Yuma I ScTug - History

Yuma I ScTug - History

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Yuma I

(ScTug: t. 136; 1. 92'; b. 21'; dr. 10'3" (mean); cpl. 22)

Asher J. Hudson, later renamed Yuma—a tug built at Camden, N.J., by John H. Dialogue and Son and completed between 1888 and 1891—was inspected by the Navy at New Orleans, La., on 1 July 1918 and taken over from the Alabama Coal Transportation Co., of New Orleans, soon thereafter given the classification of SP-3104, Asher J. Hudson was commissioned at New Orleans on 1 August 1918. She operated locally out of New Orleans for the duration of the war. The tug was classified YT-37 on 17 July 1920 and subsequently renamed Yuma. She was eventually decommissioned and sold on 5 August 1921 to the Crown Towing Co., of New Orleans, LA.

Yuma Territorial Prison 1875 - 1909 by Bob Foster

Old time western dime novels as well as modern popular western novels and movies nearly always depict the plight of prisoners in the Arizona Territorial Prison at Yuma as being condemned to hell on earth, or worse. Modern audiences have come to believe many of the myths associated with the infamous prison--it was a prison only for men, the west's most hardened criminals--no one ever escaped--prison guards were actually fiends in disguise, hired to starve, harass, and brutally beat and torture prisoners--the prison was in a mercilessly hot, inescapable desert, with no water available for miles in any direction--prisoners gave up all hope of ever getting out, even when their sentences had been served--the list goes on and on.

The writer himself, a western history buff and avid western movie fan, believed all of the negative portrayals above, and even more, assuming Yuma must have been far worse than the notorious French prison on Devil's Island. This belief was strengthened as he read such things as Darkness engulfed "the hole" as the emaciated convict crawled about aimlessly seeking the cockroaches that shared his cell. Hungrily he sought these "cellmates" to supplement his diet. His face was thin and his body broken. Yet his eyes were filled with hate for the unmerciful men who were responsible for his present condition. Viciously he plotted in his weary mind against those who had imprisoned him in this hell on earth.

Was the Yuma Territorial Prison really a God-forsaken outpost of inhumanity western writers and movie makers would have us believe? As we explore the true history of the infamous prison perhaps we can learn the truth.

The Eighth Arizona Territorial Legislature of 1875 proposed a bill calling for the establishment of a penitentiary. It would be built next to the Colorado River, upon a hill donated to the Territory by the village of Yuma, where work on the prison was soon underway. On July 1, 1876, seven convicts were led up Prison Hill, and placed in their permanent quarters, which they'd helped build. Construction had not yet been completed, so work by the convicts continued. A kitchen, photo gallery, bakery, and bathing room were a few of the conveniences. Around 1885 a powerful generator provided the prison with electricity, as well as the town of Yuma. Enhancing the prison grounds were trees, shrubs, grass, and flowers. Hollowed out on the north side of the hill, facing the Colorado River, just a few feet below, a windowless library served inmates, guards and the public as well. The long narrow library, the first of its kind in the Territory, had numerous shelves literally filled with volumes of books.

Smoothly plastered walls painted with whitewash enhanced the beauty of this center of learning. With the coming of electrical power large blowers were installed to help circulate the hot air that hung within the main cell block. Most residents of Yuma had no such convenience--but they did have their freedom. With these "luxuries," including the prison hospital, the Territorial Prison at Yuma was considered "state of the art," one of the finest prisons in America. However, with bedbugs, cockroaches, black widows and occasional scorpions, life inside the prison was difficult, as it would have been in any prison at that time.

The Arizona Sentinel of July 13, 1895, reported, Strangers visiting Yuma should not miss a visit to the Territorial Prison. There has been so much written and said about the injustice and cruelty of confining persons here that strangers should make a point of paying a visit to the institution in order to be convinced of the fact that for coolness, cleanliness, care and humane treatment, there is not a prison in the world that can compare with the Arizona Penitentiary. At this place, selected on a high commanding bluff overlooking the broad Colorado, there is always a cool breeze blowing off the River. The work rooms, dining rooms, kitchen, library and all other apartments are either surrounded by adobe walls or excavated from the almost solid rock hill, with cement floors, making them extremely cool in Summer and warm in the Winter. As to the work, the inmates are treated more leniently and are as a consequence the best behaved of similar bodies of convicts in the United States. They are required to manufacture shoes and clothing and cook for the institution. A large number are allowed to manufacture canes and fancy ornaments.

Punishment of incorrigible convicts could, however, be most severe. Most prisoners shuddered at the mention of "the dark hole," a cave measuring 15 x 15 feet, dug into a rock hill, with a strap iron cage in the middle.

The "hole" was where prisoners confined to solitary confinement ended up. Usually one stay would correct even the most incorrigible prisoner's attitude as he or she sat in the pitch black hole, and was fed bread and water a couple of times a day.
The main guard tower, which is still standing, overlooks the entire prison. Beneath the wooden tower is the rock-walled reservoir, filled by the Colorado River.

The working convicts also dug tunnels beneath the prison to allow river water to flow beneath the prison to help keep it cool. Atop the southeast guard tower was the Lowell Battery Gun, a weapon of improved design over the old Gatling Gun. The Lowell Gun was manufactured by the Ames Mfg. Co., of Chicopee, Massachusetts, and could be fired 600 times a minute with perfect accuracy at 1000 feet. In an emergency it could be fired 1000 times a minute. It had a horizontal sweep of 90 feet and could be raised to any elevation. Prisoners thought twice about trying to escape its withering fire
At the Sallyport, or main gate, on the north side, facing the Colorado River, was the huge strap-iron grilled gate that swung beneath the thick archway of the entrance.

In front of it sat a mustachioed guard toting a 44-40 Winchester rifle. He checked the credentials of all who entered or left through the Sallyport. Surrounding the prison was an impressive wall totally confining the prison yard. Solid rock served as the foundation of the walls which were masterfully engineered. Atop the solid stone wall adobe bricks were used to construct the walls, approximately sixteen to eighteen feet high, and the base of the walls averaged eight feet thick at the bottom and five feet at the top.

When prisoners first arrived they were questioned as to their nationality, education, occupation and religion. Their heads were shaved and their pictures taken. They bathed and were issued uniforms of alternate black-gray or black-yellow stripes that ran vertically or horizontally. When the prisoners entered the prison they were allowed to have a cap, two pair of underwear, two handkerchiefs, two towels, one extra pair of pants, two pairs of socks and one pair of shoes. Officials permitted prisoners to have a toothbrush, comb, photographs, a toothpick, books, tobacco and bedding.
During the prison's short life, thirty-four years, it confined men and women from twenty one foreign countries including China, Mexico, Russia, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Germany and England. Many of the most hardened criminals were American-born, including Anglos, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. In all, 3,069 prisoners served time in Yuma, some of whom were women. Men and women prisoners, of course, were separated. There were young and old, the youngest being Charles Smith, fifteen, sentenced to one year for grand larceny. But in all they represented a number of trades and occupations, including prostitutes, carpenters, cooks, farmers, gamblers, wheelwrights, sailors, laborers, and gunfighters. Their offenses included, but were not limited to, rape, polygamy, robbery and murder, stagecoach holdups, cattle rustling, drug trafficking, whiskey selling and horse stealing. 110 prisoners died of various causes while serving their sentences and are buried in the prison cemetery, to the east, outside the rock and adobe walls, on a barren plot of ground overlooking the meandering Colorado River.

Twenty six convicts successfully escaped from Yuma and were never captured. Others tried, but were either captured or shot. The most exciting and daring escape try came on a bright fall day in September, 1887, when seven Hispanic prisoners decided they'd had enough of the Yuma Prison. Master minded and led by Prisoner Puebla, they devised what they considered a fool-proof escape plan.

As Superintendent Thomas Gates sauntered along the walkway toward the Sallyport to leave the prison on business, Prisoner Lopez sidled up to him and began a thoughtful conversation about learning the shoe trade. As they casually walked along Gates listened thoughtfully. Suddenly Prisoners Vasquez and Bustamente, coming up from behind, grabbed Gates and ordered him to get them through the Sallyport gate or they'd kill him where he stood_ Soon Prisoners Puebla, Villa, Baca and Padilla joined the group, Gates in the middle. Gates ordered the convict at the gate to open up he did.
Once outside the stone walls Villa, Padilla, Baca and Lopez rushed to Gate's house to procure weapons. Enroute they met Yardmaster Fredley who tried to stop them. He was instantly struck with a heavy pick. Even though severely wounded Fredley grabbed Padilla, hurling himself and the prisoner over a steep embankment on the west edge of Prison Hill. Padilla was captured and was out of the fight. Prisoner Baca ran, but Guard E.O. Williams opened fire and dropped him with two shots. Wounded, Baca was out of the fight. Vasquez and Lopez made it to Gates' house, stole a pistol and five rounds of ammunition and returned to the captured Gates, who was struggling fiercely with his captors. Momentarily he broke free and signaled to Guard Benjamin Franklin Hartlee, high up in the main guard tower, to open fire on the whole lot. An expert rifleman, Hartlee fired and brought Villa down. Infuriated, Lopez jammed the stolen pistol against Gates' head, indicating to Hartlee that if he shot again he'd blow Gates' brains out. But Gates fought Lopez and shoved the pistol aside. It accidentally discharged, hitting Prisoner Puebla in the fleshy part of his arm. Prison employee Rule ran up, pistol drawn, to shoot either Puebla or Lopez, or both. But he found Lopez had the drop on him. They both fired at each other and both missed. Rule took off running and Lopez took off after him, his pistol aimed at the fleeing man's back. Sharpshooting Guard Hartlee, high up in the tower, now had a very clear shot at Lopez and opened fire twice, dropping him. Employee Rule turned around, ran back to Lopez and dispatched him with a pistol shot.

Bustamente took a swing at Gates with a sharp butcher knife. Guard Hartlee had another clear shot and blasted Bustamente. Vasquez became the next target and Guard Hartlee fired another sizzling round, dropping Vasquez where he stood. Though Puebla had been accidentally shot by Lopez, he was still on his feet as vicious as ever, the last Hispanic in the fight. Armed with a large butcher knife he decided to finish off Superintendent Gates. He drove the gleaming butcher knife into the back of Gates' neck and twisted viciously. Using Gates' body as a shield, Puebla was trying to avoid Guard Hartlee's deadly rifle fire.

