The “Wild West” period has a special place in the history of America. While this time period spanned from 1607-1912, the “Wild West” in particular broadly applies to the second half of the 19th century. While this time period led to a lot of innovation (such as the creation of the Pacific Railroad), it was also known for its fair share of negatives as well (such as the widespread violence towards Native Americans). Whatever your view on the Wild West is, these next 12 photos you are about to see will give you a little glimpse into how America was like during this incredible time period. Number 9 is a rarely-seen look at a group of shady wild west characters!
#12 George Armstrong Custer
In the 1800s, Custer was an officer in the U.S. Army and was also a cavalry commander. He was heavily involved in both the Civil War and the Indian War in America. However, all his accomplishments were erased when he was defeated by Native Americans in what was known as “Custer’s Last Stand.”
#11 Death Valley
This is a look at Death Valley, which is the lowest point in the western hemisphere. Death Valley is situated at 282 feet below sea level. Back in the Wild West, it was said that a popular new mineral (Borax) could be found there, which led many investors to the area to try and find some of the stuff and cash in.
Back in the days of the Wild West, life on the road was the standard for a ton of people. Folks would frequently move from one county to settle in another, known as emigration. This picture shows a couple enjoying a meal next to their wagon and horses. They are clearly on a journey.
#9 Rufus Buck Gang
The group of people you are looking at is none other than the Rufus Buck gang. This was an outlaw group made up of African America and Cree individuals. These people went on a rampage where they killed, raped and robbed. Their little spree caused a ton of damage and got them all hung.
#8 The First Texas Rangers
No, the Texas Rangers aren’t just a baseball team. Texas Rangers are also a law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction in Texas. This photo was the first group of Texas Rangers. These guys were paid in property to maintain peace and order, and had to even provide their own weapons.
#7 Olive Oatman
When this woman was just 14, her family was murdered by Native Americans. Olive and her sister were then sold as slaves to the Mohave tribe. After her sister died, Olive was released from the tribe and told her story to the masses. She is famous for the facial tattoo she acquired while she was in the tribe.
#6 Canyon de Chelly
The Canyon De Chelly is a mountain and national monument in Arizona. This was a prominent area for the Navajo tribe, and even in the modern day, they continue to call it home. This brilliant photo was taken by Timothy O’Sullivan, who took several amazing pictures throughout the 1800s.
#5 Buffalo Bill
Without a doubt, one of the most colorful characters in the history of the Wild West was Buffalo Bill. He had a popular show called “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” which was successful for decades and made him a star. He even inspired the name of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills football team.
#4 Native American Life
This gives us a little peek at the life of a Native American group. These people were often unfairly treated as second rate citizens. They first began to weave to create clothing and items for themselves, but once other cultures caught on, they began crafting things like rugs and blankets for trade instead.
As time went on in the west, Native Americans kept getting pushed further and further away. They were sent to live on reservations, while settlers often took the best land. They were paid, but the money ended up going back to the settlers for supplies. This type of thing still goes on today across the USA and Canada.
#2 Pacific Railroad
As I mentioned in the introduction, the Wild West fostered significant innovation. However, there was none bigger than the Pacific Railroad. This railroad was built in order to connect the east and the west. Once completed, this railroad revolutionized trade and settlement, and changed North America forever as we know it.
#1 Bloody Bill
The Wild West was full of brutal individuals, but perhaps none more than William “Bloody Bill” Anderson. He was best known for a rampage where he took over a train and went on to kill well over 100 people. He was killed a year later in a fierce battle at the age of 24.
As you could see, many of these photos showed the harsh realities of living during the Wild West. In pop culture, this time period is often portrayed as one with no rules where it was basically a free-for-all with a ton of bandits running amuck. While this is definitely played up a little bit in Hollywood, it was a much more unpredictable time than we are used to now. But beyond the Hollywood portrayals, we should all be happy we live in a time where there is more control and rule, as quality of life has definitely taken a step up.