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the myth & legend of the west. Photograph of lithograph by Gaylord Watson, 1881, depicting a romantic land known as the "Great West". Photography & Art of the West. Yosemite Valley, (1866) Albert Bierstadt.

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the myth

& legend

of the west

photograph of lithograph by gaylord watson 1881 depicting a romantic land known as the great west
Photograph of lithograph by Gaylord Watson, 1881, depicting a romantic land known as the "Great West"

Photography &

Art of the


American westward expansion is idealized in Emanuel Leutze's famous painting Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way(1861).
This painting (circa 1872) by John Gast called American Progress is an allegorical representation of Manifest Destiny.
famous wild west quotations
Famous Wild West Quotations
  • “Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time.” –anonymous
  • “The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with watches you shave his face in the mirror every morning.”—anonymous
famous wild west quotations1
Famous Wild West Quotations
  • "I love it. It is wild with adventure."
    • Henry Starr describing the bandit life in the Old West shortly before he was shot to death in a gunfight in Arkansas.
  • ''I'm not afraid to die like a man fighting, but I would not like to be killed like a dog unarmed.''
    • Billy the Kid in a letter to Governor Lew Wallace, March 1879.
the cowboy code
“The Cowboy Code”
  • Cowboys followed an informal code, ideals that all cowboys followed.
    • "A man's got to have a code, a creed to live by, no matter his job.“
      • John Wayne
  • Always be courageous. Cowards aren't tolerated in any outfit worth its salt.
  • A cowboy always helps someone in need, even a stranger or an enemy.
  • Don't inquire into a person's past. Take the measure of a man for what he is today.
  • Never steal another man's horse. A horse thief pays with his life.
  • Defend yourself whenever necessary.
  • Look out for your own.
  • Remove your guns before sitting at the dining table.
  • Never order anything weaker than whiskey.
buffalo bill
“Buffalo Bill”
  • William Frederick Cody (1846-1917), known as Buffalo Bill, served as U.S. army scout, a buffalo hunter for the railroad, and as a renowned prairie scouts.
  • He is probably best know as the man who gave the "Wild West" its name.

In 1883, Cody created the Wild West show, a vehicle that propelled him to fortune and worldwide fame and helped create a lasting image of the American West.

buffalo bill1
“Buffalo Bill”
  • The four hour show, which ran from 1883 until 1913, included legendary figures such as Sitting Bull, Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley.
  • It comprised such acts as Indian war dances, an "attack" on a stagecoach, trick riders, ropers, and shooters as well as many different wild American animals.




Colt .45 Revolver

God didn’t make men equal.Colonel Colt did!


“Painted Ladies” &

Saloon Workers

In the Wild West, the harsh Puritan sanctions were not as “practical” as in America’s more conservative eastern counterpart.

Many of the people of the West were raised on farms or small communities where animals were often seen mating.

painted ladies
Painted Ladies
  • And though the “proper” ladies still labeled those who didn’t share their values—by virtue of dress, behavior or sexual ethics, as “disgraceful,” the shady ladies of the West were generally tolerated by other women as a “necessary evil.”
  • The California ‘49ers labeled these women with names such as “ladies of the line” and “sporting women, while the cowboys dubbed them “soiled doves.”
western women the saloons
Western Women & the Saloons
  • The biggest difference in the American West was the presence of girls in saloons.
  • This was unheard of east of the Missouri River, except in German beer halls, where the daughters or wives of the owners, often served as barmaids dancers, and waitresses.

Literature oft the

Old West:

Dime Novels

dime novels
Dime Novels
  • Jesse James Protector. No. 113.New York: Jesse James Stories, 1903
dime novels1
Dime Novels
  • Crack Skull Bob. No. 5.New York: Orum & Company,1872
dime novels2
Dime Novels
  • King of the Wild West's Cattle War or Stella's Bout with the Rival Ranchers, Crack Skull Bob, no. 170New York: Smith Publishing, July 20, 1907
dime novels3
Dime Novels
  • Jessie James the Outlaw, no. 2New York: Jesse James Stories, December 22, 1897
dime novels4
Dime Novels
  • Young Wild West Missing; or Saved by an Indian Princess, no. 8New York: December 12, 1902
dime novels5
Dime Novels
  • Jesse James's Oath or Tracked to Death, no. 6, January 19, 1898 New York: Street & Smith Publishers, 1898

The Old West:

Let’s Go to

the Movies!

john wayne quotations
John Wayne Quotations
  • "Talk low, talk slow, and don't say too much."
    • Reportedly, this quote was an acting tip from John Wayne to fellow actor Michael Caine.
  • "Courage is being scared to death - and saddling up anyway."
john wayne quotations1
John Wayne Quotations
  • Inscription on Wayne's headstone:
    • "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learnt something from yesterday."
discussion question
Discussion Question:
  • What do the images of the landscape and individuals reveal about attitudes of Americans toward the American West?
  • What inaccuracies about life in the American West could you find in the examples of literature, art, photographs, and Hollywood movies displayed in this presentation?