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Mythbuster: Does Pouring Alcohol on a Cut Really Help?

Alcohol will clean the wound. Both drinking alcohol (ethyl alcohol) and rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) are disinfectants, meaning they kill the bacteria that may be in the wound. “The disinfectant properties have to do with the alcohol’s pH. However this will not do anything to stop the bleeding, as the alcohol does nothing to initiate blood coagulation. In fact, dipping anything in alcohol is not recommended by the American College of Emergency Physicians” (Elsivier Mosby pg 45). Alcohol will kill off good cells and actually disrupt the healing process AND it will hurt like crazy. Today’s recommendations for any wound cleaning are vigorously running water (to physically flush out the wound) and possibly soap (but water is the best). Movies such as old Western films will pour alcohol on wounds for the reason of entertainment value. The movie industry of the old West era and now do a lot of things that are medically incorrect but look good on the screen.

“The distilled alcoholic beverages which are sold, such as Jack Daniels Old Number 7 are about 40% alcohol which is not a great way to cleanse a wound, but in the absence of another treatment, would be better than the water from a creek or pond” (Andreadis, Athena). Still water from creeks and ponds are not good to clean cuts, if using water, vigorous running water is what is needed. However, in the old westerns, most of the alcoholic drinks sold were actually a home distilled drink made by the saloon keepers, much like moonshine, and would be more like 80-90% alcohol. This would kill all the germs and bacteria in the cut. This type of alcohol would disinfect the wound, but also kill some of the good germs which actually help heal the wound. Alcohol also would not relieve pain topically, but causes some localized tissue damage which would then cause a decrease in sensation of pain.

“Alcohol will kill the tissue also along with sterilizing it so, not a good idea. If no other sterilization is available, like most of the time in the old West then the use of alcohol to disinfect the wound should be used. But there are much more new and better products to disinfect wounds with in this modern era” (Doctor Moring).

Alcohol is better than peroxide, besides where can you find peroxide in the West? Probably didn’t exist. Alcohol will burn, but it will cleanse the wound and kill any germs in there. Nobody carries peroxide around, but alcohol, yes. And like in the old West, it might be a long way from home when it happens. “Alcohol is good for wounds but it doesn’t numb anything, unless you drink it and pass out but, that would be like a sedative. You sure wouldn’t feel anything” (Jason L. Gibsy pg 29). The overall looks at alcohol to do the job of a current day EMT are slim to none. Alcohol will disinfect and actually clean the cut. But, using alcohol to do this will actually kill the good germs which help heal the wound. So yes it will help clean the would, but it is not always helping in the big picture. Alcohol though does not help stop bleeding what so ever. Alcohol has no halt on blood coagulation and the wound will keep dispersing blood if alcohol is only source used to up ease the wound.

Author: Dan Frederickson


Elsivier Mosby. Mosby EMt Basic EMt Textbook. Rhode Island: Mosby/JEMS, 2007.

Jason L. Gibsy. Sensations of alcohol. New York: Rossman, 1999.

Andreadis, Athena. “Old Western Myths” Science Jan. 2006: 64- . Yahoo. www.yahoo.com

Doctor Moring. “Western Mythbuster.” Massachusetts; 2009.

Mythbuster: Cowboys v. Indians

CowboysIndiansWhen I think about the West the first thing that comes to mind are the Westerns. Movies made about cowboys and Indians. When you watch one of those movies you get the idea in your head that Indians and Cowboys spent their days battling throughout the Great Plains of the West. This was totally proven wrong to me when I chose to bust the myth about cowboys and Indians. And I did just that, there was never any record of a single battle or even a brawl between Indians and Cowboys. I spent many days online and in the library trying to find at least some type of record about Indians and Cowboys, but truth be told there was none. When white settlers decided to move over to the West the Indians faced the US military not the heroic image of the cowboy that most people thought.

White settlers, immigrants and all types of people decided to move west for a better life. A lot of people thought they would find land and “strike” it rich in the west. Native Americans had been living in this land long before people decided to move here. Tribes like Sioux, Cheyenne, Comanche, Nez Perze and Cherokee lived in these lands [1]. Like anyone would do when someone comes to your land and invades your home, you’re going to get defensive and want to stay where you are. Well, to the US military the west, was their land and the Indians were supposed to go somewhere else. Indians were forced to reservations, even if they did not want to go. This caused many battles between Indians and the military, but no cowboys were involved in those battles. One of the most infamous battles was the battle of Little Big Horn. According to Colin Calloway “the battle of Little Big Horn stands as the classic Indian-White conflict” [1]. This was between the Sioux and Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his Seventh Cavalry.

