Hearing the word “Wild West,” you may have thought about cowboys. However, there is more to the Wild West era than men roaming around on horses. It was a time of excitement and adventures.
The history of Wild West comprises of many unsung heroes and famous outlaws. Every story is unique, and you will be amazed to learn about the Wild West’s history. So if you’re looking to dwell into that era, you’re in the right place.
Whether you are interested in the historical events or the natives, we got you covered. Below are fifty rare pictures to give you a glimpse of the Wild West.
The Authentic Cowboy
Many of you may think of men wearing fitted jeans when you hear the word cowboy. However, during the Wild West, jeans were not a thing. Instead, the ordinary outfit that cowboys wore was loose shirts and baggy leather pants.
The photograph you are seeing was taken by a miner and is called “The Cowboy.” It is a rare picture that accurately represents the cowboys. As you can see, fashion was not at its peak during that era.
However, at least western movies got some things correct. For example, cowboys did use to wear cloth necks and always had a gun on them.
The Wild West Saloon
The Kraemer’s Saloon is one of the well-known places of the Wild West. The saloon was a gateway to escape from one’s problems and enjoy good old beer. But, as you can see, the saloon does not look much different than present-day pubs.
That is because many bars still follow the same general plan for the past 150 years. Although, there is a significant way that makes the beer of that era more unique. Back then, there were no refrigerators, so the beers were sold warm and had to be gulped down quickly.
Can you imagine having a warm beer? We certainly can’t.
The Comanche Chief
The Wild West was an era during which the Native Americans were subjected to great oppression. During those hard times, Quanah Parker acted as an exceptional leader and maintained the spirits of the Native Americans. It is interesting to know that Quanah was only half Native as his mother was a European.
He got the title of Comanche Chief when he defied the government’s orders who wanted the Natives to live on a reservation. Word of his bravery spread quickly, and many people looked up to him. This irked the government a lot, who were willing to harm the Natives. Quanah eventually gave in to the threats and migrated, but his bravery is still commended.
Custer – The General
General George Custer is famous for getting defeated at the Battle of Little Bighorn. This photograph is the last one he took before his death. He rose to higher levels during the Civil War.
The General achieved many victories during his life and was an experienced leader. However, all his reputation went down the drain after Bighorn. Custer proudly led his army against the Native Americans and was sure of accomplishing success.
Fate, on the other hand, had different plans. The 3,500 Indian combatants outnumbered the General’s band of 600 soldiers. He was killed during the battle as an honorable soldier.
The Female Robber
You may think of robbers as cold-hearted criminals who deserve severe punishment. Well, not all of them are as bad as they seem. For example, here is a picture of Pearl Hart, who was a famous robber of the 19th century.
Pearl initially lived an honest life as a miner. Later her mother fell ill, and she required money for her treatment. The mining venture was enough to put food on her plate but not much for her mother’s treatment.
That is why she posed as a man and turned to the life of thievery. She was eventually caught and sentenced to five-year imprisonment but was released after three years. It’s quite an emotional story, isn’t it?
Is It Really Poker?
Are you thinking that these cowboys are playing poker? Well, you’re mistaken. This picture accurately represents the saying that looks can be deceiving.
This moment was captured during the 18th century, whereas poker came into the wild west lifestyle after 1800. The game you are looking at is called Faro. It was a French game that gained a lot of popularity, and many cultures started playing it.
Unlike poker, Faro is easier to play, and you have a better chance of winning. Besides that, there is no limitation on the number of players. That is why the cowboys loved the game.
William Anderson, more famously known as Bloody Bill, was born in 1840. He became a leader of one of the deadliest gangs of Wild West when the American Civil War broke out. He was given the name Bloody Bill because his murders and robberies always ended up in a bloodbath.
Besides that, he was on the Confederate side during the war. His choice was based on the hate he had for Union soldiers as his father was killed by one. Due to them, he had to flee his home and resort to petty crimes for survival.
During the Wild West, it was a blessing to not come across Bloody Bill.
The Bandit Lover
Rose of Cimarron, whose real name is Rose Dunn was an unfortunate girl who fell in love with a bandit. Her beau, Newcomb, ran with a notorious gang at the time and helped Rose become an outlaw.