Barney Riggs, a prisoner serving a life sentence, rushed in to help Gates. The Superintendent shouted for Riggs to get Lopez's pistol and kill Puebla. The enraged Hispanic pulled the knife from Gates' neck and repeatedly stabbed it into his body. Riggs jerked the pistol from Lopez's dead hand, pulled the hammer back and blasted a hole in Puebla's chest. As he staggered backwards a blast from Guard Hartlee's rifle smashed into Puebla's back, and Riggs fired one more shot into the dying man's chest. Riggs caught the staggering Superintendent and another inmate named Sprague rushed forward and helped staunch the terrible bleeding. Gates never fully recovered from his horribly painful wounds and was later forced to resign his position. The unending pain caused him to eventually commit suicide.

Four prisoners were killed, three were wounded, and Superintendent Gates survived the attack. The entire incident took less than five minutes. Thomas Gates, in his written report of the incident, stated: "Guard Hartlee does not know to this day, why it was that he did not kill convict Riggs as he had the latter covered by his rifle and knew him to be a life convict, but something seemed to tell him not to shoot had he killed Riggs, Puebla would certainly have killed me."

Many well known criminals were confined to the Prison, serving sentences of varying lengths. The most renown woman convict was Pearl Heart, serving five years, oddly enough for stealing a stage driver's pistol.

She and sidekick Joe Boot held up the Globe stage. They were quickly apprehended by the Pinal County Sheriff. Both were jailed for robbing the stage and were tried for that crime. Boot was convicted of robbing the stage and sentenced to thirty years in Yuma. Pearl's lovely female proportions, and her flirting, charmed the lustful male jurors and she was quickly acquitted. But the Judge wasn't so lenient--he ordered her to be tried on a second charge of stealing the stage driver's pistol. The jurors were forced to convict her after carefully reviewing the evidence, and Pearl was sentenced to five years.

The trial was a sensation--a woman stagecoach robber--a female Black Bart. Papers all over the country wrote glowing descriptions of the beautiful robber. By the time she arrived at the Prison she was very famous. She loved her new found fame and used it to her advantage, receiving the undivided attention of guards and convicts alike. Pearl played upon the sexual fantasies of these men to win many favors and perhaps her quick release. On December 15, 1902, Pearl was granted a pardon and allowed to walk through the great iron gates of the Sallyport. Before she left, the Prison doctor confirmed her pregnancy. She tried to capitalize on her fame and become an actress, but had no acting talent--she succeeded, however, in getting herself out of Yuma. Her partner in crime, Joe Boot, successfully escaped from the Prison on February 6, 1901, and it was believed he fled to Mexico, never to be heard from again.

Many other women, not nearly as famous as Pearl Heart, served time in Yuma. Most of the time women prisoners were released long before their full sentences were served. Some were quite vicious. Elena Estrada was sentenced to seven years for manslaughter, when she stabbed her unfaithful lover, then cut open his chest, pulled out his heart and threw the bloody mass into his face. She served very little time before being released. Bertha Trimble was convicted of rape. She and her husband Walter were convicted of raping Bertha's daughter. While Walter raped his step-daughter Bertha held her down as the deed was being committed. She was sentenced to life imprisonment, though she served very little time.

Scant background records on many of the male prisoners keep us from knowing who they really were or what they'd done with their lives before ending up in Yuma. One, however, and probably the most renowned of all, was Buckskin Frank Leslie, who often wore a buckskin jacket with fringes drooping from the sleeves and bottom of the garment, thus his unusual moniker. Buckskin was a gunman, fond of whiskey and fast women, a fast draw and crack shot. Once in a while he carried a Peacemanker .45 hooked to his belt with a quick-fire rig. The pistol was attached by a stud to a slotted plate on the wearer's belt, and could be fired by swiveling the gun from the hip before an opponent could blink his eyes.

Leslie hailed from Tombstone. During the early 1880's, when Wyatt Earp and his brothers worked in the Oriental Saloon, Leslie likewise worked there as a bartender and knew the Earps as well as Sheriff John H. Behan, who later became the Superintendent of the Yuma Territorial Prison from April 12, 1888 to April 7, 1890.
In the days when Buckskin Frank strode the streets of Tombstone, unafraid of anyone, he and charming Mary Galeen met in a local saloon, had a few drinks, and decided on a secret rendezvous together. But hunkered down on a balcony above the street Mary's enraged husband waited patiently, his gun cocked. He fired as Leslie and Mary exited the saloon--but he missed. Buckskin's response was automatic as he quickly cleared leather, drawing his six shooter, taking careful aim, fired and blew off the face of Mary's husband.

Leslie was cleared of any wrong doing, the act declared self defense, and he and Mary wed. However, the marriage didn't last because of Leslie's drinking, unfaithfulness, etc. Mary complained to her friends about Frank's odd quirks, stating that he'd once had her pose for him against a wall like an artist's model while he shot bullets around the outline of her body.

Though Leslie killed a number of men he was never convicted of murder until 1889. One evening when drunk, and furious with a prostitute friend, Molly Bradshaw, he killed her. Brought to trial, he was sentenced to life in Yuma, where he was soon greeted by former Sheriff John Behan of Cochise County, where Tombstone was located, now Superintendent of the Prison. It is not recorded what they said to each other.
Finally sober, Buckskin Frank Leslie became a model prisoner and worked diligently in the infirmary tending to patients as the chief assistant to the prison physician. Leslie served Dr. P.G. Cotter during several epidemics when his own health was endangered. Unselfishly, Leslie deprived himself of rest for weeks at a time while serving the patients. He never once complained about anything. His good conduct was brought to the attention of Governor Benjamin J. Franklin, who recommended to the Arizona 19th Legislative Assembly that Leslie be pardoned. Another reason Governor Franklin favored a pardon was Leslie's gallant service as a scout in the United States Army during the Geronimo Campaigns. The Governor stated, Frank Leslie is a man of good character and education.

After serving seven years Leslie was pardoned and walked through the Sallyport of the Yuma Territorial Prison, a free man. He wandered south into Sonora where he lived and worked for a time before heading north to Alaska in search of gold. In 1925, in his eighties, Frank Leslie died.

The Prison's colorful history came to a close on September 15, 1909. Crowded conditions at the every-growing prison forced the removal of all prisoners to Florence. Like Yuma, the prison at Florence was built by the prisoners who inhabited the institution.

The Yuma Territorial Prison continued to be used for other functions. It was used as a school, as a hospital, and by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and was a filming location such actors as John Wayne, Gene Autry and Ken Cooper made movies in or around the Prison.

During the 1930's and 40's many Yuma citizens worked diligently to convert the old institution into a museum. In 1961 the Arizona State Parks began operating the prison as a state historic park. Just off Interstate I-8, in north Yuma, the historic site is easily accessible. Open to the public, there is a museum containing many prison artifacts made by prisoners, several of the weapons used by the guards, and a theater providing information on the prison. Visitors can walk through the prison, in and out of the cells, and visit the infamous "dark hole."

The historical reference used on page 1 Darkness engulfed _the hole_ as the emaciated convict. comes from Prison Centennial 1876 - 1976, Page 3, Preface: Cliff Trafzer and Steve George, Rio Colorado Press, 1980. Some facts and statistics also gathered from this source.

Other facts and data gathered at the Museum of the Yuma Territorial State Prison Historic Park, Yuma, Arizona, personal visit February, 2000.

Page 2, Quote from the Arizona Sentinel, July 13, 1895 concerning the Territorial Prison..
Page 7, Quote from written report of Thomas Gates concerning the shooting of Inmate Puebla.

Eleven photos are submitted and their sources quoted on each photo. The black and white photos are laser copies and are reproducible.

Buckhorn Mineral Baths and Wildlife Museum (Closed)

Spring and spring training mean boom times for many little scrub towns around Phoenix, like Peoria and Surprise. These outposts in the hot desert flat recently have made deals with major league teams to train in newly built facilities, hoping to attract snowbirds and retirees.

But some places have been catering to the spring training set since the Cactus League first started more than 50 years ago. And for 25 of those years, the New York (later San Francisco) Giants roomed at the Buckhorn Mineral Baths, a classic roadside stop in Mesa. Their manager, Leo Durocher, loved the place. A silver tray presented by the 1952 team still rests in the museum. But the Valley Of The Sun's success in drawing new residents is at the same time making life precarious for The Buckhorn.

The Buckhorn Mineral Baths opened in 1939, drawing those with arthritis and kindred ailments to their hot springs, famous for odorless water infused with potassium, silica, magnesium and iron. An old style motel with individual kitchenettes and covered carports followed.

Ted and Alice Sliger ran the place. Ted was a taxidermist and sportsman, and the lodge gradually filled with trophies. Alice Sliger still lived on the grounds and managed things when we visited, but at age 96, decided that she couldn't keep the baths open. The healthful water still runs through motel taps, however.

Since the baths are closed, the main reason to visit is to see the Wildlife Museum, which used to be called the Arizona Wildlife Trophy Room. When we were there, by ourselves, the hostess, a woman younger than Mrs. Sliger, sat quietly on one of the couches as we looked around, but made sure we knew she was leaving right at 5.

The museum occupies two large rooms, one of which used to be "The TV Room." The TV is still there. The furniture is western-inspired, wood and wagon wheels, but covered in leopard skin.

Deer and other antler-bearing heads are on all the walls, and stuffed birds swoop from the ceiling. Snake skins cover the beams. Smaller heads like rabbits and badgers fill gaps between the bigger game. A pair of javelinas, arrows plunged down their fangy mouths, grimace.

Large steel traps rest by the fireplace, which is made from animal horns and all minerals mined in Arizona. On the fireplace mantle is a four-pronged sheep, mounted with his front legs dangling. Nearby, a stuffed coyote howls, leg caught in a smaller trap.

In all, there are than 400 specimens, and we keep finding more to look at. A small two-headed sheep stands behind one of the couches, while fighting cocks with steel spurs prepare to duel on a tabletop. A giant black sea bass is not mounted on his side, like most fish, but deer-trophy style, his basketball-sized head coming out of the wall, mouth agape. The lacquer on the face is starting to crack.

Soon it is 5 pm, and we are shooed to the lobby, where the postcard rack is one of the best. Original cards from the '40s and '50s are still for sale at twenty-five and fifty cents. Our favorite shot is of two couples playing the "nine hole desert golf course, free to guests of the hotel." They are on the green, which is actually 'the brown,' a darker shade of dirt than the surrounding sand. Others include a group shot of the bath's "graduate masseurs, masseuses, nurses and physiotherapists," and "Old Renegade," the large stuffed buffalo, which is still in the museum.

