21 captivating photos from the Wild West

No doubt the media has portrayed the Wild West a certain way, but is it really an accurate representation of that time in American history? See for yourself by tagging along with us on a journey to the real Wild West. Giddy up!

Show! Show! Show!

Known as the Klondike Gold Rush, after the region in the Yukon in northwestern Canada, hundreds of thousands of prospectors flocked to the area much like they did in California. And again much like in the U.S., various establishments sprung up to accommodate them. These images show dance hall showgirls from one such establishment.

Olive Oatman

The story of Olive Oatman isn’t the happiest, but it sure is inspiring. When she was only 14 years old, her family was killed by a number of Native Americans, at which point she and her sister were both kidnapped by them. They were then sold to the Mojave people. This blue tattoo that you see on Olive’s face is a symbol of the slavery she was kept in, and it goes without saying that she was one woman who survived through the ringer.

Fortunes told

Even though its popularity has pretty much waned in recent decades, fortune telling was a very big pastime in the Wild West. This photo depicts such a fortune teller from sometime in the 1800s. The Romani people, better known by the derogative name Gypsies, often dabbled in the profession. While tarot cards were often used in readings, palm reading and crystal balls were also popular. These methods are still being used today, but we don’t recommend putting too much stock in the information you get out of them…

Keeping the peace

When you think of the Wild West you may think of bandits and criminals running wild and controlling towns. There were outlaws in the Wild West, that’s true enough, and to combat it many towns implemented anti-criminal task forces. One such place was Dodge City, Kansas, which was notorious for its high crime rate. The Dodge City Peace Commission is pictured here in 1883. They were set up to maintain peace and order in the city and were founded by Wyatt Earp (seated second from the left).

Wyatt Earp’s sister

Louisa Houston was the second of 12 children, born to a normal family. We might not have ever heard of her, in fact, had she not married Morgan Earp. If the name didn’t give it away, he was Wyatt Earp’s brother, and together with another brother, Virgil, and the infamous Doc Holiday, they brought their brand of frontier justice to the Wild West. Involved in the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Morgan was later gunned down. Louisa was nowhere near him at the time, as he’d sent her to live with his parents two years prior.

The outlaw: Jesse James

No this isn’t the Jesse James who was once married to Sandra Bullock. This is Jesse W. James, a known outlaw. James has sometimes been referred to as the Robin Hood of the Wild West, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. However, there is no evidence for this claim. He was the leader of the James-Younger Gang, a group of outlaws that was based in Missouri. James robbed banks and trains, and lost his life in 1882 – shot in the back of the head by one of his former associates while his back was turned.

The good doctor

Susan Anderson, better known as Doc Susie, was a true pioneer, even if her name is all but forgotten today. Having gone to med school at the University of Michigan, she started her own practice and was one of the first women to practice medicine in Colorado, where her family moved to following the Gold Rush. Notably, she saved a miner’s arm from being amputated after another doctor said it would have to be cut off. She practiced medicine for 47 years, and didn’t retire until she was 84.

The only female inmate

We don’t know much about Pearl Hart, but we do know this – she was one of the last people to rob a stagecoach, a fact made all the more astounding by the fact she was a woman! Having escaped from prison, she was a celebrity in her lifetime, and was even written up in Cosmopolitan magazine. Surprisingly, Hart was born in Canada, was well-educated and came from a wealthy family. Still, she turned to a life of crime in the West, and eventually found herself the only female inmate in a prison. After being pardoned, she mysteriously disappeared.

Sharpshooting women

Annie Oakley wasn’t the only woman back in the Old West who could fire off bullets accurately and quickly – there is a pretty long list of female gunslingers over the years, and the woman in this picture is likely one of them. Just to rattle off a few names, there was Big Nose Kate, who set a jail on fire to help her husband escape. Other markswomen included the likes of Calamity Jane, Stagecoach Mary, Lillian Smith, and Pearl Hart, elaborated on elsewhere in this article.

