The American Frontier, also known as the American Old West, and famously known as the Wild West too was made up of its geography, history, folklore, and culture. During the period of the European Colonial Settlement during the 17th century, the forward wave of American Expansion in North America began. It ended in 1912, with the acceptance of the last few western territories as states, except for Alaska as it was not admitted to the Union until 1959.
President Thomas Jefferson was the one who encouraged the massive migration and settlement to follow the Louisianna Purchase. The legends, folklore of the American frontier, and the historical events have been lodged to themselves and the Old West times were the defining moment of every American.
Life in American Old West
But before winning, every place goes through rough times. Living in the Old West was not easy. The era may have been glamourized in films, but in reality, it was not as dandy as what we hear.
Men and women who traveled across the Old West for migration always encountered difficulties in finding clean water and a place to bathe. Migrants might have gone on for weeks without bathing. Even when they reached their destination, water was very limited. Families preserve water by taking a bath in one tub of water. To them, taking a bath once in ten days is a form of luxury. Most often than not, they would not wash their dishes and clothing too.
Spitting was common in the Old West days, especially inside saloons. The spit was covered with dust and this becomes the carrier of microbes on the spit. Pneumonia and Tuberculosis were very common back then.
To lessen the excessive spitting of tobacco, spitting on train platforms and stations was prohibited. Once caught, a fine of $500, a year in prison, or worse, it can be both.
Because of the lack of hygiene and clean water, diseases were rampant in the Old West. Aside from cowboys who were made famous in films, there were doctors too. What keeps them busy are the epidemic cases, gunshot wounds, and sexually transmitted diseases. Unfortunately, not all doctors finished their degrees, and many people can just pretend to be doctors and advise medicines that are not too reliable. The shortage of professional doctors was one of the challenges, so it was possible that self-taught healers to practice cutting-edge medicine.
Some doctors perform surgeries without the use of anesthesia. Frontier treatments mostly include poisonous compounds like mercury in strong dosages that has bad side effect like weakening of the gums.
Superstitious people accuse doctors of doing the devil’s work. One instance was when a doctor performed an operation removing a large ovarian tumor without anesthesia. They declared that the doctor was butchering the woman. Luckily, the woman survived the surgery that went for 25 minutes. The doctor was able to save her from the 22 pounds of tumor occupying her ovaries.
Due to scarcity, cowboys need to travel from one town to another to get employment. Cowboy’s life was not easy in the Old West, they don’t get paid too much for their heavy workloads. Because of this, they transitioned to becoming outlaws robbing banks, stagecoaches, and trains.
This made life in the American Old West worst. Lawlessness was one of the problems in the Old West. Many people disregard the law, they can easily make crimes such as robbery and murder. Outlaws kill people like they were a normal thing to do. This is because the number of law enforcers was very little compared to the growing population. In addition, some law enforcers become an outlaw because their salaries could not make both ends meet.
Criminal sentences could either be imprisonment or death by hanging. But most often, criminals die even before they get their sentence. Either by law enforcers who chase them, they could be killed by the people of the Old West, especially if they have a bounty over their head or they could be killed by their rival gang.
The American Old West truly has a rich history. It is worth watching them re-enacted in some movies. It was a good thing that the remarkable era of America was survived by many people despite the difficulties in life there was.
What was The Old West Known For?
The Old West was known for being wild because of its lawlessness.
Does the Old West still exist?
It’s not the same as in the 1800s, most structures were preserved and some were replicated to show their culture.
What is considered the Old West?
What has considered the Old West was the frontier area west of the Mississippi including the territories of Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Colorado.