The Cowboy Becomes Myth
This concluding chapter briefly traces the evolution of the historical cowboy to the mythic hero through dime novels, literature, art, and film. Even during a time when cowboys were already seen as crude and morally suspect, nostalgia lingered an imagined past that they had read about in novels or seen in Wild West shows. Cowboys were also avid readers of dime novels and participants in Wild West shows, and by the 1920s, when most cowboys began writing their memoirs, their defense was to embrace the myth of the dime novel heroic and genteel cowboy and claim it as reality, ironically glorifying middle-class ideals of masculinity in the process. William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was responsible for rehabilitating the image of the cowboy, among others. Ultimately, however, the cowboy retained his masculine image, whereas railroad workers, miners, and other industrial workers' masculinities were being undermined by an increasingly corporate America.
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