This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

What people ate, and drank, in the Old West

I've been watching some old westerns on Netflix lately, and it's reminded me that I had always been curious about small details that books and movies don't usually cover, about ordinary life in the Old West. Like, what people ate, and drank.

Of course, to answer this, you have to be more specific than the *Old West*. It can be argued that the *Old West* was Kansas, or Missouri. It could be Texas, or California. Or even Arizona. Since I live in Arizona, specifically in the Phoenix, area, that's what interests me.

The timespan that most people agree on as *The Old West* is from after the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the invention of cars, roughly the 1870s to the 1900s. And in that time frame you could be in San Francisco, eating lobster and drinking champagne, or in Phoenix, eating, well, lobster and drinking champagne. And that's because of the railroads, that supplied goods and services to people who could afford them.

1890, Phoenix, Arizona
If your view of the *Old West* makes you think that people in Phoenix in 1890 were living on beef jerky and beans, you may be surprised. Yes, they had whiskey, and beer. And no, they didn't need to drink it warm, they had ice. The manufacture of ice was big business in the *Old West* of Phoenix from the 1890s on. And they also had oysters, and fish, brought it during the cooler months on railroad cars filled with ice. By the way, Phoenix also had electric street lights, and an electric trolley car line in the 1890s.

When we watch movies about *The Old West* they tend to be about cowboys living on ranches, where was no electricity, and certainly no ice. These people ate a lot of salted meat, and beans. People who live in such rugged conditions nowadays still do.

The best way to learn about life in *The Old West* isn't watching movies, or reading books, it's by reading newspapers published at that time, and thanks to the internet, you can. During the last couple of years I've been browsing through Phoenix newspapers starting in 1890. Life was different then, but not as different as I had thought.

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov
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