Index of pages on various cultural and media topics
By Richard Bruce BA, MA, and PhC in Economics

The Eastern Border of the Wild West

Where does the American west, the Wild West of myth, fiction, movies, and television begin. A simple easy to remember answer is one state west of the Mississippi. The states east of Mississippi are east, the states that touch the Mississippi are also east. The Wild West began at the western border of Minnesota where the Mississippi begins and the states that are on the west bank of the Mississippi south of Minnesota: Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana. These states are east. The Wild West starts with North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

How do I justify this division? The Wild West was crossed by wagon trains, the pony express, the transcontinental railroad and the telegraph. In each case they started in a county that was on this border between the east and the Wild West.

The wagon trains formed up at Independence, Missouri which is in Jackson County on the western border of Missouri.

The Pony Express started in Saint Joseph, Missouri which is in Buchanan County. Buchanan County is once again is on the western border of Missouri.

The eastern terminus of both the transcontinental railroad and the first transcontinental telegraph was in Omaha, Nebraska which is in Douglas County. Douglas county is on the eastern border of Nebraska.

So all four of these key systems for moving people and goods, or communicating across the Wild West start in counties that touch the eastern border of the Wild West that I am suggesting.

It seems likely that the people at the time saw this border as the beginning of the West. Why else would they so consistently be using it as the jumping off point for crossing the West.

When I Googled “what states were part of the Wild West” I got an answer similar to the one I have given with the exception that they said part of Kansas and Oklahoma and the Western part of Texas. Clearly east Texas had slaves and grew cotton, and this made it more like the South. No doubt eastern parts of Oklahoma and Kansas were wet enough to grow crops that we do not associate with the Wild West.

I am simplifying things by including and excluding whole states in the Wild West.

Created January 9, 2023

Index of pages on various cultural and media topics


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Index of pages on various cultural and media topics

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