She had two brothers who adopted the life of bounty hunters and were known as the Dunn Brothers. In 1895, Newcomb had a reward of $5000 on his head. So when the bandit went to meet Rose at her house, the brothers got in the way of lovers.
Newcomb was killed by the Dunn Brothers, who got the bounty, whereas Rose was left heartbroken.
The Mobile Darkroom
If you think the photo here is of an ordinary wagon, you couldn’t be more wrong. This is not a picture of some regular travelers. Instead, it is the darkroom wagon of the famous photographer Timothy O’Sullivan.
During the Wild West, cameras were a new item and rare among the locals. Timothy was one of those people who had a camera and moved around in his wagon, creating pictures. The vehicle was made by him so that he could save time and explore more.
We can’t say for sure, but Timothy himself most likely took this picture. He was indeed a man of many talents.
Olive Oatman, the woman in the photo, was only fourteen when Native Indians killed her parents. She and her sister were captured and sold to another tribe as slaves. During her time as a slave, she lost her sister due to starvation.
After being enslaved for five years, Olive was finally able to return to her roots. However, the blue tattooing on her face remained a reminder of the awful times. Her story caught media attention during that time and was publicized as well.
Although her tale was used to warn people of the Indian savagery, it is still unknown what she went through during those five years.
You may not be able to believe it, but this mesmerizing picture is from 1874. If you live in Idaho, you may have recognized it already. However, for those of you who don’t reside there, the image is of Shoshone Falls.
The waterfall is higher than Niagra Falls and is 212 feet tall. During the Wild West, this place was unknown to many people. Timothy O’Sullivan took this photograph.
He was one of the famous photographers of the era who had a keen eye for beautiful sceneries. Many original pictures of the Wild West that you may find on the internet were captured by him.
You may have heard of the famous cowboys of the Wild West, but there were cowgirls during that era. In fact, Annie Oakley was one of them too. These females were well-known for riding fast horses and exploring the Wild West.
Besides that, a lot of them were shooters and knew how to handle themselves around gunfights. The picture here is a small group of them that were out enjoying riding. They decided to refresh their horses by stopping near a water stream.
Luckily, the cowgirls were able to take a quick photograph too. It does not matter what the era is; no one can stop females from living freely.
Myra Reed Starr is one of the most popular female outlaws. She is well-known as Belle Starr and was considered a legend throughout the Wild West. Her bold decisions, such as getting married to a Cherokee, got her quite the attention.
She used to move around the town on a horse and had two pistols at her side. In 1883, she was captured for stealing horses and was imprisoned. Later in 1889, she was shot dead, and the murderer still remains unknown.
Belle Starr may be dead, but her name still lives on. Some TV and movie characters have also been based on her.
The ambrotype was one of the earliest types of photography that came into being during the 19th century. It used to produce clearer images which is why it garnered the attention of the people. Besides that, it was cost-effective, so more people were able to afford it.
The picture above is a result of ambrotype, which was commonly used for portraits. Photographs were produced on glass and took less time than other methods. The ambrotype was very popular for ten years, after which a new method called tintype came into existence.
Now you can understand how much the technology has evolved.
The Valley Of Death
This is the Death Valley that is located in California. It is one of the most inhabitable places on this planet. So now, it is also referred to as a desert valley.
Since the Wild West, the valley is the hottest landmark on Earth. In the 19th century, many people explored the valley to find borax, a rare substance that was used for cleaning.
However, there is a striking fact about the valley that will surely amuse you. Unlike its name, the place actually gives rise to many colorful wildflowers in spring. This happens naturally when the environmental conditions are favorable.
The Native Weavers
This picture is a glimpse of Native Americans who were famous for their weaving skills. The person at the front has a conservative stance and seems to be protecting others who are doing the weaving. That is because it was an important task that required no disturbances.
At first, it was only done for the tribe members and was the source of their clothes. Later, they decided to benefit from their exceptional skills when colonists showed interest in their work. Blankets and rugs were some of the common items they used to trade.
The Natives rose to popularity after more people got wind of their trading business.
