Rare Images of the Old West

photography_daguerreotype_old_west_curly_custer_crow_scoutPhotography became available just in time to capture most of the Westward movement of our nation.

Although too late for the Spanish Southwest and the early explorers such as Lewis and Clark, the arrival of the daguerreotype in America in the 1840s was just in time for the second half of the 19th century in the West. Beginning with the California 49ers, there now exists a priceless photographic record of those brave, foolish, reckless, legendary souls who opened up a frontier. Many were uneducated except in the way of the wilderness. Some were lawless and ruthless, while most were hardworking and religious. Native Americans, who stood in the way of the European invaders, were inevitably doomed, but they had great leaders and fought a noble battle for their way of life. Photographs taken by pioneer photographers from William Henry Jackson to Edward S. Curtis are a wonderful, beautiful and sometimes sad record of the Western landscape and its native people.

We are fortunate that thousands of local and traveling photographers captured every aspect of Western life. In the slide show, we offer a sampling of their photographs of Native Americans, mountain men, scouts, buffalo hunters, military leaders, cowboys, gamblers, gunfighters, rangers and showmen. Some of these images are of famous, or infamous, characters, whereas others are unidentified and unknown. In future issues, we will showcase other seldom-seen or never-before-published photos of people who were a part of the Old West.

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