Celebrating the West

True West enters its eighth decade with hope and promise.


In 1911, the cowgirls in the second annual Pendleton Round-Up whoop it up before the competition begins. Courtesy Library of Congress


When Joe Small launched True West from his office in Austin, Texas, in 1953, little did he know that his pulp would still be around 70 years later—or that his adopted hometown would be the de facto capital of the American Sunbelt. Sitting halfway between Jacksonville and Los Angeles, Austin was the perfect perch from which to launch his Western history rocket into popular culture. And as Small was soon to discover, the 1950s was the perfect decade. Westerns equally ruled the movies houses, the living room and the newsstand. Highways westward were soon bumper to bumper with station wagons loaded with kids and camping gear, toy six-guns and coonskin caps. Sputnik and the bomb, Marilyn and Elvis, Dean and Brando, Chuck and Jerry Lee were everywhere and so was the Lone Ranger, the Rifleman, Marshal Dillon and the boys from Bonanza. And don’t forget Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and the King of the Wild Frontier, Davy Crockett. And while tourists flooded Texas in search of their own Ole Betsy and a piece of the Alamo, a frontiersman named Walt Disney was changing it all in a California orange grove.

What have we learned since that first decade of publishing in the 1950s? The cliché answer is the more we learn the less we know. But, the truth is, we are in a renaissance period of research with the digitization of primary sources and a generation of scholars who are determined to find the answers to age-old historical questions. Our goal at True West is to continue to be a source where the history of the West is illuminated through new and entertaining scholarship.

Seventy-one years later, the editors of True West continue to chronicle the Old West with the understanding and promise that we will continue to bring the best in Western history, culture and travel writing to our readers.

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