The Cowboy Detective
The man on the left side of the picture is Charlie Siringo. He was a famous author who wrote the book Cowboy Detective. Before becoming an author, he was one of the most famous detectives of the Wild West.
He worked at the Pinkerton Agency for about 22 years and upheld the law. One of the reasons for Siringo’s fame was that most of his arrests were made without using any violence. After resigning, he wrote books about the adventures he had as a detective.
His agency tried to stop him from publishing his books, but they failed badly at it.
The Comanches Hunter
This rare 1968 picture is of the initial Texas Rangers. The one on the left is James Bird and on the right is John Haynes. Many people assume that taking care of outlaws was their primary job.
However, the primary opponents of the Rangers were the Comanches, who used to resist the settlement of white people. As you can see, the outfits of these rangers are more similar to the uniforms of the Civil War fighters. However, the Texas Rangers were more sophisticated and were not taken lightly after the war.
Following the 1870’s they rose to more prominence and were given greater authority.
The Native Name
Native Americans used to live a very peculiar life in the Wild West. They used to form their nicknames for the other townspeople. For example, one of the common ways they used to refer to black soldiers was by calling them Buffalo Soldiers.
The term became quite famous amongst the locals and was used in a song by Bob Marley as well. The photograph here is of a buffalo soldier as well. They were known for their exceptional bravery during the Indian Wars.
In fact, 23 Buffalo Soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the war. Unfortunately, in 2005, the last of the soldier passed away, and since then, the term has not been used.
The Fake Killer
If you are interested in Wild West tales, you must have come across Wild Bill’s name. He is one of the most famous legends of that era. It was said that he killed over a hundred people during gunfights.
Although this rumor achieved his fame, Bill was not happy being branded as a killer. However, we can’t say that we feel sorry for him. After all, it was Bill himself who told people, fake kill count.
The truth is that he barely killed ten people during gunfights. Eventually, the legend lost credibility after he was shot dead during a poker game.
The Innocent Victim
The picture you are seeing is of Ned Christie, who was a prominent Cherokee figure. In 1887 he was accused of killing a US Marshal. This marked the beginning of his conflicts with the lawmen.
The clashes gained so much attention that they were referred to as the Ned Christie’s War. As a result, Ned was declared an outlaw by the authorities causing him to become an outlander. They even burned his house in an attempt to catch him, but he was able to escape.
In 1892, he was finally killed by some lawmen. But, sadly, 26 years after his death, Ned was proven innocent because of witness testimony.
The Famous Monument
The rocky place you are looking at is the Canyon De Chelly monument located in the present-day Navajo Nation. Although it appears as a barren place, the soil of the site is very rich. It also houses some of the natural water resources.
During the Wild West, the Canyon was home to many Native Americans. They used to build houses in the alcoves to protect them from heat and sunlight. Besides that, the land also allowed them to stay safe from bandits and outlaws.
An interesting fact is that you will find many drawings in the caves of this monument. This is because they were meant to preserve the history of the natives.
Lady With The Huge Nose
Katherine Cummings also known as Big Nose Kate, was a Hungarian immigrant. She belonged to a noble family and suffered hardship after both her parents died when she was fourteen. After arriving in Kansas, she worked many jobs to make ends meet.
Initially, she worked at a boarding house for the wife of James Earp. After that, she began her venture of being a dance hall girl and gained some popularity. However, her last job as a prostitute was the one that got her the most fame.
In fact, she met Doc Holliday, who later married her during this job too. Her nose is one of her prominent features, as you can see.
The Apache Leader
The old man in the photograph is Geronimo, who was the leader and medic of the Apache tribe. He used to take his culture very seriously and always wore this feather crown on his head. His most famous accomplishment was uniting the Native tribes to fight against white settlers and Mexican rivals.
After the tribes gathered, he led a war against Mexicans in 1848. Geronimo and his warriors fought bravely during the battles. Eventually, he was forced to give up by the US army.
Geronimo died in 1909 at a hospital as a prisoner of war. He is gone, but his achievements have never been forgotten.
The man above is called Christopher Carson; however, he is more famous as Kit. He was an American frontiersman who played a significant role in the development of California. During his early life, he was a mountain man and a famous guide.
