Ask the Marshall — Saloons, Paniolos and Telegraphs
True West|February - March 2022
Was the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas, an integrated saloon during 1876 to 1886, the height of the cattle drive era? This rare interior photo of Chalk Beeson's famous Front Street bar shows bartender Lo Warren (front, right), a Black bartender and cowboys sitting at the rear of the saloon.
By Marshall Trimble, Photography courtesy of Hawaii State Archive, Library of Congress

Was there racial separation in the Old West? Could a Black cowboy go into a Tombstone saloon?

Jeffery S. King —Washington, DC

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to provide a simple answer. The West is the largest region in the United States, and the period known as the Old West spanned just a few decades, but many parts of the West were settled by Southerners, so segregation prevailed in those areas.

Being a cowboy was one of the few jobs open to men of color. Black and white cowboys mixed and mingled with each other. Working for an outfit meant “riding for the brand.” If cowboys working for the same outfit came into a saloon, it’s likely they drank together, and if anybody didn’t like it, there was a good chance a brawl occurred. Black and white, those who rode for the brand stuck together in the ruckus.

Several other accounts reported violence when Blacks tried to get served in “white” bars and vice versa.

Pity the poor Chinese. Most of the animosity and prejudice in the West was directed at them. This eased some of the discrimination against Blacks.

How did Indians communicate with whites?

Bob Powers — Cincinnati, Ohio

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