The Real Wild West: A Photographic Exploration of its Untold Stories

May 31, 2024

Olive Oatman was abducted and sold to the Mohave tribe who gave her a noticeable blue tattoo on her face. 

History books tell us a simple story about the old west. There are tales of cowboys, Native Americans, and law west of the Pecos... but it's not the whole story. These beautifully colorized photos tell the real story about the wild west.

These snapshots of gunslingers, lawmen, and '49ers on the search for gold will show you what the history books never could. Look closer... in each photo you'll find an entire life story full of ups and downs.

Each rare, colorized photo collected here has the ability to transport you back to one of the most beloved eras of America... when the west was still being won. Keep searching and discover the true story of the old west.

source: wikimedia commons

After she was kidnapped by an unknown Native American tribe from her homestead in what we now know as Arizona in 1851, Olive Oatman was sold to the Mohave people. She spent five years living with them. During that time they tattooed her face with the blue ink that you can see clearly in the photo.

Oatman was released after half a decade and she immediately returned home. A book was written about her time with the Mohave, and she went on a tour that helped push sales to more than 30,000 copies. After the hubub died down she moved to Sherman, Texas where she became involved with charity work while wearing a veil over her tattoo.

Wild Bill Hickok before he was caught with a "deadman's hand"

source: wikimedia commons

The world knows him as "Wild Bill" Hickok, but he was born James Butler Hickok in 1837. In his short life (he didn't live to see 40-years-old) he was everything from an entertainer, to an infantryman, and a gunslinger - although he was known to add a little spice to his personal history from time to time. However, the strangest thing about Wild Bill is that most of his stories were true.

Wild Bill was shot during a game of poker in Nuttal & Mann's Saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. At his time of death he was holding two pairs: aces and eights, all black. That hand soon became known as the "dead man's hand."