marshall trimble ask the marshall true west magazine

What did cowboys read for pleasure?

Chris Robinson
London, Kentucky

Cowboys were likely to pack a dime novel featuring Jesse James, Bess the Trapper or Wild Bill Hickok in their saddle bags—action stories. A surprising number of mountain men loved to read Shakespeare and recite the stories around the campfires. Some of them liked to spice up the stories with colorful profanity.

Here is a list of other popular books during the 19th century:

Mark Twain: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, James Fenimore Cooper: Last of the Mohicans and Deerslayer, Louisa May Alcott: Little Women, Stephen Crane: The Red Badge of Courage, Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice, Herman Melville: Moby-Dick, Charles Dickens: David Copperfield, Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Holy Bible.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

Related Articles

  • ask the marshall true west magazine

    Did the Cowboys or the Pioneers use Snowshoes in Tough Winters?

  • ask the marshall true west magazine

    What illness did Jim Bowie have that confined him to a cot just before the…

  • ask the marshall true west magazine

    Horses rarely get shot in the Westerns, although they often go down when the rider…