The period of the Wild West is a specific part of American history that is among the most recognizable interludes in world history for one major reason: Hollywood. The Western is considered the most "generic" of genres; that is, it has the most stringently delineated rules, such as it being a movie set generally between 1830-1910, in the western frontier, during a period of enormous change as railroads, traders and "settlers" (so named because they settled down, not because they were the first people to arrive in the area) penetrated deep into territories previously inhabited by Native Americans only, and rendered them sufficiently colonized that they soon became politically stable. It is characterized by cowboys, Native Americans (typically portrayed in a rather shallow and stereotypical way), remarkably few women, beautiful shots of Monument Valley and similarly striking locations, stagecoach chases and cattle drives. From all of this, our culture gleaned the image of the cowboy, a figure who was of this landscape and ready to embrace all its complexities - and possibly to tame it.
The Western's fundamental theme is always focused on the ambivalence about this process. The Old West was lawless, glorious, dangerous and a place you could go to reinvent yourself. It became tame, modern and less exciting, but a lot safer and more prosperous. The various figures who dominated its development played a key role in helping or hindering the change. Which of them are you?