- The American Wild West took place in the Western United States, just about anywhere west of the Mississippi River. It occurred in the early part of the 19th century and lasted until the end of the Mexican Revolution in 1920.
- Many conflicts were occurring as people moved further onto the lands occupied by Native American tribes. The people moving onto to these lands claimed the land as their land. The Native American didn’t believe that anyone could own land. They believed the land was there for everyone to use and enjoy.
- In 1877, Congress passed the Desert Land Act which permitted settlers to purchase up to 640 acres of public land at 25 cents an acre. This occurred in areas where the climate required large-scale farming. Settlers were required to properly irrigate the land they purchased. Thousands of people moved west to take advantage of this opportunity. Wagon trains moved many settlers.
- The American west had all sorts of people including pioneers, business people, scouts, lawmen, outlaws, gangs, gunslingers, and cowboys. Most of these people had one thing in common… they were looking for an opportunity and they weren’t afraid of adventure.
- No one has any way of actually knowing how many Native American people inhabited North America before exploration on the continent began, but some estimates go as high as 100 million people. There were 240 Native American tribes which spoke 300 different languages.
- Many legends have come out of the Old West, but none as big as the outlaws. Some of the most famous outlaws were: Billy the Kid, Belle Starr, Bill Doolin, Black Bart, Dalton Brothers, Jesse James, Frank James, Curly Bill, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Some of the famous lawmen were: Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Pat Garrett, Wild Bill Hickok, and Bill Tilghman.
- In 1867, the first cattle drive from Texas up the Chisholm Trail arrived at the rail yards of Abilene, Kansas.
- Another big part of the Old West was the Wild West Show. Buffalo Bill created a wild west show that included a rodeo and sharpshooting. One of his most famous sharpshooter was a woman. Her name was Annie Oakley.
- The Pony Express officially began on April 3, 1860. The Pony Express consisted of relays of men riding horses carrying saddlebags of mail across a 2000-mile trail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours. The pony riders covered 250 miles in a 24-hour day. The Pony Express lasted only 19 months and ended on October 24, 1861, when the Pacific Telegraph was completed. Before it ended, the Pony Express had more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. The express route was extremely hazardous, but only one mail delivery was ever lost.
- In 1874, Joseph Glidden received a patent for his invention of barbed wire. The fencing changed farming and ranching in the Wild West.
General Sutter: The Gold Rush
Kids and Cowboys: Old West History
Lewis and Clark
Lewis & Clark PBS
Lewis & Clark in North Dakota
National Archives: Photos of the Old West
Oregon Territory and It’s Pioneers
PBS: The Donner Party
People of the Old West by Bad Hombres
The Old West by Utah.com
The Wild West.org
Women in the Gold Rush
Women of the West
Fast Facts Resources