Cowboys of The Wild West

Historically called "vaqueros" these cowboys were the heroes of the Wiled West in the U.S. from the 1800s through 1900s.
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The word "cowboy" is a direct translation of the Spanish word "vaquero" - literally, cow man, referring to men who took care of cattle. In the Americas, the tradition of vaqueros dates back to the 16th century when the Spanish brought horses and domesticated cattle to the New World. In the American West in the 19th century, especially in Texas but also in California, the lifestyles of the Spanish and European settlers merged, giving rise to the cowboy of the West. An early settler of Texas described the region (not yet a part of the United States) as having " . . . countless droves of mustangs and wild cattle . . . abandoned by Mexicans when they were ordered to evacuate the country." The new settlers used these resources to create their unique lifestyle and cowboy ways.

The cattle industry expanded in the 1880's because of the greater demand for beef by the public and the building of railroad systems for distribution and into the Rocky Mountain west and the Dakotas. Due to the colder weather in these areas, the gear and clothing of the cowboy changed. Depending on the area, this included most of the following: a bandanna, chaps, cowboy boots, cowboy gloves, jeans, and a cowboy hat. But cowboys were always involved in the same activities - taking care of cattle, branding them, rounding them up, and driving them to market. Many ex-Civil War soldiers, Native Americans, and freed African-American slaves were drawn to the freedom of the life and the ability to work in a less discriminatory atmosphere. But cowboy work involved long hours and low pay: usually $1/day, food, and - if near the ranch - a room in a bunkhouse.

The Wild West Shows of the late 19th and early 20th centuries popularized and glamorized the cowboy image. The image was further etched into the minds of people who never experienced real "cowboying" by movies, beginning in the 1920's. Often, historic cowboys in movies have been portrayed as fighting with Native Americans but this was unusual. The local tribes did, however, often charge a toll for driving herds through their lands - usually 10 cents a head.

These are photos of the real cowboys of the early West - and some of those who portrayed them in movies.
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Irvin Rolfe Phippeny, San Benito, Texas in the mid 1940's
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
New Mexico, 1918, Father's day. Jim Lafferty holding son William Browning Lafferty and with them are Jim's son Joseph Cole Lafferty: They just finished a horse ride and Jim (James Annis) Lafferty also known as Santiago Lafferty isholding his son William Browning Lafferty and his son Joseph Cole Lafferty beside them.
People in this photo:
Feb 16, 1875 - Unknown
Robert Sherman Stewart and Orson Pratt Stewart in Duncan Arizona in 1913. Robert Sherman Stewart, is in the center of the picture.
People in this photo:
Mar 25, 1895 - Unknown
This is my grandfather Rollie Felts cooking at a chuck wagon in New Mexico in the summer of 1936 or 1937.
People in this photo:
1898 - Unknown
A photo of Ned Coy, a famous Dakota cowboy.
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
Thomas Edwin Mix was one of the very early Western movie stars between 1909 & 1935. Shown here is one of his publicity photos.
People in this photo:
Jan 6, 1880 - Oct 12, 1940
A photo of Will Rogers on the radio in 1930. His radio show was the most popular Sunday evening show, his newspaper columns were read by millions of people in the US, and he was the second biggest motion picture box office draw. A great wit, Will Rogers died in a plane crash in Point Barrow, Alaska Territory in August of 1935. (Alaska didn't become a state until almost 25 years later.) One of America's greatest wits, some of his quotes are: “A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people. ” "We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others." “When I die, I want to die like my grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.” "There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves." "Never miss a good chance to shut up." "Too many people spend money they haven't earned to buy things they don't want to impress people they don't like." “Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.” “All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that's an alibi for my ignorance.” "Common sense ain't common.” “Don't let yesterday take up too much of today.” “When you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.” “I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” “If stupidity got us in this mess, how come it can't get us out.” “The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.” “The more you observe politics, the more you've got to admit that each party is worse than the other.” “Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can't buy enough to eat.” “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.”
People in this photo:
Nov 4, 1879 - Aug 15, 1935
Buffalo Bill's Wild West cast members. Arthur Carl Pohley is mounted.
People in this photo:
Oct 10, 1873 - Nov 7, 1963
Added Jul 10, 2019 by: Faith Koch
Faith Koch
13 favorites
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My grandfather, Arthur Carl Pohley, was with the Bill Cody Wild West Show.
People in this photo:
Oct 10, 1873 - Nov 7, 1963
Added Jul 10, 2019 by: Faith Koch
Faith Koch
13 favorites
A photo of Marianne Estes. She was a trick rider/rodeo queen. She's carrying a flag in the rodeo parade on Main Street, Baird, TX.
People in this photo:
Oct 6, 1924 - Mar 26, 2000
Added May 4, 2019 by: Deana Workman
Deana Workman
7 favorites
This is a photo of Ted Connell, who he is ? but part of Callie Ballard's photos. This actually is an interesting photo, the movement of the horse, was caught very well without blurring and I know they time frame to be early 1900's . so I am impressed. Bar T Ranch.