Outside, along the path from the lobby to the old bathhouse, the World's Largest Collection of Indian Grind Stones is displayed. They have been masoned into a wall.

Main Street of Mesa, formerly The Apache Trail (Old US 60), was once a wide street of motels. Now it is a wide street of large mobile home sales offices and larger mobile home parks. Some old-style neon signs still live, including the classic Starlight Motel, but are slowly giving way to the businesses serving the mobile homers. The Buckhorn has even had to rent out part of its main building to a plumbing company. Indeed, on the two street corners across from the Buckhorn Baths, a Jack In The Box and McDonald's sit, impassive and patient, waiting for Mrs. Sliger to give it up.

Then again, she's held them off this long, so maybe there is something in the water.

Update: Alice Sliger died at age 103 in 2010. The Baths are currently closed, but its displays remain safely cocooned inside. Local preservationists hope to reopen the place, someday, with the Sliger collection intact.

Yuma’s ancient history

Early days in the Yuma area.

The Yuma area’s history didn’t begin with Arizona statehood 100 years ago — although that certainly was an important happening.

The events that led to the development of the area that today is our home began not one century but centuries ago.

Here are some key dates in the history of Yuma County and its communities, Yuma, Somerton, San Luis and Wellton.

Early days in the Yuma area.

1540 — Capt. Hernando de Alarcon leads an expedition of Spanish soldiers up the Colorado River from the present-day Sea of Cortez to supply the army of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who is seeking the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola. Alarcon reaches the Yuma Crossing, becoming the first European in the area, but turns back.

1774 — The Spaniards return to the Yuma area when Juan Bautista de Anza arrives at the Yuma Crossing, the constricted, low-lying stretch of Colorado River that lends itself to easier crossings. De Anza is on his way to founding San Francisco, and in the meantime, the Spaniards enjoy initial friendly relations with the native inhabitants, the ancestors of the Quechan Indians.

July 17, 1781 — Spanish priest Francisco Garces is killed and the Purisma Concepcion Church is destroyed at present-day Indian Hill and Fort Yuma as the native Indians rebel against the Spanish settlers of the area.

Steamboats are anchored in front of the Yuma Quartermaster Depot in the late 1800s. The steamboat in the front is the St. Rallier.

1848 — The Yuma Crossing affords an easy place for settlers to cross the Colorado River on their way to California as part of the Gold Rush.

1852 — The U.S. Army establishes Fort Yuma on Indian Hill, overlooking the Yuma Crossing. The Army’s arrival brings about the Colorado City townsite, known as the city of Yuma.

Pioneer Hauling & Storage, located on Main Street, was one of the businesses that served Yuma in the late 1800s.

1854 — Nearly 30,000 square miles, including present-day Yuma and south Yuma County, are acquired by the United States from Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase, which is ratified by the U.S. Senate on April 25, 1854, and signed by President Franklin Pierce.

This drawing depicts Yuma in the 1880’s looking across the river from the south. The artist noted that Yuma had a population of 2,900 at the time.

1859 — Jose Maria Redondo, often called the father of modern-day agriculture in Yuma County, arrives in Arizona from Mexico, where his Castillian Spanish grandparents had settled. In 1871, he and his brother begin diverting water from the Gila River to grow crops previously unheard of in Arizona.

A Southern Pacific train arrives in midtown Yuma on Madison Avenue in the late 19th Century.

1862 — The Colorado City townsite is washed away in Colorado River flooding. It is rebuilt and renamed Arizona City.

1864 — The U.S. Army establishes the Quartermaster Depot on the Colorado River at present-day Yuma to oversee the distribution of supplies brought up the Colorado River from the Sea of Cortez to Army troops in the West.

The engineers’ camp at Laguna Dam is seen in August of 1905.

1871 — Arizona City is formally incorporated. In 1873, it is renamed Yuma.

1875 — The Arizona Territorial Legislature allocates for the Territorial Prison in Yuma. Construction begins in April 1876 and the prison opens its doors to the first inmates in July of that year. Over the next 33 years, it houses 3,069 inmates, including 33 women. After the inmates are transferred out in 1909, it houses Yuma High School from 1910 to 1914, thus giving the school its Criminal mascot.

A view from 1910 looking down the shaft from the Arizona side during the siphon construction under the Colorado River. Night shift work took place at the 50-foot leve

Seen here are pupils at Main Street School in Yuma around 1910.

1877 — The Southern Pacific Railroad reaches Yuma.

1878 — Wellton is founded. It is named for the water wells drilled in the area to serve the Southern Pacific Railroad – “Well Town.” In 1970, it is incorporated.

1898 — Somerton is founded.

March 1909 — Laguna Dam is completed on the Colorado River to divert water for agriculture to the Yuma area.

The Queen Faye Pyle float from Bard, Calif., is the entry in the 1912 parade marking the opening of the Yuma Siphon.

Oct. 25, 1911 — The first airplane to land in Arizona touches down in Yuma near 4th Avenue, between 1st and 3rd streets. The pilot, Robert Fowler, is piloting a Wright Model B biplane in a cross-country flight just a couple of years after the Wright brothers made their historic flight.

Little mining towns sprung up all over the area during the turn of the century, including this one, which is thought to be either Castle Dome or Picacho.

Feb. 14, 1912 — President William Howard Taft signs the bill making Arizona the nation’s 48th state.

Horse and buggy vehicles were still the main form of transportation in Yuma, but the automobile is beginning to emerge as well, as seen on the lefthand side. (date unknown)

June 29, 1912 — Water pours for the first time through the Yuma Siphon, a tunnel that passes beneath the Colorado River to divert water from the river to the Yuma Valley, opening up the area to agriculture.

With the help of its passengers, a vehicle fords the Gila River in the early 20th Century.

May 22, 1915 — The Ocean-to- Ocean Bridge opens over the Colorado River at Yuma, serving as a key link for auto travel from the East Coast to the West Coast. Use of the bridge declines in the 1970s with the opening of Interstate 8. In 1988, the bridge is closed to vehicle traffic, but is reopened in 2002 following renovations.

1930 — San Luis, Ariz., is established as a port of entry for traffic from Mexico. In 1979, it is incorporated as a city.

Main Street was underwater during the flood of 1916. Businessmen rowed boats in front of what was part of the First National Bank building.

June 1942 — U.S. Army opens Yuma Army Air Field.

January 1943 — Camp Laguna opens at present-day Yuma Proving Ground to train U.S. troops for combat in World War II.

An early view of the railroad bridge crossing alongside the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge near the Yuma Territorial Prison.

1943 — The Yuma Test Branch opens at present-day Yuma Proving Ground to test combat bridges for use crossing rivers in Europe during World War II.

Steamboats line the Colorado River in Yuma. By the 1870s, the steamboat freight delivery business was booming. In 1875 alone, the Colorado River Steam Navigation Co. shipped over 4,500 tons of freight to Yuma.

The Modesti Building once graced Yuma on First Street and Main Street, and featured a bar, billards room and the International Restaurant. It was built in 1893.

August-September 1949 — Woody Jongeward and Bob Woodhouse, piloting the City of Yuma airplane, stay aloft over Yuma for 1,124 hours and set a flight endurance record as part of a campaign to demonstrate the area’s optimal flying conditions and to persuade the U.S. military to reopen the shuttered Yuma airfield that is today the Marine Corps Air Station.

Seen here is the car belonging Father Rouselle, Yuma’s Catholic priest at Immaculate Conception Church in the early 1900s. The father is not pictured.

1951 — The Army’s Yuma Test Branch is reopened with a greatly expanded mission as Yuma Proving Ground.

Jan. 1, 1983 — Yuma County is reduced in size when the northern half of the county breaks away to form La Paz County, with Parker as its county seat. The split had been approved by voters the previous year.

The Yuma Test Branch, located at present-day Yuma Proving Ground, was used by the Army to test combat bridges for use crossing rivers in Europe during World War II.

Another view of Yuma’s downtown, from the late 1950s.

1990-91 — Yuma’s military bases and personnel play a key role in the United States’ efforts to oust Iraqi troops from Kuwait, first in Operation Desert Shield and then Operation Desert Storm. Yuma Proving Ground tests equipment and arms used successfully in the war effort, while the Marine Corps Air Station sends Harrier squadrons to fight in the Gulf War.

Then-Arizona Gov. Ernest McFarland was on hand in 1955 to crown the new Miss Yuma County, Gail Beeson.

September 1995 — The Military Free Fall School, which trains special forces troops from the nation’s military branches in parachuting, relocates from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Yuma Proving Ground.

An aerial view of the Yuma County Fair in 1965 shows giant tents on the grounds.

March 1997 — Former President George H.W. Bush parachutes over Yuma Proving Ground just a couple of months before his 73rd birthday. It is the first parachute jump he makes since World War II, when, as a Navy pilot, he bailed out of aircraft shot down by the Japanese.

Young ladies in Yuma have fun hanging out at the Yuma County Fair in the 1960s.

Then-Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater pays a visit to Yuma Proving Ground to see firsthand the Army’s mission of testing weapons system for combat. This photo was taken in the mid-to-late 1960s.

2000 — The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is officially designated as the first federal Heritage Area west of the Mississippi River.

2000 — The Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is officially designated as the first federal Heritage Area west of the Mississippi River.

Former President George H.W. Bush celebrates his 73rd birthday by skydiving over Yuma Proving Ground in 1997.

2002 — The first phase to develop the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area begins with the development of the West Wetlands Park.

West Wetlands Park in 2012 has many fun activities available, including fishing.

March 2003 — The Iraq war begins and Marine Corps Air Station sends Harrier squadrons and other units overseas against Saddam Hussein. Yuma Proving Ground again conducts numerous testing programs in support of the U.S. military, among them testing to find ways to counter improvised explosive devices being used against U.S. troops.

2004 — Work begins in the development of the East Wetlands, part of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area.

Each day is an air show for Yuma-area residents as Marine Corps pilots ply their skills in the cockpits of their Harriers.

July 2009 — The GM Desert Test Center opens at Yuma Proving Ground.

Feb. 14, 2012 — Arizona celebrates 100 years as a state.

These tanks, purchased from former Eastern Bloc nations after the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe, are transported to Yuma Proving Ground by rail for use as targets in the base’s weapons testing mission.

Good fishing, slow and easy backwaters

Drop in your kayak, canoe, no-wake boat, or tube and get some fishing in here. There's camping spots (14-day BLM limit applies), tons of hiking, ATV, and 4WD trails, and even covered seating. Mittry is out of the way, and doesn't see a lot of traffic. It's a good spot to spend a couple of nights in the RV or in a tent, and sure is peaceful.

