Historic Advances in Technology: Late 1800 and early 1900 technology during the lifetime Wyatt Earp


Wyatt Earp and his generation witnessed great advances in technology in late 1800 and early 1900 America corresponding with U.S. World Fairs between 1848 and 1929

Wyatt Earp and advances in technology are not subjects that usually go hand in hand.

As a lawman in late 1800, Wyatt Earp engaged in little gunplay, yet is revered for demanding and preserving peace in towns like Dodge City, Kansas, and Tombstone, Arizona. In early 1900 Wyatt Earp increased and managed his fortune. Numerous books and movies have claimed the story of Wyatt Earp; the majority focusing on the five months he spent with brothers Virgil and Morgan, and friend Doc Holliday fighting for the safety of folks who called Tombstone home. And there is no arguing that Wyatt Earp’s story is exciting. But there is an equally exciting story of growth, transformation, and advancement in U.S. history that parallels Wyatt Earp’s generation.

In 1848 the first commercial bank in San Francisco was established, the first telegraph link between Chicago and New York City was completed, and the first gas lights were installed in the White House. In Illinois, on March 19th of that same year, Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, named for the Captain under whom his father served in the Mexican War, was born. Seventy years later, two months shy of his seventy-first birthday, on January 13, 1929, Wyatt Earp died from a prostate ailment. In his last year, Wyatt Earp became part of a generation that saw Alexander Fleming discover Penicillin, Amelia Earhart take flight as the first woman to pilot an aircraft across the Atlantic, General Electric open the first television station, and Mickey Mouse star in the release of Walt Disney’s animated film, Steamboat Willie.

A unique trend during the years of Wyatt Earp’s life were the number of World Fairs that took place in the United States:

The1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia; 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago; 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo; 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis; Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. Reviewing the exhibits at each of these fairs gives a strong inventory of the people, places, inventions and events so exceptional as to be put on display.

Over the course of Wyatt Earp’s lifetime the United States grew in area with twenty states joining the union as advances in technology increased the production of goods, services, and leisure time, and social reformers organized the first women’s rights convention. Add to this the totality of the Civil War and World War One, the reality of this era threatens to overshadow the larger than life legend attached to Wyatt Earp and the Wild West he helped to tame.