The Ghost Dance movement that swept through the western Indian tribes in the late 1800s formed a tragic trajectory from Sitting Bull’s death to the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890. After the U.S. government corralled Indians onto reservations, Congress promptly cut appropriations, drastically reducing rations for Indians at a time when crops were failing. A… Continue reading Plains Indians and the Tragic Lure of the Ghost Dance
It’s a bit overwhelming to write a post about Wounded Knee, both because of the complexity of the events leading up to the massacre and the enormity of the heartbreak, but I wanted to note the date—126 years ago today. What was originally called a battle and now widely acknowledged as a massacre happened two… Continue reading Remembering the 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee, S.D.
You’d think the answer would be simple, but the question sent me down one rabbit hole of research after another. Sitting Bull, the great Hunkpapa Lakota leader, was killed on December 15, 1890, at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota during a botched arrest. He had surrendered to federal authorities several years earlier, but… Continue reading Where is Sitting Bull Buried?
In the course of doing some research, I stumbled on a fascinating item about rodeo star Bill Pickett. He invented bulldogging, the only standard rodeo event that can be traced to a single individual. “The End and the Myth” describes it this way: “He could throw a steer without using his hands, forcing the beast… Continue reading Bulldogger Bill Pickett and Blacks in the Old West
A photo of Ulysses Grant colorized by Mads Madsen The spring issue of the Civil War Trust’s Hallowed Ground magazine had photos of Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee that I’d seen before, but this time I did a doubletake. The photos were in color. I was baffled for a moment. There was no color… Continue reading Historical Icons in Living Color
It’s impossible to imagine the Old West without horses. Impossible to imagine cowboys, outlaws or lawmen making their way across the plains without them. I recently volunteered to help with a 30- and 50-mile endurance riding event to learn more about the sport, and in the process, I learned a lot about horses, which naturally… Continue reading My Kingdom for a Horse
The recent Wild West auction in Harrisburg, Pa., included a trunk owned by Celia Ann "Mattie" Blaylock, Wyatt Earp’s second wife. I couldn’t verify its origins, but I wonder if it was the one that surfaced in the 1950s when her nephew read an article about the opening of a new museum in Dodge City,… Continue reading Mattie Blaylock Earp: Hidden from history
A gun that once belonged to Wyatt Earp sold for $35,000 at an auction held by the city of Harrisburg, Pa., in July. The label on the gun’s grip reads: "To Wyatt Earp, Welcome From the Citizens Committee of Nome." Wyatt moved to Nome, Alaska, in 1897 at the height of a gold rush. While… Continue reading Unearthing Wyatt Earp’s revolver
When I was researching the Doc Holliday artifacts auctioned off in Harrisburg, Pa., I was dismayed that the auction house’s website erroneously refers to Las Vegas, Nevada, as the last place Doc Holliday practiced dentistry. It was Las Vegas, New Mexico, as any student of Western history would know and as the letter accompanying his… Continue reading The original Las Vegas
Harrisburg, Pa., recently auctioned off about 8,000 historical artifacts that former Mayor Stephen Reed had collected for a Wild West museum that never happened. The auction netted the city $2.7 million, which sounds good except that Reed reportedly spent $8.3 million buying the stuff. Allen Barra, writing in the October issue of True West magazine,… Continue reading Of dental chairs, frock coats and the hearts of women
It’s hard to believe now, but in the first half of the 19th century, tuberculosis—or consumption, as it was known until the 1880s—was responsible for one in five deaths, making it America’s deadliest disease. It was widely believed to be hereditary (like insanity), in part because multiple family members across generations died of the disease.… Continue reading Doc Holliday’s incessant cough
Bass Reeves Just in time for the release of Disney’s “The Lone Ranger” movie, the July issue of True West magazine has an intriguing article about the possible real-life model for the masked man. The author, Art T. Burton, wrote a biography of Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves, and he makes a compelling case. Reeves,… Continue reading Bass Reeves: The inspiration for the Lone Ranger?