Wednesday, May 8, 2024



Historical Photographs of the Old Wild West

Photographs and text from:


Chinese Labourers.
The idea of foreigners taking local jobs is not isolated to the United States nor modern times. Long before the working class of the U.S. blamed Mexicans for taking their jobs, it was the Chinese. Immigrants from China worked for less than their American counterparts, $1.00 a day instead of $2.50. They also required less of their employers. They moved and managed their own labor camps, unlike the white laborers who demanded help.

By the way (my comment):
Is that Kwai Chang Caine from the 70's TV series Kung Fu either on right or second from left?

True Cowboys.
These true cowboys of the Wild West are not what one tends to imagine. They were hardworking laborers, who wrangled cows on horseback. Life was simple, dirty, and happy for most of them. The guns they carried were more a matter of fashion than protection from outlaws; good for putting down a sick animal or fighting off a wild one.

Terry’s Texas Rangers.
Assembled in 1861, by Colonel Benjamin Franklin Terry for the Confederate Army, the 8th Texas Cavalry was a fierce regiment of fighters. Folks called them Terry’s Texas Rangers for short. In their four years together, they fought in 275 engagements over seven states. In 1865, they surrendered with the Tennessee Army.

General Custer.
Born George Armstrong Custer, on December 5, 1839, Custer made his way up the ranks of the U.S. Army during the Civil War and the Indian Wars. He graduated from West Point in 1857 but at the bottom of his class. That might be why lost the Battle of Little Bighorn against a fierce Lakota-Cheyenne coalition.

Belle Star.
Starr was another female outlaw in the Wild West. She was born on February 5, 1848, named Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed Starr, but better known as Belle Star. An outlaw, yes, but she was also a lady, She rode sidesaddle because that’s how ladies rode a horse, but she still carried two pistols at all times. Star was a horse thief or that’s what they were able to pin on her. She died of a gunshot wound in 1899, the source of which remains a mystery.

Sierra Nevada Mountain Trail.
Crossing the fields of the Midwest were not so bad, save crossing rivers and dealing with bandits. It was the trek over the Sierra Nevada Mountains that proved challenging. It was dangerous. Wealthy travellers hired armed men to keep them safe on the dangerous trails. Nobody, however, could keep travellers safe from rock slides.

Kit Carson.
Born in 1809, Christopher Houston Carson was a frontiersman, a mountain man, and a trapper, who was key to the development of California later in life. People knew him as Kit Carson. He spent a good deal of time with Native people during his life. Carson married three times in his life, twice to Native American women. The third woman was a Mexican.

Pearl Hart.
Born Pearl Taylor, Hart was a Canadian-born outlaw who made a name robbing stagecoaches. She was also one of the few female outlaws of the Wild West. Inspired by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Hart left her husband at age 22 to chase the Wild West. He found her and talked her into coming home, but she left him again, then robbed a stagecoach on a whim in Arizona. That started a string of robberies, which caught up to her that same year. They arrested her, and despite a brief escape, she spent three years on a five-year sentence.

Bloody Bill.
His parents didn’t name him that. When they had him in 1840, they called him William T. Anderson. Bill, as he preferred, worked on the Confederate side of the Civil War. He was a leader of the Quantrill’s Raiders, a band of guerrillas who went rotten. His band targeted Union loyalists in Missouri and Kansas. In September 1864, in Centralia, Missouri, Bill’s band killed some 124 Union soldiers in an attack. A month later, at age 24, Bill died in battle. Someone snapped this image several hours after he passed.

Rufus Buck Gang.
A unique gang of outlaws, the Rufus Buck Gang was a collection of black and Creek Indian men. They were not a group of misunderstood outlaws. These were bad men. Operating in the Arkansas-Oklahoma area from 1895 to 1896, history remembers them for robbery, murder, and rape. No surprise, when the law finally caught up with the Gang, the people hung them.

Mining Money. Montana—1889.
The story of mining hasn’t changed much in the last 200 years. It was dirty work, where owners made bank, and laborers made decent wages, but at a cost. The dangers associated with mining were high. If it wasn’t collapsed mines, it was noxious gases, inhaled crud or the constant pain from working in a hunched over position.

Wild Western Man.
This image appeared in a Kansas City newspaper. What’s interesting about the image is how it captures the traditional clothing worn by cowboys. Large brimmed hats, in this case, a Mexican sombrero-style hat, were less about fashion and more about function. The brim kept the oppressive sun off the body, enough to keep a cowboy from overheating.

19th Century Move. 
Making the move west started long before humans Paved Route 66 to Hollywood. In the 19th century, however, it was a more treacherous journey. This is a couple taking a break in Kansas en route to the fancy Wild West. What would possess someone to brave the elements, wild animals, and nut jobs on the route is beyond this writer.

More to come.

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