After that battle, a man by the name of William Fred Cody aka “Buffalo Bill” created the first ever Wild West Show. In 1883 people came out to see Buffalo Bill’s first show. Graham Larson explains that, “the shows staged huge battles between cowboys and Indians and these were loved by people all over the world” [4]. You could say that Buffalo Bill created the Westerns that we still watch today. Buffalo Bill was not even a real cowboy but portrayed as one, just like the shows that he created. It seemed that he created these Western skits because people were so angry at the Indians for battling with the US, that it would really bring in people to watch the show. These shows were only created to entertain people, but they were not based on any hard factual truths. These movies portrayed Native Americans as villains and vicious people that the cowboys had to kill.

Once the Indians accepted that they had to live on the reservations they were more concerned with staying true to their culture and spirituality rather than getting their land back. As Peter Iverson explains, “for Luther Standing Bear and for others the challenge of the twentieth century was that of maintaining a sense of themselves as Indians” [2]. The Indians were the ones who lost out by having to change their lives and move to a small reservation, where land was limited and boundaries were set.

Overall, I feel like Indians were and still are seen as “bad” and uncivilized people. This is entirely untrue. They were human beings trying to live on the land that white settlers so badly wanted. This led to many battles between the US and the Native American Indians, and over the decades the popular culture portrayed by these battles, were changed and warped into Cowboy and Indian battles for pure entertainment. Even now, the movies often show battles between the two, but in reality these battles never existed.

Author: Melinda Fleming


[1] Calloway, Colin. Our Hearts Fell to the Ground. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 1996.

[2] Iverson, Peter. “Cowboys, Indians and the Modern West “. Arizona and the West.
Journal of the Southwest, 1986.

[3] “Battles & Massacres of the Indian Wars“. Legends of America. 10/6/09 .

[4] Larson, Graham. “The Wild West “. 10/3/09 .

Mythbuster: The Myth of the World’s Most Celebrated Dentist

John Henry “Doc” Holiday was an American dentist that has made his place in the history books. He did not do it through new dental techniques or outstanding service; he did it through gunfights, through blood, and through legend. As well as his life being well documented through history books, Doc has been the highlight of many films, one of the most popular being Wyatt Earp[3]. This movie highlights the friendship between Doc and the famous sheriff/outlaw Wyatt Earp. The film portrays an elaborate and complex Holiday who goes through many ups and downs throughout his life. But is this a true depiction of Holliday? The only way to find out is to dig through the information and sort fact from fiction.

The first thing you notice about any character, either in a book or on a screen, is their appearance. It is known that Doc Holiday did not live a very long life, mainly due to his struggle with Tuberculosis [1]. In fact it was this disease that brought Doc Holiday to meet Wyatt Earp, and simultaneously helped him enter the history books. Because damp air makes Tuberculosis worse his doctors suggested that he leave his native Georgia in turn for the drier air of the south [2]. When we meet Holiday in the film, the disease is affecting him quite greatly. Although this disease takes a toll on his body, the film in which he is featured portrays him as a much older man [3]. Historical accounts do show Holiday with his long handlebar mustache but he still has a generally younger face. Holiday only lived to 36 [1], but in his film appearance, which was when he was in his late 20’s, he looks nearly forty.

This was most likely not done by mistake either. In most westerns the characters persona is one of a tough rugged man. This older weathered appearance gives him more credit of being a western outlaw. A young fresh faced boy does not play the part of an old grizzly dying bandit as well as someone who really looks that part. However, one aspect that the movie did portray correctly was Doc’s wide variety of occupations and aggressiveness.

Although originally a dentist, once Doc moved down south he began to drink large amounts of whiskey to combat his illness and started gambling at a large rate. Eventually Doc would own his own saloon and begin to profit off this gambling [2]. But Doc was no one to just sit back and own an establishment. Once joining the Earp’s he became greatly involved in the matters including shootouts and Earp’s vendetta ride which included the O.K coral [3]. As for his behavior, Doc seemed to be a quirky man to say the least. Because of his condition he seemed to not have any real direction. Doc moved with what worked; that could be gambling, gunfights, exploiting miners, whatever would help him get by.

