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A Step Back In Time: Adventuring the Wild West

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Imagine a time when America’s most beautiful natural wonders were yet undiscovered. Vast plains of the Western United States were empty, save the wild bison and native tribes. Imagine trekking across the unmarked terrain as the first American settlers, and seeing the untamed West for the first time.

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The very first residents of the Western United States were the Native Americans, also known as the American Indians, due to Christopher Columbus’ mistake of believing America to be India. The chiefs of the Native American tribes of the Western United States are pictured above in their traditional headdresses.

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When settlers ventured into the Wild West, they found the Native American tribes in their natural habitats, living in teepee structures within small communities just like this one.

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Settlers arrived to the Wild West in covered wagons just like this one. The family pictured above traveled to Oklahoma from the Eastern United States in this wagon. All of their worldly possessions were in this wagon, and they have a hard journey ahead of them.

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In the evenings, the families would park their wagons and set up campsites, similar to this one, to refuel their horses and their families, and to rest for the night. Danger often abounded when families stopped to rest. There was no telling who was around that may try to rob a wagon, or what animals were around lurking for food before their hibernation. Because of this, families often only stopped to rest for a few hours and then kept on their way. The traveling was exhausting.

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As more and more settlers came to the Western United States, horses and teams of men would use systems, like the one pictured above, to build up the settlements into towns and cities, and to build roads and railroads. Building settlements took a lot of time, energy, manpower and horsepower before they were finally complete.

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Growing families like this one built their own houses on the Western soil, making this newly discovered land their home. The homes were often only one room, with one bed and a fireplace, and, if they could afford it, a stove for cooking. The houses were small and simple, but these families were willing to sacrifice a lot to be a part of settling the Wild West.

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As the cities grew, the widespread Eastern American population started to drive out the original landowners, displacing many Native Americans. Pictured above, a group of Native Americans sit on the steps of one of the new buildings in the Wild West settlement. This was the source of many acts of violence against both parties, as the Native Americans fought the settlers to keep their homeland. Unfortunately, many families like this were displaced and forced to start their own settlements.

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As many people know from watching old Wild West films, gambling was increasingly popular during this time in the West. However, cowboys didn’t play poker quite as much as a game called Faro. In the photo above, you can see a group of gamblers playing this game: a Wild West favorite.

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The saloon was popular for more reasons than just gambling, though. Above, see a group of cowboys enjoying a drink at the nearby saloon. Saloons were also a central part of the community and a hub of information for newcomers. The saloon provided fun, and even when it got a little rowdy, it was a popular place, allowing people to come together.

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Every community had to have a schoolhouse, too. Pictured above is a school teacher in her classroom with her students, behaving properly for the photo before they begin lessons for the day.

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The Wild West is famous for its outlaws and duels, but there were several robberies, too. On April 30, 1884, a bank in Kansas was robbed. The thieves gunned down the banker and the cashier, murdering them both. In one last-ditch heroic effort, the cashier of the bank in Medicine Lodge, Kansas sealed the vault as he fell to his death, leaving the robbers with no access to the money inside. Above, see the robbers, who were captured by the authorities and put to death.

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Duels were common on the streets of the newly founded settlements. With little legal system, the Wild West was very much an “every man for himself” kind of society. Above, see a duel between two men being broken up by a local tradesmen.

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Above, see pictured one outlaw group that is widely famous: Butch Cassidy and his crew.

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Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody were also famous outlaws, pictured above.

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But every criminal must be brought to justice. Pictured above, see a group of lawmen, known as the Arizona Rangers, in 1903, ready to capture some criminals.

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One of the most famous parts of Wild West culture is the enactments from Buffalo Bill’s troupe. The Perry twins, pictured above, dressed in traditional garb and were part of Buffalo Bill’s act in the early 1900s.

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Because of the new terrain and the hard journey, death was common for many different reasons in the Wild West in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Even simple sicknesses could be deadly during this time because of the lack of medical care and medicinal purposes. Disease and injury also made the death toll climb. Above, see a family burying their loved one in the traditional wooden casket of the day.

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Despite many obstacles and troubles, the Wild West was settled, and now is home to many of the most beautiful parts of the United States. The Wild West is home to several of America’s National Parks and is visited by millions of people every year. Above, see one of the earliest photos of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, taken in 1937.

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