What are myths about the American West between 1845-1900s?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The American West has been heavily romanticized in popular culture. However, life in the West was not quite so exciting or appealing as it was depicted in John Wayne movies. Here are three inaccurate myths about the American West during the latter half of the 19th century.

  1. The West was incredibly violent. Most people believe frontier settlers were constantly committing violent acts due to the absence of adequate law enforcement. However, most Western violence occurred between the U.S. government and Native Americans, not American settlers.
  2. American settlers constantly clashed with Native Americans. In fact, these sorts of conflicts were quite rare. Native Americans only killed a few hundred American settlers, and vice versa. Once again, most of the actual clashes took place between the American military and the Native Americans.
  3. Americans invented the cowboy. The cowboy is a classic symbol of Americana, but he existed before the English had colonized the continent. The 19th-century American cowboy actually descended from the Mexican vaquero.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial