The old West, land of conquest, of a few people getting rich and many who died in cruel gory ways. Land which the European colonists, from either Europe or the East America, were stealing from the native Americans through killing and massacres, only for the sake of seizing more territories.

The Wild West pictures that inhabit our mind are mainly coming from the American production of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s which created the icon of Saloons, Cowboys, puritan women vs. prostitutes, the Whiskey culture, the tough men, the immense desertic expanse between Nevada, California and Texas.

but was the picture that the directors portrayed of the Old West representative and accurate?

Naturally, like any other stereotype, it is complex to imagine a life spent only by battling and looking for gold, without anyone growing plants or carrying the most humble duties, despite the high rate of Afro American slaves. In this gallery of pictures you are about to see there are displayed some frames of old saloons and at their inside the main characters of this epoch.


Below: Klondyke Dance Hall & Saloon in 1909, Seattle

Amongst them it is possible to notice some cowboys, but beside them also many ordinary people, dressed in a not so different way from the ones you could have met in Europe or the already civilized New York back then.

The first “real” saloon was the Brown’s Saloon in Wyoming, in the border between Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, also known as the “Brown’s Hole”. The bar opened in 1822 and its clients were mainly  fur hunters. Another popular saloon in 1820 circa was in Colorado in Bent’s Fort, which was operating for the soldiers stationing at the fort.

Below:  Shamrock Saloon in 1905

In California the opening of the saloons followed the Gold rush, started at the end of the 40’s in the 19th century. In a short time 30 different saloons opened up, were the pioneers would be accommodated and they would spend the few coins they had managed to gather up in the mines.

In the Saloons they were drinking Whiskey, sometimes with the addiction of tobacco or burnt sugar, which then would assume several names: Firewater, Dynamite, Redeye, or Bug Juice. There was also the Mule Skinner, mixture of the BlackBerry liqueur and whisky, or the Cactus Wine which would include tequila, tea and peyote. There was also loads of beer, even though certainly not served as cold as it is nowadays.

Below: inside view of the Table Bluff Hotel & Saloon in California, 1889

Inside the Saloons, beside drinking it was also possible to smoke opium and restore with one of the professionals working for the bar. These women were furthermore the only ones as the ones from the village were not allowed inside the saloons.

In 1893, due to brawls, shooting and brothels, the situation had gone so out of control that an “Anti-Saloon League” popped up; this organization was a precursor of the future prohibitionists  from the 20’s and 30’s in the US. The saloon era was about to turn to an end yet the icon that it would have left behind was far from being forgotten.

Below: scene from the street in front of the Clancy’s Saloon in Skagway, Alaska. October  1897 during the gold rush in Klondike

Below: Judge Roy Bean’s saloon in Langtry, Texas. Beginning 1900

Below:  Pozo, California, 1870. The Pozo Saloon, built in 1858, is still existing and visible on the right

Below:  Saloon in Ehrenberg, Arizona, 1911

Below: Arcade Saloon in 1898. Eldora, Colorado

Below: Wyatt Earp’s Saloon in Tonopah, Nevada,  1902. The woman on the horse on the left could be Josie Earp

Below: some men at the Road House Saloon of Bluff City, in Alaska. 1906 circa

Below: gaming table in the Orient Saloon di Bisbee, Arizona. 1900 circa

Below: inside view of the Toll Gate Saloon in 1897. Black Hawk, Colorado

Below:  Bar Room in 1885. Charleston,  Arizona

Below: “Second Class Saloon”, Alaska,  1° July 1901

Below: Bob Saloon of Miles City, in Montana, 1880

Below: Long Branch Saloon of Dodge City, in Kansas, built in 1874

Below:  Crystal Palace Saloon of Tombstone, Arizona. 1885

Below: inside of the Long Branch Saloon. Dodge City, Kansas

Public domain pictures

Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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