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
Added Dec 18, 2016 by: Kelly Sullivan
Kelly Sullivan
271 favorites
A photo at Gerendot Ranch. Do not know who the folks are, but someone Callie Ballard knew.
Added Dec 18, 2016 by: Kelly Sullivan
Kelly Sullivan
271 favorites
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A photo of Julian Ratowski
People in this photo:
Feb 8, 1921 - November 1985
Added Oct 4, 2016 by: Waldemar Libera
Waldemar Libera
3 favorites
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These outlaws were part of the Dalton Gang that was wiped out in Coffeyville Kansas on October 5th 1892 during their daylight robbery of two banks. The Dalton Gang was notoriously famous in Oklahoma for holding up trains and many murders. They successfully evaded authorities for a year and a half which led to a bit too much self confidence. On October 5th 1892 they attempted a daylight robbery of the First National and Condon Banks in their old hometown of Coffeyville at the same time. Two of the Dalton brothers-Bob and Emmett-headed for the First National, while Grat Dalton led Dick Broadwell and Bill Powers in to the Condon Bank. One of the townspeople recognized a member of the gang, and while the gang split up to rob both of the banks the townspeople surrounded both banks at the front & back entrances and shot them as they attempted to escape. Every member except for Emmett Dalton was shot and killed. Emmett was wounded and sentenced to life in prison but after 14 years he won parole. He eventually landed a role as a screenwriter in Hollywood, CA leveraging his experience in the Wild West. He died at the age of 66 in 1937. Outlaws were shot and killed in the Old West then put on display as a sort of 'crime deterrent'. Taking photographs of dead outlaws was a common practice: My own great-grandfather, whose father was a Marshall, had many of these types of photos in his family album.
Added Jul 7, 2016 by: Kathy Pinna
Kathy Pinna
23.0k+ favorites
This photo was in a box belonging to Andrew Franklin "Frank" O'Barr (1887-1938). It is believed this photo was from his time living in Montana. He Was in Montana because of his service in the Army, between 1914-1923. He married Lila Pauline Harvey on 19 September 1916 in Livingston, Park, Montana. Their daughter, Harriet Genevieve, was born 29 April 1917 in Big Timber, Sweet Grass, Montana. They divorced on 31 January 1919 in Livingston, Park, Montana. If you know any details about this photo, please share. We have no information since the box was found after Frank's death.
Added Feb 4, 2016 by: Kristi Quist
Kristi Quist
50 favorites
A photo of unknown Youngblood or Wilson men. This is a old copy of a tintype photo. Don't know the relationship or who they are. My family are Youngblood living in the area of Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. My grt grand father was Lemuel Youngblood aka Lem and wife Ellen Francis Bowen. My grandparents were Isom Izarone Youngblood and Pearl Margaret Wilson; however, none of the Wilsons recognize the people nor have pictures of anyone near the resemblance of these two men.
Added Oct 29, 2015 by: Allene Wilson
Allene Wilson
3 favorites
A photo of Isaac "Peg" Thomas Reynolds. Photo taken early 1900s in Woodward, Oklahoma. I only know my 2nd great grandfather, Isaac "Peg" Thomas Reynolds is the one on the far left. Love this photo! True cowboys.
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
Added Oct 6, 2015 by: Kirsten Bullins
Kirsten Bullins
50 favorites
A photo of Carol Joyce Halverson Washburn McMahon Ewens (passed 1996)
People in this photo:
Added Sep 9, 2015 by: Becky Ewens
Becky Ewens
84 favorites
A photo of Howard J. Parker, at right, with two unidentified men.
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
Added Apr 21, 2015 by: William Parker
William Parker
35 favorites
A photo of Howard Parker branding cattle in the summer of 1898 or 1899 on Howard J. Parker's Cedar Creek Ranch near Medicine Lodge, Kansas. Howard was Arthur Parker's father. Arthur Parker is on horse at left; Howard J. Parker is 2nd from left; Walter Parker has the steer's tail. Photo courtesy of Bob Osborn.
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
A photo of Kevin Robert Johnstone (1953 - 2010), aka cowboy, living his dreams
People in this photo:
Mar 9, 1953 - Jan 5, 2010
Added Jan 4, 2015 by: Kimberly Booth
Kimberly Booth
4 favorites
A photo of Joseph Benjamin Moore
People in this photo:
1858 - 1934
Added Nov 21, 2014 by: Tony Thomas
Tony Thomas
6 favorites
Gifford doing his favorite thing...being a cowboy
People in this photo:
Apr 9, 1945 - Aug 18, 2002
A photo of Lawrence R Gifford, April 9, 1945. - 2002. This was taken in a photo shoot that a photographer from LA did. It was a series of Larry ridding & roping. About 1990
People in this photo:
Apr 9, 1945 - Aug 18, 2002
A photo of Captain Enoch Elmer Stubbs, my daughter in laws gr gr grandfather. He was the Wingshot Champion of The World. Capt Stubbs performed in various Wild West shows including Madison Square Garden in the late 1800's.