Why the (gold) rush?

Here is a picture where you can see Wild West residents wearing hats other than cowboy hats. Besides the hats, something important to point out in this picture is the fact that these men are prospectors searching for gold in the Northwestern United States. This photo is thought to have been taken in 1867, although the height of the Gold Rush took place from 1848 until 1855. It led thousands of people to risk their lives in search of fortune.

Dead Man’s Hand

James Butler Hickok, better known as “Wild Bill,” was a sort of folk hero of the Wild West. He was a famous frontiersmen and gained a name for himself from his tall tales of adventure (many of which were revealed to be false). He was known for many different roles including being a soldier, fighter, and gambler, which ultimately led to his demise. While playing poker in 1876, Hickok was shot while holding what’s now referred to as the “Dead Man’s Hand.”

The Louisiana Purchase

In this photo, snapped in 1885, we see the result of the Louisiana Purchase in full force. This picture shows hundreds of American settlers travelling westward across the open and very dusty plains. These adventure-seeking Americas were often in search of better land and a new life. These brave travelers created new communities and put their livelihoods at risk by heading to a new and far-off place. This occurred through much of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Traveling West

After the Louisiana Purchase was made in 1803, where a large portion of French-controlled land was bought, there was a huge movement of settlers into the new territory. A total of 828,000 square miles were purchased from France at the cost of a mere $15 million (we bet France is regretting that decision today). This photo shows a family posing in front of their wagon as they were making their way slowly to the newly-established Western territory in 1886. Needless to say, many more people followed in the ensuing years.

Armed guide

This photo is thought to have been taken around 1900 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This is one of those photos that just makes you hold your breath since these men and their horses are in such a precarious position on the edge of a dangerous mountain. The passengers in this crew must have been pretty important people since it looks like they are being guided by armed guards. Maybe they were guarding some gold from California? The backstory is unfortunately lost in the mists of time…

Queen of criminals

The female horseback rider pictured here is Belle Starr, who lived in the Indiana Territory. What’s unique about Starr is that she had a strange attraction to bandits and outlaws. She even married a number of alleged Wild West criminals, including Sam Starr and Jim Reed. This photo was taken in 1886, just three years before Starr lost her life under mysterious circumstances. Starr was a criminal herself – she was convicted of horse theft three years prior to this photo being taken.

Riders on the storm

Here we see the Canyon de Chelly located in the state of Arizona. This canyon has been home to human beings for over 5,000 years, which includes the Navajo tribes who settled with their families and livestock in the area. This photo, which was captured in 1904, depicts a group of Navajo riders making their way across the desert. It must have been pretty hot out there with the sun blazing down and no trees for shade.

Laura Bullion

It seems like Laura Bullion was destined to be an outlaw. Her father, a Native American, was a bank robber. Later, Laura herself joined the Wild Bunch gang. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because two of its members were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Bullion ended up helping the gang in a variety of ways, from fencing stolen items to forging checks. She’s even said to have disguised herself as a man to help with heists! She was arrested for robbing a train in 1901, and seems to have retired from crime when she was released.

Eleanor Dumont

Whatever else you may hear, Eleanor Dumont was first and foremost a businesswoman. Appearing in Nevada City, California, in 1854, not much was known about the woman whose real name likely was Simone Jules. Speaking with a French accent, which locals loved, she opened a casino and was an overnight success. It was so successful, in fact, that she opened another one. Eventually settling down, Dumont was swindled by her conman husband, and so she went back to gambling, with stories of several (in)famous deeds remaining unconfirmed. She took her own life in 1879, likely due to gambling debts.

Rhinestone cowboys

Here we see two genuine cowboys in their leather chaps, handkerchiefs, and cowboy hats. The man on the left is named Charley Nebo, who was a proprietor of a horse ranch who made a lasting impact on the state of Nebraska. Charley was the son of immigrants as his father was from England and his mother was from Canada. After being discharged from the Union Army, he began a booming cattle business. Not as much information is known about his partner on the right, whose name was Nick.

