The Wild West was a time period in American history when civilization was being extended onto the Western frontier. This was an era of dangerous lawlessness in the wilderness and among the settlements, and the heroes and villains who arose would pass into legend.

History

When the western United States were first opened for settlement, the promise of gold strikes, land ownership, and personal freedom attracted people from all walks of life out onto the new frontier. Trains of Conestoga wagons made their ways across the prairies, deserts, and mountains of the western territories.

Proud and often hostile tribes of Indians inhabited these regions, and criminals unwelcome elsewhere made this part of the world extremely dangerous for the pioneering farmers, ranchers, miners, and other settlers moving into these new lands. Gunmen on both sides of the law led violent lives here, and typically died young.

Slowly but surely civilization asserted itself, as soldiers, then rangers, then marshals and sheriffs gradually gained control of the area. By 1920, most of the territories had attained statehood, while towns and cities were founded. Stagecoach trails and railroads were built, and telegraph cables were strung, to connect these settlements to each other and to the more established cities back East.

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