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

March 22, 2024

Bass Reaves, the inspiration for the Lone Ranger

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

Believed to have inspired the Lone Ranger, Bass Reeves was one of the first African-American lawmen of the old west. Born a slave in Arkansas in 1838, he was conscripted to fight for the Confederate Army while living in Texas years later. During his time in the military he escaped to Oklahoma, then known as Native territory.

Following the ratification of the 13th Amendment Bass went on to have more than 10 children in Arkansas before returning to Oklahoma where he began taking down criminals who flocked to the territory. As the first Black U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi he arrested more than 3,000 outlaws all without suffering a single shot. Bass was one of the most well known and beloved lawmen of the era.

A King Of The Plains, Circa 1898


This fine cowboy is a piece of art first produced for a postcard in the late 1800's. Cowboys like this one have long been a popular subject in art, capturing the imaginations of artists throughout America. One of the earliest depictions of cowboys in art can be found in the work of Frederic Remington, a renowned artist who specialized in capturing the rugged, adventurous spirit of the American West. His iconic sculptures and paintings of cowboys on horseback, often engaged in dangerous activities like roping or hunting, helped to define the image of the cowboy in popular culture. Other notable cowboy artists include Charles M. Russell, who also created realistic portrayals of cowboys and their day-to-day lives, and Georgia O'Keeffe, who took a more abstract approach to capturing the essence of the West.