Dressed for the occasion

This photo shows a young woman belonging to the Sioux group of Native American tribes in full ceremonial dress. Usually, these kind of garments were reserved for specific and special occasions. Don’t be fooled by the apparent commonality between the garb of various Native American tribes, however. To the trained eye, they were completely different. How different? Well, it’s said that Native Americans could pick out which tribe a particular person belonged to from a distance based solely on the way they chose to dress.

So many ponies

Here is a horse lover’s heaven! Since the automobile was not available just yet in the Wild West, horses were the most convenient and fastest way to get around. That means that instead of car shows and dealerships, there were horse shows. Here we can see one such show, which took place annually in Waitsburg, Washington. We wonder if potential buyers were allowed to take the horses for a test drive… As they say, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth – but definitely look at the teeth of one you might buy! Ever wondered what that phrase means? A horse’s teeth are a good indication of its overall well-being.

Charlie Miller

You have likely heard of the Pony Express, which was a mail and message delivery service. The service only lasted for 19 months, and it took around 10 days for letters to travel across the country on horseback. This man is Charlie Miller, who is rumored to have been the last surviving member of the mail service. He later went on to perform in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Nicknamed “Broncho Charlie,” he was the youngest rider on the Pony Express, at just 11 years old.

High on a hill

Pictured here is a group of men from the Crow nation, who lived near the Yellowstone River Valley in the Wild West. The river extends through three states including Wyoming, Montana, and into North Dakota. To the trained eye, they were completely different. How different? Well, it’s said that Native Americans could pick out which tribe a particular person belonged to from a distance based solely on the way they chose to dress.

Giddy up!

As photo taking technology wasn’t quite so advanced in the Wild West, it’s pretty incredible that this perfectly timed photo was taken. In the early 1900s this man was rearing up his horse, waving his hat and it was all caught on camera. This man looks like he was participating in a land rush as he is so enthusiastic. A land rush is what occurred when the U.S. government permitted previously restricted land to be sold on a first come first serve basis.

Rose Dunn

Rose Dunn, also known as Rose of the Cimarron, was a legend of the Wild West, mostly due to her romantic involvement with another outlaw named George “Bittercreek” Newcomb. In one particularly notorious instance, she helped Newcomb get out of a standoff with U.S. marshals alive, and even provided covering fire for him. Her fame, however, became infamy when her two bounty-hunting brothers ended Newcomb’s life when he came in to visit Rose, and then collected the bounty on his head. It has never been fully clear whether she was in on it or not…

Hollywood fantasy

While Hollywood may portray the lives of Native American women in a romantic way, in reality there was much more hard work involved. Native American women typically maintained the home but in addition to cleaning, they could also build homes and keep the roof of the home intact. They also did such vital chores as repairing shoes and clothes and gathering firewood. This picture shows Barbara Rush from the 1954 film Taza, Son of Cochise.

Horseback riding

While we may typically picture a cowboy when we think of a horseback rider, many other groups throughout history such as Native American tribes used horses as their primary form of travel. Here we see a large group of Native Americans from the Brule Sioux tribe. They are a sub-tribe of the Teton Lakota people and they were referred to as the Brule by French settlers. The name is thought to have derived from an incident where they rode through a grass fire on the plains.

An authentic cowboy

Here we see a typical-looking cowboy complete with an intense look on his face, a cowboy hat, and fringes on his clothes. This unnamed cowboy posed for this photo in 1890 and it looks like the horse was posing too. While “cowboy” has become commonly used word in our vernacular today, it was thought to have been coined in 1725 as a direct English translation of the Spanish word “vaquero,” meaning a person who herds livestock from atop a horse.

