Frank J. Buchman

Cowboy • Horseman • Writer

Wild West Cowboys Didn’t Make Much Money Yet Didn’t Require Much

What was the cost of a horse, pistol, and bullet, and how much did early day cowboys earn?

I recently stumbled upon some interesting facts about the cost of living in the Old West, said historian Alex Garzo.

The Old West is also known as the Wild West or the American Frontier, It was from the early 19th century to the early 20th century, when the western North America was colonized.

“Aa good horse could cost anywhere from $10 to $200, depending on its quality and breed,” Garzo said. ‘That’s a lot of money, especially considering how hard it could be to earn a steady income in the West.”

. Apparently, a decent revolver like a Colt Peacemaker or a Smith & Wesson Model 3 could run anywhere from $17 to $50. “I think that’s a small price to pay for self-defense in such a wild and unpredictable environment,” Garzo evaluated. “But still not all cowboys could afford to carry a gun.

Bullets were relatively cheap, costing just a few cents apiece. “But even a small expense like that could add up quickly for a cowboy on a tight budget,” Garzo pointed out.

So, a Wild West cowboy heading to a trading post to stock up on supplies might have a shopping list: One good horse, $50; one Colt Peacemaker, $30; one box of bullets, $2

All in all, that’s a total of $82 for some basic necessities. “And that’s not even counting food, clothing, and other essentials,” Garzo qualified.

As for cowboy salaries, this also varied widely depending on the job, location, and time period.

In general, cowboys were not highly paid and often worked long hours in difficult conditions,” Garzo emphasized. According to some historical records, a cowboy in the late 1800s could earn anywhere from $25 to $40 per month. That’s around 75-cents to $1.25 per day.

“However, this was not a steady or reliable income,” Garzo said. “Cowboys often worked on a seasonal or contract basis and were subject to fluctuations in the cattle market.”

“Despite challenges and expenses, I believe the Wild West was an incredibly exciting and vibrant time in history,” Garzo said. “The cowboys who lived and worked in that era were some of the toughest and bravest folks around. Their legacy continues to inspire and captivate us to this day.”

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