Dodge City and the Birth of the Wild West
Robert R. Dykstra and Jo Ann Manfra
Raised on Gunsmoke, Bat Masterson, and The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, we know what it means to “get outta Dodge”—to make a hasty escape from a dangerous place, like the Dodge City of Wild West lore. But why, of all the notorious, violent cities of old, did Dodge win this distinction? And what does this tenacious cultural metaphor have to do with the real Dodge City?
In a book as much about the making of cultural myths as it is about Dodge City itself, authors Robert Dykstra and Jo Ann Manfra take us back into the history of Dodge to trace the growth of the city and its legend side-by-side. An exploration of murder statistics, court cases, and contemporary accounts reveals the historical Dodge to be neither as violent nor as lawless as legend has it—but every bit as intriguing. In a style that captures the charm and chicanery of storytelling in the Old West, Dodge City and the Birth of the Wild West finds a culprit in a local attorney, Harry Gryden, who fed sensational accounts to the national media during the so-called “Dodge City War” of 1883. Once launched, the legend leads the authors through the cultural landscape of twentieth-century America, as Dodge City became a useful metaphor in more and more television series and movies. Meanwhile, back in the actual Dodge, struggling on a lost frontier, a mirror image of the mythical city began to emerge, as residents increasingly embraced tourism as an economic necessity.
“Those with an interest in the American frontier, colorful frontier figures, or studies of historical myth and memory will find much to appreciate.”
—Annals of Iowa
“A worthwhile read for all who are interested in the town's early history and the people who made its reputation wild and wicked.”
—Journal of the WestSee all reviews...
“A readable and well-researched study of the mythology concerning Dodge City.”
—Great Plains Quarterly
“Written in an engaging style and illustrated with photographs and engravings that bring the history to life, Dodge City and the Birth of the Wild West addresses both a scholarly and a general interest audience.”
—Journal of American History
“A satisfying page-turner. The authors use numerous newspapers accounts to carry their storyline forward, writing in a style that makes sense of the era’s news and headlines to today’s reader.”
“Lovers of western history who yearn to explore the guts and the glory of Western Americanism will enjoy this book for its gritty realism. It is a trip into the past, transporting the reader to another time, while telling the true story of Dodge City.”
—Western Historical Quarterly
“Dykstra and Manfra have carefully woven together rich material to produce a delightful read for anyone interested in cowboys, the cattle trade, cow town pioneers, and violent western towns.”
—Montana The Magazine of Western History
“Dykstra and Manfra bring Dodge back to reality and describe expertly how it earned its reputation and then became tamed. ”
“A timely study of the myths and legends of the most famous of all the cow towns.”
—The Tombstone Epitaph
“History buffs and proud Kansans alike will enjoy the compelling, well-written words of Dykstra and Manfra as they share the legends, myths and realities of Dodge City and the Old West.”
“Dykstra and Manfra furnish a top drawer study of the history, legends, and memories of Dodge City, Kansas. Their well-written book provides a model for similar examinations of other Wild West towns. Superb work.”
—Richard W. Etulain, author of The Life and Legends of Calamity Jane
“Dodge City and the Birth of the Wild West is a carefully researched, engagingly written, and well-organized study of the real and the imagined “Dodge City.” It is also a timely book, considering the nation’s ongoing debate over the nature of Second Amendment rights and open/concealed carry, even though the historical Dodge City, upon which the “Wild West” of legend and the Dodge City of metaphor (“get out of Dodge”) are based, ceased to exist more than 130 years ago.”
—Virgil W. Dean, editor of John Brown to Bob Dole: Movers and Shakers in Kansas History
“In Dodge City and the Birth of the Wild West the authors have come close to creating actual time travel. Readers will find themselves transported in 1872 and the beginning of a town that became notorious nationally for wickedness and gunplay. Thanks to a wealth of original sources, this book reeks of authenticity with a dash of tongue-in-cheek humor.”
—Tom Clavin, author of Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American WestSee fewer reviews...
Dodge City and the Birth of the Wild West maps a metaphor for belligerent individualism and social freedom through the cultural imagination, from a historical starting point to its mythical reflection. In this, the book restores both the reality of Dodge and its legend to their rightful place in the continuum of American culture.