Fascinating Facts About The Old West

Posted by Editorial Staff in History On 7th January 2017
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American’s love the old west. Gunfights. Stage Coach robberies. Cowboys and Indians. Hearty pioneers were heading west. Gold Rush fever. Outlaws. Poker games and saloon brawls. Life in the old West can almost seem romantic at times, and there are plenty of gritty Western films that fully perpetuate this notion. No matter what your vision of the old west may be, it’s likely that the reality of nineteenth-century western life is not nearly what you may have envisioned. Here are some strange facts about the Wild, Wild West that you probably didn’t know!

#1 Multiculturalism

The classic Hollywood picture of the West involves white, all-American tough guys teaming up with or fighting other American white guys or Indians. Sure, you'll get a few black people in there, maybe a handful of Mexicans and the odd Irishman for ‘comic' effect, but it was predominantly true-blooded Americans who were pictured taming the wild west.

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#2 There Were Many Nationalities

However, there was much more diversity than Hollywood led us to believe. Like late 19th century New York, the Wild West was a hotbed of multiculturalism, with people of all nationalities vying for some room. Rock Springs in Wyoming counted as many as 56 nationalities in a population of under 10,000. Slovakians, Finns, Norwegians, Germans, Ottomans, Swedes and Chinese all poured into the South and Midwest; an influx that only increased with the Californian Gold Rush. The image of the old West as a bedrock of American values is a Hollywood holdover from a time when casting non-American voices and faces was pretty much a no go.

#3 Camels

At no point in his cinematic career did John Wayne ride a camel. But guess what? If he had, it would've been totally legit. See, the Southwest United States used to home to hundreds of feral camels. thanks to the government. In 1855 congress assigned $30,000 for the buying and shipping of camels from Egypt. The idea was that a bunch of grumpy dromedaries would fare better in the scorching Southwest than horses, making long survey missions easy. The camels began to multiply fro the original 66 to over 1,000.

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#4 The Civil War Broke Out

In the chaos that followed, a number of camels managed to escape into the wild where they did what any other wild animal does and bred like crazy. For nearly 100 years, feral camels were a part of Texas' wildlife, with the last sighting reported in 1941. Some that didn't escape were sold for meat or to the circus. In your grandparents' lifetime, the United States was home to wild camels.

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