With any movie that is based of true historical events there is always some room for interpretation. Wyatt Earp was no exception, some parts definitely were embellished. It seems that the truth and falsity can be divided into two groups, appearance/action and personality. As stated earlier, Doc looked much older than he most likely was, and he was involved in a lot of physical action which would have been more stressful for a man in his condition than it appeared in the movie. As for the personality, the filmmakers seemed to have been able to capture his unique antagonist free spirit mentality. When combined with the steadfast determination of Wyatt Earp, he often is used in the movie to either start or deflect conflict. Doc Holiday lived a short life, but in this short time he was able to impact history in a larger way most likely than he even thought.

Author: Spencer Dinsmore


[1] Traywick, Ben. “Doc Holliday.” Wild West (1997): n. pag. Web. 5 Nov 2009. .

[2] “Doc Holliday- Deadly Doctor of the West.” Legends of America. 2009. Legends
of America, Web. 5 Nov 2009. .

[3] Gordon, Dan, Script. Wyatt Earp. Dir. Lawrence Kasdan. Warner Brothers: 1994, Film.

Mythbuster: Why Don’t You Get Out of Dodge?

Were the western cattle towns of the late 1800’s filled with the only the law and the lawless? Most people depict the western town as a place of gun slinging cowboys packed into an over crowed saloon, where the whiskey and the women flow freely. The truth of the matter is, that even though there were violent areas of the west they were fewer and farther in between than most people realize. Some recent scholars believe that the west was no more violent than the average American city of today. (1) The towns that had higher rates of crime were only violent because in the early years of their origin they were full of men, poor conditions, and alcohol and lacked a government and a qualified justice system. One of the most infamous of these violent towns was Dodge City, Kansas.

Before Dodge City existed there was Fort Dodge, a helpful stop along the Santa Fe Trail. It was closed then rebuilt as a town along the transcontinental railway. At first, Dodge City was a stop for buffalo hunters as place to trade and ship their goods. Within a three year period it quickly changed into a thriving cattle town due to the mass slaughter of the American bison. Dodge City promptly became known as the “Queen of the Cattle Towns”. (2) The main business in Dodge City was the cattle trade and shipping but the entertainment industry was a close second. (3)

The early years of Dodge were run by the Dodge City Gang, or the Gang, who were merchants, saloonkeepers, and gamblers who in favor of a “free range cowboy” type of city so they promoted the debauchery of its citizens. “During the beginning years, there was initially no law enforcement and Dodge City quickly acquired its infamous stamp of lawlessness and gun slinging. As the many buffalo hunters, railroad workers, drifters and soldiers streamed into the town after long excursions on the prairie, they quickly found the saloons and the inevitable fights ensued.” (3)

After about a decade of immorality spreading across Dodge City like an ethical plague, the city started to invoke laws and a more strict penal system. The first steps toward a safer community was made in 1878 when the city council passed a law that made gambling and prostitution illegal within the city limits. (3) This law did not make an impact on the crime because the people charged with the crime were usually fined and released. As more people from the east moved to the west they brought not only their families but a sense of Victorian society. As time moved on Dodge City was losing its rough edges and started taking the shape of a more functional society. The press and the tabloids still raved that the city was just as lawless as ever. “It is the desire of the better class of citizens and business… who expect to make their homes here for an indefinite time, to counteract these exaggerated reports of the total depravity of Dodge city…”(3). As the cowboys saddled up their horses and road off into the sun set they waved good bye to the merchant, farmers, and the law enforcement that took their place.

Author: Katie Cahill


(1) Haywood, C. R. Victorian West. Kansas City: University of Kansas, 1991. Print.

(2) “The Dodge City War,”. History.net. Weider History Group. Web. 02 Nov. 2009.

(3) Johnson, Marilynn S. Violence in the West. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.


