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Americans Have An Awesome Story – Let’s Make Sure That It’s Not Forgotten

“Westerns are closer to art than anything else in the motion picture business” – John Wayne

The Trail BossThe Cowboy and The Limitless Land that he Roamed.

The Trail Boss

No folks here, real or fanciful, ever acted out a role on a more spectacular stage than the Old West provided for cowboys. West of the Misssissippi, the prairie undulated in ripples of grass for a thousand miles, then rose toward the cool summer pastures of the high Rockies. Beyond the Rockies, the land dropped to the red-brown wash of the intermountain basin, then climbed again to the pastures of the Sierra foothills in California. Few pieces of country seemed more inviting to a cattleman than- “land for nothing!” as some exulted. Though the West may have looked like paradise to the cattle investors and ranch owners, there were days when it felt like hell to the ordinary cowhands. The contrast in altitude between mountains and lowlands bred killing extremes of hot and cold. A Montana winter night could freeze a steer in its tracks at 50 below, while summer noon on the Arizona desert might well be more than 110. The winds could be deadly, rolling over the treeless prairie from Houston Bay to Texas, dropping the thermometer 50 degrees in one day. Ranch hands called these winds “blue northers,” and despised them. Such brutal elements helped to carve the shape of the land, and together with the land, they shaped the character of the cowpuncher, – hard-scrabble and as,- tough as the mesas that he rode. In his resolute way, a more fascinating man than the half-fanciful one of the Western sagas.

In 1876, the centennial of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. was still divided into two parts, one settled, one wild. The boundary between them was the 98th meridian, a line where diminishing annual rainfall caused eastern forests to stop and grasslands to begin. To the east, 31 states were settled by 42 million people. To the west of the meridian lay all the parts of seven states and nine territories, populated by a mere two million souls. The few towns of any size were scattered across an enormous territory whose uncivilized land and peoples had long been scorned by even the most farsighted Easterners.

Only to the white man was nature a “wilderness” and only to him was the land “infested” with “wild” animals and “savage” people.To us it was tame… Not until the hairy man from the east came and with brutal frenzy heaped injustices upon us and the families we loved was it “wild” for us.When the very animals of the forest began fleeing from his approach, then it was that for us the “wild west” began.
Luther Standing Bear, Lakota Sioux, 1933

It is to be feared that a great part of (the West) will form a lawless interval between the abodes of civilized men….. Here may spring up new and mongrel races, like new formations in geology, the amalgamation of the “debris” and “abrasions” of former races.
Washington Irving. 1836 

What do we want with this vast, worthless area? This region of savages and wild beasts, of deserts, shifting sands and whirlwinds of dust, of cactus and prairie dogs?…. I will never vote one cent from the public treasury to place the Pacific Coast one inch nearer to Boston than it now is.
Daniel Webster 1838

We seem to have reached the acme of barrenness and desolation.
Horace Greeley, 1859

Sometimes we have the seasons (in Nevada) in their regular order, and then again we have winter all the summer and summer all winter… It is mighty regular about not raining though… But as a general thing… the climate is good, what there is of it.
Mark Twain, circa 1865

How the Wild West REALLY looked: Gorgeous sepia-tinted pictures show the landscape as it was charted for the very first time

These remarkable 19th century sepia-tinted pictures show the American West as you have never seen it before – as it was charted for the first time. (coming soon to Western Encounters)

Timmothy O Sullivan

The photos, by Timothy O’Sullivan, are the first ever taken of the rocky and barren landscape.
At the time federal government officials Timothy O’Sullivan, who usTimmothy O Sullivaned a box camera, worked with the Government teams as they explored the land. He had earlier covered the U.S. Civil War and was one of the most famous photographers of the 19th century. He also took pictures of the Native American population for the first time as a team of artists, photographers, scientists and soldiers explored the land in the 1860s and 1870s. The images of the landscape were remarkable – because the majority of people at the time would not have known they were there or have ever had a chance to see it for themselves. O’Sullivan died from tuberculosis at the age of 42 in 1882 – just years after the project had finished . He carted a dark room wagon around the Wild West on horseback so that he could develop his images. He spent seven years exploring the landscape and thousands of pictures have survived from his travels.

native Americans

The project was designed to attract settlers to the largely uninhabited region. O’Sullivan used a primitive wet plate box camera which he would have to spend several minutes setting up every time he wanted to take a photograph. He would have to assemble the device on a tripod, coat a glass plate with collodion – a flammable solution. The glass would then be put in a holder before being inserted into a camera. After a few seconds exposure, he would rush the plate to his darknative Americans room wagon and cover it in chemicals to begin the development process. Considered one of the forerunners to Ansel Adams, Timothy O’Sullivan is a hero to other photographers according to the Tucson Weekly. ‘Most of the photographers sent to document the West’s native peoples and its geologic formations tried to make this strange new land accessible, even picturesque,’ said Keith McElroy a history of photography professor in Tucson.

‘Not O’Sullivan.
‘At a time when Manifest Destiny demanded that Americans conquer the land, he pictured a West that was forbidding and inhospitable. ‘With an almost modern sensibility, he made humans and their works insignificant. ‘His photographs picture scenes, like a flimsy boat helpless against the dark shadows of Black Canyon, or explorers almost swallowed up by the crevices of Canyon de Chelly.’