Museum Minute: The American Cowboy

Dec 14, 2018

It’s well known that President Theodore Roosevelt helped shape the American West as we know it today. But the curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum, Jeremy Johnston, said Roosevelt, along with Buffalo Bill, also promoted the romance and myth of the American West.

Roosevelt didn’t spend too much time in this area of the country, but his writings of hunting trips and experiences staying at a ranch in the Dakotas helped to popularize the Western experience. Buffalo Bill popularized the West through the performances of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. Both men transformed the image of the American cowboy, since traditionally the American cowboy was seen negatively.

“Because when most people encountered cowboys it was at the end of a drive and they were shooting up the town, going into the bars the saloons, chasing women,” said Johnston.

As a result, the cowboy shifted from a working-class laborer to a working-class hero.