Cops and robbers

Since there were so many bank robberies in Wild West towns, there must have been plenty of crime stoppers on patrol, right? However, this is not the case as there weren’t actually that many robberies occurring. As you can tell from this street (confusingly named Manhattan in the state of Nevada), towns in the Wild West were pretty tiny. This means that the sheriff of a town would only be a few feet away from the bank and it wouldn’t be easy for a robber to plan a great escape.

Line up

This group of Native Americans look like they are lining up to head into battle back in 1890. However, this is far from the truth as they are actually participating in the show we’ve already mentioned a couple of times, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Bill’s show was an open-air theatrical performance that often romanticized the American frontier to audiences. In addition to performers showing off their sharp shooting skills, there were often reenactments of historical events which might be what is going on here.

Protesting for rights

One issue that has been a controversial one for most of American history is the treatment of Native American people. Native Americans have faced challenges and have been mistreated throughout history but there is still controversy today about logos and offensive names that include references to Native American people. Here we see Sacheen Littlefeather, who appeared as an activist for Native American civil rights at the 45th Oscars. She accepted Marlon Brando’s award for best actor as the actor himself protested the ceremony.

Point and stare

This is yet another shot of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. A cowboy sits alongside two Native American men who seem to be looking at something interesting off in the distance. It seems that many Native Americans were a part of Buffalo Bill’s show, and other shows in the same vein. They were not, however, portrayed in the best way in shows like these as they were often depicted attacking white settlers where the intent was to show their “savage” and “wild” ways.

Native American women

This photo is thought to date back to around 1910 and it shows a young woman from the Piegan people sitting on a hill in a traditional Native American outfit. While women may have had more traditional roles in the new American society, which was built on the ruins of the Old West, in Native American culture women were often taught the same skills as their male counterparts right from the outset. This includes activities such as horse riding, using weapons, skinning leather, and cooking.

Bustling towns

Movies about the Wild West are entertaining but they have also put stereotypes about the time period in our minds. In these movies, we often see empty streets with rolling tumbleweeds and eerie music. However, from this picture we can tell that Wild West towns were often bustling centers of trade. We can see a trading post where merchants are bringing goods in their wagon to trade and sell. This was like the outdoor mall of the Wild West!

Buffalo Bill

Speaking of Buffalo Bill, whose real name was William Frederick Cody, here he is pictured in 1900. Before there was a football team called the Buffalo Bills, the original Buffalo Bill led a performance troupe in the late 19th century. Buffalo Bill had many performers in his crew including Annie Oakley and Gabriel Dumont. They traveled across the country together showing off their talents and they even travelled to England to perform at the Queen’s Jubilee celebration.


This photo tells you exactly where it was taken in historic Deadwood, South Dakota. This photo was taken in 1889 and it depicts a procession of stagecoaches that are part of the Omaha Board of Trade. This photo is a part of what is thought to be the largest surviving collection of the world by this early Western photographer. If you have heard the name Deadwood before it might be because of the HBO show which is set in 1870s South Dakota.

Just chilling

Based on media and entertainment, most people assume that Native Americans and settlers were often engaged in fierce clashes involving violence. However, that was definitely not always the case. Here we see that is was possible for both Western folk and Native Americans to get along as they all sat down to enjoy a meal together. Native Americans were often guides that helped cowboys navigate through the territory and travel on long journeys in the Wild West.

Annie Oakley

While some might think that the West was only inhabited by cowboys, they may be surprised to know that women lived there too! Even more surprising is that some women were just as talented marksmen as the men. One of those women was Annie Oakley, who became a member of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show where she showed off her sharpshooting talent. Annie was born at the heigh of the Wild West, in 1899, and passed in 1926.

Protect yourself

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Circle the wagons?” This was a phrase that was common in the Wild West that most people assume refers to protection of wagons. Many believe that this command was given to settlers in order to protect their wagons and belongings from Native Americans if they approached travelers. However, it is now believed that the phrase was said in order to keep their cattle safe and from wandering off at night.

