B. A. Braxton Books

Western-Themed Articles

Main » Articles » My articles

Exciting Stuff Was Happening in Europe During America's Wild West Days
It’s a fact that the American Wild West period began soon after the Civil War ended. But people seem to disagree as to how long the period lasted. Many believe that it ended with the hanging of Tom Horn in 1903.

Even if we agree that it only lasted for twenty years, between 1865 and 1885, have you ever stopped to think about all of the wonderful things that were going on in Europe at the time? While hard feelings were still festering in America, and the Civil War continued to be fought on the streets of places like Deadwood, Dodge City, and Tombstone, great people were doing some pretty astonishing things across the pond.

Don’t get me wrong, America had lots to be proud of, too. While folks like Jesse and Frank James, Clay Allison, Billy the Kid, and John Wesley Hardin were robbing and killing their way into the history books, you also had the likes of Mark Twain writing classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). Recluse Emily Dickinson was perfecting some of the best poetry of her life, while Lew Wallace, an ex-Civil War general and the eventual governor of New Mexico Territory during the Lincoln County War, was toiling away at his novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880). This little saga went on to sell more copies than any other American novel of the nineteenth century ("Lew Wallace” 4).

John L. Sullivan, a heavyweight boxer, was well on his way to becoming the first American athlete to earn over a million dollars. And Sullivan wasn’t the only one getting wealthy. There were also people like George Hearst getting rich from gold, John D. Rockefeller getting loaded from oil, and Cornelius Vanderbilt raking it in from his shipping and railroad businesses ("19th Century” 15). Scottish-born Industrialist Andrew Carnegie was also busy building his fortune in America by controlling the steel industry ("Andrew Carnegie” 1).  But I digress. Let’s focus our attention on the people who were moving mountains in Europe.

Think about all of the great European art you saw the last time you visited an art museum. It’s hard to imagine that many of those great artists lived at the same time as some of America’s most notorious outlaws. The French, in particular, have lots of painters and sculptors to be proud of, such as Paul Cézanne, Honoré Daumier, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet (the founder of impressionist painting), and Auguste Rodin.

But those weren’t the only Frenchmen making their mark on the art world. Edgar Degas, a man known mostly for his paintings and bronze sculptures of ballerinas, completed his masterful The Dance Class at that time. And Frenchman Pierre-Auguste Renoir was also painting masterpieces, such as the magnificent Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette and Luncheon of the Boating Party. This period also saw the rise of a Dutch contingent led by the incredible Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh painted his first major work in 1885 and called it The Potato Eaters ("Vincent van Gogh” 5).

And what about music? German composer Wilhelm Richard Wagner weighed in mightily with four operas called The Ring of the Nibelung, a whopping fifteen hours of entertainment ("Richard Wagner” 9–10). Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was writing all manner of music, including the ballet Swan Lake. Hungarian Franz Liszt was also a composer and virtuoso pianist of great merit, as was Johannes Brahms, a German composer and pianist.

The United Kingdom’s Queen Victoria had the Victorian Age in full swing, the latter half of which coincided with America’s Gilded Age. In 1876, Her Royal Highness became Empress of India ("Queen Victoria” 1). It’s also worth mentioning that the Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain during the nineteenth century. London, the capital of the British Empire, became the largest city in the world, and liberalism was the reform movement of choice ("19th Century” 1).

Many of Europe’s finest took pen in hand to write their hearts out, too, like Germans Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the drafters of The Communist Manifesto. Leo Tolstoy, a Russian anarchist and writer of novels and short stories, wrote two of his most famous works during this period: War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877) ("Leo Tolstoy” 1). In 1883, Scottish novelist, essayist, and poet Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island was published.

English writer Charles Dickens was still alive, at least for the first five years of this period, but sadly his death in 1870 left The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished ("Mystery” 1). The same could be said for Alexandre Dumas, père (1802-1870), of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers fame. During his lifetime, Dumas didn’t let racism stop him from living life to the fullest, having been born to a half-black, half-French father who himself had been a general in the French army (LaVache 1–2).

Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish author and poet whose fairy tales are some of the best-loved stories in the world, had a flourishing career as well. The Scottish-born, Irish physician Arthur Conan Doyle was just beginning to formulate the character of Sherlock Holmes, and it would be twelve years before Bram Stoker, the Irish novelist and short story writer, would publish his most famous novel Dracula.

Frenchman Jules Verne published his science fiction novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1870, bringing Captain Nemo to life, and then, in 1873, he created Phileas Fogg, the man who attempted to travel Around the World in Eighty Days. Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw went on to be the only person in history to be awarded both a Nobel Prize in Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938) for his work Pygmalion ("George Bernard Shaw” 1).