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
Howard Diersch & others, Alberta Homestead: Early 1900s. Back caption says 30 miles from Red Deer River
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
This is a picture of my Grandfather: James William Green. It is believed that the picture was taken at a studio in Cheyenne Wyoming, he was around the age of 16.
People in this photo:
Feb 29, 1898 - Jan 31, 1981
Added Mar 23, 2013 by: Ronda Hewett
Ronda Hewett
94 favorites
A photo of Elizabeth Odessa (Williamson) Green, David, Dunkle. James William Green's 2nd wife.
People in this photo:
around Aug 28, 1914 - around May 25, 1983
A group of Honey boys (unnamed) heading out to form a posse in New Mexico in the 1920's.
Several of these cowboys in Fairland, OK. are the Blair brothers,sons of Robert Blair & Calista E. Bishop Blair. I think this picture was made in the 1920's They are relatives of mine.
Added Nov 11, 2012 by: Jean Lay
Jean Lay
85 favorites
Frank Felts draws his sidearm while on horseback. This picture was most likely taken in west Texas, possibly near Tascosca, circa 1890. He was my grandfather's (Rollie) brother.
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
The first episode of Bonanza premiered on September 12th, 1959. Bonanza was the first regularly scheduled television program shown in color and ran for 14 seasons generating a total of 430 episodes. Characters include Dan Blocker as 'Hoss' Cartwright, Michael Landon as 'Little Joe', Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright, and Pemell Roberts as Adam Cartwright. The last episode was aired on January 16th, 1973.
People in this photo:
Dec 10, 1928 - Unknown
Michael Landon on a horse in parade. Found with my Great Grandma Romack's things, This photo of Michael Landon. my cousin sent this to me. No date or location known.
People in this photo:
Oct 31, 1936 - Jul 1, 1991
Added Jul 19, 2012 by: Chasity Conley
Chasity Conley
205 favorites
A photo of Max Terhune, Harry Van Noy, and Gene Autry, taken in the 1930's.
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
This is my grandmother's half brother, Simon Curtis Manasco, b. 11 Dec 1919 in Texas, USA; d. 14 Jun 1974 in Dallas, Dallas, Texas, USA. FATHER: William Joseph (Willie) Manasco 1891 – 1926; MOTHER: Elizabeth Rebecca Beckham 1896 – 1985; He married Helen W.; Served in the US Army.
People in this photo:
Dec 11, 1919 - Jun 14, 1974
The White Front Saloon in Duncan, Arizona. The saloon was owned and operated by Robert Sherman Stewart. the person on the far left is Robert Sherman Stewart.
People in this photo:
Mar 25, 1895 - Unknown
Added Jun 15, 2012 by: Gayle Kenemore
Gayle Kenemore
17 favorites
Pedro Sloss of Texas, b.November 19,1894; d.June 11,1974, dressed in a cowboy suit.
People in this photo:
Nov 19, 1894 - Jun 11, 1974
My dad has labeled this as taking place on the Flying H but that's all the identification I can offer. Oh, and I say this only because that is the only name listed, the camp cook was called "Nigger" George. Any clue what his real name was is welcome.
Another group of Flying H cowboys, names unknown, late 1920s thru 1930s. West of Artesia NM, foothills of the Sacramento mountains.
Bill Rayborn interviews Roy Rogers and Dale Evans while a senior at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Also pictured: Trigger!
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
James Elton Baker was born June 27, 1913 to James and Martelia Woods Baker in Marshall, Arkansas. His stage name was Elton Britt. Photo was on a piece of sheet music also advertising Layman Cameron and the Mentholatum Mountaineers, and says below the photo, "starring Elton Britt, His Favorite Cowboy Songs". Back of sheet music has a photo of the "Mentholatum Mountaineers" which included Charles Barber, Layman Cameron, Edde Smith, Charles Magnante, Ginnie Blue and Ezzie Ford. Elton Britt made singing appearances in several Hollywood western films, and it was often said that his singing was better than that of Jimmie Rodgers. Elton was also a composer and wrote several well-known pieces of musice. James E. Baker died June 22, 1872 in Pennsylvania. He was famous during the 1930's through the 1960's for his singing and yodeling. Some of his work can be heard/viewed on youtube.com
People in this photo:
Unknown - Unknown
Added Jan 15, 2012 by: Pam Marks
Pam Marks
3.93k+ favorites
This is a photo of Wild West Performers, 5/29/23 added by Ancient Faces on January 11, 2012.
Added Jan 11, 2012 by: Ancient Faces
Ancient Faces
322 favorites
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