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The Real Wild West by Michael Wallis

The Real Wild West (1999)

by Michael Wallis

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312263813, Paperback)

Although not as renowned as Buffalo Bill Cody, Joseph Miller and his brothers were in many ways as impressive as impresarios. Their Wild West shows, which competed with Cody's show and the Ringling Brothers' circuses, featured talent like Will Rogers and Tom Mix and significantly influenced American mass entertainment. In The Real Wild West, Michael Wallis makes a case that the Millers didn't just invent the romantic West but lived it as well.

Like Cody before them, the Millers took their cues from the frontier, largely because they played a significant part in its conquest. The family's rambunctious Kentuckian patriarch, George Washington Miller, abandoned the bluegrass of his home state to raise cattle on the greener pastures of the plains. His sons followed suit, but in 1905, a rodeo at the 101, their 100,000-acre-plus Oklahoma ranch, for the National Editorial Association led to a new career in popular entertainment. Within a decade, film producer Thomas Ince had set up shop nearby, utilizing talent from the 101 for his westerns. (It was Ince's mysterious death, combined with revelations of financial chicanery, that ultimately destroyed the enterprise in the 1920s.)

Wallis doesn't sugarcoat accusations of murder and illegal financial maneuverings on the part of the Millers, instead making interesting parallels between their ruthlessness and business acumen and the romantic vision of the West they presented to early-20th-century audiences. His account is also notable for its numerous biographies of 101 performers--people like Princess Wenona, the Native American rival to Annie Oakley, and Bill Pickett, an African American cowhand who founded most of the events on the professional rodeo circuit--and conveys the enthusiasm many must have felt during the Wild West shows' heyday. --John M. Anderson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:48 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Founded in 1893, the 101 Ranch was famous across the country for its touring Wild West shows, which featured countless cowboys and cowgirls, including Buffalo Bill, Geronimo, and Bill Pickett. Playing to packed arenas from coast to coast, and even in Europe, the 101 Ranch show came to embody the spirit of the frontier for the entire nation.… (more)

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