Colt Culture: Examining Representations of the American West in Victorian London

Randell, Jacqueline

In 1851, the Great Exhibition in London’s Hyde Park featured displays of art and technology from across the world. Compared to exhibitions from France, India, and Great Britain itself, the U.S. section seemed unimpressive with the exception of one item: the Colt revolver. Following its appearance at the Great Exhibition, the Colt revolver emerged frequently in British popular culture and culminated in the appearance of cowboys with revolvers in the late 1880s on Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. This paper explores representations of masculinity, white imperial authority, and the American West in Victorian England by tracking the appearance of the Colt revolver in exhibitions, children’s literature, and staged shows. It follows three chronological stages of the Colt revolver: in exhibition culture, in popular literature, and in the Wild West Show. Ultimately, it demonstrates that while the Colt revolver failed in the British marketplace, it thrived in British popular imagination and established figures of the American West in the minds of many Victorians prior to the famed Wild West Show.

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Also Published In

The Journal of Politics and Society

More About This Work

Academic Units
Helvidius Group
Helvidius Group of Columbia University
Published Here
August 10, 2015