Owen Wister’s 1902 novel The Virginian is the key to understanding the genre of American Western literature. Everything prior to it wasn’t truly “the Western” yet, and everything since draws on it, refers to it, was shaped by it, or defines itself against it. In this unit, we’ve read some “pre-Virginian” literature, and we’ll read some “post-Virginian” literature, but you need to understand the Virginian (and Wister) in order to make sense of both what comes before and after.

Hence: we’re going to crowdsource our knowledge about the novel. In our class there’s a range of understandings, approaches, and levels of engagement with the text. In other words, some of you read it and “got it,” some of you read it and didn’t “get it” and some of you didn’t read it at all. Pooling our collective knowledge seems a worthwhile approach.

I’ve created a wiki for the Virginian, which is a website that anyone can edit. This will help us be most efficient in creating a class study guide to the novel and in formulating discussion and exam questions about it.

Mythbuster: Belle Starr, the Bandit Queen of the Old West

There are many versions of the Legend of Belle Starr. After her mysterious death on February 3, 1889, many “biographers have claimed to tell the real story of Belle Starr’s life, but in doing so they often contradicted each other” (1). Soon the truth of Belle Starr was hidden by myth only. “Legend has it that Belle Starr served as a scout for the Confederates, fought the Union militia, and dressed as a man to participate in robberies with her husband.” (1). However, because of the legends told about her, she would become an infamous character in America outlaw past. As a teenager, she is said to “go out and take revenge on Union soldiers who killed her brother.” (1). There is also a claim that “Starr’s daughter Pearl was the illegitimate daughter of Cole Younger.” (1). Other stories have insisted that Belle Starr herself participated in the crimes of her first husband Jim Reed, like in the torture of Watt Grayson and his wife, hoping to find $30,000” (1).

It was not until 1997 that Richard Arnott attempted to bring the true story of Belle Starr to the world. “Belle Starr was born on February 5, 1848 and her name was Myra Maybelle Shirley. Belle Starr received her education at the Carthage Female Academy, and was a great lover of the outdoors. She is said to have been teased for being skinny and homely” (1). Belle Starr never served for the Confederates, or brought them information. Even though her family was Confederate sympathizers, she never went to take revenge of her brother’s death. One legend says that Belle Starr became acquainted with Cole Younger, when her father hid them at the Shirley house. However, it was later proven that she and Cole Younger, and even her first husband Jim Reed were childhood friends. (2). It is also believed that Belle Starr and Cole Younger were lovers, but this was never proven. In fact Belle Starr married Jim Reed in 1866. Another myth came forward stating that “Pearl, Belle’s daughter born in 1867, was the illegitimate daughter of Cole Younger (2). It was proven that the only time Younger and Starr saw each other in 1867, Starr was already pregnant with Pearl (1). The story about Belle Starr participating in the crimes on the Grayson family was never proven, and “no member of the Grayson, or who witnessed the robbery ever mentioned a woman dressed as a man, or even a slightly built man.” (1). It is now believed that she did not like her husband’s criminal life. Belle Starr left her husband, who was later shot and killed. “Biographers state that when she went to identify the body, she denied the dead man was her husband, and did not want the men to get the reward money. However it was recorded that the people who identified him were not his wife, but other people who knew. (3). Not a lot was known about Starr for several years, after her husband’s death. Biographers filled in the gaps by suggesting that she was involved in “burning down a store, robbing a bank, being jailed for stealing a horse, eloping with her jailer, and robbing a poker game at gun point.” (3). However none of this was proven or recorded in criminal records or newspaper. She remarried a man named Sam Starr, who was also involved with the Youngers. Belle did not participate in their crimes, and the only thing she is guilty of is giving them refuge at her home. The only crime that Belle is believed to have been involved with was stealing horses, for which she was found guilty, and was sentence to two six month prison terms, and was said to be a “model citizen” (3). Sam Starr was killed in 1886, and Belle would later remarry. However, on February 3, 1889, she was shot and killed. No one, to this day, knows who really shot her. Many believe that it was a man named Edgar A. Watson, who Belle Starr had a fight with regarding her land. Suspects included Pearl Starr, Belle’s son Ed, and Belle’s third husband. (2).

Soon after her death, the legend of Belle Starr was told by Richard Fox, who wrote Belle’s “authentic” biography. The book contained more fiction than fact (3). It is clear that Belle Starr’s life was not full of crime, like we believed. She only wished to live a peaceful life with her children and husbands. However, spending time with criminals and helping them, made her an unusual woman for her time. “Belle Starr was a confederate sympathizer, rancher, convicted horse thief, who associated with outlaws, and made an enduring name for herself as the “Bandit Queen” of the Old West” (1).