Myth vs. reality

Picture a cowboy in your head and what do you see? Most likely a rugged and handsome man with fringe flying off his jacket and a cowboy hat on his head. However, is that an accurate image? The typical wide-brimmed cowboy hat that we know and love wasn’t popular until the 1870s. Before that, most cowboys opted for a much more practical bowler hat that wouldn’t fly off their heads while trotting around on horseback. In this photo, we see a cowboy holding his hat by his side.

Annie Oakley (again)

Out of anyone who’s ever come out of the Wild West, Annie Oakley is among the most famous. Even now, her name is mentioned in movies, television shows, and in homes across America. Back then, she was quite famous as a kid for her strong skills as a sharpshooter, a trapper, and a hunter. She garnered these skills because she had to hunt for food after the death of her father. She eventually married fellow gunsman Frank E. Butler.

Billy the Kid

We couldn’t in good conscience talk about the Wild West and not mention Billy the Kid – arguably one of the most famous people from that time. Originally named Henry McCarty, it was said that he had killed at least eight men while he was still very young. Born in New York City, but residing most of his life in New Mexico, he was eventually put in jail. He was said to have been shot after trying to escape, thus ending the outlaw’s life.

Men at the bar

This picture has got to be one of the coolest we’ve ever seen. The vintage black and white feel is similar to many of the others we’ve shown you, but it’s what’s happening in the picture that adds to its profundity. Back in the Wild West, they loved their drinks, and there was nothing better than a bunch of guys meeting up at a bar. It seems that not much has changed since then, but the atmosphere in this picture is as authentic as we’ve ever seen it.

Texas Jack Vermillion

Here we have yet another classic gunslinger, one of the most formidable from back then. His nickname was Texas Jack (originally named Jack Vermillion), and he was constantly on the lookout for cowboys who were outlawed. He was given another nickname as well – “Shoot Your Eye Out Vermillion” – because of the rumored story that he’d one shot someone straight in the eye. It is said that he also once shot someone during a dispute while playing cards.

Jesse James (again)

You can’t really go through living life in modern society without hearing the name Jesse James. The name is about as iconic as the man himself, who was not only a leader of a gang, a robber, and a scrappy fighter, but a notorious outlaw who killed a number of people. Growing up in Missouri, he formed a gang with his brother when they were both still very young, and it was called the James-Younger Gang. If only people knew then what he was capable of…


Here’s a picture of a Mojave Native American guide and interpreter whose name was Maiman. The photograph was reportedly taken by Timothy O’Sullivan, who didn’t like to take portraits of people in a studio. O’Sullivan preferred to capture his subjects in natural settings, such as the case here. Maiman actually helped O’Sullivan a lot with his work, guiding him towards places where he could find the best pictures. It was a collaboration that yielded some pretty effective results.

Rounding up for dinner

This picture was taken at a ranch just after the people had rounded up all the cattle. They were being called for food, which explains why they were in such high spirits. Judging by the number of ranch hands needed, they were dealing with a lot of cattle. O’Sullivan preferred to capture his subjects in natural settings, such as the case here. Maiman actually helped O’Sullivan a lot with his work, guiding him towards places where he could find the best pictures. It was a collaboration that yielded some pretty effective results.

A young rider

Cowboys started young in the Wild West, and the sooner they could grasp riding a horse, the better. Most businesses were family-run, so that meant as soon as a kid was old enough to work, that’s what they did. It wasn’t uncommon for children to be a part of the family business in the Wild West, so there would have been plenty of kids just like this one. As horses were the most common form of transport, the sooner you could ride, the sooner you could explore this landscape.

Festive celebration in New Mexico

New towns and settlements were popping up all over the country during the Wild West, but New Mexico was already well established. Here we can see residents of the city enjoying a festive celebration as the main street is lined with people having a good time. It’s not much different from many of the parades we see today as whole towns shut down to celebrate their customs. Clearly, it was a hot day there because there is a sea of umbrellas yet not a drop of rain in sight.

