The Wild West was a time where cowboys, Native Americans, criminal gunslingers, and tough as nails women all came together to create a history that we still look upon, today. From the stories of how outlaws like Jesse James would wreak havoc to the tales that people pass on about seeing Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, these have created our history.
Join us as we look at some of these historic photos, and get a glimpse of what the Wild West was really like. Click ‘Start Slideshow’ to begin.
Known as the “Rose of the Cimarron,” Rose Dunn was known for her great looks and her relationship with outlaw, George Newcomb. She was said to be obsessed with Newcomb, but was later accused of setting him up to be murdered for the $5,000 bounty.
You see, George Newcomb was a wanted man…dead or alive, and after a shootout and a two-month hiding out period, Newcomb and his fellow gang member, Charley Pierce, decided that the coast was clear and they could start to go back out in public. Meanwhile, it is said that Rose told her brothers that George Newcomb would be at her home in Norman, OK on May 12, 1895. When Newcomb and Pierce arrived, they were involved in a shootout with the Dunn Brothers. Rose’s brothers shot and killed both Newcomb and Pierce, and collected the bounty…and many believed they shared it with their sister.
Click ‘Next’ to see a Wild West woman with a tattoo right on her face!
As you can see from this photo, Olive Oatman has an interesting tattoo right on her face. How did she get this? Born in Illinois, she was kidnapped by Native Americans at the age of 14, along with her sister. The tribe that kidnapped the girls is unknown, but it’s possible that it was the local Tolkepayas. They enslaved the girls, but then sold them to the Mohave.
As a part of the Mohave tribe, the girls were treated very well, and were given land to farm as well as a home. They were also invited to join the tribe, and tattooed on their face and arms, which was the custom of the Mohave people. Oatman’s sister died while still with the Mohave, but Olive was released after about five years when soldiers from Fort Yuma “rescued” her. However, people who knew Oatman said that she didn’t want to leave, as she was married to a Mohave man and had two young boys.
You’ll recognize her name, but have you ever seen her face? Click ‘Next.’
You probably recognize Annie Oakley from her time in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Oakley, or “Little Miss Sure Shot,” started performing when she was just 15 years old, and showed off her shooting skills across the globe. Though this sounds like it might be a happy story, her childhood was far from good. She began shooting at the age of 8 to feed her family after her father died, and started to sell game to support her mother and siblings.
By the age of 15, people in the area of southern Ohio, where she was raised, knew her name, and when Frank E. Butler, a famous shooter came to town, people told him about Annie. They met, and eventually married. She began traveling with him in various circuses and shows. She became famous after the couple joined the Wild West Show, when Annie was only 25.
This outlaw gang was one of the cruelest in the history of the West. Click ‘Next’ to see them.
The Rufus Buck Gang
The Rufus Buck Gang was a group of outlaws who was known for being multi-racial and wreaking havoc in Indian Territory during the late 1800s. The gang was known for being extremely violent and cruel, and charged with several murders and rapes. In one incident, the gang robes a salesman named Callahan. They were going to kill him, but offered to let him live if he could outrun the gang. He did, and the members of the gang were so angry, they killed his assistant.
It’s unknown how many people they murdered, robbed, and raped, but it is known that two of their rape victims were so violently attacked that they died of their injuries. Eventually, the gang was caught near Muskogee, OK. They were put on trial and sentenced to death. All of them were hanged on July 1, 1896.
This tough woman’s murder is unsolved to this day. Who? Click ‘Next.’
The famed Belle Starr was an outlaw and criminal, who was linked to some of the most notorious men of the West. As a young girl, she received a good education and played piano, something that most young ladies before the Civil War would do. After the Civil War, Starr was married to Jim Reed, an outlaw who was wanted for murder. The couple had two children, and eventually settled in Indian Territory. Reed was killed, and Belle was wanted for robbery by the time she was 26.
She then met and married a Cherokee man, Sam Starr, and the pair became involved in a ring of horse thieves, rustlers, and bootleggers. The Starr’s were arrested and jailed for a time for their crimes, but eventually released. Unfortunately, Sam was killed soon after. Belle started farming and rented her land out. One day, she was riding back home from a dance, and was shot off of her horse, and then shot again “to make sure she was dead.” No one knows who shot her, but many suspect one of her renters, Edgar Watson.
This famed Native American tribe was forced to move from their home. Click ‘Next’ to see more.
The Navajo Indian Tribe
This isn’t a happy photo, though it looks beautiful. This photo shows members of the Navajo Indian tribe during “The Long Walk.” In 1864, the Navajo tribe was forced from their native lands by the US government and moved to a reservation more than 300 miles away.
The U.S. Army divided the members of the tribe into groups, and led them on the treacherous walk, and at least 200 people died along the way. The journey took 18 days, and during the walk, which the tribe members were not prepared for, the soldiers pushed them to the breaking point, leaving many behind. In total, about 9000 people made the terrible walk, and were forced to settle in a small, 40 sq. mile patch of land.
This man had a small war named after him. Who was it? Click ‘Next.’
Ned Christie was a Cherokee who was accused of murdering a Deputy Marshal, Daniel Maples. He was part of the executive council of the Cherokee Nation, and was an advisor to Chief Bushyhead. In 1887, Marshal Maples was killed in the Cherokee Nation, and John Parris, a companion of Ned Christie, told authorities that Christie had done it.