Author: Kendall Dumas


[1] Slosberg, Susan. “Starr, Belle (1848-1889).” Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Ed. Anne Commire. Vol. 14. Detroit: Yorkin Publications, 2002. 733-740. Gale Virtual Reference Library.
Gale. Boston Public Library. 22 Oct. 2009

[2] “Belle Starr.” Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 26. Thomson Gale, 2006. Reproduced in History Resource Center. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale.

[3] Arnott, Richard D. “Bandit queen Belle Starr.” Wild West 10.n2 (August 1997): 34(8). General OneFile. Gale. Boston Public Library. 22 Oct. 2009

Mythbuster: Little Sure Shot: The Story of Annie Oakley

AO2_LWhen one thinks of famous women of the American West, Annie Oakley is sure to appear on any list’s top ten. A tremendously gifted sharpshooter, Oakley became infamous around the globe in the late nineteenth century while she performed in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, which she toured with from 1885 to 1901. However, while Oakley is widely given credit for being a Western star, a true American cowgirl, the woman never lived farther west than Darke County, Ohio, and has never been more than an exhibition and entertainment shooter.

Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann Moses on August 13, 1860 in Darke County, Ohio to Jacob and Susan Moses [1]. After her father’s death at age six, Phoebe Ann, nicknamed “Annie” by her six siblings, was sent to live at the Darke County Infirmary, where she remained until about age thirteen or fourteen when she returned home to live with her mother and stepfather [1]. Annie’s career as a sharp shooter started by using her father’s old Kentucky rifle to hunt small game for a grocery store in Greenville, Ohio—she earned enough for her family at this profession to pay off the family’s $200 mortgage in 1875, then only fifteen years old [4]. Also in 1875, Annie was lured to a local marksmen competition, where she competed against and beat Frank Butler, her future husband, stage partner, and manager. Phoebe Ann Moses, now Mrs. Frank Butler, took on the name “Annie Oakley” and began touring the vaudeville circuit with her husband. In 1882, when Butler’s partner became sick one night, Annie reportedly took his place—this was when Annie became the center of her husband’s act because, as her husband later reportedly said, “she outclassed me,” [3]

In December 1884, Annie and her husband first applied to Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. However, he already had a champion shooter, Captain Bogardus, so he turned them down. When Bogardus quits the show in March of 1885, Annie reapplied with Buffalo Bill again, who agreed to a try-out session in April; in the mean time, Cody’s business manager saw Oakley perform and hired her on the spot [4]. She would perform with the Wild West show for almost seventeen years, performing across the United States as well as in front of major heads of state in London, Paris, and Germany [3]. She opened rodeos and wild west shows to women, was a strong advocate for a woman’s right to bear and use firearms, and helped change the United States’ and Europe’s mind about appropriate sports and activities for women [2].

Annie was one of the shining stars of Buffalo Bill’s show, but in October 1901 the Butler’s were in a large train accident. While neither were seriously injured, Oakley quit the Wild West show for good; she spent the rest of her life acting in two different stage plays, performing in various shooting expositions, and teaching women how to fire guns. In 1917, at the start of World War I, Oakley telegraphed the secretary of war with an offer to raise a “regiment of women to join the fight,” but never received a reply [4]. She was in a serious automobile accident in 1922, which left her walking in a leg brace until November 3, 1926, when she died of “pernicious anemia” in Darke County, Ohio [3].

Annie Oakley was a famed wild west star, the heroine of a television show that ran from 1954 to 1957, and the subject of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical Annie Get Your Gun, which later became a film [4]. She became the first “cowgirl” in motion pictures when she performed in front of Thomas Edison’s moving picture machine as she shot glass balls in the air [3]. But the first famous woman of the wild west never lived farther west than Ohio and actually spent most of her adult life living on the east coast and travelling with various wild west and vaudeville shows.

Author: Sigourney Demers


[1]”Annie Oakley.” Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Web. 20 Oct. 2009.

[2]Edwards, Bess. “Annie Oakley’s Life and Career.” The Annie Oakley Foundation. Web. 20 Oct. 2009.

