Historical Wild West Photos

Wild West was brought to life not just by stories but also because of the photos.Historical Wild West Photos taken by photographers like Timothy O’Sullivan who captured many historical Wild West Photos in the 1860s and 1870s. He also covered the U.S. Civil War and showed history through his photos. These historical photos of the wild west are the best-known images America would ever have.

Timothy O'Sullivan

His photos significantly contributed to America when he was taken as an official photographer on the U.S. Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel under Clarence King. This is an expedition to document the new frontiers in Western America. His task was to take photographs and attract settlers, he soon became one of the pioneers in geophotography.

Historical Wild West Photos of Timothy O’Sullivan

Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel under Clarence King

O’Sullivan captured the natural beauty of the American West for the first time in a film by taking photos of the untamed nature.

Colorado River in the Black Canyon, Mojave County, Arizona
This photo was taken in 1971, in the Colorado River in the Black Canyon, Mojave County, Arizona. He worked as a military photographer under Lt. George Montague Wheeler for the U.S. Geographical Surveys West of the One-Hundredth Meridian. We can see that a man was sitting down on his wooden boat probably preparing to fish in the middle of the river.

White Settlers started to travel across the Mississippi in the hope to find their fortune in mining gold. Most of them were interested in establishing ranches and farms too. This was made possible after the completion of railroads to the West when the time that areas were opened up for settlement and economic development after the Civil War.

The mining town of Gold Hill

O’Sullivan traveled to Virginia City in 1867 to document the Savage and the Gould and Curry mines on the Comstock Lode. It was the richest silver deposit in America at that time. He was lucky to have an improvised flash because he needs to work 900 feet underground where it was absolutely very dark. This photo shows a miner inside a tunnel.

Miner inside a tunnel

The discovery of springs solved clean water scarcity in the Old West. It was believed that hot springs can cure many diseases. Back in the Old West times, people can be lucky if they bathe once a week. That being said diseases were rampant. So when a man passes this kind of spring, they are considered lucky to take a dip and cleanse themselves.

Man bathing in hot spring

Due to the loss of the bison, and the drastic growth of white settlers, the lives of the Native Americans were affected. American Indians were defending their land which would often result in conflicts. In failure to defeat the natives, the government gave them the lands that are least desirable for the white settlers.

Pah-Ute (Paiute) Indian group

Another famous photographer in the Old West that captured the most historical photos in the era was John H. Grabill who was best known for his American Indian photographs. He sent one hundred eighty-eight photographs to the library of congress for copyright protection he took in 1887 to 1892. His remarkable photos in sephia tone captures the history in South Dakota and Wyoming.

John Grabill
Grabill Devils Tower 6 cropped | Historical Wild West Photos

He traveled to Devils Tower in October of 1890. He has a mission to get signatures for a petition to create a Devil’s Tower National Monument to be presented to the President, Congress and Secretary of the Interior

download 2 1 | Historical Wild West Photos

This photo from Grabill’s collection shows an interview with Standing Elk, Running Hog, Little Wolf, Col. Oelrich, and an Interpreter. The three Cheyenne men wearing their ceremonial clothing and holding their rifles, while greeting a Euro-American man in a suit and his interpreter in front of a building was taken by Grabil.


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