In order to avoid arrest and be put to trial, Ned Christie fortified his house and began a stand-off with U.S. authorities that would last for just under five years. In one attempt to get him out, his home was burned to the ground, but he would escape with friends. Christie never went on trial, but was wounded. There is more about Ned Christie later on, so keep reading!
This photographer was integral to photos of the Wild West. Who? Click ‘Next.’
Thomas H.O. Sullivan
During the years of the Wild West, we are lucky because it was also when photography was becoming accessible and popular. One of the most prolific photographers of the Wild West was Thomas H. O’Sullivan. He is best known for his photos of the Civil War and the West, and his most famous photograph, called “The Harvest of Death,” was taken during the Battle of Gettysburg.
In 1867, he became the official photographer of the U.S. Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel. It started in Virginia City, NV, and his main job was to take photos that would encourage settlers to move out West. He was also one of the first people to take photos of the Southwest, a landscape that many in the East had never seen before.
One Indian tribe was almost eradicated during the Wild West period. Which one? Click ‘Next.’
The Paiute Tribe
There were many Indian tribes in the West, especially in the Great Basin area. One of these was the Paiute tribe. As you might know, many tribes in the West set aside their differences to join forces against the settlers and the U.S. military. The Paiute were no different, and in 1860, they joined the Bannock and Shoshone to make an attempt to keep their land to themselves.
The war was very violent, and there were two main battles. We know that around 80 settlers were killed in the war, but the number of Paiutes killed is unknown. We can tell you, however, that the war almost eradicated the tribe.
This mountain range was dangerous to cross when heading West. Click ‘Next’ to learn more.
The Sierra Nevada Mountains
One of the barriers of moving West was crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was dangerous and difficult due to the treacherous conditions and the risk of outlaws. The Sierra Nevada’s play a big role in both settlement in the West as well as the culture of several American Indian tribes, including the Paiute, Shoshone, and Ute.
The Sierra Nevada’s were also integral during the California Gold Rush. People began rushing to the mountains in 1848, and by 1855, more than 300,000 miners had arrived to seek their fortunes. The Sierra Nevada’s were a popular range to search for gold, but it was remarkably not fully explored until 1912. Today, there are areas of the mountains that are not able to support life due to the scars from mining.
This photo is a good example of a common cowboy task. Click ‘Next’ to see it.
The Cowboys Capturing a Wolf
Cowboys really found their stride in the Wild West, and this time is known as the “Rise of the Cowboy,” even though cowboys had been found previous to this, and are still around, today. The main job of the cowboys was to help facilitate the movement of huge herds of cattle across the open plains, and in some cases, hilly areas.
The cowboys during the Wild West would often be out with their cattle for weeks, or even months, and their main goal was to keep their herd safe and healthy. This photo, which shows a group of five cowboys capturing a wolf, was only one of many ways that these men, and sometimes women, would protect their cattle. Cowboys often also participated in cattle roundups, which is where they would gather semi-feral cattle, or cattle drives, which is when they would escort thousands of cattle from one area to another.
Getting clean in the Wild West was a dirty job. Click ‘Next’ to see one method of bathing.
Cowboys Getting a Bath
There was nothing luxurious about being a cowboy, and if you were lucky, you got a bath every couple of weeks. Most cowboys bathed in rivers or lakes when they came upon them, as they never knew when they might have access to water again. Cowboys had their own culture and habits, and life out on the trails was dirty business. Not only were you out there with thousands of animals, you were constantly moving through wild land that was not mowed, cut back or otherwise tended. Depending on the weather, it could be very hot, which could cause sweating.
Because these cattle drives and roundups could cross several different types of landscapes, cowboys also had to contend with dust storms, mud, rain, wind, and even snow. You can probably imagine how this smelled, so a bath, even in a river or lake, was a welcome treat.
This next photo is a perfect representation of what a cowboy looked like in the West. Click ‘Next.’
The Lone Cowboy
Cowboys were known for a certain type of dress, and each part of the typical cowboy outfit had a purpose. For instance, they wore high-crowned hats with wide rims, which was perfect for keeping the sun out of their eyes. The brim was often turned up, too, which was handy to use as a cup for water. They could also fold their hats and use it as a pillow.
Cowboys also often wore handkerchiefs, which they used to cover their fact from dust, and they often wore a vest to protect them from cold winds. The vests usually had pockets, which were great for storing cigarette papers and tobacco. The boots that the cowboys wore had a two-inch heel, which was perfect for resting in stirrups or digging into the dirt when roping a calf.
This next photo shows one of the most murderous men in the West. Click ‘Next.’
“Bloody Bill” Anderson
William “Bloody Bill” Anderson was one of the most murderous men in the whole of the Wild West. It is believed that he and his gang killed more than 100 people, and he did this all before the age of 24, when he was killed.
As you can imagine from his name, Bill Anderson was not a very nice man. He was a murderer, outlaw, thief, and ran a horse smuggling and trafficking ring that ran from the Midwest all the way to the area we know as New Mexico. He was part of a gang, and he participated in the Lawrence Massacre, which led to the death of more than 200 people. Eventually, “Bloody Bill” was tracked down and killed by U.S. forces in Albany, MO. His body was carried through the streets of the town, as people cheered, and several of his fingers were cut off so people could steal his rings.
This criminal outlaw family found themselves a fitting end in the Wild West. Click ‘Next.’
