlookers were horrified when a limb fell off and discovered that it was not just a prop but a dead body they were observing!
The famous gunfight involved 8 people and was just 30 seconds short! Also, the entire shooting spree happened at the intersection of Fremont Street and Third Street in Tombstone, Arizona, behind the actual corral. Though it was short-lived, it claimed the lives of three cowboys and three lawmen. The Earp brothers and the gang of Clanton-McLaury went head to head in the fight vying for the command over Tombstone and Cochise County. Sadly, none of them won the control they desperately looked for.
The Texan flag with its lone star has become a symbol well known and loved. Its origins, however, are not with the Lone Star State but with German settlers. The Germans brought along a lot of their customs and traditions overseas, and one of these was to paint five-sided stars on their barns. It quickly caught on and is today synonymous with Texas.
Broncho Billy Anderson is even today loved and revered as the first cowboy movie star of the early 1900s. Immortalized for his portrayal of the iconic role of Broncho Billy in The Great Train Robbery, Maxwell Aronson was the son of a salesman and had no cowboy roots.
Creativity was rife in the cowboy saloons of yore. Bug juice, coffin varnish, gut warmer, neck oil, nose paint, and tonsil varnish were some of several alcoholic poisons of choice. Crafted of alcohol, burnt sugar, and chewing tobacco, the drinks were a deadly concoction. Firewater and cactus wine were also made popular during the period of the Wild West.
Today, the horseshoe is a popular symbol of good luck. This came about in the Wild West when new settlers nailed horseshoes above their front doors to drive away bad spirits. Over a period of time, this superstition gave way to horseshoes being seen as a sign of good luck.
Who hasn’t heard of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Synonymous with the Wild West, Cassidy originally formed a four-member gang together with gunslingers, the Tall Texan, Kid Curry, and the Sundance Kid. They went by the name The Wild Bunch but later became more famously known by the former name we love today.