William Whewell coined the term "scientist” as the nineteenth century ushered in science as a new profession ("19th Century” 22). Ethnic German Gregor Mendel, who was born in the Austrian Empire and became the father of modern genetics, formulated his laws of inheritance in 1865. Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist and engineer, patented dynamite in 1867. In 1868, Cro-Magnon man’s remains were unearthed in France. The word "Cro-Magnon” describes the oldest modern people in Europe, who lived 43,000 years ago ("Cro-Magnon” 1). And let’s not forget that Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev created the periodic table in 1869 ("Dmitri Mendeleev” 1).

Charles Darwin, the English naturalist and geologist best known for his contributions to the theory of evolution, was alive during most of this time and still defending his views on natural selection. Louis Pasteur, a French microbiologist and chemist, was doing some of his most famous work on pasteurization, vaccinations, and fermentation ("Louis Pasteur” 1). Europe’s population doubled during the nineteenth century from approximately 200 million to more than 400 million people, primarily because of the advancements made in disease prevention ("19th Century” 1). Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish-born scientist, engineer, and inventor who made Canada his home, invented and then patented the telephone in 1876 ("Alexander Graham Bell” 5–6).

1881 saw the first electrical power plant and grid established in Godalming, Britain ("19th Century” 11). Sigmund Freud was an Austrian who’d just earned a doctor of medicine degree in 1881. Little did he know that in a few short years, he would create psychoanalysis. And to set the story straight, a Frenchman named Louis Le Prince invented the motion picture and not Thomas Alva Edison. Le Prince had already filmed moving picture sequences on paper film in 1888, three years before Edison placed the patent for his motion picture camera ("Louis Le Prince” 1–2).

But perhaps the most important of all were the ideas formulated by James Clerk Maxwell during the 1865 to 1885 period. Maxwell was a Scottish mathematical physicist who described electricity, magnetism, and optics as manifestations of electromagnetic fields. Writing all manner of scientific papers, as well as a textbook entitled Theory of Heat (1871), Maxwell was also the first to use dimensional analysis (1871). His work, along with that of Englishman Michael Faraday, paved the way for the technology that we know and use today ("James Clerk Maxwell” 1, 4–5).

I could go on and on about the advancements that Europeans made in art, music, politics, literature, and science during the latter half of the nineteenth century. I often wonder how much attention the rough and rugged heroes and antiheroes who roamed the American west paid to what those folks were doing. The rest of us will forever be indebted to our eastern friends for their lives of hard work and dedication that made the world a better, and more enjoyable, place to be.

Works Cited

"Alexander Graham Bell: Canada, Telephone, The race to the patent office.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 25 October 2013. n.p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Graham_Bell>.

"Andrew Carnegie.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 26 October 2013. n.p. Web. 26 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Carnegie >.

"Cro-Magnon.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 22 October 2013. n.p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cro-Magnon>.

"Dmitri Mendeleev.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 29 September 2013. n. p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmitri_Mendeleev>.

"George Bernard Shaw.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 20 October 2013. n.p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Bernard_Shaw>.

"James Clerk Maxwell.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 17 October 2013. n.p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Clerk_Maxwell>.

La Vache, Louis. "Écrivans Alexandre Dumas, père et fils.” The Frog Blog of Louis la Vache: French history, culture and cuisine—with a focus on Paris et l’Île-de-France. 26 July 2006. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://louislavache.blogspot.com/2006/07/crivans-alexandre-dumas-pre-et-fils.html>.

"Leo Tolstoy.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 14 October 2013. n.p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Tolstoy>.

"Lew Wallace: Post-War Career.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 9 October 2013. n.p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lew_Wallace>.

"Louis Le Prince: Forgotten inventor of motion pictures.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 19 October 2013. n.p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Prince>.

"Louis Pasteur.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 27 October 2013. n.p. Web. 27 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Pasteur>.

"The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 27 September 2013. n.p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mystery_of_Edwin_Drood>.

"19th Century.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 24 October 2013. n.p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/19th_century>.

"Queen Victoria.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 26 October 2013. n.p. Web. 26 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Victoria>.

"Richard Wagner: Works, Operas, Completing the Ring.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 14 October 2013. n.p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Wagner>.

"Vincent Van Gogh: Biography, Emerging Artist, Nuenen and Antwerp (1883-1886).” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified 19 October 2013. n.p. Web. 25 October 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh>.
Category: My articles | Added by: Barb (2014-01-14)
Views: 67
Total comments: 0
Name *:
Email *:
Code *:
Welcome Guest