The Dalton Brothers
The Dalton Gang, or Dalton Brothers, was a gang of Old West outlaws that were active from 1890 to 1892. Three of the members of the gang were brothers, and they specialized in train and bank robberies. There were five Dalton brothers in all, but the oldest, Frank, was a Deputy US Marshal, a contrast to his brother’s outlaw ways.
After Frank was killed in the line of duty, Bob, Grat, and Emmett, members of the gang, also became lawmen, but soon became outlaws. In 1892, while attempting to rob a bank in Coffeyville, KS, Grat and Bob Dalton were killed. Emmett was captured and convicted of robbery. He served 14 years in prison before being paroled. Today, the Dalton Brothers are still talked about and their escapades are often referred to in books, television shows, and films.
The life of this great Lakota chief had a sad end. Click ‘Next’ to see the photo.
Spotted Elk was the chief of the Miniconjou, which was part of the Lakota Sioux. He was known as a great man, and a proponent of peace. He preferred to settle things diplomatically and had a reputation for aligning his people with those who could help them and make them stronger, including men like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull.
Eventually, Spotted Elk and his people were forced onto a reservation, and life became very difficult. In 1890, Spotted Elk and his people were forced to move and stopped at Wounded Knee Creek to set up camp. U.S. soldiers entered the camp and forced the Lakota to give up their weapons. Spotted Elk had negotiated a peaceful surrender, but someone shot a gun. It was then that U.S. forces attacked and killed over 150 Lakota, including Spotted Elk.
These men didn’t believe they were the law nor outlaws. Click ‘Next’ for more information.
What would the Wild West be without gun fights? Gunfighters in the Wild West usually fell into one of two categories: outlaws or lawmen, but many ended up being both at some point or another. The outlaws were those who were quick with their draws and used that skill to rob trains, banks, and stagecoaches. Jesse James, for instance, is a good example.
Lawmen were also known as gunfighters, and many used their gun fighting skills to keep law and order in the Wild West. People like Virgil Earp, who was Wyatt Earp’s brother, were well known. Generally, when the lawmen went after an outlaw, he would gather a posse to capture him. The other option was to offer a reward for an outlaw and hope that a bounty hunter or other person would step in to do the dirty work
Hunting the buffalo was a popular pastime. What was the typical hunting outfit? Click ‘Next.’
Bison, or American buffalo hunting, was popular in the Wild West. It was so popular, that in less than 200 years, more than 30 million buffalo were hunted. By the late 1880s, only about 100 bison were left. These animals were hunted for their skin, and often the rest of the animal would be left to rot. The bones were often collected, ground, and used as fertilizer back East.
There were a number of reasons that buffalo hunting was so popular. First, it was fairly easy. The bison are large, easy to see animals. The skins were also easy to sell, and they brought in a nice profit. There was also the fact that the American Indians saw bison as sacred and an important part of their livelihood, so some believe that bison hunters hunted more than they should in order to take away from the Indians.
This legendary chief was said to have died of “a broken heart.” Who? Click ‘Next.’
This is Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. He was well-loved and attempted to resist the forced removal of his people from their home by the U.S. forces. As you probably know by now, Chief Joseph was another of the many Native American leaders to try to stop the forcible removal of their people. For a while, it looked like Chief Joseph would be a success story, as he negotiated with the government, and was told that his people could stay where they were. However, the government reversed the decision four years later, which led to the Nez Perce War.
The Nez Perce War is the name of the conflict between the Nez Perce and U.S. forces. It lasted for five days, and Chief Joseph finally surrendered. He tried to plead with the government, and even traveled to Washington, DC to talk to President Rutherford B. Hayes, but it was all for naught. When he died, his doctor claimed it was due to “a broken heart” as his people could not return home.
This next man witnessed Custer’s Last Stand and reported the defeat. Click ‘Next’ to learn more.
This photo is of Curly, a Crow scout, who witnessed the defeat and death of George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. He was also part of the Army during the Sioux Wars, and was one of the few survivors during the Battle of Little Bighorn. Curly did not fight during the battle, but instead, was watching from a distance. From that distance, he could see that the 7th Cavalry, which was led by General Custer, had been defeated.
When he saw this, he took off on horseback, and rode for at least a day or two, records aren’t clear, before meeting someone. He met an army supply boat where the Bighorn and Little Bighorn rovers come together. To tell the men what happened, he had to use drawings, sign language, and an interpreter, as he didn’t speak English.
He was called the “Father of the U.S. Cavalry.” Who is it? Click ‘Next.’
Philp St. George Cooke
As a Civil War general, Philp St. George Cooke was a key player in the Union victory, and was known as the “Father of the U.S. Cavalry.” He wrote the first Army cavalry manual, and led the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in the Civil War, which later allowed him to be named brigadier general by President Lincoln in 1861.
Though Philip St. George Cooke was well respected, he eventually left the Army in shame. You see, throughout the entire Civil War, his family was divided. Many, including his son and son-in-law, served with the Confederacy. At one point, near the end of his service, Cooke was surrounded by his son-in-law’s troops and mocked
These men did their best to keep law and order in the Wild West. Click ‘Next.’
It was a hard job, but someone had to do it. The lawmen of the Wild West, like Joe LeFors, pictured below, Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday faced daily danger. It was up to them to keep law and order in the towns that dotted the landscape. Being a lawman was difficult, and these men were often in danger as they tried to keep law and order in their districts and towns.
These men often found themselves dealing with the seedier side of life in the Wild West, including saloons, brothels, and keeping the peace. Most of them were quite honorable, but as mentioned before, there were a number of them who were known to have served as law abiding citizens, yet also have a bit of history as an outlaw. Perhaps an “if you can’t beat em’, join em’” attitude!