This lake is part of the Colorado River system, where a light discharge from Imperial Dam pools behind Laguna Dam, before making its way to Mexico. The resulting slow water is a haven for bluegill, catfish, and bass. Be sure to have your fishing license and river stamps!

Mittry Lake recreational area is a nice place with picnic tables, a nice boat launch and where dry camping is allowed. Looks like a good place to kayak or canoe. There must have been a fire not too long ago, as some of the vegetation was gone and charred.

We have come to Mitry for a few years for a Putluck with the folks from our RV parks. We get a fire going and roast Hot dogs., play games and just have a great afternoon. They have a covered shelter which allows to be out of the sun if needed. Many people out in their boats fishing but believe it is a catch and release lake.

Yes, this lake is far for the people that don't life in the foothill. However, it is a big lake with lots of room to have on any water toy including a boat. My husband and I went out here a few times to go fishing from our kayaks and it was a lot of fun. The only thing I was disappointed about was the depth of the lake and how thick the plants were under the water. When paddling our kayak, it was hard to go deep enough due to the plants which also lead to loosing a few fishing baits we had. Also, the depth was not very deep in most places so I would be careful with a boat although we saw them out there.

Very peaceful except the occasional YPG artillery rounds in the far distance.

Make sure you have your fishing license on you as they do patrol.
Bug spray, bug spray, bug spray!
Bring what you need because nothing is close.
There is bathroom, but pretty gross.
There are boat ramps.

This is a place to get away and relax while fishing from the bank or in a boat. Good fishing and relaxation for the while family.

Biomes and Subdivisions

Biomes are coarse ecological units based on the phenology, lifeform, and physiognomy of the dominant vegetation. Vegetation is a useful descriptor of biotic communities as it is immobile, represents some 99% of Earth's terrestrial biomass (thus providing a useful index of productivity), and integrates abiotic site conditions (e.g., temperature, moisture, solar insolation, soil development, nutrient cycles). These globally distributed units are largely a function of climatic and topoedaphic variables and disturbance regimes. With the exception of tundra (which occurs a mere 100 km [62 mi] north), all of the major globally recognized biomes are represented in the Sonoran Desert, further emphasizing the region's amazing landscape diversity.

Desert biome, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.



Semi-desert grassland.

Semi-desert Grassland

Madrean evergreen woodland, Coronado National Memorial.

Madrean evergreen woodland

Interior chaparral, Chiricahua National Monument.

Interior chaparral

Temperate forest, Chiricahua National Monument.

Temperate forest

Occurring at high elevations (>6,000 ft) in the American Southwest, temperate forests are dominated by conifers, such as pines (Pinus spp.), spruces (Picea spp.), and firs (Abies spp.). Cold-deciduous woody plants, such as Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides), and maples and boxelder (Acer spp.), are common in the understory of coniferous forests. At sites with particularly cool and moist microclimates (often on north or east-facing slopes), cold-deciduous trees may dominate the overstory, particularly following fire and or other disturbances that create canopy openings and permit these species to emerge from the understory.

Temperate forest represents the most cold-hardy vegetation type in the montane systems of the American Southwest. Confined to cooler sites (a function of elevation, aspect, and local geomorphology) under the current warm interglacial climate, temperate forest occurs upslope from Madrean evergreen woodland, typically at elevations greater than 6,000 feet. Most conifer forests in the Sonoran Desert are dominated by ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), with a grassy understory where canopies are relatively open and subdominant trees and shrubs where canopies coalesce. Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and true firs occur at higher elevations, with spruce at the highest elevations. Conifer forests are fire-adapted, with natural, low-intensity fires occurring every 9–15 years in ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests. Suppression of fires by humans has disrupted the natural cycles within many of these communities. Temperate forest occurs at Chiricahua and Gila Cliff Dwellings national monuments, Coronado National Memorial, and Saguaro National Park.

Racing History

Arizona has a rich history in Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing.

In 1954, Phoenix visionary Walter Cluer dreamed of building a world-class racing facility on 1400 acres of land he just purchased at 19th Avenue and Bell. That dream became a reality on January 7, 1956, when Turf Paradise opened its doors becoming one of Arizona’s first sports franchises. In 2000, Phoenix businessman, Jerry Simms, bought the track and built the track’s state-of-the-art equine swimming pool and continues to manage the facility today.

The track has been the winter home for thousands of horse owners, trainers and backstretch employees over the years and has been a staple of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing in the Southwest.

In 1940, Rillito Park Race track was built on the grounds of the Rukin Jelks stud farm in the heart of Tucson, Arizona and has long been recognized as the birthplace of Quarter Horse racing. The initial track consisted of a 3/8th mile straightaway, which later became the model for the “chute system” used in modern day quarter horse racing. In 1954, Rillito added a 5/8ths mile oval and has since been the southern Arizona home of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing. In 2012, Rillito Park Race Track was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In Yavapai County, Prescott Downs, a small 5/8th oval track in the heart of downtown Prescott, began racing in 1943. The racetrack was located on the famous rodeo grounds that hosted The World’s Oldest Rodeo, which was part of the Prescott Frontier Days. Over the years, summer racing became so popular that it eventually outgrew the small fairgrounds and in 2001 moved to the newly built Yavapai Downs Race track, a 120-acre facility located in Prescott Valley, Arizona. In 2011, the track closed its doors due to funding issues, but just recently was purchased by Phoenix-area investors who plan on opening the facility in the summer of 2019 as Arizona Downs.

County fair racing began in 1949 when racing was conducted at the State Fairgrounds in Phoenix. In 1950, County Fair Racing expanded to Graham, Navajo, Pima and Yavapai counties in addition to racing at the State Fairgrounds.

A.R.S. § 5-111(e) states: “Any county fair racing association may apply to the commission for one racing meeting each year and the commission shall set the number of days and the dates of the meetings. A racing meeting conducted under this subsection shall be operated in such manner so that all profits accrue to the county fair racing association, and the county fair racing association may deduct from the pari-mutuel pool the same amount as prescribed in subsection C of this section.

All county fair racing meetings, whether conducted by county fair racing associations under this subsection or by an individual, corporation or association other than a county fair racing association, are exempt from the payment to the state of the percentage of the pari-mutuel pool prescribed by subsection D of this section and are also exempt from the provisions of section 5-111.01.”

In past years, many counties awarded race dates choose to run their dates at one of the two commercial race tracks in Arizona: Turf Paradise (Phoenix) and Rillito Park Race Track (Tucson). However, two Arizona counties run live horse racing at their county facilities: Santa Cruz County (Sonoita) and Cochise County (Douglas).

On Saturday, June 25, 2016, Tucson Greyhound Park (TGP) held its last official dog race after 72 years of racing. This marked the end of live greyhound racing in the state of Arizona.
In the 1970s, Arizona had more than five greyhound racetracks in what was known as “the racing circuit.” Thousands of people attended the nightly races in Yuma, Black Canyon City, Tucson, Phoenix and Apache Junction. Over the years, interest in greyhound racing waned and one by one the tracks closed. Tucson was the last operating greyhound track west of the Mississippi and its closure brought an end to an era.

For state officials, the biggest hurdle with TGP closing was the oversight and carefully monitoring for the departure of more than 400 dogs that called the south Tucson track home. This meant state personnel checking that haulers were properly licensed and every dog have a pre-exit vet exam and proper paperwork submitted. As the greyhounds departed, the buildings were inspected and closed off to ensure than no animal was accidently left behind. The difficult orchestration went smoothly, and in just over a week after live racing ended, the last kennel was inspected and closed by state employees on July 5, 2016.

However, the Division of Racing still has regulatory authority and oversight at the track since simulcasts of greyhound racing are still legal, and several Off-Track Betting locations are located throughout Tucson and Phoenix.

Calling for Nominations

Nominations now open for Tribute of the Muses 2021!

Tribute of the Muses, Helios, and this year our two new awards to be presented: the Odyssey Award for an outstanding organization, business, or group and the Apollo Award which will be presented to an outstanding arts educator. Award Nominations are now open!

Do you know a mover and shaker or an up-and-coming and promising newcomer, in the local arts community? Nominate them! Visit for more info on how to nominate. The deadline for Nominations are due by August 27th, 2021!

SAVE THE DATE – for awards will be announced October 8, 2021 for the 21st Annual Tribute of the Muses!

All nominees will be contacted to confirm their willingness to be recognized for their contributions.

Tribute of the Muses Award Application

Application Deadline: August 27, 2021
September 24, 2021
Artwork Due:
October 1, 2021
Event Date:
October 8, 2021
Artwork Budget:

Description: The desired commissioned artwork will be presented to the 2021 honoree of the Tribute of the Muses Award. Now in its 21st year, the award honors an outstanding member of Yuma’s arts community who has shown exemplary devotion and excellence in the arts. Its name references Greek mythology, as the nine daughters of Zeus - the Muses - were considered to be the inspiration for nine specific aspects of the arts and science, including poetry, dance, music, etc.

Criteria for selection: The proposed piece can currently exist in the applicant’s inventory or the applicant may submit a detailed rendering of a new work. Artwork proposed must include professional presentation complete with framing or a base as necessary. Please take into consideration that a 1.5 inch by 3 inch plaque with the name of awardee and the words “Tribute of the Muses Award 2021” will be attached to the base or frame of the selected piece. All applicants must be 18 years or older and a resident of Yuma County. Artwork must be of original idea and assembly.


Under the leadership of Howard Gwynn and Sonny Rodriguez, a series of parlor meetings were held and the idea of a Catholic high school was enthusiastically received. Fred Kipperman of Charter Associates in Tucson was retained to begin a capital campaign. Leadership gifts by Gary Oden and Gary Pasquinelli inspired the community to financially support the endeavor.

In October 1998, Yuma Catholic High School was incorporated in the State of Arizona. The founding trustees were Monsignor Richard O'Keeffe, Hugh Hegarty, Howard Gwynn, Gary Pasquinelli, Jeanne Vatterott-Grogan, and Joseph A. "Sonny" Rodriguez. These initial trustees worked tirelessly at developing the By-laws of the corporation, the philosophy of the projected school, the recruitment of additional Board members, continued fundraising, and the hiring of initial staff.

Dr. John C. Monnig, the school's first principal, began work in the Catholic Community Service building in late 1998 along with the school's founding president, Fr. John F. Friel, O.S.F.S., who commuted weekly for several months from his last Navy assignment in Monterey, California. When Fr. Friel arrived full-time in March of 1999 he immediately recruited D. Michael Glynn to serve as interim Development Director.