Breaking in a horse

Horses were an essential part of living in the Wild West, but they didn’t always enjoy being ridden at first. Many horses would not accept a person riding on their backs, so they had to be “broken in” first. That required a skilled rider to sit on the horse and avoid being bucked off until the animal accepted it was going to be ridden. It can’t have been the most pleasant of jobs, but without the horses, these cowboys wouldn’t have been able to earn a living.

Mexican bake oven

This is what’s known as a Mexican bake oven, which was essentially made from dirt and allowed people to cook using a different method. These ovens were great for baking bread in, meaning people could eat more than just stews made using a pot over a fire. Variations of these ovens are still used today in many places around the world as a form of bringing traditional food to the people. Modern cooking has evolved and uses many different techniques, but sometimes you can’t beat the classics.

Steam train in motion

One thing the Wild West was known for was the advancement of trains. They allowed people to travel across the country like they had never done before, opening up new living and working possibilities. It also allowed for people to settle in parts of the country, and over time the railways would become essential for the economy. Trains are much more efficient these days, but this is an old-fashioned steam train in motion as it passes through a tunnel.

Freight convoy

If someone had a lot of stuff to sell, they couldn’t simply get a bigger horse to pull a bigger cart. Instead, they had to increase the number of horses they had, and the number of wagons. This cowboy seems to have an entire convoy all to himself, and it looks to be a real struggle to keep everything going in the same direction. Life was hard during the Wild West, and even something simple like moving your stock became a real effort for most people.

Preparing for a branding

The Wild West was a savage time in human history, and one of the barbaric methods that was all too common was branding. Cowboys had to brand their cattle and horses to make sure if someone stole one, they would be reprimanded. There were no security cameras back in the Wild West, and people couldn’t watch over their livestock all of the time. This photograph shows a cowboy heating a branding iron on a fire before pressing it onto an animal’s skin to create the brand.

Kittiwink the horse

This photograph came with a note informing people that the horse’s name is Kittiwink. It seems to have found some feed and is busy helping itself before someone comes along and takes it away. Because being around horses was more common, they were often more than just a form of transport. There were no security cameras back in the Wild West, and people couldn’t watch over their livestock all of the time. This photograph shows a cowboy heating a branding iron on a fire before pressing it onto an animal’s skin to create the brand.

Donkey carrying wood

It wasn’t just horses that were put to work for cowboys during the Wild West. Donkeys could carry a lot more than a horse, so they often became the trailers of the era. This donkey has been loaded up with wood, and presumably it and the man are going to head back home. The wood might have been for a fire, or as most homes were made from wood, it might have been used for repairs around this man’s house.

Borax across the basin

It’s weird to think it, but borax has been used for thousands of years… And not just for laundry. In fact, back in the days of gold mining, this powder was actually used as part of the gold extraction process. This photo, taken in the 1870s, shows 20-mule team wagons hauling tons of borax across the Great Basin Desert. The way it was hauled across the desert led to the trademark, 20 Mule Team Borax, by Francis Marion Smith’s Pacific Coast Borax Company.

Black Elk and Elk

Meet Black Elk (on the left) and Elk, who were both show Indians. The pair performed in front of Queen Victoria for her Golden Jubilee back in 1887. However, Big Elk wasn’t just a show Indian known as skate wicasa. He was actually part of some of the most famous battles in Wild West history, including the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876 and then Wounded Knee back in 1890. Of course, he was busy performing when he wasn’t fighting.

Bill Anderson

This carte de visite – a small photograph made famous by Parisian photographer Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi – is of a very famous man. His name was Bill Anderson, and he was one of the most brutal pro-Confederate leaders during the Civil War. It was rare to capture this man on camera, so it’s an impressive carte de visite to have. It’s believed that it was made from the photograph he had on his body when his life was taken by Union soldiers in 1864.

