Sandy dunes, wooden houses, savage Indians and rebellious cowboys, these are just some of the things that come to mind when we think of the wild west but to what extent. All these myths of associations with the American frontier, true, in actuality not. Despite its common misconceptions, there are many fascinating factoids and exciting events that took place during America’s infant years. These are 10 facts you probably didn’t know about the Wild West.
10: Bank Robbery in 1989
Bank robbers Tom McCarthy and Butch Cassidy both successfully robbed a bank in 1889 with minimal effort. They were given a hefty $21,000 in the process, which is worth over $300,000 today. McCarthy brought with him a small bottle of the powerful liquid explosive nitroglycerine. A bottle of the stuff could produce a large explosion. McCarthy held the bottle in his hand and called out, if I drop this we’ll all be blown to the next state. After receiving the money, the outlaws tossed the ball into a nearby bin which made a hasty retreat. Turns out the liquid was nothing more than harmless water.
9: Free Toothbrush
Denizens of the wild west had such nasty teeth that they refused to smile for family photos. The choppers were rotten or stained brown, thanks to excess tobacco and coffee consumption. It was the cowboys who made more of an attempt by cleaning their mouths by chewing twigs. After the toothbrush was invented and mass produced in 1857, some public eating places and stage coach stations offered a free brush, that visitors could use between them on a first come first serve basis. People did not have an understanding of germs and bacteria at the time, it only made their mouths filthier. One of the earliest toothpaste recipes to be introduced to the Wild West was a concoction of sugar, butter and bread crumbs. Which only rotted their teeth even more, still at least it was tasty.
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8: Poking A Dead Person
What would you consider to be an act of bravery, rescuing people in danger, fighting on the front lines for one ‘s country, or poking a dead person with a stick. Surprisingly enough the native Americans believed in the latter. They would usually take a special coupe stick whenever they engaged in battle. Touching a freshly slain enemy with it was impressive but poking someone who’s alive and living to tell the tale was deemed courageous. That is as long as someone could confirm to their elders that it happened. It was very risky, they could easily have been shot so cut down. Warriors will often have rewarded with eagle feathers for their head-dresses, it was not for fashion. They were cut or dyed in certain ways to inform that fellow tribesmen whether they killed an enemy or were injured in battle.
7: Tight Gun Control
Sounds of the Wild West did indeed have tight gun control. Usually a weapon was purchased for self-defense against bandits, Indians and for hunting. To draw in travelers and tourists the sheriff made sure their towns were safe for all. Visitors have to relinquish their guns or just leave them at home. Duels and horror attempts were rare, often these were conjured up by Barajas and novelist trying to reel in tourists with cheap exciting and purely fictional tales.
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6: Homes of the Wild West Made Entirely of Wood
You’ve seen them in films, TV shows and video games countless times, snug comfy homes of the West made entirely of wood, surrounded by wooden fences and so on. This depiction is historically inaccurate since wood was actually very difficult to acquire. When the settlers began to start a new life in the vast uninhabited lands of America, there was a common resource to construct houses with, making homes with bricks of grassy mud was very cheap and fairly effective. Though it didn’t withstand heavy rain particularly well. In any case, these were known as sod houses. You can probably imagine keeping them clean must’ve been a nightmare.
5: Billy the Kid from Wild West
What it comes to Western outlaws, few are unaware of the name, Billy the Kid, real name William H. Bonny. Most people don’t seem to realize that his legacy was posthumously built upon a lot of exaggeration and misconception. One of the most popular myths about Bonny was that he killed a total of 21 people, when he was 21 years old, including his very own mother at age 12. He even killed a man at a hotel for snoring too loud. These are all incorrect. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was 12. As for the people he killed, two were in self-defense and another two was during his escape from jail. The snoring victim was a made-up tale and besides, he died at age 21.
Where did all these myths come from? After Bonny was shot and killed in 1881, sheriff Pat Garrett of Lincoln County in New Mexico teamed up with ghostwriter Marshall Ashman to work in a biography called, “The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid.” It’s sold poorly and release and was pretty boring, so they decided to spice it up by portraying him as a bloodthirsty killer in later editions, not so authentic as they made it out to be.
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4: Shipping of Camels to Wild West
Riding on horseback was an effective way of traversing the American frontier quickly. The muddy sandy land was also home to a different kind of four-legged creature though, Camels. The US Congress decided to put $30,000 towards the shipping of camels from Egypt to America in 1885. After all camels could handle the heat very well and did not need to drink as much water to remain hydrated in comparison to horses. Two years later, the army had about 70 camels at their disposal. When war broke out, some escaped and bred, others were killed in the battlefield. You might have spotted the occasional feral camel lurking around, however, they died out for good around 90 years later.
3: Origin of Wild West
What we think of cowboys, images that come to mind include handsome rebels, fending off countless bad guys with that trusty 6 shooters and one could forget the famous piece of headgear these synonymous cowboy hats. In truth most cowboys would Caucasian, they were usually Mexican or freed slaves. Their headgear was usually a simple black bowler hat. Their jobs consisted of transporting large quantities of cattle to different settlements around the country, and nothing more. While they were armed, it was mostly for self-defense. Riding around for hours upon hours of horseback daily was boring and uncomfortable. Perhaps Hollywood was right to have shown us anything but the boring reality of being a full-time cowboy.
2: Spotting Aliens by Wild West
Do you believe in extra-terrestrial life? What is the idea of space sources crash landing in 1947, sound like a farcical overblown hoax? Strangely enough, there were reports of encounters with spaceships and unknown creatures predating the iconic Roswell incident by 50 years. In 1896 three slender 7 feet tall creatures were reported to have attempted to abduct Carmel Spooner and Colonel HG Shaw from Lodi California. According to Shaw’s report, he spotted a 150-foot-long ship. They claim to have fended off the attackers and that the three unknown figures walked rapidly towards the ship, not as you are I walk, with a swaying motion and disappeared. A spooky encounter or a snake in the boots of truth, you decide.
1: Prostitutes of Wild West
One does feel sorry for women who forced themselves into a life of bikes in order to survive in society. Conversely, prostitutes of the Wild West were actually some of the richest people around. These working girls popularized makeup, socially drinking and dancing, legal use of contraception and more. Unlike most women who are unable to work, acquire any sort of health insurance or divorce lovers, prostitutes had all of these things. They even hired policemen as muscle against violent customers or lovers. In fact, some were so rich, they put some of the funding towards road building projects and irrigation. The working girls of the Wild West will by no means slaves, as some feminist historians may argue. You could say that they changed American society for the better, outside a lot of work of course.
Those are the 10 facts you probably didn’t know about the Wild West. Don’t forget to check out our other lists and thanks for staying with us for a while.