Fundraising continued in April, 1999 with the successful Field of Dreams Dinner Dance and Silent Auction held April, 1998 and a significant gift from Mr. Glen Curtis, honoring the memory of his wife Elena. This gift enabled the project to proceed. In November 1999, with the blessing of Bishop Manuel Moreno, Fr. Friel signed the construction contract with Pilkington Construction Company of Yuma. Bishop Moreno presided over the groundbreaking ceremony in January 2000.

Also in January, Monsignor O'Keeffe and Fr. Friel traveled to Manitowoc, Wisconsin to invite the participation of the Franciscan Sisters who assigned Sr. Xaveria Whitman, Sr. Alexandra Bettinardi and Sr. Marie Kolbe Zamora to the initial faculty. Deacon Paul Muthart was recruited to the Board of Trustees and performed the herculean task of contract manager. Under his leadership, assisted by the late Hugh Hegarty, construction progressed on schedule. Meanwhile, Dr. Monnig continued work on the curriculum and recruited teachers, and Mike Glynn and Fr. Friel began recruiting the class of 2004. Mr. Tom Hurt was retained as the school athletic director and was exceptionally helpful in the recruitment process.

On Friday, August 11, 2000 the school received its certificate of occupancy from the city of Yuma. At 6 p.m., on Sunday evening, Mass was celebrated for all the supporters of Yuma Catholic High School in the courtyard of the new school. All local priests and deacons along with the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and over 800 people were in attendance. Fr. Friel was the principal celebrant and began his homily by stating, "Jesus Christ is the reason for this school". Thunderous and prolonged applause by the congregation indicated agreement.

On Monday, August 14, 2000, 76 enthusiastic, yet apprehensive, freshmen class began their high school careers as the Shamrock class of 2004. The next day was the Feast of the Assumption and the first all-school, all-student Mass was celebrated in the school library."

Ground Breaking
January 2000 Construction Under Way
March 2000 Monday, August 14, 2000,
76 enthusiastic, yet apprehensive, freshmen began their high school careers as the Shamrocks,
Class of 2004


The Western genre sometimes portrays the conquest of the wilderness and the subordination of nature in the name of civilization or the confiscation of the territorial rights of the original, Native American, inhabitants of the frontier. [1] The Western depicts a society organized around codes of honor and personal, direct or private justice–"frontier justice"–dispensed by gunfights. These honor codes are often played out through depictions of feuds or individuals seeking personal revenge or retribution against someone who has wronged them (e.g., True Grit has revenge and retribution as its main themes). This Western depiction of personal justice contrasts sharply with justice systems organized around rationalistic, abstract law that exist in cities, in which social order is maintained predominantly through relatively impersonal institutions such as courtrooms. The popular perception of the Western is a story that centers on the life of a seminomadic wanderer, usually a cowboy or a gunfighter. [1] A showdown or duel at high noon featuring two or more gunfighters is a stereotypical scene in the popular conception of Westerns.

In some ways, such protagonists may be considered the literary descendants of the knights-errant, who stood at the center of earlier extensive genres such as the Arthurian romances. [1] Like the cowboy or gunfighter of the Western, the knight-errant of the earlier European tales and poetry was wandering from place to place on his horse, fighting villains of various kinds, and bound to no fixed social structures, but only to his own innate code of honor. Like knights-errant, the heroes of Westerns frequently rescue damsels in distress. Similarly, the wandering protagonists of Westerns share many characteristics with the ronin in modern Japanese culture.

The Western typically takes these elements and uses them to tell simple morality tales, although some notable examples (e.g. the later Westerns of John Ford or Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, about an old hired killer) are more morally ambiguous. Westerns often stress the harshness and isolation of the wilderness, and frequently set the action in an arid, desolate landscape. Western films generally have specific settings, such as isolated ranches, Native American villages, or small frontier towns with a saloon. Oftentimes, these settings appear deserted and without much structure. Apart from the wilderness, the saloon usually emphasizes that this is the Wild West it is the place to go for music (raucous piano playing), women (often prostitutes), gambling (draw poker or five-card stud), drinking (beer, whiskey, or tequila if set in Mexico), brawling, and shooting. In some Westerns, where civilization has arrived, the town has a church, a general store, a bank, and a school in others, where frontier rules still hold sway, it is, as Sergio Leone said, "where life has no value".

Plots Edit

  • The construction of a railroad or a telegraph line on the wild frontier
  • Ranchers protecting their family ranch from rustlers or large landowners, or who build a ranch empire
  • Revenge stories, which hinge on the chase and pursuit by someone who has been wronged
  • Stories about cavalry fighting Native Americans
  • Outlaw gang plots
  • Stories about a lawman or bounty hunter tracking down his quarry

Characteristics Edit

The American Film Institute defines Western films as those "set in the American West that [embody] the spirit, the struggle, and the demise of the new frontier." [7] The term "Western", used to describe a narrative film genre, appears to have originated with a July 1912 article in Motion Picture World magazine. [8] Most of the characteristics of Western films were part of 19th-century popular Western fiction, and were firmly in place before film became a popular art form. [9] Western films commonly feature protagonists such as cowboys, gunslingers, and bounty hunters, who are often depicted as seminomadic wanderers who wear Stetson hats, bandannas, spurs, and buckskins, use revolvers or rifles as everyday tools of survival and as a means to settle disputes using "frontier justice". Protagonists ride between dusty towns and cattle ranches on their trusty steeds. [ citation needed ]

Western films were enormously popular in the silent-film era (1894–1927). With the advent of sound in 1927–28, the major Hollywood studios rapidly abandoned Westerns, [10] leaving the genre to smaller studios and producers. These smaller organizations churned out countless low-budget features and serials in the 1930s. By the late 1930s, the Western film was widely regarded as a "pulp" genre in Hollywood, but its popularity was dramatically revived in 1939 by major studio productions such as Dodge City starring Errol Flynn, Jesse James with Tyrone Power, Union Pacific with Joel McCrea, Destry Rides Again featuring James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich, and especially John Ford's landmark Western adventure Stagecoach starring John Wayne, which became one of the biggest hits of the year. Released through United Artists, Stagecoach made John Wayne a mainstream screen star in the wake of a decade of headlining B Westerns. Wayne had been introduced to the screen 10 years earlier as the leading man in director Raoul Walsh's spectacular widescreen The Big Trail, which failed at the box office in spite of being shot on location across the American West, including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and the giant redwoods, due in part to exhibitors' inability to switch over to widescreen during the Great Depression. After the Westerns' renewed commercial successes in the late 1930s, their popularity continued to rise until its peak in the 1950s, when the number of Western films produced outnumbered all other genres combined. [11]

In their book Unthinking Eurocentrism, Ella Shohat and Robert Stam explains that cinema has combined narrative with spectacle and through this tells the story of colonialism from the coloniser's perspective. Related to this they suggest that cinema has spoken for the "winners" of history and that negative portrayals of in this case Native Americans "helped rationalise the human costs of the imperial enterprise." [12] These negative portrayals can for instance be found in Fighting Blood (1911) and The Last of the Mohicans (1920) were Native Americans were portrayed as savage marauders. This in itself is also a recurring stereotype of Native Americans in Westerns. Shohat and Stam also points out that the point-of-view in Westerns how the film is structured with for example camera angles, makes it impossible for sympathetic identifications with the Native Americans as the filming always favours the Euro-American protagonist, and that the spectator therefore "is unwittingly sutured into a colonialist perspective." [13] The Hollywood Westerns did also generally show history from a turned point of view as the Native Americans appears as intruders of their own land. [14]

Western films often depict conflicts with Native Americans. While early Eurocentric Westerns frequently portray the "Injuns" as dishonorable villains, the later and more culturally neutral Westerns gave Native Americans a more sympathetic treatment. Other recurring themes of Westerns include treks (e.g. The Big Trail) or perilous journeys (e.g. Stagecoach) or groups of bandits terrorizing small towns such as in The Magnificent Seven.

Early Westerns were mostly filmed in the studio, as in other early Hollywood films, but when location shooting became more common from the 1930s, producers of Westerns used desolate corners of Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, or Wyoming. These settings gave filmmakers the ability to depict vast plains, looming mountains, and epic canyons. Productions were also filmed on location at movie ranches. [ citation needed ]

Often, the vast landscape becomes more than a vivid backdrop it becomes a character in the film. After the early 1950s, various widescreen formats such as Cinemascope (1953) and VistaVision used the expanded width of the screen to display spectacular western landscapes. John Ford's use of Monument Valley as an expressive landscape in his films from Stagecoach to Cheyenne Autumn (1965), "present us with a mythic vision of the plains and deserts of the American West, embodied most memorably in Monument Valley, with its buttes and mesas that tower above the men on horseback, whether they be settlers, soldiers, or Native Americans". [2]

Subgenres Edit

Author and screenwriter Frank Gruber described seven plots for Westerns: [15] [16]

  1. Union Pacific story: The plot concerns construction of a railroad, a telegraph line, or some other type of modern technology or transportation. Wagon-train stories fall into this category.
  2. Ranch story: The plot concerns threats to the ranch from rustlers or large landowners attempting to force out the proper owners.
  3. Empire story: The plot involves building a ranch empire or an oil empire from scratch, a classic rags-to-riches plot.
  4. Revenge story: The plot often involves an elaborate chase and pursuit by a wronged individual, but it may also include elements of the classic mystery story.
  5. Cavalry and Indian story: The plot revolves around "taming" the wilderness for White settlers.
  6. Outlaw story: The outlaw gangs dominate the action.
  7. Marshal story: The lawman and his challenges drive the plot.