[3]Sorg, Eric V. “Annie Oakley.” History Net. Wild West, Feb. 2001. Web. 20 Oct. 2009.

[4]”Timeline: The Life of Annie Oakley.” PBS.org. 14 Feb. 2006. Web. 20 Oct. 2009.

Image: Wood, J. Annie Oakley “Little Sure Shot” 1885. Photograph. Annie Oakley. Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Web. 28 Oct. 2009.

Mythbuster: Seven Lost Cities of Gold

In American west history there are many events, people, and ideas that have become known as myths and legends. One event or place that had become a legend over time is the seven lost cities of gold. This is what also known as the seven lost cities of Cibola. This legend dates back to about 1150 and came about before the Spanish conquest of the New World. [4] The legend goes that seven opportunistic bishops looted the gold and riches as well as anything else that was able to be taken from their respective churches and sailed it away to an unknown land in order to establish a new Jerusalem that is wealthy. The seven bishops built seven neighboring cities that became unbelievably wealthy. There were streets made of gold and houses made with silver and gems. It was said that if a man had found the seven cities of gold, he would be as wealthy as the pope and people believed that the cities would be found to the north in what is now, the United States. [2]

In 1528 Charles V. of Spain sent five armed ships as well as a well trained army to colonize and conquer Florida. He also sent them to convert Indians to Christianity but most importantly, he hoped to find gold. In less than a year, Charles’ army was destroyed weather it was from disease, shipwreck, or the Florida Indians. Although, four prisoners managed to escape and for eight years, they wandered through what is now Northern Mexico. On their way, they heard of several large cities and one of the men, Esteban was bought as a slave by the viceroy of new Spain, Don Antonio de Mendoza who secretly began traveling north in search of the seven cities with a party and Esteban as a guide. They pretended to look like they were on a religious pilgrimage with Marcos de Niza as the head of the trip. Esteban and many others knew that the expedition would fail without him and in the fall of 1538 or 1539 he met Pima Indians who told him about Zuni pueblos which were beyond the Gila. The Zuni pueblos came to be the cities that Esteban was searching for and the Pima Indians offered to guide him. They reached the Zuni after 300 miles but it was not the cities they were searching for and the Zunis did not like him. [2] They started to kill those in Esteban’s party including Esteban and Niza escaped and ran. As he ran he thought he saw a sparkle of gold in the city ahead but knew Mendoza would not be happy if he went on and turned back. [4][2]

On February 23, 1540 Mendoza made Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, governor of a Mexican province who was born to a noble family in Spain, lead conquistadors in hope for fortune and Niza was drafted as the party guide. [4] Coronado financed this expedition in hope to find riches with 400 soldiers, 700-800 servants and Indian slaves carrying gear, and 1,000 horses. Coronado found the first of Niza’s Seven Cities of Gold and ordered his men to attack. They did not find any streets or houses of gold, but of mud, adobe, and stone buildings. Coronado knew that the truth was greatly stretched but still believed the lost cities were real. They continued to search for gold for more than two years destroying thirteen villages and punishing those who resisted. [3] Although they didn’t find any gold, a new land was discovered but to Coronado’s dying day he was sure that the Seven Cities of Gold still existed. [2]

Author: Micaela Cronin


[1] Axelrod, Alan. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to American History. 5th edition. New York:
Penguin Group, 2009.

[2] Rutter, Michael. Myths and Mysteries of the Old West. New York: MJF Books, 2005.

[3] New Perspectives on the West. PBS. 2001. Web. 27 October, 2009.

[4] Fumagalli, Chris. Coronado Searched for Cities of Gold. Borderlands. 2001-2009. Web. 27
October, 2009.

Mythbuster: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

With the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” becoming famous with the likes of acting legends Paul Newman and Robert Redford there are a lot of misconceptions that have arisen about the famous cowboy duo that are not all true. They became famous for robbing banks and trains in the “wild west” and were very good at what they did. They had help robbing from the famous “Wild Bunch” gang that included them and the likes of Harvey “Kid Curry” Logan and Ben “Tall Texan” Kilpatrick as well as up to one hundred others. With this famous gang they were able to become wealthy to some degree (2009).

