Wild West Turns 26
“Oh, to be 25 again!”
No doubt most people who contribute to or read Wild West have said that a time or two in their long lives. To us 25 sounds young. But if you’re reading this and 25 sounds old, God bless you for joining the not-now generation in appreciating and enjoying American Western history. And do keep reading.
25! That’s not a random number thrown out there by a doddering editor. It has significance—a quarter-century’s worth. The magazine has published out of Leesburg, Va., since June 1988 (see our gallery of covers). That translates to 150 issues, not counting this one. As young as age 25 might seem to some of us, that’s pretty darn old in magazine years. Just four years ago nearly 600 titles folded. While 2012 wasn’t as dire, 74 magazines still fell by the wayside, and 24 other titles (Newsweek, Spin et al.) went from print to digital only. So thank you, Eric Weider, for buying Wild West and its sister history publications in 2006, and thanks especially to you dedicated subscribers who never miss an issue. You have allowed us to turn 26 with this issue.
25! That’s not only a long while in magazine years but also in 19th-century shoot-’em-up years. Wild West has now matched in span the heyday of the Wild West era, which ran roughly from 1865, when the Civil War ended, to 1890, when data from the U.S. census suggested the American frontier had “closed.” Of course, this magazine has also chronicled the even wilder early and mid-19th century West and the still wild post-frontier 1890s and early 20th century.
25! That’s how many years Robert Barr Smith of Oklahoma and Jerry Keenan of Colorado have been contributing to Wild West. In fact, Keenan has an article in the April 2013 issue and in the June 1988 premiere issue, which cost $2.95 at the time and is hard to find today. Larry J. Walker, who buys and sells popular Western history magazines (only two of the 30 such titles remain), recently sold his last individual June 1988 issue to a collector for $6, a penny more than the U.S. newsstand price of current issues. But Walker offers many other single issues of Wild West in his online clearinghouse of 70,000 Western magazines, as well as several complete sets of Wild West (that would be 25 years’ worth).
25 minus one! That’s how long I have been associated with the magazine, first as a proofreader working for founding editor William M. “Mild Bill” Vogt, then as editor myself after Vogt’s death in early 1995. There have been changes (hopefully for the better) in a quarter century, but the mission remains the same—to inform and entertain with true tales and images of the Old West. It has been a small staff all along. We count heavily on special contributors Lee A. Silva, Johnny D. Boggs and Gregory F. Michno and other excellent freelance writers. As the only World History Group employee who works solely on Wild West, you can blame me for any mistakes. Since 1992 the masthead has listed Lori “Picture Wench” (her self-proclaimed nickname) Flemming, who spends half her work hours as our valuable photo editor. Also working half-time on Wild West are meticulous Managing Editor David “Damn Lankee” Lauterborn (SASS No. 92067) and creative Art Director Mark “My Word” Drefs. We recently lost Senior Editor Steve “Maybe Tomorrow” Mauro to Northwestern adventure, but his successor, Martin “Don’t Tell” Bartels, was raised in Colorado and can ride a horse.
25 and 60! Yes, 25 years is a long time for Wild West or any other magazine to be in business. But truth be known, True West, a friendly competitor, has been around for 60 years. Talk about old as the Western hills. It came out just a half year after me—I turned 60 last October. There is good reason for both magazines to mark the year 2013. And may we both continue to chronicle and preserve the West so that Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, George Custer and Sitting Bull never have to die and Johnny Boggs never has to complain about having nothing to do.