Gruber said that good writers used dialogue and plot development to develop these basic plots into believable stories. [16] Other subgenres include:

  • Along Came Jones (1945), in which Gary Cooper spoofed his Western persona
  • The Sheepman (1958), with Glenn Ford poking fun at himself
  • Cat Ballou (1965), with a drunk Lee Marvin atop a drunk horse
  • Blazing Saddles (1974)
  • Brokeback Mountain (2005)
  • No Country for Old Men (2007)
  • Rango (2011)

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Western was reinvented with the revisionist Western. [17]

Classical Western Edit

The first known Western narrative film is the British short Kidnapping by Indians, made by Mitchell and Kenyon in Blackburn, England, in 1899. [18] [19] The Great Train Robbery (1903, based on the earlier British film A Daring Daylight Burglary), Edwin S. Porter's film starring Broncho Billy Anderson, is often erroneously cited as the first Western, though George N. Fenin and William K. Everson point out that the "Edison company had played with Western material for several years prior to The Great Train Robbery. " Nonetheless, they concur that Porter's film "set the pattern—of crime, pursuit, and retribution—for the Western film as a genre." [20] The film's popularity opened the door for Anderson to become the screen's first cowboy star he made several hundred Western film shorts. So popular was the genre that he soon faced competition from Tom Mix and William S. Hart. [21]

Acid Western Edit

Film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum refers to a makeshift 1960s and 1970s genre called the acid Western, [23] associated with Dennis Hopper, Jim McBride, and Rudy Wurlitzer, as well as films such as Monte Hellman's The Shooting (1966), Alejandro Jodorowsky's bizarre experimental film El Topo (The Mole) (1970), [23] and Robert Downey Sr.'s Greaser's Palace (1972). [23] The 1970 film El Topo is an allegorical cult Western and underground film about the eponymous character, a violent black-clad gunfighter, and his quest for enlightenment. The film is filled with bizarre characters and occurrences, use of maimed and dwarf performers, and heavy doses of Christian symbolism and Eastern philosophy. Some spaghetti Westerns also crossed over into the acid Western genre, such as Enzo G. Castellari's mystical Keoma (1976), a Western reworking of Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957).

More recent acid Westerns include Alex Cox's Walker (1987) and Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man (1995). Rosenbaum describes the acid Western as "formulating a chilling, savage frontier poetry to justify its hallucinated agenda" ultimately, he says, the Acid Western expresses a counterculture sensibility to critique and replace capitalism with alternative forms of exchange. [24]

Australian Western or Meat pie western Edit

The Australian Western genre or meat pie western is set in Australia, especially the Australian Outback or the Australian Bush. [25] The genre borrows from US traditions and often features Indigenous Australians in the role Native Americans.

The Tracker is a archetypal of this form of Australian Western, with signature scenes of harsh desert environments, and exploration of the themes of rough justice, exploitation of the Aboriginals, and the thirst for justice at all costs. Others in this category include Rangle River (1936), Kangaroo, The Kangaroo Kid (1950),The Sundowners (1960), Quigley Down Under, Ned Kelly (1970), The Man from Snowy River (1982), The Proposition, Lucky Country, and Sweet Country. [26]

Mystery Road is an example of a modern Australian Western, and Mad Max has inspired many futurist dystopian examples of the Australian Western such as The Rover.

Blaxploitation Western Edit

Many blaxploitation films, particularly ones involving Fred Williamson, have incorporated a Western setting within them, with examples such as Soul Soldier (1970), Buck and the Preacher (1972), The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972), The Soul of Nigger Charley (1973), Thomasine & Bushrod (1974), Boss Nigger (1975), Adiós Amigo (1975), and Posse (1993).

Charro, cabrito, or chili Westerns Edit

Charro Westerns, often featuring musical stars, as well as action, have been a standard feature of Mexican cinema since the 1930s. In the 1930s and 1940s, these were typically films about horsemen in rural Mexican society, displaying a set of cultural concerns very different from the Hollywood metanarrative, but the overlap between "charro" movies and Westerns became more apparent in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Some examples are Ismael Rodríguez's Los Hermanos del Hierro (1961), Jorge Fons's Cinco Mil Dólares de Recompensa, and Arturo Ripstein's Tiempo de morir. The most important is Alberto Mariscal, great author of El tunco Maclovio, Todo por nada, Los marcados, El juez de la soga, and La chamuscada. [27] [28]

Comedy Western Edit

This subgenre is imitative in style to mock, comment on, or trivialize the Western genre's established traits, subjects, auteurs' styles, or some other target by means of humorous, satiric, or ironic imitation or parody. A prime example of comedy Western includes The Paleface (1948), which makes a satirical effort to "send up Owen Wister's novel The Virginian and all the cliches of the Western from the fearless hero to the final shootout on Main Street." The Paleface "features a cowardly hero known as "Painless" Peter Potter (Bob Hope), an inept dentist, who often entertains the notion that he is a crack sharpshooter and accomplished Indian fighter". [29]

Contemporary Western or neo-Western Edit

Also known as neo-Westerns, these films have contemporary U.S. settings, and use Old West themes and motifs (a rebellious antihero, open plains and desert landscapes, and gunfights). These films have been on the rise since the release of Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men (2007). For the most part, they still take place in the American West and reveal the progression of the Old West mentality into the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This subgenre often features Old West-type characters struggling with displacement in a "civilized" world that rejects their outdated brand of justice. Taylor Sheridan's filmography can be used as a template to identify what being a neo-Western film means, [30] with three identifying themes. First is the lack of rules, with morals guided by the character's or audience's instincts of right and wrong rather than by governance. The second is characters searching for justice. The third theme, characters feeling remorse, connects the neo-Western film to the broader Western genre, reinforcing a universal theme that consequences come with actions. [30]

Examples include Nicholas Ray's The Lusty Men (1952) John Sturges's Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) Lonely Are the Brave, screenplay by Dalton Trumbo (1962), Hud, starring Paul Newman (1963) the Oscar winning Midnight Cowboy (1969) Don Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971) Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway (1972) Junior Bonner (1972) Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) Hearts of the West starring Jeff Bridges (1975) John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) Alan J. Pakula's Comes a Horseman (1978) J. W. Coop (1972), directed/co-produced/co-written by and starring Cliff Robertson Flashpoint (1984) Extreme Prejudice (1987) Robert Rodríguez's El Mariachi (1992), Desperado (1995) and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) John Sayles's Lone Star (1996) The Way of the Gun (2000) Down in the Valley (2005) Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) Tommy Lee Jones's The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005) Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (2005) Wim Wenders's Don't Come Knocking (2005) Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men (2007) Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino (2008) Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart (2009) Out of the Furnace (2013) The Rover (2014) Rambo: Last Blood (2019) El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019) Nomadland (2020) as well as George Miller's Mad Max franchise. The television shows Sons Of Anarchy (2008–2014) Justified (2010–2015), Longmire (2012–2017), Mystery Road (2018–present) and Yellowstone (2018–present) along with the Nicholas Winding Refn noir/satire mini series Too Old to Die Young (2019) Sicario (2015) and its sequel Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018) Hell or High Water (2016) Wind River (2017) and Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021), all written by Taylor Sheridan and the superhero film Logan (2017). Fallout: New Vegas (2010), Call of Juarez: The Cartel (2011) and Grand Theft Auto V (2013) are examples of Neo-Western video games. Likewise, the television series Breaking Bad and its spin off Better Call Saul, which both take place in modern times, feature many examples of Western archetypes. According to creator Vince Gilligan, "After the first Breaking Bad episode, it started to dawn on me that we could be making a contemporary Western. So you see scenes that are like gunfighters squaring off, like Clint Eastwood and Lee van Cleef—we have Walt and others like that." [31]

The precursor to these [ citation needed ] was the radio series Tales of the Texas Rangers (1950–1952), with Joel McCrea, a contemporary detective drama set in Texas, featuring many of the characteristics of traditional Westerns.

Dacoit Western Edit

The Bollywood film Sholay (1975) was often referred to as a "curry Western". [32] A more accurate genre label for the film is the "dacoit Western", as it combines the conventions of Indian dacoit films such as Mother India (1957) and Gunga Jumna (1961) with those of spaghetti Westerns. Sholay spawned its own genre of "dacoit Western" films in Bollywood during the 1970s. [33]

The first Western films made in India – Kalam Vellum (1970, Tamil), Mosagallaku Mosagadu (1971, Telugu), Mappusakshi (Malayalam), [ citation needed ] Ganga (1972, Tamil), and Jakkamma (1972, Tamil) - were based on Classic Westerns. Thazhvaram (1990), the Malayalam film directed by Bharathan and written by noted writer M. T. Vasudevan Nair, perhaps most resembles the Spaghetti Westerns in terms of production and cinematic techniques. Earlier Spaghetti Westerns laid the groundwork for such films as Adima Changala (1971) starring Prem Nazir, a hugely popular "zapata Spaghetti Western film in Malayalam, and Sholay (1975) Khote Sikkay (1973) and Thai Meethu Sathiyam (1978) are notable curry Westerns. Kodama Simham (1990), a Telugu action film, starring Chiranjeevi and Mohan Babu, was one more addition to the Indo Western genre that fared well at the box office. It was also the first South Indian movie to be dubbed in English as Hunters of the Indian Treasure [34]

Takkari Donga (2002), starring Telugu actor Mahesh Babu, was applauded by critics, but was average at box office. Quick Gun Murugun (2009), an Indian comedy film that spoofs Indian Western movies, is based on a character created for television promotions at the time of the launch of the music network Channel [V] in 1994, which had cult following. [35] Irumbukkottai Murattu Singam (2010), a Western adventure comedy film, based on cowboy movies and paying homages to the John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Jaishankar, was made in Tamil. Laal Kaptaan (2019) is an IndoWestern starring Saif Ali Khan, which is set during of rise of British Empire in India.

Documentary Western Edit

The documentary Western is a subgenre of Westerns that explore the nonfiction elements of the historical and contemporary American West. Ken Burns' The West is an example of a series based upon a historical storyline, whereas films such as Cowboys: A Documentary Portrait provide a nonfiction portrayal of modern working cowboys in the contemporary West.

Electric Western Edit

The 1971 film Zachariah starring John Rubinstein, Don Johnson, and Pat Quinn, was billed as the "first electric Western." [36] The film featured multiple performing rock bands in an otherwise American West setting. [36]

Zachariah featured appearances and music supplied by rock groups from the 1970s, including the James Gang [36] and Country Joe and the Fish as "The Cracker Band." [36] Fiddler Doug Kershaw had a musical cameo [36] as does Elvin Jones as a gunslinging drummer named Job Cain. [36]

The independent film Hate Horses starring Dominique Swain, Ron Thompson, and Paul Dooley billed itself as the "second electric Western." [37]

Epic Western Edit

The epic Western is a subgenre of the Western that emphasizes the story of the American Old West on a grand scale. Many epic Westerns are commonly set during a turbulent time, especially a war, as in Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), set during the American Civil War, or Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969), set during the Mexican Revolution. One of the grandest films in this genre is Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), which shows many operatic conflicts centered on control of a town while using wide-scale shots on Monument Valley locations against a broad running time. Other notable examples include The Iron Horse (1924), Duel in the Sun (1946), The Searchers (1956), Giant (1956), The Big Country (1958), Cimarron (1960), How the West Was Won (1962), Duck, You Sucker! (1971), Heaven's Gate (1980), Dances with Wolves (1990), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), Django Unchained (2012), and The Revenant (2015).

