Discussion:
QUORA: Was life in the old frontier towns of America during the 1800s really like what they show in the ‘Wild west’ themed movies?
(too old to reply)
Dave P.
2021-07-08 18:14:45 UTC
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QUORA: Was life in the old frontier towns of America
during the 1800s really like what they show in the
‘Wild west’ themed movies?
by Jon Mixon (over 13,000 movies by now) May 14, 2021
Not even close.
Most towns were small & crowded - Construction materials
were scarce and thus valuable. Additionally water & sewage
infrastructure was extremely limited into the early 20th
century meaning that they could only be so big.

There were few doctors & fewer hospitals - If you grew ill,
then unless you “got better” it was going to a rough road
until you died. Treatable chronic illnesses like diabetes &
rheumatoid arthritis were death sentences, as was diarrhea
if laudanum (alcohol laced with opium) wasn’t available to
stop it. Basically until the early to mid 20th century
living in a Western town was an exercise fraught with peril.

Unemployment meant leaving or growing ill & potentially
dying - If you lost your job, then you probably had to
leave as all of the available work was “spoken for”.
Additionally given the nature of the times, in many cases
if you were fired, then no one would hire as to do so
might threaten business or personal relationships that
existed at the time. If you couldn’t find work, you had
to leave or prepare yourself for grim times

You weren’t gonna get too old - The avg life expectancy in
1890 was 42 years. While graves can be found with people
who lived into their 50s, 60s, or even 80s, they represent
a tiny fraction of the people who lived at that time. The
“old people” who you might see in a Western film are actually
in their late 30s or early 40s as they were reaching the
end of their lives.

There were more minorities, esp. following the Civil War -
Basically minorities handled the sh*t jobs in the Old West
& so they lived nearly everywhere for a number of decades.
Unfortunately a series of pogroms which began in the 1870s
& extended into the early 20s began the exodus of minorities
from many rural areas & smaller towns into cities. Most
Westerns are far “Whiter” than historical reality states
that they would be.
A Friend
2021-07-08 19:34:56 UTC
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Post by Dave P.
You weren’t gonna get too old - The avg life expectancy in
1890 was 42 years. While graves can be found with people
who lived into their 50s, 60s, or even 80s, they represent
a tiny fraction of the people who lived at that time. The
“old people” who you might see in a Western film are actually
in their late 30s or early 40s as they were reaching the
end of their lives.
The "tiny fraction" thing is flatly wrong. Your chances of living into
a decently old age were about the same then as now. The reason that
average life expectancy was lower was that so many infants and children
died.

If you made it to 6, your chances of making it to 70 were excellent.
Making it to 6 was the problem.
Lenona
2021-07-09 05:09:39 UTC
Permalink
In article >,
Post by Dave P.
You weren’t gonna get too old - The avg life expectancy in
1890 was 42 years. While graves can be found with people
who lived into their 50s, 60s, or even 80s, they represent
a tiny fraction of the people who lived at that time. The
“old people” who you might see in a Western film are actually
in their late 30s or early 40s as they were reaching the
end of their lives.
The "tiny fraction" thing is flatly wrong. Your chances of living into
a decently old age were about the same then as now. The reason that
average life expectancy was lower was that so many infants and children p
died.
If you made it to 6, your chances of making it to 70 were excellent.
Making it to 6 was the problem.
What about women dying in childbirth and young men dying in accidents - or battles or feuds?

I would think you'd want to look at those who made it to 40, first. (I wish there were a simple chart for American life expectancy once one DID make it to 40, over the last two centuries or so. Plus maybe another chart for those who made it to 60.)

Someone here, years ago, quoted an anthropology professor who said that if you were 40 and living in Ancient Rome, your chances of making it to 80 were almost as good as they are now.
A Friend
2021-07-09 10:17:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Lenona
In article >,
Post by Dave P.
You weren’t gonna get too old - The avg life expectancy in
1890 was 42 years. While graves can be found with people
who lived into their 50s, 60s, or even 80s, they represent
a tiny fraction of the people who lived at that time. The
“old people” who you might see in a Western film are actually
in their late 30s or early 40s as they were reaching the
end of their lives.
The "tiny fraction" thing is flatly wrong. Your chances of living into
a decently old age were about the same then as now. The reason that
average life expectancy was lower was that so many infants and children p
died.
If you made it to 6, your chances of making it to 70 were excellent.
Making it to 6 was the problem.
What about women dying in childbirth and young men dying in accidents - or
battles or feuds?
What about them? We have enough battles and feuds going on in our time
to at least match theirs. We also have car accidents.

My point is that historical life expectancy figures depend largely on
the rate of infant mortality.

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