Perhaps the most famous gunfight in history, and certainly in the history of the “wild” West, occurred on Oct. 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona.
The “Wild West” was quite a place. While it was not really as violent as movies make it out to be, the homicide rate in Western towns is estimated to have exceeded 97 per 100,000 citizens. That compares to a rate today in the United States of 4.88 per 100,000 people.
Interestingly, the United States is only 94th in the world in terms of homicide rate. El Salvador currently has a higher rate than even the American West during the “wild” days, and 47 countries today exceed 10 homicides per 100,000 people.
In addition to shootouts, another stereotype of the time was the cattle drive. While it is common to think that cattle drives went on simultaneously across the West, in fact there was typically only one town at a time where the cattle drives ended—the end of wherever the railroad happened to be. Famous cattle towns included Wichita and Dodge City, Kansas, where the railroad paused for a time, but towns like Newton, Kansas, also had their chance to host hungry and thirsty men looking for companionship and fun after driving their cattle north from Texas.
- How important is the “Wild West” in America’s identity?
- When you think of that period, what first comes to mind?
- Was it a heroic or a tragic period of history?
15, Oct. 2018, The Five Earp Brothers [Digital image]. Retrieved from < americancowboychronicles.com>.