Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1882 Anglo-Am. cattleman

​Subject: cattleman rancher
Culture: Anglo-American
Setting: cattle industry, range wars, American West mid 19th-early 20thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Moore 2010 p3-4
"The large ranch owners and cattlemen, who employed the majority of cowboys after the mid-1880s, often came from similar middle-class backgrounds as the later corporate investors, and had different ideas about what was masculine.  They saw themselves first and foremost as businessmen, tamers of the frontier.  Moreover, as the business world as a whole became more corporate in the late nineteenth century, many cattlemen adjusted to the new style of business themselves and adopted the methods of the corporations.  The cattlemen's goal was to bring civilization to the West and to profit from it.  Civilization meant steady economic growth and the foundation of stable community institutions.  While cattlemen may have disliked settlers filing claims on open land within their range, they still wanted to build up towns and realized that a larger population raised the value of the land they did own.  They enjoyed their interaction with civilized society and believed that the true mark of manliness was exercising moderation, which was essential to maintaining social order.  Their brand of masculinity emphasized responsibility, and restrained behavior within proper boundaries.  Their concept of civilization was also based in part on a female presence.  They hoped to create an environment for a stable family life and all the social niceties that came with what they referred to as the feminine touch.  The usual prerequisite for the presence of respectable women was law and order, something which the cowboys often resented.
    "Thus, there was a clear class distinction between cowboy and cattleman.  A cowboy was a hired hand who worked cattle on horseback on the ranch and/or up the trail, but who occasionally did other work on foot for the ranch such as repairing fences.  Conversely, a cattleman was simply a ranch owner or manager who employed cowboys.  While some early cattlemen certainly started life working on ranches as cowboys, they were usually the ranches that their family owned and they could later inherit.  Samuel Burk Burnett of the 6666 Ranch, for example, however much he identified himself as a cowboy in later life, was the son of a rancher who learned his trade on his father's small but successful ranch.  Moreover, those cattlemen who continued to behave like cowboys, such as Burnett and Will Hale, were exceptions; as a rule, cattlemen adopted a more genteel lifestyle.  Most ranch owners sent their sons to work beside their men to teach them t he business and to learn the importance of hard work.  The sons might even go off to other ranches to see some of the country and to gain new experiences.  But they always knew they were training to run their own business, whereas the hired hands could seldom aspire to own the ranch without independent financial resources." 

* Graybill 2007 p3
"In Texas, the Rangers -- who were driven by decades of brutal native-white conflict within the region -- secured the state's borders by forcing Kiowas and Comanches north across the Red River into Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) and by pushing Apaches westward into New Mexico, where the Indians then became the responsibility of the federal government. [...]
  "[...] The Rangers ... used terrorism and lethal force to protect the cattle of Anglo ranchers from Mexicans (who for their part insisted that many of the animals had been taken from them by whites in the years following the Mexican-American War). The Rangers also suppressed Mexican resistance to the privatization of communal salt deposits in far West Texas, which for decades local residents had used for their livestock or to generate extra income in times of want.
  "The police then defended cattlemen and ranching syndicates from the protests of the rural poor.  With the spread of barbed wire throughout Texas during the 1870s, farmers and smaller ranchers found their access to the free water and grass of the public domain under siege by the wealthy, who enclosed their lands (legally and otherwise) in order to feed their animals and provide for selective breeding.  When an intense drought hit the state in 1883, angry nesters retaliated against their more powerful neighbors by destroying fences and stealing livestock.  The state government responded by sending out the Rangers, whose primary mission in the mid-1880s involved the eradication of fence cutting."

* O'Neal 2004 p1-2
"[S]cores of ... violent incidents marked the furor between cattlemen and sheepmen in nine western states or territories. This bitter conflict took the form of a guerilla war that lasted for nearly five decades. There were more than 120 raids and skirmishes, producing more than fifty human casualties and the slaughter of at least 53,000 sheep.
      "Hostilities began in the 1870s, with scattered strife in Texas and Colorado. During the 1880s the clash intensified greatly in Texas, where 2,400 sheep and four men were killed, and a malignant fence-cutting war erupted. In 1887 Arizona's Pleasant Valley War was triggered by the introduction of sheep into cattle country, and more than a score of men were shot. Two years later, in a Mexican sheep camp in Arizona, a fight broke out which resulted in the death of five sheepherders, along with the wounding of a cowboy and the sixth herder.
      "There were a few more violent incidents in Texas in the early 1890s, but the scene of conflict expanded during the decade to Colorado ... and to Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. ... [A] final outbreak of violence erupted in 1920-21: two fights in Arizona resulted in the killing of three sheepmen, while four clashes in Colorado produced another sheepherder fatality and about 1,500 dead sheep."

* Moore 2010 p105
"Cattlemen and corporate investors ... did not see cowboys as independent men, nor was it in their interests to do so. Cowboys were their employees, and whether they treated them as their children or as entries in a ledger, they expected loyalty and obedience from them. As they attempted to bring order to the frontier, they believed that it was more manly to restrain 'maverick' behavior, and saw the cowboys as a throwback to an older, more primitive model of manhood. Cattlemen had always regulated the men on their ranches, but the paternalism of the early ranching industry evolved into a more systematic and less personal system of regulations as the owners and employees came into less frequent contact and came from increasingly different backgrounds. Cattlemen saw the cowboys' risk-taking behavior as reckless, and sought to limit it and to more closely supervise their working habits. Worried that the cowboys were antagonistic to their interests (as were workers to factory owners elsewhere in the country), cattlemen sought to replace them with loyal workers and to make the work less dependent on skill. Ultimately, competence mattered less to the owners than obedience. Thus, the regulations they sought to impose and the 'improvements' they made to the ranches, such as adding branding chutes, while intended primarily to control a unruly workforce, fundamentally limited their chance to show their manhood. Workers had little power to resist and so more frequently looked to their leisure time to prove their manliness."