Wichita saloons, 1865-1881 (thesis)

Austin Charles Rhodes, “Good saloon, bad saloon: Saloons in Wichita, Kansas 1865-1881” (MA thesis, Wichita State University, 2014).

This research evaluates the purpose, use, and public view of drinking establishments in Wichita and the surrounding area during one of the most iconic eras in American popular culture: the years following the Civil War in the West. There have been extensive depictions of the saloon in movies and the media, but the actual story was much more complicated. To fully understand the saloon in Wichita, this study first examines drinking establishments across the United States. These saloons show the diversity of drinking establishment across the West, each with its own unique path, from the relationship between the rowdy establishments across the river in Delano to the more respectable establishments built in Wichita. Contrary to what is often portrayed in Western movies and novels, saloons were diverse. Likewise, they were not all constantly violence prone. Instead, they were unique establishments that offered a variety of services and goods. Saloons in the early years of Wichita catered to clienteles that ranged from respectable to dens of vice. As the temperance movement gained momentum, the distinction between good saloons and bad saloons began to break down. By the twentieth century, many assumed that the rowdy saloon of Delano was typical of all saloons during Wichita’s cowtown days.

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