These men were tougher than most due to the conditions they lived in. Click ‘Next.’
The Mountain Men
Then men of the mountains, like Kit Carson, below, were some of the toughest men in the Wild West. They were trappers and explorers, and most of them lived in and around the Rocky Mountains. These men were integral in helping the expansion to the West, and even help to build the roads that led organized wagon trains to present day California, Oregon, and Washington.
These men often lived alone in the mountains living off the land, and most of them were part of the fur trade, which was quite lucrative. Unfortunately, the fur trade fell in the 1840s, so many mountain men were forced to look for new jobs, such as wagon train guides or as scouts.
This next photo revisits an old friend from this list. Click ‘Next’ to see it.
The Return of Ned Christie
Remember Ned Christie or Ned Christie’s War? Well, here’s another photo of the Cherokee man again. This time, he is displayed after his death. You might remember that Ned Christie was the man who was falsely accused of killing Daniel Maples. In 1892, Christie was eventually killed by lawmen while trying to run away.
The men tied Christie’s body to a door, and then photographed themselves with it. Many saw it as a trophy for capturing an outlaw who was as notorious as Christie. However, it eventually came out that Christie didn’t commit the murder. A man named Bud Trainer was actually responsible for killing Maples, and Christie was an innocent man.
This next photo shows an actor from a famous Wild West show. Click ‘Next’ to see it.
Texas Jack Omohundro
Texas Jack Omohundro was a scout, cowboy, and most notably, an actor, who appeared in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, among others. Jack left home as a young teen, with plans to join the Confederate army. However, he was too young, so was instead trained to be a scout. When the war was over, he went to Texas, where he found work as a cowboy. A couple of years later, he moved to Nebraska, where he met “Buffalo Bill” Cody.
Texas Jack went to Chicago with Cody, and stuck with him until Cody’s Wild West show came to be. Texas Jack was a welcome addition to the show, and he became well known for his work. He died young, at 33, of pneumonia, but his legend lived on in dime novels, which were popular in the late 19th century.
During the Wild West, Native American culture often changed. Click ‘Next’ to see an example.
Native American Culture Change
One of the cultural impacts on the country during the Wild West was the assimilation of the American Indians into “white culture.” What you might be surprised about is that there were actual laws passed to encourage the Indians to be more like the “white man.” These efforts began before the period we know as the Wild West, and our first president, George Washington, came up with the first plan to “civilize” the American Indians.
A century later, during the Wild West, these efforts were still ongoing, but the Native Americans were encouraged to assimilate in different, often violent, ways. They lost their homes, their land, and their culture in the process, and many simply gave up and adopted a “white” way of life.
These men were often troublemakers, and a select few were rich. Click ‘Next.’
The Gamblers of the Wild West
Gamblers of the Wild West, like Billy Sims here, were known to be troublemakers. Most of us think of gamblers as gentlemen, but there were many women gamblers, too, and they were just as well-respected as the men. Gamblers came from all walks of life, from all different classes, and from all different backgrounds.
Most gambling took place in the saloons, and most gamblers preferred fast-paced games that gave them a quick profit. Faro, a card game, was one of the most popular game, but roulette, 21, craps, and roulette were also popular. Poker was played, too, but it wasn’t as popular as other games because it is a slower-paced game.
Indian scouts became quite famous in the stories of the Wild West, including this next man. Click ‘Next!’
Luther “Yellowstone” Kelly was known as one of the best trappers, hunters, and scouts of the Wild West. He was so well-known, in fact, that a movie was made based on his life. “Yellowstone” Kelly got his start in the U.S. Army, and while stationed out West at Fort Snelling, he perfected his hunting skills.
After being discharged from the Army, he often spent time outdoors in the area we now know as Yellowstone National Park, where he did jobs such as serving as a scout and to carry packages along some of the most dangerous areas of the West. He died in 1928, and his grave is located in, you guessed it, Yellowstone National Park.
This pastime was a popular one in the Wild West. Click ‘Next’ to see which pastime it was.
Many of us associate poker playing with the saloons of the Wild West, but as mentioned, this was not the most popular card game. Poker is much more strategic that other popular card games of the time, which slows down the pace. Thus, the payoff wasn’t always as high.
The act of playing poker in the U.S. started in the American South, and throughout the early 1800s, made its way up the Mississippi River, and eventually out to the Wild West. The rules changed over the decades, and different forms of poker were developed, especially during the Civil War, when the card game was popularized by soldiers.
These small homes dotted the Wild West landscape. Click ‘Next’ to see what they are.
Native American Tipis
You are surely familiar with the tipi, a common home for the Plains Indians. These tents were cone-shaped, and made by erecting large sticks and placing stretched animal skins over the wooden structure. Each tipi has a smoke flap at the top, which helped smoke escape. These homes were portable and easy to set up and take down, which was perfect for nomadic tribes.
Only the Plains Indians used tipis, contrary to popular belief that all Native Americans used them. Most tipis ranged from 15 to 18 feet in diameter, and were painted, just like our homes, today. Women were in charge of keeping the tipi in good condition, and not only built them, but also transported them when on the move. Women also made the rules for the tipi; it was hers, and she “let” her family use it. Depending on the size of the tipi, they could sleep from three to eight people.
