The romanticized “Wild West” period in American history was only about 30 years, and fairly recent (1865-1895). It’s obvious to me why it ended, but I don’t understand how the years before were different?


So I get that the period was incredibly short, but I'm having a hard time understanding how the, say, 50 years before 1865 weren't equally "wild" and lawless, particularly considering how many new territories/states were admitted to the Union.

The Union by 1865 had already moved quite far westward, in other words, and the beginnings of all those previous settlements certainly existed in lawlessness and strife. I imagine thievery, robbery, etc. as well.

Are there qualitative/objective qualities about the "wild west" that really stand out as separate from previous ongoing trends toward westward expansion? The only thing that comes to mind for me is the gold boom, as we often associate wild west tales with gold prospecting. But I'm at a loss, when I imagine the American west, for why the end of the Civil War seems to mark this different epoch, when nothing from my studies stands out as being that different in terms of westward expansion behaviors.

Source: reddit post


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