Cowboy Detectives

Charles Siringo (on the left), wrote all about his adventures in a 1912 book entitled ‘A Cowboy Detective.’ In it, he says that he worked alongside someone called W.O. Sayles, but it was later discovered that he used that name to hide the true identity of his partner – W.B. Sayers (on the right). When this photo was taken, the pair were on the hunt of the Wild Bunch between 1899 and 1900. Siringo would often change the names in his book to ensure the safety of those he wrote about.

Quanah Parker

This war leader, Quanah Parker, was the son of an Anglo-American, Cynthia Ann Parker, who had been captured and assimilated into the Nokoni tribe. He would go on to become the leader of the Quahadi band of the Comanche Nation, being appointed by the federal government to take on the role of principal chief. After Parker passed away in 1911, the title ‘Chief’ was replaced with ‘Chairman,’ and so he became known as the ‘Last Chief of the Comanche.’

Smelly cowboys

Did you know that cattle drives could last around three months at a time? Between the 1850s and 1910s, it’s believed that approximately 27 million cattle were driven from Texas to Kansas so that they could then be shipped to places like Louisiana. It was a grueling job, but someone needed to do it! This photo shows around a dozen cowboys bathing at the end of a cattle drive. As they were on the road for so long, they’d often stop and soak at the end before going to a cowtown to celebrate their hard work.


While we don’t know a lot about this dashing man, what we do know is that this is often regarded as one of the most interesting portraits from the Wild West era. Back in the 1850s, photography moved on from something called the daguerreotype, which were pictures on silvered copper plates. Instead, ambrotypes became popularized, where the photo would be printed onto a glass plate like this one. It gave photographers a lot more scope and created stunning portraits like the one of this unknown man.


We see a lot of photos of battles, cowboys, Native Americans, and even just the stunning Wild West landscape. As photos were expensive back then, it was rare for people to take them for any other reason than to document a point in history. However, this photograph has no real historical meaning behind it… It’s merely a glimpse into the life of two emigrants in Greenwood County, Kansas. They’ve stopped for a bite to eat, next to their wagon.

Your typical cowboy

This photo was taken from an 1871 Kansas newspaper article, discussing what your everyday cowboy looked like. The newspaper explained that a typical frontier cowboy usually wore “a flannel shirt with a handkerchief encircling his neck.” Although we can’t see his bottom half, the paper goes on to say that he would wear “butternut pants and a pair of long boots.” This gentleman is a very typical cowboy, indeed! We just wonder whether he knew we’d still be looking at his photo over a hundred years later.

Working cowboys

We know what an individual cowboy is supposed to look like, but what about a group of working frontier cowboys? This photo, taken around 1885, is of Texas John Slaughter and his workers. Slaughter was a Texas Ranger during the Civil War before he set up his own cattle ranches. His last ranch was near Douglas in Arizona. The collector who owns this photo, says this is one of the best examples of working frontier cowboys.

Famous lawmen

If you know a thing or two about Wild West history, then there is a good chance you have heard of these two men. Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp were some of the most famous lawmen in history. This photo was taken in 1876 in Dodge City, Kansas, during the height of the cattle driving days. Masterson is the man standing on the left and was known for his successful shootouts. In contrast, Earp became notorious as one of the Old West’s toughest lawmen.


This is one of the earliest known photos of the famous Apache leader Geronimo, believed to have been taken around 1884. He had one of the most fascinating lives of anyone during this period, which has spawned hundreds of articles, movies, TV shows, and books. In fact, we could dedicate an entire article to his life! Geronimo was known as a fearless leader and an integral part of the Apache-United States conflict. This photo was taken at the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona.

Almost-equal opportunity

With a place as wild and rough as the West, you might be wondering why anyone – let alone women – would want to live there. Well, as it just so happens, women who moved westward enjoyed plenty more opportunities than those living on the East Coast of the country. For instance, women not only had the right to vote in certain elections, but they also were entitled to equal pay for teaching positions. For women, the West a place to experience much more freedom than they could have anywhere else.