Tag Archives: Old West

How Illness Created the Cowboy Hat

A Dying Wish Produced an American Icon

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There was no sugarcoating it: John was going to die. Sooner rather than later.

Cowboy hatTuberculosis, the doctor said. And in the 1850s that was a death sentence.

Difficult as that diagnosis was to hear, it was doubly hard for a young man. John was in his 20s, barely an adult. Now his life was about to end just as it was beginning.

With his lungs giving out and his strength weakening, John did some serious thinking. The seventh of 12 children, he was a hat maker in New Jersey, a trade he had learned at his father’s side. But with his days numbered, John didn’t want to waste them working in a hat shop. Continue reading

How An Army Officer Missed Out On A Fortune

The one decision that cost him a bundle

 

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Every so often, inspiration strikes and inventors devise the gadgets that move society forward. Such as the automobile. The personal computer. The Pet Rock.

Inspiration visited a young army officer one day. The things he created found an eager market. But because of just one decision, he didn’t make a dime off them.

The next time you feel like you can’t catch a break, remember Henry Hopkins Sibley, and you’ll know what bad luck really is. Continue reading

Meet the Old West’s Last Gunfighter

From Oregon State Archives.

You know Jesse James and Billy the Kid. You’ve watched “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” and heard tales of John Wesley Hardin and the Dalton Brothers. All legends in their time, all still outlaw icons today.

Every era eventually ends, and the Old West was no exception. The lawlessness that began with the Civil War’s conclusion stretched into the earliest days of the 20th Century. And when that era finally wrapped up, who was its final desperado?

Meet Harry Tracy, who went down with guns blazing in 1902. He was wildly famous in his day, much like John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde were later on. If the FBI had existed then, he would have been Public Enemy #1. Continue reading