1 October 2014
Wild West vs. Reality
In the late nineteenth century, a new form of sensational fiction emerged. Called dime novels because of the five to twenty-five cent sale price, these pocket-sized books told short stories of American frontier adventure. Often stereotypical, these stories centered on macho heroes and damsels in distress, which never venturing far beyond plotlines of capture and rescue and pursuit and escape. The nature of these stories, which featured a set number of identifiable characters such as Deadwood Dick and Old King, kept readers coming back for more.
Despite the exaggerated violent stereotypes perpetuated by dime novels, the so-called Wild West wasn't quite as violent as we've been led to believe over the years. The image of the Old West that exists in the popular imagination is largely fictional. It's all part of a myth that was created in the late 19th century by the dime novel authors, whose goal was to enthuse their breathless, eager readers back East to draw them toward the west.
The Wild West era, in fact, was considerably less bloody than the violent reputation it has garnered over the years. Famous Wild West outlaw cowboys were often exaggerated but to tell the truth many lived very routine and monotonous lives.
The truth is cowboys in the Old West were not all giddy and heroic. They had jobs to accomplish that were difficult and they did not receive much leisure time. On the silver screen, cowboys were portrayed as old, fighting men. In reality, they were unusually just reaching adulthood and did not have their own family. Although there were not many African American cowboys in the movies, they made up a large amount of cowboys in reality. One of the most famous African American cowboys...