His most significant achievement was starting a war against the Navajo in 1863. He ended up being victorious and successfully imprisoned about 8000 Navajo in New Mexico. Carson is famous for terrorizing the natives and even burned their livestock and villages during the war.
No matter how the movies depict the Wild West, the era was not full of rainbows and sunshine.
The Famous Earp
The person you can see sitting in this picture is Wyatt Earp. He is one of the most famous Earp that lived during the Wild West era. During his initial adult years, he worked as a lawman in Dodge City.
Although he was a lawman, Wyatt had been accused quite a few times of various crimes. He is most famous for the gunfight that ensued in O.K. Corral. His friend Doc Holliday was also present at the site where they fought against four outlaws.
The other man in the photo is Bat Masterson. He was a colleague of Wyatt Earp and another famous lawman.
The Short-lived Gang
The young men you are looking at are the Rufus Buck Gang of the Wild West. Although their crime spree didn’t last long, their name is still known to many. These young guys look innocent, but in reality, they spread quite the terror.
Rufus Buck Gang killed many people and even raped at least two girls who died because of the wounds. The authorities eventually caught the boys. They wanted the gang to get a trial, but the judge they got was infamous for giving death punishment. Hence, on 1st July 1896 they were hanged for their crimes.
Joseph – The Chief
Chief Joseph was a very influential Native American chief of the 19th century. He became the leader of the Nez Perce after the death of his father. The tribe looked up to him and loved him a lot because of his brave actions.
Joseph conflicted with the government many times, who wanted the land of the tribe because of gold discovery. However, his efforts were commended by the Native members and helped him gain more power within the tribe. Later, to evade the US army, Joseph tried to retreat with his tribe to Canada.
His retreat was unsuccessful, but they managed to cover 1400 miles distance. That is why many people still remember his legend.
Hills That Are Black
Before getting the actual name, Black hills were referred to as hills that are black by the locals. It is one of the most important landmarks of the Wild West. In fact, in 1874, a gold discovery was made in the southern region of the hills.
Due to the discovery, the town of Deadwood came into being. The picture you are seeing was taken few days before the famous Battle of Little Bighorn. This crowd was the crew of Colonel George Custer, who was searching for a fort in the Black Hills.
Another fact you’d like to know is that the Battle was a massive defeat for the US Army.
Do you think this man looks like a member of a noble, wealthy family of the Wild West? If yes, you are not alone. The same thought popped up in our minds as well.
However, this is not any nobleman. He’s Tiburcio Vasquez, who was one of the most famous outlaws of that era. His criminal career continued for twenty years, and he managed to evade the lawmen through this period.
Eventually, Tiburcio was caught and hanged to death as per the law. However, many of his hideouts, such as the Vasquez Rocks, are named after him. Thus, you can get a gist that he was not some low-life criminal.
The Railroad Project
Civil War was a famous historical moment that many of you may know about. But, during the war, many other events also took place, which is of great importance. One such occasion was the construction of a railroad which was known as the Pacific Railroad.
It was the first intercontinental railroad of North America and took about years to build. Nevertheless, the railroad was a huge success and made transportation easier during the era. Such a project lifted the morale of people as well during the war.
Indeed, the Wild West era marked the beginning and end of many ventures.
The Outlaw Hero
Jesse James, the man in the picture, was an outlaw who was considered a hero by many people. He was mainly involved in bank and train robberies. Many of his loots were successful and made him rich within no time.
Besides that, Jesse was a Confederate, too, which is why he was considered a hero. However, the decision to join the guerillas was due to a personal vendetta. His family was killed by Union soldiers, which was the reason behind his hate.
His life had been famous, and Brad Pitt even played him as a character in a movie.
Mining – The Way To Become Rich
During the Wild West era, mining was a common profession for many people. It was very similar to winning the lottery. If you lucked out and found valuable ores, you would have become rich in just a day.
That is the reason why many were interested in mining. Unfortunately, the chance of finding something of value was meager at that time. Back then, people didn’t have the right tools for excavating something big.
However, some people were more determined than others. Eventually, their dedication led them to discover gold and becoming rich. Whenever someone used to find rare things, the miners shouted Bonanza, which was their term for valuable items.