Euro-Western Edit

Euro-Westerns are Western-genre films made in Western Europe. The term can sometimes include the spaghetti Western subgenre. One example of a Euro-Western is the Anglo-Spanish film The Savage Guns (1961). Several Euro-Western films, nicknamed sauerkraut Westerns [38] because they were made in Germany and shot in Yugoslavia, were derived from stories by novelist Karl May, and were film adaptations of May's work. One of the most popular German Western franchises was the Winnetou series, which featured a Native American Apache hero in the lead role. Also in Finland, only a few Western films have been made, the most notable of which could be the 1971 low-budget comedy The Unhanged, directed by, written by, and starring Spede Pasanen.

Fantasy Western Edit

Fantasy Westerns mixed in fantasy settings and themes, and may include fantasy mythology as background. Some famous examples are Stephen King's The Stand and The Dark Tower series of novels, the Vertigo comics series Preacher, and Keiichi Sigsawa's light novel series, Kino's Journey, illustrated by Kouhaku Kuroboshi.

Florida Western Edit

Florida Westerns, also known as cracker Westerns, are set in Florida during the Second Seminole War. An example is Distant Drums (1951) starring Gary Cooper.

Greek Western Edit

According to the naming conventions after spaghetti Western, in Greece they are also referred to as "fasolada Westerns" (Greek: φασολάδα = bean soup, i.e. the so called national dish of Greece). A notable example is Blood on the Land (1966), which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. [39]

Horror Western Edit

Another subgenre is the horror Western, with roots in films such as Curse of the Undead (1959) and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966), which depicts the legendary outlaw Billy the Kid fighting against the notorious vampire. Another example is The Ghoul Goes West, an unproduced Ed Wood film to star Bela Lugosi as Dracula in the Old West. [ citation needed ] Newer examples include the films Near Dark (1987) directed by Kathryn Bigelow, which tells the story about a human falling in love with a vampire, From Dusk till Dawn (1996) by Robert Rodriguez deals with outlaws battling vampires across the border, Vampires (1998) by John Carpenter, which tells about a group of vampires and vampire hunters looking for an ancient relic in the west, Ravenous (1999), which deals with cannibalism at a remote US army outpost The Burrowers (2008), about a band of trackers who are stalked by the titular creatures and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012). Undead Nightmare (2010), an expansion to Red Dead Redemption (2010) is an example of a video game in this genre, telling the tale of a zombie outbreak in the Old West. Bone Tomahawk (2015), one of the most recent entries in the genre, received wide critical acclaim for its chilling tale of cannibalism, but like many other movies in the genre, it was not a commercial success.

Martial arts Western (Wuxia Western) Edit

While many of these mash-ups (e.g., Billy Jack (1971) and its sequel The Trial of Billy Jack (1974)) are cheap exploitation films, others are more serious dramas such as the Kung Fu TV series, which ran from 1972 to 1975. Comedy examples include the Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson collaboration Shanghai Noon (2000). Further subdivisions of this subgenre include Westerns based on ninjas and samurais (incorporating samurai cinema themes), such as Red Sun (1971) with Charles Bronson, Alain Delon, and Toshiro Mifune.

Northwestern Edit

The Northern genre is a subgenre of Westerns taking place in Alaska or Western Canada. Examples include several versions of the Rex Beach novel, The Spoilers (including 1930's The Spoilers, with Gary Cooper, and 1942's The Spoilers, with Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott, and Wayne) The Far Country (1954) with James Stewart North to Alaska (1960) with Wayne Death Hunt (1981) with Charles Bronson and The Grey Fox (1983) with Richard Farnsworth.

Ostern Edit

Ostern films, also known as "Eastern" or "Red Western" films, were produced in the Soviet Union and Socialist Eastern Europe. They were popular in Communist Eastern European countries and were a particular favorite of Joseph Stalin.

"Red Western" films usually portrayed the American Indians sympathetically, as oppressed people, fighting for their rights, in contrast to American Westerns of the time, which frequently portrayed the Indians as villains. Osterns frequently featured Gypsy or Turkic people in the role of the Indians, due to the shortage of authentic Indians in Eastern Europe.

Gojko Mitić portrayed righteous, kind-hearted, and charming Indian chiefs (e.g., in Die Söhne der großen Bärin (1966), directed by Josef Mach). He became honorary chief of the Sioux tribe when he visited the United States, in the 1990s, and the television crew accompanying him showed the tribe of one of his films. American actor and singer Dean Reed, an expatriate who lived in East Germany, also starred in several Ostern films.

"Eastern" films typically replaced the Wild West setting with by an Eastern setting in the steppes of the Caucasus. Western stock characters, such as "cowboys and Indians", were also replaced by Caucasian stock characters, such as bandits and harems. A famous example of the genre was White Sun of the Desert, which was popular in the Soviet Union. [40]

Pornographic Western Edit

Pornographic Westerns use the Old West as a background for stories primarily focused on erotica. The three major examples of the porn Western film are Russ Meyer's nudie-cutie Wild Gals of the Naked West (1962), and the hardcore A Dirty Western (1975) and Sweet Savage (1979). Sweet Savage starred Aldo Ray, a veteran actor who had appeared in traditional Westerns, in a non-sex role. Among videogames, Custer's Revenge (1982) is an infamous example, considered to be one of the worst video games of all time.

Ramen Western Edit

First used in the publicity of the film Tampopo, the term "ramen Western" also is a play on words using a national dish. The term is used to describe Western style films set in Asia. Examples include The Drifting Avenger, Break the Chain, Millionaires Express, East Meets West, Thai movies Tears of the Black Tiger and Dynamite Warrior, Let the Bullets Fly, Unforgiven, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, Buffalo Boys, The Good, the Bad and the Weird and Sukiyaki Western Django. [41]

Revisionist Western Edit

After the early 1960s, many American filmmakers began to question and change many traditional elements of Westerns, and to make revisionist Westerns that encouraged audiences to question the simple hero-versus-villain dualism and the morality of using violence to test one's character or to prove oneself right. This is shown in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969). One major revision was the increasingly positive representation of Native Americans, who had been treated as "savages" in earlier films. Examples of such revisionist Westerns include Ride the High Country (1962), Richard Harris' A Man Called Horse (1970), Little Big Man (1970), Soldier Blue (1970), Man in the Wilderness (1971), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Dances with Wolves (1990), Unforgiven (1992), The Quick and the Dead (1995), and Dead Man (1995). A television miniseries, Godless (2016), also fits into this category. A few earlier revisionist Westerns gave women more powerful roles, such as Westward the Women (1951) starring Robert Taylor. Another earlier work encompassed all these features, The Last Wagon (1956). In it, Richard Widmark played a white man raised by Comanches and persecuted by Whites, with Felicia Farr and Susan Kohner playing young women forced into leadership roles.

Science fiction Western Edit

The science fiction Western places science fiction elements within a traditional Western setting. Examples include Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1965) and The Valley of Gwangi (1969), the latter featuring cowboys and dinosaurs. John Jakes's Six Gun Planet takes place on a future planet colonized by people consciously seeking to recreate the Old West (with cowboys riding robot horses. ) [1] [ permanent dead link ] . The movie Westworld (1973) and its sequel Futureworld (1976), Back to the Future Part III (1990), Wild Wild West (1999), and Cowboys & Aliens (2011), and the television series Westworld (2016, based on the movie). Fallout: New Vegas (2010) is an example of a video game that follows this format, with futuristic technology and genetic mutations placed among the Western themes and desert sprawl of the Mojave Wasteland.

Space Western Edit

The space Western or space frontier is a subgenre of science fiction, which uses the themes and tropes of Westerns within science-fiction stories. Subtle influences may include exploration of lawless frontiers in deep space, while more overt influences may feature literal cowboys in outer space who use ray guns and ride robotic horses. Examples include the American television series BraveStarr (which aired original episodes from September 1987 to February 1988) and Firefly (created by Joss Whedon in 2002), and the films Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), which is a remake of The Magnificent Seven Outland (1981), which is a remake of High Noon and Serenity (2005, based on the Firefly TV series). Another example is the Japanese anime series Cowboy Bebop. The classic Western genre has also been a major influence on science-fiction films such as the original Star Wars movie of 1977, with 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story and 2019's Star Wars: The Mandalorian more directly featuring Western tropes. Famously, Gene Roddenberry pitched the concept of the TV show Star Trek as a "Wagon Train to the stars."

Spaghetti Western Edit

During the 1960s and 1970s, a revival of the Western emerged in Italy with the "spaghetti Westerns", also known as "Italo-Westerns". The most famous of them is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the third film of the Dollars Trilogy. Many of these films are low-budget affairs, shot in locations (for example, the Spanish desert region of Almería) chosen for their inexpensive crew and production costs, as well as their similarity to landscapes of the Southwestern United States. Spaghetti Westerns were characterized by the presence of more action and violence than the Hollywood Westerns. Also, the protagonists usually acted out of more selfish motives (money or revenge being the most common) than in the classical Westerns. [42] Some Spaghetti Westerns demythologized the American Western tradition, and some films from the genre are considered revisionist Westerns. For example, the Dollars Trilogy itself has much different tropes compared to standard Westerns, demythologizing the Sheriff figure (in A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More), putting both the Union and the Confederacy in ambiguously moral positions (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), and not featuring Native Americans (except for a brief mention in A Fistful of Dollars).

The Western films directed by Sergio Leone were felt by some to have a different tone from the Hollywood Westerns. [43] Veteran American actors Charles Bronson, Lee Van Cleef, and Clint Eastwood [43] became famous by starring in spaghetti Westerns, although the films also provided a showcase for other noted actors, such as James Coburn, Henry Fonda, Rod Steiger, Klaus Kinski, and Jason Robards. Eastwood, previously the lead in the television series Rawhide, unexpectedly found himself catapulted into the forefront of the film industry by Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (the first in the Dollars Trilogy). [43]

Weird Western Edit

The weird Western subgenre blends elements of a classic Western with other elements. The Wild Wild West television series, television movies, and 1999 film adaptation blend the Western with steampunk. The Jonah Hex franchise also blends the Western with superhero elements. The film Western Religion (2015), by writer and director James O'Brien, introduces the devil into a traditional Wild West setting. The Old Man Logan (2008–2009) graphic novel combines the elements of superhero and postapocalyptic fiction with Westerns.

