48 Snapshots Of Life In The Real Wild West

Published April 25, 2017
Updated March 25, 2021

These authentic vintage photographs of the American frontier reveal what life was actually like in the "Wild West."

The American Frontier
Discovery Party On Horseback
Fort Belknap Indian Reservation
Abducted Jimmy Mckinn
48 Snapshots Of Life In The Real Wild West
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The American frontier holds a mythic space in our imaginations. And because of that, it's a place we envision more through the stories of the Wild West than through its actual history.

The real American frontier wasn't always as dramatic as it's made out to be in films, but it was a dangerous place, an untamed land. The settlers who traveled out West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had to live in defiance of nature and the elements without the comforts of civilization.

Whole families would gather together in wagons and ride off into the unknown, sometimes spending months living in the carriages that pulled them westward. Men, women, and children alike would endure as they crossed over mountains, across rivers, and through deserts in search of a new home and a better life.

When they arrived, they lived in houses built with their own two hands. They had to fend for water and food on their own and set up the very infrastructures of their new towns. Some made their way by working on ranches and farms, others by trapping and trading fur, and some by toiling deep in the mines of the new American frontier.

Life was full of dangers. Sandstorms, tornados, and hurricanes plagued their ramshackle homes. The natives of the land fought to keep it their own. And when lawlessness rose its head, men had to take justice into their own hands.

Wild West has become a legend, but the real world of the American frontier played out just a short time ago. It's recent enough that we even have photographs of the families that traveled out and the lives they made, little glimpses into life in the real Wild West.

Next, learn about the most iconic men and women of the Wild West and see the newly unearthed photo of Billy the Kid, just the second of its kind in existence.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer and teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.