The Wild West wasn’t only for cowboys. There were also cowgirls. Click ‘Next’ to see them.
Many who picture the Wild West can easily imagine cowboys, but there were also cowgirls out there. These women were tough and tumble, and they sure wouldn’t put up with any shenanigans if they didn’t want to. Many of these women were just as good, or even better, then the men when it came to gun slinging, and they certainly were certainly seen in the saloons playing poker and drinking.
Out East, women were expected to be ladies, but out West, there was often no room for niceties. Instead, they were often out there with the men taking care of the livestock, warding off attacks by American Indians, and working in the fields and gardens. Women were also outlaws, in some cases, and some of them were quite notorious.
This next photo is of the man that was overshadowed by his famous brother. Click ‘Next.’
Sure, you have heard of Wyatt Earp, but have you heard of Morgan Earp? Morgan was one of the brothers of Wyatt, and was often seen with his brother. Both men were lawmen, and both were part of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral. During that shootout, three outlaws were killed by Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday.
Friends of the outlaws that were killed vowed revenge on the lawmen, and Morgan Earp’s fate was sealed. His wife was away with his parents on the night of March 18, 1882, and he was playing billiards with his brother, Wyatt, and some friends. Members of a gang shot and killed Morgan through an open door. The gang was accused of his murder, but they were never convicted due to lack of evidence.
Morgan Earp was married when he was murdered at age 30. Click ‘Next’ to see her photo.
Louisa A. Houston
Louisa A. Houston was the wife of Morgan Earp. She was safely in the home of his parents in California when young Morgan was murdered. She and Morgan lived in Montana before moving south to Arizona. “Lou,” as she was known to friends and family, was said to be very smart and beautiful, and she worked as a waitress in a train before meeting Morgan Earp.
The young couple settled in a log cabin when they were first married, but the Montana winters were tough on Lou, who suffered from arthritis. In order to help his wife, Earp asked her to go stay with his parents in California, where it was warmer and she would have access to hot springs. As mentioned, while she was there, Earp was murdered.
This traveling show was one of the most famous in the world during the Wild West. Click ‘Next!’
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West was the greatest in the country, and it gave people in the East an up close and personal look at the Wild West. Started by William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the show was very circus-like, and began with a parade of horses. Also featured were American Indians, real cowboys, and performers from around the world, including Arabs, Mongols, and Turks.
The main event of the Wild West show were feats of skill, such as Annie Oakley shooting her gun, sideshows, and staged races. There were also many famous figures that appeared in the show, including Sitting Bull, who brought 20 of his tribesmen to appear in the show. Eventually, he took the show internationally, and performed in England, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
The Battle of Little Big Horn Was a very famous battle. Click ‘Next’ to see the battleground.
The Battle of Little Big Horn
This is a photo of General George Custer and his men before the Battle of Little Bighorn began. As you might remember, this battle was also known as “Custer’s Last Stand” because General Custer would die during the fight. The Battle of Little Big Horn was called an ‘armed engagement’ and occurred between the Arapaho, Lakota, and Northern Cheyenne tribes, who banded together as one, and the 7th Cavalry of the U.S. Army.
Called the Battle of Little Big Horn because it took place near the Little Bighorn River, it was the largest battle of the Great Sioux War of 1876. The fight was an overwhelming victory for the American Indians, who were led by several leaders, including Crazy Horse. When the battle was over, 41 men, women, and children were killed on the American Indian side, and 274 were killed on the cavalry side.
The railroads were not built by American’s for the most part. Who built them? Click ‘Next.’
Chinese Railroad Workers
There is no doubt that the building of the railroads out West changed the course of the country, but who built them? The vast majority of the people who built the railroads were Chinese immigrants, not Americans. The Chinese laborers were essential in the construction of the first cross country railroad, and most of them were pulled from the western silver mines or recruited directly from China.
Approximately 11,000 Chinese workers contributed to the railroad’s construction, and were known for working efficiently and tirelessly. They would accept lower wages than the white workers, and were also excellent at managing the finances associated with the construction, which was an added bonus to management.
Some people in the Wild West were known by outlandish nicknames, including this woman. Click ‘Next’ to see her.
Big Nose Kate
Big Nose Kate, born Mary Katherine Horony-Cummings, was a Hungarian prostitute and the common-law wife of Doc Holliday, the gunslinger. Interestingly enough, she is also the person who introduced Doc Holliday to Wyatt Earp, and she reportedly watched the Shootout at the O.K. Corral from a nearby window.
Doc Holliday described Kate as his “intellectual equal,” and the couple was known for their fiery relationship. Even after they got together, both Doc and Kate were working in seedy careers; Kate as a professional prostitute and Doc as a professional gambler.
One area of the Wild West was particularly dangerous. Which one? Click ‘Next’ to find out.
You can’t deny that the Wild West was dangerous, but one area, Death Valley, was more than hazardous. The Timbisha tribe of Native Americans lived in the area that would be known as Death Valley for millennia. The area became known as Death Valley in 1849, which is when the California Gold Rush was first beginning. Many men would travel across Death Valley to search for gold, but many also didn’t make it out as food and water is far from plentiful.
The name “Death Valley” was given early during the Gold Rush, as during one exhibition, 13 pioneers died while on the way to California. The story was a popular one, and the name stuck. A few years later, Death Valley was also known for its gold and silver deposits, and in the late 1880s, borax was discovered in the area.
This woman was a well-known stagecoach robber. Click ‘Next’ to see who it is.
