Real life in the American Old West: Join me on the journey


Real life in that time and those places we know as the American West was mostly not like the movie and television fiction we learn about the Old West. Real life was generally much harder, much duller, hotter, dustier, and had little of the glamor we learn from the movies.

In the real Old West, gunfighters were few and far between. Bank robbers and stagecoach holdup artists really were a problem, just as they are in modern times. Well, more accurately, we still have the bank robbers, but not many stagecoaches have been held up since the days of Black Bart. There certainly were cowboys, though very unglamorous cowboys. There were definitely Indians, and, yes, they were called “Indians,” never by the modern “politically correct” term “Native Americans.”

When and Where Was the Old West?

A word of explanation is in order — as we journey through “the Old West,” we’ll be spending a lot of time in the East, and probably talk about times not normally thought of as the Old West. I plan to extend the scope of this website to Eastern politics and money interests, for that shaped much of what we call the “Old West.”

We also will be looking at a broader time frame than normally included in Western American history. Most folks think of the Old West beginning around or just after the Civil War. But in reality, it began much earlier. I am interested in going as far “back” in history as the end of the War of 1812 (that would be in 1815 or so) — because westward migration first picked up seriously when war veterans and others began breaching the Appalachians after that conflict and settling further west. Of course, I also want to look at the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, another trigger point in the start of the Old West and western expansion. And I will somewhat arbitrarily end the period with the administration of President Teddy Roosevelt (approximately 1909), for he was in many ways the last great “western” president and did much through the national park system to shape the present American West.

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