Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge City: Re-creating the Frontier West

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University of Oklahoma Press, Aug 23, 2018 - History - 280 pages
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“Shootin’—Lynchin’—Hangin’,” announces the advertisement for Tombstone’s Helldorado Days festival. Dodge City’s Boot Hill Cemetery sports an “authentic hangman’s tree.” Not to be outdone, Deadwood’s Days of ’76 celebration promises “miners, cowboys, Indians, cavalry, bars, dance halls and gambling dens.”

 The Wild West may be long gone, but its legend lives on in Tombstone, Arizona; Deadwood, South Dakota; and Dodge City, Kansas. In Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge City, Kevin Britz and Roger L. Nichols conduct a tour of these iconic towns, revealing how over time they became repositories of western America’s defining myth. Beginning with the founding of the communities in the 1860s and 1870s, this book traces the circumstances, conversations, and clashes that shaped the settlements over the course of a century.

Drawing extensively on literature, newspapers, magazines, municipal reports, political correspondence, and films and television, the authors show how Hollywood and popular novels, as well as major historical events such as the Great Depression and both world wars, shaped public memories of these three towns. Along the way, Britz and Nichols document the forces—from business interests to political struggles—that influenced dreams and decisions in Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge City.

After the so-called rowdy times of the open frontier had passed, town promoters tried to sell these towns by remaking their reputations as peaceful, law-abiding communities. Hard times made boosters think again, however, and they turned back to their communities’ rowdy pasts to sell the towns as exemplars of the western frontier.

An exploration of the changing times that led these towns to be marketed as reflections of the Old West, Tombstone, Deadwood, and Dodge City opens an illuminating new perspective on the crafting and marketing of America’s mythic self-image.

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List of Illustrations
Exciting and Violent Towns
Longhorn statue Dodge City Kansas 2008
Creating Wild West Heroes
Cover of Deadwood Dick by Edward L Wheeler
Luke Short
Rewriting Town Histories
Hangmans Tree at Dodge City museum
Old West Celebrations
The Days of 76 advertisement 1926
Movies Television and Tourism
The Town Too Tough to Die 1942
James Arness as Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke 1956
Museums and Preservation
Deadwood renovations ca 2006

Early Tourism
John Henry Doc Holliday
Ed Schieffelin Obelisk 2007
Boot Hills as Attractions

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About the author (2018)

Kevin Britz (1954–2011) received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Arizona under the direction of Roger L. Nichols. He worked as a museum professional and published articles in South Dakota History and the Journal of Arizona History.

Roger L. Nichols is Professor Emeritus of History and Affiliate Professor of Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. He is the author of American Indians in U.S. History and editor of The American Indian: Past and Present, Sixth Edition.

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