Pearl Hart was an outlaw known to dress as a man to commit crimes so she wouldn’t get caught. Born in Canada, she was given the best of everything, including education, and she was brought up in a religious household. By the time she was 16, however, while at boarding school, she became obsessed with a man named Frederick Hart, who was a gambler, thief, and overall bad seed.
Long story short, Frederick Hart was abusive, and after many years of being on and off, Pearl finally left him and fled out West. While in Arizona, she met a man named Joe Boot. They flirted with the law constantly, and were finally caught after committing one of the last stagecoach robberies in the West. She was jailed and sentenced to five years, but was paroled early before fading out of the spotlight.
You have heard of Annie Oakley, but her main rival is largely missing from history. Click ‘Next’ to see her.
Lillian who? Lillian Smith was the main rival of Annie Oakley, and an amazing shooter. Unfortunately, she was largely erased from popular history because of an incident that happened during a tour of England. At the time, both Smith and Oakley were very well known and fierce rivals. Both traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.
In 1887, Smith and Oakley were performing at the Wimbledon rifle competition in England. Oakley had an amazing performance where Smith’s was pretty terrible. It was so bad, in fact, that both the American and British press ran articles about it. This caused Smith to eventually quit the show, while Oakley became even more famous.
Some women of the Wild West joined the gangs of men. Click ‘Next’ to see one example.
Rose of the Wild Bunch
Some women of the Wild West were just as tough as the men, and some, like “Rose of the Wild Bunch,” even joined gangs. Her real name was Laura Bullion, and in the 1890s, she was part of the Wild Bunch, which was led by Butch Cassidy. Rose came from a family of outlaws, and her father actually paved the way for her to join the gang.
In 1901, Rose was sentence to five years in prison thanks to her participation in the famed Great Northern Train Robbery, but she only served three years. After her prison stint, she moved to Memphis, and posed as a widow of World War I under several assumed names, and was a bit of a schemer on the side. She lived until 1961, when she ultimately died of heart disease.
This group of men was serious about keeping Texas safe. Who were they? Click ‘Next.’
The Texas Rangers
Following the Mexican War of Independence, a new group of lawmen was formed in Texas, called the Texas Rangers. The purpose of the group was to defend Texas from enemies, but, in truth, they were known to be a pretty violent bunch. The Rangers were first created in 1823 by Stephen F. Austin, and were involved in some of the most well-known Texas crimes of the Wild West.
The Texas Rangers, who are still around, today, gained their reputation during the time of the Old West. Throughout the history of the Rangers, 79 have been killed in the line of duty, and 30 of those men were killed from the Wild West period from 1858 to 1901. Some of the high-profile cases they dealt with during this time include the killing of Sam Bass and the capture of two famed outlaws, John Wesley Hardin and Billy Thompson.
Women still had a way with the men of the Wild West, just like this woman did. Click ‘Next.’
Beautiful Josephine was an actress and possible prostitute who settled in Tombstone, AZ and married the local sheriff. When she met Wyatt Earp, however, she fell in love, and there are still rumors today that the Shootout at the O.K. Corral occurred because the men were fighting over her.
Eventually, she became married to Wyatt Earp, and her story is greatly intertwined with Wyatt’s, along with the Earp men. She and Wyatt were both said to have had affairs, and Wyatt was a big drinker. However, in her book, I Married Wyatt Earp, Josephine denies both of those things, and reportedly even asked the publisher to leave those facts out. She was also a well-known gambler, and according to reports, had a serious gambling problem.
This gal with a gun is not someone you would want to get in an argument with. Click ‘Next.’
Calamity Jane was another female sharpshooter who gained fame thanks to her shooting abilities. She was also one of the toughest women in the West. She was a professional scout and a close acquaintance of “Wild Bill” Hickok. She once appeared in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, and was an act at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901.
Jane was known for being quite compassionate, which is interesting, considering her wild ways. She often wore men’s clothing, was an alcoholic, and even prostituted for a time. Though she was also illiterate, she was said to be an excellent storyteller, though many of her “true” tales are said to be highly embellished.
This one-eyed cowgirl believed life was better as a man. Click ‘Next’ to see what she did.
Born as Charlotte, Charley Parkhurst ran away from home as a teen and began living as a man in the Wild West. Charley ran away when he was a young teen, and worked as a stable hand while he learned how to drive coaches. He was a stagecoach driver for several years in the East, and in 1849, he went to California to take advantage of those in the Gold Rush.
No one knew that Charley was actually Charlotte, including the U.S. government. Thus, it is said that he may have actually been the first woman to vote in a U.S. election, even though he was passing as male. No one even knew that he was born a female until he died.
It was tough to make ends meet in the Wild West. Click ‘Next’ to see one way to do it.
Making Ends Meet in the West
Living during the time of the Wild West was tough for many people, so they made ends meet in whatever way they could. Some gambled, some stole, some sold their bodies, and others played music. There were also traditional jobs, such as working in a store or opening a business. Sales were common, too, and men often made a living hunting or farming.
Women also had to make ends meet. Although the all had the option to work in a brothel, many actually owned brothels. Women also worked in traditional male jobs, including as doctors, barbers, and miners. Others sold baked goods, worked as waitresses, or worked as teachers.
Others made a living performing in traveling shows. Click ‘Next’ to see some!
The Girls of the Wild West Show
Some people, such as these ladies, made a living performing in traveling Wild West shows. These particular women were performers in the famed Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, and they worked both here in the U.S. and traveled around the world. They were actresses, dancers, and general performers, who were the celebrities of the Wild West.
