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Background Image saloon dancer at Dodge City

New Connections to the Old West at Dodge City’s Boot Hill Museum

Dr. McCarty was the first doctor in Dodge City. He came here a couple months after Dodge City was founded in 1872, him and his wife, Sally. Shortly after they arrived, they had their son Claude. He was the first legitimate child born in Dodge City, and when he grew up he also became a doctor, and together [he and his father] opened the first hospital. But prior to opening the hospital, in the early days of Dodge City, Dr. McCarty had his office in the back of the drugstore so you would have been able to go in and get your medicine and see your doctor all in the same place. --Lyne Johnson, Associate Director of the Boot Hill Museum

Lyne Johnson, Associate Director of the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City, is a living treasure trove of facts about the Old West, and nothing is going to stop her from sharing them—even a global pandemic.  

“We had to close on St. Patrick’s Day, right as spring break was starting, and we realized we were going to miss out on spring breakers and end-of-schoolyear field trips,” said Johnson. “So, we decided to create video content to reach out to children and families at home. We wanted them to have a taste of what they would have seen if they had been able to come visit.”  

The video series, “New Connections to the Old West,” gives folks a chance to explore some of the Boot Hill Museum’s collections, to learn a little bit about what it takes to run and curate a historical Museum, and to hear some of the best stories the Old West has to offer all from the comfort of their living rooms.  

In one video, Johnson shares both the drawbacks and surprising benefits of healthcare in the old west.  One the one hand, mercury, now known to be poisonous, was frequently prescribed; a hanging skeleton was both a stand-in for an x-ray machine and a sign of a doctor’s medical reputation; the saying “bite the bullet” was a literal command to help patients’ bare the pain of surgery without pain medicine; and brightly colored water in glass bottles was a druggists’ best way to convey their chemistry skills to a largely illiterate populace. On the other hand, you could get your diagnosis and pick up your prescription all in one place, and house calls, where the doctor actually came to your bedside, were common practice.

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"Old West Drug Store"

In another video, historical interpreter Josh Roesener escorts you inside George Hoover’s saloon, the first saloon in Dodge City opened by the town’s first entrepreneur.  “George Hoover came out here with a wagonful of whiskey, […] set up a tent, and started selling whiskey by the finger.  They actually measured how much whiskey they poured by measuring with their fingers on the side of the glass.” Eventually, Hoover ventured on from whiskey sales into the cigar trade, ordering 5,000 cigars a week from Cuba to sell to Dodge City visitors and residents.  Hoover also sold sasparilla—something for everyone!

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"George Hoover, Saloon Owner"

Other videos of note include: Interpreter James Temaat reading “Old Blue,” a cowboy bedtime story about herding longhorn cattle across the country to Dodge City; Christina Million, Hospitality Coordinator, teaching a quick cancan lesson; and Barbara Strait, Historical Interpreter, sharing stories of Fred Harvey, the founder of the Harvey House franchise of restaurants and hotels, and his famous “Harvey Girls.” Most videos also include a way for families to get involved through a follow-up activity or craft so that they can be actively engaged in thinking about how history connects to their lives today.

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"Can Can Lessons"

“From the earliest days, Dodge City was a community of people who were able to adapt and survive, and I hope that spirit continues today in this historical moment."

“We’re excited to be able to present what the old west was really like,” shared Johnson in a phone conversation with Humanities Kansas. “From the earliest days, Dodge City was a community of people who were able to adapt and survive, and I hope that spirit continues today in this historical moment. We’re all in this together, and we hope we can bring some entertainment and education to everyone out there at this time when no one is really sure what’s going to happen next.”

"New Connections to the Old West" was supported by an HK Grant. For more information about HK grant opportunities, contact Leslie VonHolten, Director of Grants and Outreach.

Rapid Remedies

HK announces a new resource to help cultural non-profits connect with their communities. The Rapid Remedies white paper is designed to assist cultural non-profits in their continued efforts to quickly and affordably create engaging online stories that fulfill their unique missions, like the "New Connections to the Old West" video series. Rapid Remedies includes project models, examples of digital projects from Kansas cultural nonprofits, and tools for creating your own digital projects. Rapid Remedies was written by Sarah Bishop of Coneflower Consulting.

Download Rapid Remedies




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