Genre studies Edit

In the 1960s, academic and critical attention to cinema as a legitimate art form emerged. With the increased attention, film theory was developed to attempt to understand the significance of film. From this environment emerged (in conjunction with the literary movement) an enclave of critical studies called genre studies. This was primarily a semantic and structuralist approach to understanding how similar films convey meaning.

One of the results of genre studies is that "Westerns" need not take place in the American West or even in the 19th century, as the codes can be found in other types of films. For example, a very typical Western plot is that an eastern lawman heads west, where he matches wits and trades bullets with a gang of outlaws and thugs, and is aided by a local lawman who is well-meaning, but largely ineffective until a critical moment, when he redeems himself by saving the hero's life. This description can be used to describe any number of Westerns, but also other films such as Die Hard (itself a loose reworking of High Noon) and Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, which are frequently cited examples of films that do not take place in the American West, but have many themes and characteristics common to Westerns. Likewise, films set in the American Old West may not necessarily be considered Westerns.

Influences Edit

Being period drama pieces, both the Western and samurai genre influenced each other in style and themes throughout the years. [44] The Magnificent Seven was a remake of Akira Kurosawa's film Seven Samurai, and A Fistful of Dollars was a remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, which itself was inspired by Red Harvest, an American detective novel by Dashiell Hammett. [45] Kurosawa was influenced by American Westerns and was a fan of the genre, most especially John Ford. [46] [47]

Despite the Cold War, the Western was a strong influence on Eastern Bloc cinema, which had its own take on the genre, the so-called "Red Western" or "Ostern". Generally these took two forms: either straight Westerns shot in the Eastern Bloc, or action films involving the Russian Revolution and civil war and the Basmachi rebellion. [ citation needed ]

An offshoot of the Western genre is the "postapocalyptic" Western, in which a future society, struggling to rebuild after a major catastrophe, is portrayed in a manner very similar to the 19th-century frontier. Examples include The Postman and the Mad Max series, and the computer game series Fallout. Many elements of space-travel series and films borrow extensively from the conventions of the Western genre. This is particularly the case in the space Western subgenre of science fiction. Peter Hyams' Outland transferred the plot of High Noon to Io, moon of Jupiter.

More recently, the space opera series Firefly used an explicitly Western theme for its portrayal of frontier worlds. Anime shows such as Cowboy Bebop, Trigun and Outlaw Star have been similar mixes of science-fiction and Western elements. The science fiction Western can be seen as a subgenre of either Westerns or science fiction. Elements of Western films can be found also in some films belonging essentially to other genres. For example, Kelly's Heroes is a war film, but its action and characters are Western-like.

The character played by Humphrey Bogart in noir films such as Casablanca and To Have and Have Not—an individual bound only by his own private code of honor—has a lot in common with the classic Western hero. In turn, the Western has also explored noir elements, as with the films Pursued and Sugar Creek. [ citation needed ]

In many of Robert A. Heinlein's books, the settlement of other planets is depicted in ways explicitly modeled on American settlement of the West. For example, in his Tunnel in the Sky, settlers set out to the planet "New Canaan", via an interstellar teleporter portal across the galaxy, in Conestoga wagons, their captain sporting mustaches and a little goatee and riding a Palomino horse—with Heinlein explaining that the colonists would need to survive on their own for some years, so horses are more practical than machines. [ citation needed ]

Stephen King's The Dark Tower is a series of seven books that meshes themes of Westerns, high fantasy, science fiction, and horror. The protagonist Roland Deschain is a gunslinger whose image and personality are largely inspired by the Man with No Name from Sergio Leone's films. In addition, the superhero fantasy genre has been described as having been derived from the cowboy hero, only powered up to omnipotence in a primarily urban setting. The Western genre has been parodied on a number of occasions, famous examples being Support Your Local Sheriff!, Cat Ballou, Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles, and Rustler's Rhapsody. [ citation needed ]

George Lucas's Star Wars films use many elements of a Western, and Lucas has said he intended for Star Wars to revitalize cinematic mythology, a part the Western once held. The Jedi, who take their name from Jidaigeki, are modeled after samurai, showing the influence of Kurosawa. The character Han Solo dressed like an archetypal gunslinger, and the Mos Eisley cantina is much like an Old West saloon. [48]

Meanwhile, films such as The Big Lebowski, which plucked actor Sam Elliott out of the Old West and into a Los Angeles bowling alley, and Midnight Cowboy, about a Southern-boy-turned-gigolo in New York (who disappoints a client when he does not measure up to Gary Cooper), transplanted Western themes into modern settings for both purposes of parody and homage. [49]

Western fiction is a genre of literature set in the American Old West, most commonly between 1860 and 1900. The first critically recognized Western was The Virginian (1902) by Owen Wister. "Classic Wild West Literature". Other well-known writers of Western fiction include Zane Grey, from the early 1900s, Ernest Haycox, Luke Short, and Louis L'Amour, from the mid 20th century. Many writers better known in other genres, such as Leigh Brackett, Elmore Leonard, and Larry McMurtry, have also written Western novels. The genre's popularity peaked in the 1960s, due in part to the shuttering of many pulp magazines, the popularity of televised Westerns, and the rise of the spy novel. Readership began to drop off in the mid- to late 1970s and reached a new low in the 2000s. Most bookstores, outside of a few Western states, now only carry a small number of Western novels and short-story collections. [50]

Literary forms that share similar themes include stories of the American frontier, the gaucho literature of Argentina, and tales of the settlement of the Australian Outback.

Television Westerns are a subgenre of the Western. When television became popular in the late 1940s and 1950s, TV Westerns quickly became an audience favorite. [51] Beginning with rebroadcasts of existing films, a number of movie cowboys had their own TV shows. As demand for the Western increased, new stories and stars were introduced. A number of long-running TV Westerns became classics in their own right, such as: The Lone Ranger (1949-1957), The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (1955-1961), Cheyenne (1955-1962), Gunsmoke (1955-1975), Maverick (1957-1962), Have Gun – Will Travel (1957-1963), Wagon Train (1957-1965), Sugarfoot (1957-1961), The Rifleman (1958-1963), Rawhide (1959-1966), Bonanza (1959-1973), The Virginian (1962-1971), and The Big Valley (1965-1969). The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp was the first Western television series written for adults, [52] premiering four days before Gunsmoke on September 6, 1955. [53] [54]

The peak year for television Westerns was 1959, with 26 such shows airing during primetime. At least six of them were connected in some extent to Wyatt Earp: The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Tombstone Territory, Broken Arrow, Johnny Ringo, and Gunsmoke. [55] Increasing costs of American television production weeded out most action half-hour series in the early 1960s, and their replacement by hour-long television shows, increasingly in color. [56] Traditional Westerns died out in the late 1960s as a result of network changes in demographic targeting along with pressure from parental television groups. Future entries in the genre would incorporate elements from other genera, such as crime drama and mystery whodunit elements. Western shows from the 1970s included Hec Ramsey, Kung Fu, Little House on the Prairie, McCloud, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, and the short-lived but highly acclaimed How the West Was Won that originated from a miniseries with the same name. In the 1990s and 2000s, hour-long Westerns and slickly packaged made-for-TV movie Westerns were introduced, such as Lonesome Dove (1989) and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Also, new elements were once again added to the Western formula, such as science-fiction Western Firefly, created by Joss Whedon in 2002. Deadwood was a critically acclaimed Western series that aired on HBO from 2004 through 2006. Hell on Wheels, a fictionalized story of the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, aired on AMC for five seasons between 2011 and 2016. Longmire is a Western series that centered on Walt Longmire, a sheriff in fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming. Originally aired on the A&E network from 2012 to 2014, it was picked up by Netflix in 2015 until the show's conclusion in 2017.

A number of visual artists focused their work on representations of the American Old West. American West-oriented art is sometimes referred to as "Western Art" by Americans. This relatively new category of art includes paintings, sculptures, and sometimes Native American crafts. Initially, subjects included exploration of the Western states and cowboy themes. Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell are two artists who captured the "Wild West" in paintings and sculpture. [57] Some art museums, such as the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Wyoming and the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, feature American Western Art. [58]

The popularity of Westerns extends beyond films, literature, television, and visual art to include numerous other media.

Anime and manga Edit

With anime and manga, the genre tends towards the science-fiction Western [e.g., Cowboy Bebop (1998 anime), Trigun (1995-2007 manga), and Outlaw Star (1996-1999 manga)]. Although contemporary Westerns also appear, such as Kōya no Shōnen Isamu, a 1971 shōnen manga about a boy with a Japanese father and a Native American mother, or El Cazador de la Bruja, a 2007 anime television series set in modern-day Mexico. Part 7 of the manga series JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is based in the American Western setting. The story follows racers in a transcontinental horse race, the "Steel Ball Run". Golden Kamuy (2014-present) shifts its setting to 1900s Hokkaido, having the Ainu people instead of Native Americans, as well having other recognizable western tropes.

Comics Edit

Western comics have included serious entries, (such as the classic comics of the late 1940s and early 1950s (namely Kid Colt, Outlaw, Rawhide Kid, and Red Ryder) or more modern ones as Blueberry), cartoons, and parodies (such as Cocco Bill and Lucky Luke). In the 1990s and 2000s, Western comics leaned toward the weird West subgenre, usually involving supernatural monsters, or Christian iconography as in Preacher. More traditional Western comics are found throughout this period, though (e.g., Jonah Hex and Loveless).

Games Edit

Western arcade games, computer games, role-playing games, and video games are often either straightforward Westerns or Western-horror hybrids. Some Western-themed computer games include The Oregon Trail (1971), Mad Dog McCree (1990), Sunset Riders (1991), Outlaws (1997), Desperados series (2001–), Red Dead series (2004–), Gun (2005), and Call of Juarez series (2007–). Other video games adapt the Science fiction Western or Weird West subgenres such as Fallout (1997), Gunman Chronicles (2000), Darkwatch (2005), the Borderlands series (2009–), Fallout: New Vegas (2010), and Hard West (2015).

Radio dramas Edit

Western radio dramas were very popular from the 1930s to the 1960s. Some popular shows include The Lone Ranger (first broadcast in 1933), The Cisco Kid (first broadcast in 1942), Dr. Sixgun (first broadcast in 1954), Have Gun–Will Travel (first broadcast in 1958), and Gunsmoke (first broadcast in 1952). [59]

Web series Edit

Westerns have been showcased in short-episodic web series. Examples include League of STEAM, Red Bird, and Arkansas Traveler.

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