Though many of these women in Buffalo Bill’s shows were overshadowed by names such as Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane, the Buffalo Bill show was not the only game in town. There were actually several touring shows that featured acts and performances about the Wild West. Buffalo Bill’s was simply the most well-known.
There was no rest for women in the Wild West. Click ‘Next’ for another fascinating photo.
Women of the Wild West were expected to do the same as the men in regards to work. As you can see, there is nothing fancy about this unknown woman, but you can tell that she works hard and is very familiar with horses. We have already mentioned that many women did men’s work out west, but many were also responsible for keeping the homestead well-managed.
Out East, the women might stick to kitchen work at home, and often did things such as sewing and raising the children. Out West, however, the settlers had a very different life than they would have been used to out East. Here, the division between men’s and women’s work was often blurred…especially for the women. So, it would never be surprising to see a woman caring for the livestock, for instance.
Click ‘Next’ to see another tough as nails woman of the Wild West.
Two Gun Nan
This is Two Gun Nan, who was the first woman who rode from one coast to the other on a horse. To make the trip, but still remain a true lady, Nan created a skirt that she cut up the middle, and then sewed like pants. She rode a horse named Lady Ellen from San Francisco to New York, leaving on September 1, 1910. She arrived 10 months later on July 8, 1911.
Why did Two Gun Nan do this? Well, she was a performer in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, and Buffalo Bill, himself, bet her that she couldn’t do it. She certainly showed him!
This outlaw was wanted dead or alive. Take a guess, and then click ‘Next.’
Billy the Kid
One of the most famous Wild West outlaws was Billy the Kid. He was best known as a gunslinger, and killed several men. Wherever he went, you could be sure of seeing a “Wanted” poster, and he was wanted dead or alive.
The first time Billy the Kid was arrested was at the age of 16 for stealing food, and then was arrested five months later for stealing guns and clothing. These crimes, however, pale in comparison to what he would get into as an adult. He was linked to at least eight murders, and was described as a horse rustler, thief, robber, gambler, and fighter.
This Native American chief was best known for fighting against the U.S. Government. Click ‘Next’ to learn more.
Chief Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull was a chief and medicine man of the Hunkpapa Lakota. He is best known for resisting the U.S. government when his people were asked to move West. Like other chiefs in the West, he was unable to resist, and his people were forced onto a reservation.
For a while, Sitting Bull was part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, but he soon returned home because of the Ghost Dance movement, which was sweeping the nation’s American Indian tribes. It was with this movement that they believed they could force the government and the white man away from their land. When government officials found out that Sitting Bull was returning home, they went to arrest him, but killed him, instead.
There was a place in many Wild West towns where men could find a lady for the evening. Click ‘Next.’
The Town Brothels
Almost every town in the Wild West had a brothel, and many of them were run by ex-prostitutes. The brothel usually housed 10 to 12 women, and men could visit at almost any time, day or night. You might think that the women at a brothel were some of the lowest of society, and you would be partially right. After all, they were not very well-respected individuals. However, they were often some of the richest women in the West.
In fact, these women were often so wealthy, that many of them would open their own brothels after they got too old for the business. In addition to that, the madams that owned the brothels, and independent prostitutes, as well, would often finance public works projects, such as building roads into town…after all, that meant more business!
This pair of women were well-known outlaws in the Old West. Who is it? Click ‘Next.’
Cattle Annie and Little Britches
This pair of female outlaws were known for their crack shots and were well-known among those who lived at the time. Think of them like a Wild West version of Thelma and Louise. They were both excellent markswomen and horsewomen, and almost always dressed in men’s clothes. They became well known for their exploits, and spent a lot of time evading law enforcement.
They liked to work together, but sometimes worked alone. They had a little business selling whiskey to the Pawnee and Osage American Indians in the area, and were pretty good horse thieves. Their story was made into a film in 1981 called Cattle Annie and Little Britches, which starred Diane Lane and Amanda Plummer.
This violent thief is well-known to us today. Who is it? Click ‘Next’ to find out.
You definitely recognize the name Butch Cassidy. He was a terribly violent man, and known to rob trains, banks, and pretty much anything else he wanted. Cassidy was the leader of a gang called the Wild Bunch. As a group, they were notorious outlaws and seemingly always on the run from the law. By the end of the 1890s, Cassidy’s crimes were catching up with him, and in 1901, he and his friend, Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, who you might know as the Sundance Kid, fled to South America.
The pair continued their crime spree in Argentina, and when they felt like law enforcement was getting too close, they fled to Bolivia. Eventually, in 1908, they two men were caught. They were both killed in a shootout after a standoff.
In the Wild West, fathers would teach their daughters how to shoot. Click ‘Next’ to learn more.
In the Wild West, the women were often just as dangerous as the men, and were well-trained in the art of shooting a gun. In fact, it was very common for fathers to teach both their sons and daughters to shoot. Not only was a gun seen as a way to protect yourself in the Wild West, having a gun meant protecting your family, too. Since women often had children, even in the Wild West, they relied on this skill to keep their kids safe, too.
Some of the most famous gun slinging women of the Wild West include many on our list already including Big Nose Kate and Pearl Hart. Other women who were known for their gun fighting skills include Eleanor Dumont, who was also a famous gambler, and Mary Fields, who was not only good with a gun, she was also very strong and worked as a laborer and handyman…err…handywoman.
