How the West was won – well almost!

The Wild West, according to popular culture was action packed and exciting period in America. Now, clearly pop culture has made a few adjustments along the way because there were never quick-draw artists who could shoot a gun out of your hand with another gun. But surely the rest is factually correct?

Old Western movies portray Native Americans as terrifying people who would engage in sudden, murderous ambushes that could come from anywhere, at any time. Any expedition into “injun” territory came with the warning that you’d better go well-armed. We know that huge numbers of people died so frontiersmen must have been dodging arrows constantly right? Not really. Yes things got ugly between the government forces and the tribes but skirmishes between Native Americans and settlers hardly ever occurred. Of the hundreds of thousands of people who traveled across the land, only a few hundred died in clashes. Deaths from disease, however, were between 10 and 30,000! But dying from disease is nowhere near as glamorous!

During this same period, settlers killed over 400 Native Americans. Again, that’s not zero, but it does mean that the vast majority of settlers never got into a murderous conflict with hostile tribes. It was far more likely that the average settler would trade with Native Americans or hire members of various tribes as guides, rather than fight them. ‘Circling the wagons’ every night was probably not so much for protection but to stop their expensive cattle from going walkies. For information about a Rodeo Bull Manufacturer, visit

As for lawlessness and infamous criminals, well, yes lawlessness ruled due to the vast size of the country and vaults and security were pretty non-existent. However, researchers have only found evidence of eight true bank heists across 15 states in 40 years!

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Buildings were very close together in those days so a bank heist would probably be taking place right next door to the Sheriff’s Office and secondly, those old buildings weren’t that easy to get in and out of. The robberies by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid did actually take place hence their fame but most average criminal types would have concentrated on stagecoaches. They were isolated and didn’t have the Sheriff within earshot!

The iconic image of a cowboy is the Stetson hat and the boots of course. The hats were practical, defended from the hot sun and looked stylish considering you were essentially just herding cows. While it’s true that hats were the in thing back then, it doesn’t actually appear to have been the Stetson that was ‘in’. What you would have mostly seen in reality is bowler hats.

They were more popular because they were a little more versatile in various social situations. Looking back on most portraits from the time, you can find that almost every single major name in the West owned a bowler hat. Even the cowboy hats that Stetson was making in the late 1800s didn’t look like the Stetson hats we call cowboy hats today.