The Dangerous Trail
Travelling was a dangerous task during the Wild West era. The routes were undeveloped, and there was the risk of bandits looting you as well. That is why rich people used to hire men for protection when going on a trip.
One of the common routes used by people was the Sierra Nevada Trail. As you can see, the path is very narrow, and the wagons had to stay at one side of the trail. Although the passage was risky, it was also the fastest way to reach the desired location at that time.
Trails like this paved the pathway for American expansion. Even now, you can still find traces of some trails across the West.
19th Century Migration
You may think that people during earlier eras used to settle in one place for a long time. However, migration was a common thing across the Wild West. It didn’t include moving fancy things through a truck but had more essence to it.
The picture is an example of what moving meant during the 19th century. People used to pack their essentials into a wagon and embark on a journey to a foreign land. Since traveling took days, they used to take breaks while riding, just like this couple.
Back then, moving used to help families bond more and get to know each other better. It’s amazing how the culture has changed so much since then.
The Brave General
General George Crook was one of the bravest Generals during the Wild West. He had a lot of military expertise and was known for leading troops to victory. In fact, during the civil war, he defeated the Confederates in five battles.
His heroism was one of the most talked-about things during that era and helped him rise to higher ranks. This photo was taken four years before his death. During the last years of his life, he showed support for the rights of American Indians.
As you can see, the scouts beside him are Indians, and the mule he is sitting on was called Apache.
The Famous Showmen
Buffalo Bill was a famous entity of the Wild West who used to put on shows for entertainment. Out of his whole crew, his cowboys were the most popular and used to re-enact gunfights. Buffalo cared a lot about his reputation, so he used to hire the best shooters for the show.
To get into his crew, the cowboys had to give an audition too. Once they got the job, they were paid really well. In fact, none of the crew members faced financial troubles during that time because of the shows.
The shows were so famous that sometimes 1200 performers had to be hired.
The Bad Outcome
European colonization was one of the remarkable moments of history. The white settlers got the best land and were happy with their new lives. However, there is one aspect of the movement that many people don’t acknowledge.
For the Native Americans, the colonization was one of the worst moments. First, they were forced to leave their homes and move towards the West. Afterward, the white people took away the better lands of the West, too, causing them to live on reservations.
The photograph is proof of the harsh conditions they were subjected to live through. As you can see, the land looks barren and far away from the local population.
The Wild West Bathing
Showering every day is part of our routines in the present day. However, during the Wild West, people used to bathe very rarely. In fact, many of them believed that bathing would make them ill.
That is why hygiene was not at its peak during that time. Women used to bathe at home by wiping themselves with a wet cloth. The men, on the other hand, used to stop by streams sometimes to have fun.
Swimming in the stream was equal to bathing for them. The picture shows some men in the water while others chose to stay clothed. That was because they were hesitant to wash due to their false notions.
The Female Sharpshooter
Annie Oakley was one of the most famous female shooters during the Wild West. Her skills were so exceptional that she got herself a place in Buffalo Bill’s show. She was also known for advocating for equal rights and pay.
This photo was taken before Annie went on a tour to London with the show. In London, she gained greater fame when she outshot another shooter called Lillian Smith. The audience was left shocked as Oakley was a young girl at the time.
Besides that, she also offered to train a regiment of female shooters during World War I. The offer was rejected, but her dedication was commended.
The Man With The Bullet Holes
During the Wild West, there was no technology to warn about criminals. The only thing that served as a warning was the wanted posters. These posters used to say “Dead or Alive,” but the capturers usually preferred the dead option.
As proof of death, they used to take pictures of the criminal after the deed. This photo is an example of the process. The man in the picture is Bill Doolin, who was an infamous outlaw.
Bill was killed by a lawman who shot him twenty times. That is why you can see so many bullet holes on Bill’s body.
Do you guys remember General Custer? A quick reminder, he was the guy who lost the Battle of Bighorn. Well, the handsome man in the above photograph is Curly, who was Custer’s scout.
