Gradually paintings and photographs inspired a

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Gradually, paintings and photographs inspired a growing wave of tourism among peo- ple eager to see the natural wonders of the region. In the 1880s and 1890s, resort hotels began to spring up near some of the region’s most spectacular landscapes. Even more appealing was the rugged, free-spirited lifestyle that many Americans asso- ciated with the West. Many nineteenth-century Americans came especially to idealize the figure of the cowboy. Western novels such as Owen Wister’s The Virginian (1902) roman- Cowboys in Fiction ticized the cowboy’s supposed freedom from traditional social constraints, his affinity with nature, even his supposed propensityfor violence. Wister’s character— one of the most enduring in popular American literature—was a semi-educated man whose natural decency, courage, and compassion made him a powerful symbol of the supposed virtues of the “frontier.” But The Virginian was only the most famous example of a type of literature that soon swept throughout the United States. Novels and stories glorified the West and the lives of cowboys in particular, in boys’ magazines, pulp novels, theater, and serious literature. Among the reasons for the widespread admiration of the cowboy were the remarkably popular Wild West shows that traveled throughout the United States and Europe. Most successful were the shows of Buffalo Bill Cody, a former Pony Express rider, Indian fighter, and hero of popular dime novels for children. Cody’s Wild West show, which spawned dozens of imitators, exploited his own fame and romanticized the life of the cowboy through reenactments of Indian battles and displays of horsemanship and riflery (many of them by the famous sharpshooter Annie Oakley). Buffalo Bill and his imitators confirmed the popular image of the West as a place of romance and glamour and helped keep that image alive for later generations. The Idea of the Frontier It was not simply the particular character of the new West that resonated in the nation’s imagination. It was also that many Americans considered it the last natural frontier. Since the earliest moments of European settlement in America, the image of uncharted territory to the westhad always comforted and inspired those who dreamed of starting life anew. Mark Twain gave voice to this romantic vision of the frontier in a Mark Twain series of novels and memoirs. In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), he produced characters who repudiated the constraints of organized society and attempted to escape into a more natural world. (For Huck Finn, the vehicle of escape was a small raft on the Mississippi.) This yearn- ing for freedom reflected a larger vision of the West as the last refuge from the con- straints of civilization. One of the most beloved and successful artists of the nineteenth century was Frederic Remington, a painter and sculptor whose works came to represent the Frederic Remington romance of the West. He portrayed the cowboy as a natural

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