In the movie it portrays Butch and Sundance being chased by Joe Lefors and many other people that were out to rid themselves of the infamous Butch and Sundance for robbing numerous banks and trains as portrayed in the movie. On one occasion the gang robbed a Nevada bank and made off with $32,000 (2009). In fact they were never chased by Lefors. At the famous hideout called “Hole in the Wall” the Wild Bunch was not even present at the time Lefors and his men were the creating the famous Hole in the Wall shootout. This was a common hideout for gangs because of its location near places to rob and a hard place to get to by officials at the same time.

The big myth about Butch and Sundance is whether or not they actually died in Bolivia. Supposedly Butch and Sundance were fatally shot by the Bolivian army and Butch was forced to put Sundance out of his misery before taking his own life. The reports by the Bolivian army stated that they indeed killed Butch and Sundance and asked for identification from the banks that were recently robbed by the Americans (2009). People later stated that they did not in fact kill the famous duo and it was two other men. People say they saw Butch and Sundance after the big gunfight. There is no way to actually tell whether or not they were actually killed in that gunfight. There is a lot of “he said she said” that goes along with this territory.

There is one man who claimed to have seen Butch Cassidy after Bolivia; his name was William Philips. In an interview reported by the Biography Channel he claimed to have seen a man with the same facial features as Butch in Washington D.C. While that is not a lot to base this off of he had a ring that belonged to Butch. He also carried Butch’s gun that had his brand carved into the butt of the handgun. That is not a lot to believe whether or not the famous Butch Cassidy survived the famous gun battle between Butch and Sundance, not to mention with a portion of the Bolivian army (which is amazing in itself). These two men were wanted so much that a country sent their army to kill them.

In the end, did they survive the gun fight with the Bolivian army? There are only two people that know that for sure and they are both dead by now. This is a hard thing to investigate due to the fact if they did actually survive they would not have been able to use their real names if they did indeed come back to the United States. They would in fact be other people to the rest of the world. So they either died themselves in Bolivia or died as different men in the United States living a life they did not all enjoy; being upstanding citizens.

Author: Jason Comeau


Golden, William. 1969. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 20th Century Fox.

Huntington Smith, Helena. 1961. The Truth about the Hole-in-the-Wall Fight. The Magazine
Of Western History
, 11 (3), 11-19.

(No Author). Biography Channel: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

(No Author). 2009. Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid. The Wild West.

Unit 5 (11/6 – 11/27): The Western Genre in American Literature

Western films were not the first Westerns; the genre existed in literature long before film was invented. In this unit, we trace the invention and development of the Western as a form of American literature in popular culture. Start reading The Virginian as soon as you can; it’s deceptively long. Also in this unit, your final project is due, on Monday 11/16.

27. Fri 11/6 Where it Begins: The Dime Novel
Reading: excerpts from the amazing Stanford University Dime Novel Collection. The best way to get a feel for their collection is to browse the subjects of the thousands of cover art images, and click on a few that look interesting to you. Several full-text novels are here also; you should probably skim a couple of chapters, from any of the Westerns – e.g. Buffalo Bill, Deadwood Dick, California Joe, or Jesse James. Reading any two to four chapters (total, not from each book) should give you the flavor of this genre.

28. Mon 11/9 Western Writers Who Actually Went West
Reading: Mark Twain, Roughing It Chapters 1, 4, and 21 (read more if you want – or try a different online version with an easy-navigate table of contents)
Stephen Crane, “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” [pdf]

Wed 11/11 No Class

29. Fri 11/13 The Defining Western Novel: The Virginian
Reading: Owen Wister, The Virginian (entire)

30. Mon 11/16 Discussion Day: The Virginian
Reading: WOE, Ch 7 “The Virginian: Wister’s Mother”

Final Project is Due

31. Wed 11/18 Western Fiction
Reading: WOE, Ch 8 and 10 “Zane Grey” and “Homage to Louis L’Amour”

32. Fri 11/20 Wither the Western?
Reading: WOE Ch 11 and Epilogue, “Two Men” and “Fighting Words” AND Annie Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain” [pdf]. In-class links: “Writing a Good Western,” WWA, NYT, Bb, and BbF

33. Mon 11/23 Unit 5 Test

Wed 11/25 and Fri 11/27 Thanksgiving Break