Incredibly, he was only 17 years old when the picture was taken. Curly was a scout; that is why he was always close to the battlefield but far from any danger. After the battle, a rumor spread that he was the sole survivor of Bighorn, which gained him fame.
That is the reason why he got this picture taken soon after the battle.
The Road To Gold
You must be wondering what importance does a railway track has in the Old West’s history. Well, this is no ordinary track. During that era, this railroad led to a mine where gold ores were extracted.
After the discovery of gold, the mining industry changed to make gold mining easier. That is why this long track was built to assist the miners in transferring the gold. They used to place ores in carts, and using a pulley, the carriage was made to travel down the railway.
Once the other workers collected the ores, the cart was pulled up the railway for refilling. That was how the miners used to spend all their days.
The Bank Robbers
One of the famous train and bank robbers of the Wild West was the Dalton Gang. It included many members of the Dalton family who were angry about not getting appropriately paid. That is why they decided to resort to robbery and live the rich life they always wanted.
Many of their robberies were successful, which gained the attention of the Marshals. And, in 1892 the authorities busted them during a robbery. As a result, two of the Dalton brothers were killed, whereas one was captured.
Emmett Dalton was convicted for his crimes and served 14 years in prison. This marked the end of the terror that the gang spread.
The Wolf Hunt
When they were not outlaws, the cowboys used to spend their time hunting. This picture is from 1887 and was taken to capture the prideful moment of these men. After all, it was not an easy task to capture a gray wolf.
Predators such as the wolf were known for harming the cattle of the cowboys. That is why they used to carry out regular hunts to get rid of them. While some of them used to put down the animals using their revolvers, others liked having more fun.
Hence, many times live animals were captured so that the cowboys could take photographs before finally finishing them off.
Display Of The Dead
One of the most talked-about incidents of the Wild West was the gunfight that ensued at O.K. Corral. In 1881 the Earp brothers had a face-off with the Clanton-Mclaury gang at the site. The gunfight resulted in the death of the three outlaws.
The Mclaury family and Clanton’s were enraged and accused Wyatt Earp of wrongful murder. To make a bold statement, a sign was put in front of the bodies that claimed they were murdered. Later, they become a display at the hardware shop.
It grabbed the attention of many people, and the Earps were charged for murder but were acquitted a month later.
The Actual Gunslinger
If you’ve watched movies about the Wild West, then we bet you expected cowboys and gunslingers to be very handsome. Well, sorry to disappoint, but this picture is an accurate representation of how gunslingers actually looked like. Movies are fiction and well-known for inaccurate historical representation.
Across the Old West, most men were average-looking with a poor sense of fashion. They used to spend more time getting a fancy pistol than suitable clothing. However, we cannot blame them since during those times, fashionable clothes were not a thing.
Besides that, the gunslingers were not known to be romantic, unlike in western movies.
Have you watched the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? If so, then you might remember the character of Joe Lefors, who was the lawman. Well, guess what? The character is real.
This picture is of the real Joe Lefors, a lawman during the last years of the Wild West. His white hat always acted as a warning sign when he used to enter a room. He was well-known for arresting Tom Horn, who was accused of murdering a kid.
Besides that, Joe’s appearance and style also got him some attention. None of the officers used to dress up like him during that era.
The Barren Land
The Navajo Nation is the largest reservation in the US. It is a very bleak place due to barren land and extremely high temperature. During the Wild West, it was rare to find local civilization on this reservation.
The only time locals visited this land was when they were making a trip, and the route was in their path. In the picture, you can observe a Navajo family riding across the turn of the Canyon De Chelly. The rocky landscape is very beautiful in the present day.
In fact, now the land is being explored for minerals and oil to boost the country’s economy.
The Remarkable Beauty
The beautiful woman in this picture is Sarah Marcus, a well-reputed actress of the Old West era. She used to always be on tour and was famous by her stage name, Josephine. When she first came to Arizona, she married a sheriff known as John Behan.
Her marriage ended very soon because Josephine fell in love with the famous Wyatt Earp. They both married after her divorce and lived a harmonious life. However, there are rumors that the O.K. Corral gunfight began due to conflict between Earp and John.
Nonetheless, Josephine had a remarkable beauty that used to make men fall for her instantly.