Working in a brothel wasn’t pleasant, but it was a way to make a living. Click ‘Next’ for more information.
Working in a Brothel
It wasn’t an easy life to work in a brothel in the Wild West, but many women did it…especially when they first headed out there. You would be able to make a wage, and many families would force their daughters to do this work to help make ends meet.
Most of the women who worked in brothels were young and under 30. Many were poorly educated and illiterate, though there were certainly some who were well-educated. Sadly, many of them ended up in the brothels because their mothers or husbands needed help raising a family. Others worked in the brothels because they couldn’t find other work. As mentioned before, however, working in a brothel wasn’t all bad, as many of the “scarlet ladies” became a success. On the flip side, however, many also were violently abused, became addicted to drugs, or were even murdered.
Drinking alcohol in the Wild West was a very common practice. Learn more by clicking ‘Next.’
The Booze of the Wild West
Drinking alcohol was extremely common in the Wild West, and many people became what we would know as alcoholics at a young age. It was not unusual for both men and women to drink their lives away, and it might explain why there were so many gunfights! The local saloon was the place to go for a drink, and many saloons also offered gambling, drugs, and of course, the “working girls.”
Most of the alcohol available in the Wild West was homemade. Whiskey was a popular choice, and could have been made from anything from chewing tobacco to burnt sugar. Beer was available too, and often served warm, since refrigeration wasn’t available that much during that time.
Some outlaws would bring in women to their gangs for a special job. Click ‘Next’ to see what it was.
The Women in the Gangs
Outlaws, such as Butch Cassidy, would often bring in women to their gangs. Why? Because these women could work undercover, and most lawmen wouldn’t see a sweet as pie woman as part of a dangerous gang. Many of these women were also prostitutes or gamblers, though some, like Laura Bullion, who we mentioned before, simply wanted to live a life of crime.
Many times, the women in the gangs didn’t help with the heists that the men got into. Instead, they gathered information, delivered messages, cared for the men’s battle wounds, and even worked to feed them.
The Long Walk was brought up earlier. It was a tough trek. What happened at the end? Click ‘Next.’
The Rest After the Long Walk
After traveling, in some cases, across the country during the Long Walk, these Navajo were exhausted, scared, and unsure of their future. Again, this was caused by the U.S. government pushing them out of their homes in the East.
After the Long Walk, as you can imagine, the survivors were physically and mentally exhausted. What you might not know, and might even be surprised about, four years after the Long Walk, the Navajo were allowed to return to their home thanks to the U.S.-Navajo Treaty, which was signed in 1868. So, many of those people who walked the 300 miles had to do it again during the Long Walk Home.
The women who ran the brothels were called madams. Click ‘Next’ to see one of the famous ones.
Perle de Vere
Pearl de Vere was an extremely famous madam in the Wild West, and she set up a brothel and hotel in Colorado. She moved to Colorado at the age of 14 or 15 and became a prostitute. She had a good business mind, however, because within a few months, she opened her own brothel, and over the years, she became very wealthy.
After losing everything in a fire, Pearl de Vere rebuilt her business into a hotel and brothel. It was one of the finest around, and reportedly cost $20 a night…others in the area were only about $3 per night. One night, however, after hosting a large party, she retired to her room and died during the night. It is believed that she accidently overdosed on morphine, a popular drug used in the Wild West.
Many men from the East moved West for one reason. Click ‘Next’ to find out what it was.
The Move to the Frontier
During this time in history, some men from the East moved West to become cowboys. They saw the frontier as a way to make money and start a new life. One such man was Charley Nebo. He is the man on the left of the photo you see here.
Men were often seeking fortune when they moved West, especially in the form of gold. Other men were seeking freedom, and often brought their entire families from the East, which was getting more crowded by the day. There were also family men who wanted the land of the West, which was often given by the government, as they wanted the entire country settled with people.
Here are some more photos of the Wild West that you might enjoy:
Twenty-Mule Team in Death Valley
Another Twenty-Mule Team in Death Valley.
Here’s another photo of Belle Starr, the Bandit Queen
Black Elk, the cousin of Crazy Horse
The next two photos are of General George Custer
Quanah Parker, the Native American Principal Chief of the Comanche Nation
Jesse James and his Brother, Frank James
Pony Express Riders
A single Pony Express rider
Here’s a photo of Pearl Hart after she was jailed
This man is the famed Buffalo Bill.
The famous Buffalo Bill
This is a photo of Wyatt Earp
The O.K. Corral
The covered wagon was a popular way to travel
Here is another photo of Westward travelers
These men are part of the Texas Rangers
This woman was an entertainer named Klondike Kate
Klondike Kate in her performance garb
This is Lottie Deno, a famous gambler
And another photo of Lottie Deno
Saloon girls were a staple in the Wild West
This is another saloon girl
Here is another photo of Pearle de Vere, the famous madam
This is another madam. Her name was Squirrel Tooth Alice.
Here is another shot of Squirrel Tooth Alice
This is a couple of Wild West prostitutes
Here is a different photo of Bloody Bill Anderson
This is a cowboy taking a bath
This photo shows how people ate on the way out West.
Cowboys eating from the chuck wagon
This man is John Kinney, a famous Wild West gang leader
This is John Kinney and his gang
Remember Olive Oatman? Here is another photo
Gold mining was a bit part of the Wild West
Gold mining could be very dangerous
Another photo with Chief Cochise