The Real Wild West In Photos: 1880s

Like most people, I was shown a version of the Wild West by Hollywood films, and TV shows. Gunfights, saloon bar brawls, brave sheriffs, and cowardly bushwackers. The nice guys wore white hats and tin stars, the bad men had black hats, robbed stagecoaches, and shot people in the back. It was not until I was older, reading books and looking at actual photos from the time, that I realised just how romanticised and inaccurate all of that was.

Wyatt Earp. (Not much like Kurt Russell)

Wild Bill Hickock.

Butch Cassidy. (Nothing like Paul Newman.)

Doc Holliday. (Val Kilmer was a good choice for the role in the film ‘Tombstone’.)

Cole Younger. A member of the James Gang.

Jesse James.

Johnny Ringo, a notorious gunman killed in 1882.

Some of Wyatt Earp’s deputies.

Calamity Jane. (I had only known of her from the Doris Day musical film.)

Judge Roy Bean’s Saloon in Texas.

Gambling in a Missouri Saloon.

William Bonney, known as Billy The Kid.

Saloon-girl prostitutes.

41 thoughts on “The Real Wild West In Photos: 1880s

  1. Okay, now that I’ve lingered long enough on the “saloon-girl prostitutes” photo, I’ll proceed with my comments…
    (1) I’ve read that Wyatt Burp drank too much orange soda.
    (2) Wild Bill Hickock’s face resembles that of Ted Cruz. (I checked online, and found that someone on Reddit thought the same thing!)
    (3) Butch Cassidy looks nothing like Jack Cassidy (or his son, David).
    (4) Michael J. Fox was turned down for the role of Doc Holliday, so he played Doc Hollywood instead.
    (5) That photo is of an obviously older Cole Younger.
    (6) On a serious note, I’ve been to the Jesse James birthplace in Kearney, Missouri. And I’ve also visited the Jesse James Bank Museum in Liberty, Missouri. (I know you didn’t expect a serious comment, but I thought I’d give it a shot.)
    (7) Mention of Johnny Ringo reminds me of “Rango” (2011), a computer-animated film featuring the voice of Johnny Depp.
    (8) Barney Fife yearned to be one of Wyatt Earp’s deputies. But Earp didn’t take his job application seriously.
    (9) Calamity Jane was born in Princeton, Missouri. She died near Deadwood, South Dakota.
    (10) Did Judge Roy Bean serve tacos and tequila?
    (11) Riverboat gambling in Missouri is popular. But I bet you knew that.
    (12) If I ever had a billy goat, I’d name it Billy the Kid. (If I had both a nanny goat and a billy goat, I’d name them Bonney and Clyde.)
    (13) So now I’m back to the “saloon-girl prostitutes.” As a Nevada resident, I’ve been in a couple of old west saloons, and I’ve driven by several brothels, too. I’d rather it be the other way around, though…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma and Arkansas was the most dangerous land to be in back in the late 1800s. Read Larry McMurtry’s ” Zeke and Ned” if you want to understand the real west. One of my relatives Love Simpson was the US Marshal for the Cherokee Nation, he also rode with Bass Reeves, the first black Marshal. Cassidy, Sundance, Etta Place and likely all the other outlaws spent a lot of time in ” Hells Half Acre,” a section of old Fort Worth that was known for its rowdiness. Of course if you rode the Chisolm Trail, you had to pass through it. The television series “1883” nails it. Nice pictures and thanks for taking the time to find them. I was born and raised in Fort Worth Texas and my family has a colorful history here. My Great Grandfather and my Grandfather were cowboys. They carried guns and is rumored to have shot more than one cattle thief.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A really motley lot. It really was the wild west and unfortunately the mindset lives on. There is big trouble headed our way. I see great parallels with Germany in the late 1930’s. It is frightening.

    Liked by 1 person

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