I always figured it was after the Civil War until 1899. However, I’ve read some articles that say the Old West time period extends into the early years of the 20th century. Is there any historical agreement about this?
The old west pretty much ends at statehood - when they became civilized…
So 1912 with the admission of Arizona.
I always thought that once the railroads connected the country, it opened it up to a mass of everyday sort of folks (end of Wild West). But I would expect that “Wild West”-type lifestyle, behavior and environments would extend well into the 20th Century because no region is homogenous enough to “advance” at the same rate. Thus more remote areas would have more in common with earlier decades than urbanized areas.
Depending on what you mean by the Old West… As pan1 said, Arizona didn’t become the 48th state until 1912, Oklahoma became a state in 1907 so that could be considered the last of the Old West “territories”. Of course you could look at western Canada and the Yukon Territory and Alaska and say that the Old West there lasted until probably the '30s or 40s.
If you mean the lifestyle of the Old West, such as living out in the rural area, no modern conviences such as electricity or phones, being pretty much self sufficient, raising your own food only going to town a couple of times a year, there were lots of places that lasted until well into the 1950’s.
According to Frederick Jackson Turner ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Jackson_Turner#Turner.27s_Frontier_Thesis ) “the frontier” which might be roughly analogous to ideas of “the old west” (which are of course themseleves something of a construction of later media), was basically from the formation of the country lasting until the 1890 census showed that for all practical purposes the whole country was settled.
Of course that’s the sort of socio-economic distinction. If you are more interested in our cultural images, you could say it starts with Lewis and Clark and the mountain men, with the communities which sprang up during the California Gold Rush and the beginning of settlement of Oregon in the 1840’s being the first that I think would have resembled the stereotypcial western film set.
The other end of things is harder to define. I think for all practical economic and social purposes, Turner’s definition is correct (even in places like Arizona, most settlements within the territory had governments and it wasn’t the free-for-all earlier expansion had been). But one must admit that things that seemed distinctly old-west-y continued to occur well into the 1910’s, such as train robberies, gold rushes (on a modest scale), and plus that whole Pancho Villa business.
In terms of the general milieu of small western towns, the 1930’s was the crucial decade-- towns that at the start of the decade looked much like stereotypical old west towns with muddy roads, false-fronts and boardwalks either disappeared due to depression economic conditions or got some of their first civic improvements (paved roads, electricity, ect) from New Deal programs.
In the introduction to The Virginian (published in 1900), Owen Wister refers to the timeframe of the novel in this sentence:
*Any narrative which presents faithfully a day and a generation is of necessity historical; and this one presents Wyoming between 1874 and 1890.
Here he is clearly referring to a bygone era, what we would call the “Old West”. Note that this was only ten years in the past, nonetheless, it was clearly a time and a place distinct from his own.
Cinematically, I’d say with The Wild Bunch, which is set in 1914. The last of the Old West outlaws, going out with a bang.
Another vote for the early 1910s, as the show ‘Wild West Tech’ seem to cover the period from 1830s to 1910s over it’s three seasons (one segment showed the use of an armored Model-T to attack striking miners).
And if you can’t trust the Carradine brothers to get it right, who can you trust…
As **GreasyJack **implied, it was in 1890 when it was made offiicial. The superintendent of the 1890 census announced that the frontier was now closed.
As this thread so powerfully illustrates, there is no agreement on this of any kind. Nor can there be. Each use tends to look at a different dimension and therefore uses different definitions. There would not be any agreement even within those definitions.
I actually was thinking of the other, real Wild Bunch - Butch Cassidy’s. They last operated in the USA in 1901, which seems as good a place to end as any other. Checking wiki it seems the vestiges of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang in the loosest sense lasted up until ~1910, which also seems pretty reasonable.
It depends on the state and the local, the regional indian tribes, the population centers, the different homesteading phases, and the railroads.
By the 1880’s Denver and San Francisco were major developed cities that were more like the EAST, than the old west. Nobody in Denver or San Francisco in 1880 feared an indian attack.
On the other hand 1880 Arizona could be a dangerous, primitive, and wild place to be
By 1890 all of the indian tribes in all states west of the Mississippi were captured or on reservations, and the military was abandoning and tearing down forts in the west.
I think if you took a 4 month wagon train to California in 1850, you would call it a trip thru the old west, but if you returned to the east via a 2 day luxury railroad car in the 1870’s, it would not seem like “the old west”, nor the same place that you walked thru 20 years earlier at all.
FWIW … Wyatt Earp died in 1929.
Well that was where they ended the Old West in The Shootist – 1901, coinciding with the death of Queen Victoria.