The American West, quite an iconic phrase really. When i hear it, i think of my childhood days, watching old western movies with my family, eagerly awaiting the moment when they would draw at noon! No doubt, many people feel the same way, we each have a very clear image of what the old west was like in the early days of American history. The law of self defense, the fastest draw, ghost towns and striking it rich when you find gold. Yes we all know what the west was like, or do we? Did the movie capture it accurately? Or are we just under the illusion of a sensationalist view of the old world?
During the early days of this now, great nation, it was quite a popular spot for settlers, mostly because of the freedoms one could have there. Though, in the first major wave, the east cost was populated quickly and growth was swift. After a short time there was very little to be had in these regions for late aspires. At this time, many turned inland, to the vast expanses of uncharted lands, the dangerous belly of the continent. As each settler took up their claim to land and settled down, you had to travel farther and farther from the east, until people had to go so far, there was no longer much government regulation or law enforcement. It was during this period, one may say a period of anarchy and chaos, that most of the depictions seen in film were based.
The government at this time was seeking to grow the economy and so made land acquisition cheap enough to allow farmers to afford it and still make enough to pay off national debts. There was even a law passed that gave free plots of land to all adults while wealthy plantation owners were busy setting up slave plantations on prime land. As the lands in the east became scarcer however, the lands of the natives was eventually sought after and this began the period of the Indian wars. Many lives were lost in these wars and I believe we can all agree on who won. Eventually, all was settled and the west was won, the result, the great nation you see today.
The movies may have been entertaining, but they told a story of a very difficult period for many people and sadly, many of the stories told my films, have some strand of truth to them.