Deadwood from Primary Sources
June 3, 2019 10:41 AM   Subscribe

A. W. Merrick really was a newsman, although maybe not an intrepid one. And the Black Hills Pioneer was a real newspaper. Digging through the papers archives, Matthew Dessem takes a look at the actual recorded exploits of Al Swearengen, E.B. Farnum, Seth Bullock, Sol Star, and others. Among the many fascinating revelations is that Deadwood (mercifully) leaves out a lot of historical blackface at the Gem Saloon.
posted by the phlegmatic king (14 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I read an article once that said that the situation for women in the camp was much worse than was depicted on the TV couldn't show what it was really like.
posted by thelonius at 10:50 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]

I didn't even realize that most of Deadwood was based (however thinly) on real people. I assumed the occasional big name we'd heard of -- Wild Bill, Calamity Jane -- was being parachuted into an otherwise entirely fictional story.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:00 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]

wow, I didn't know this was based on real history either. I don't like to think about thing lives of those women too closely. the venereal disease situation alone...
posted by supermedusa at 11:10 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]

I love (hate) that much of even relatively modern history we can’t reasonably televise because it’s “too much”.

Mad Men was also way worse in reality with the smoking, drinking, and sexism based on interviews from people who actually lived then.

GoT the book is actually based on events surrounding The War of Roses and that time period...the kids in the book are all a LOT younger than the show.... and historically 10-14 year olds of all classes being put in impossible adult situations was normal. (Someone we’d normally be least likely to feel sorrow for... Marie Antionette was married at 14 and taken away from everyone she knew, not even allowed to speak her native language any longer, to live in what we all would consider as ridiculous luxury but was actually filled with a bunch of people who didn’t bathe bc French were super duper wacky back then and the Austrians were more into, you know, bathing. Jokes aside, it’s actually a pretty sucky story and the more I learn about Royal history I’m amazed we’ve made it this far.)

I’ve heard how Deadwood and some other places being absolutely miserable cess pits. And I try to imagine the reality of it and fail. It makes the rampage on Westworld make a lot more sense tho. It’s only surprising more women didn’t go full on Kill Bill and slay entire towns of brutalizers.
posted by sio42 at 11:37 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]

My dad has been doing some family history research into his grandfather, my great-grandad, a frontier dentist in Elko, Nevada (pop. approx. 850). He recently turned up this extraordinary piece published in the December 13, 1897 issue of the Elko Daily Independent.
Impotent Threats.

This Monday noon as the editor of the Independent was in front of the Commercial Hotel going to his dinner he was accosted by Dr. C. E. Wilson, the dentist, who threatened to put a head on the editor if his name was published in connection with the brutal assault on Mr. Cox or the statement made by Mr. Cox published. The readers of the Independent will see this man's name published and his identity fully established under the caption of "A Brutal Assault" and in this article. In the course of his abusive tirade he made the remark that he was a desperate man. Desperate man or not he does not run the town nor control the smallest portion of space in the columns of this paper. Our reasons for not publishing the statements of the principals in the brutal assault are fully given in the account printed elsewhere. His threats cut no figure in their omission.

If Dr. C. E. Wilson, the dentist, does not wish to have his name appear in the columns of this paper in connection with any violation of the law all he or any other citizen has to do is keep out of fights and comport himself as a law abiding citizen. If he does that his name will not appear in connection with any violation of the law or otherwise except as a news item or he puts up the cash.

It has come to a pretty pass in Elko if men like Dr. C. E. Wilson, the dentist, can openly violate the law and escape publicity through threats to whip the editor of a paper whose duty it is to give the news and uphold the majesty of the law. That time has not come yet and Dr. C. E. Wilson, the dentist, might as well make up his mind to that effect.
To any descendants of Mr. W. W. Booher, editor and proprietor of the Independent: I'm sorry my ancestor was a jackass.
posted by theodolite at 12:13 PM on June 3 [21 favorites]

Dr. C. E. Wilson sounds like a real "The Free Press is the Enemy of the People" type.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:22 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]

Huh, when I saw this here, I thought someone had posted my MeFi project.

This article seems to have more issues of the Black Hills Pioneer than I had through my subscription, which was sparse regarding the early issues.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:57 PM on June 3 [4 favorites]

Dear God, the repeated "C.E. Wilson, the dentist" is a thing of beauty. It reads like some highly prescient attempt at keyword-stuffing or google-bombing. The newspaper editor is like "lest anyone be confused about which jackass I mean, I mean this specific jackass over here."
posted by jacquilynne at 1:31 PM on June 3 [12 favorites]

I’ve heard how Deadwood and some other places being absolutely miserable cess pits.

They brought out some of this, and the series was fairly scatological, but, yeah. Imagine the smell.
posted by thelonius at 1:36 PM on June 3

This is a great article. Thank you for sharing.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 2:08 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]

A way better than average Slate article.

this struck me especially:
But alas! for the old chief, the Crow and the Sioux country are now “in exactly the right place” for the white man. That last link is being welded in the chain of continuous industries which is to connect ocean with ocean, and the swelling tide will carry the savage tribes on to a higher plane, or sweep them out of existence altogether. Humanitarian protestations are in vain—this is manifest destiny.

That manifest destiny is not something granted to 'the White Man' but merely the name for the infestation of white men into the lives that were already there. An interesting reassessment of the the phrase and glimpse into quotidian thoughts of a literate mind.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:01 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]

A tiny bit of family history recalled that the actual Calamity Jane came through town one day (middle of nowhere in Montana) and scandalized everyone by sleeping in the school yard. The only other detail was that she was the filthiest women anyone had ever seen.
posted by sammyo at 6:02 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]

And the Black Hills Pioneer was a real newspaper.

Still is. I've leafed through issues many times while visiting my partner's family in the Black Hills.
posted by aught at 4:44 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]

Aside from the Pioneer, which isn't there yet, your tax dollars are providing you to hundreds of other newspapers via Chronicling America at the Library of Congress, here's all of their South Dakota digitized newspapers.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:26 PM on June 4 [2 favorites]

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