Business and Law in Deadwood

h12jxpcafxpph2cao87xgzcah07pl9catnoq15came1kc5caf0dw7pcahjqfrrcaf2bep5caf5rmkkcaqvqjbxcatlai4ncac7yfy0ca789xh4calqmatscaow6ls8caepzdyvcadt0pcxca3dj8lkcacnqfnw1BUSINESS HBO presents the theme of business in 1800s Deadwood. Certainly mining gold, turning tricks, and selling whiskey are among the most prominent. But Deadwood shows that its more than money, it’s the American Dream. To start your own business and become a power figure is the business of the day. We see the constant struggle of power and clients between Tolliver and Swearengen. We also see Wu struggle with the new Chinese man in town. We see Joanie struggling to run a brothel. We see Trixie struggling to learn accounts. We see Star and Bullock struggling to run the hardware store. We see Alma struggling to run her mine. All these figures represent the path towards the American Dream.  The highlighted business people are: Al Swearengen who owns The Gem Saloon, a bar and brothel. According to, Al was every bit as mean and ruthless a business owner in real life as on the show. He actually owned the Gem Theater, where he promised girls good acting jobs, but would rather sell them into white slavery or prostitution.  After the theater burning down and being rebuilt several times Al left Deadwood. Next was Cy Tolliver who owned the Bella Union bar and brothel. Cy was the new man in town who’s always competing with Al for business. While he’s a fictional character, many of his business was done with real legends of Deadwood. Next was Seth Bullock who co-owned Star and Bullock Hardware. Bullock was an outstanding business man in real life. He became one of the communities most prominent leader. In real Deadwood he built Bullock Hotel, which still stands today. That leads to Sol Star, the other owner of Star and Bullock Hardware. Together he and Bullock bought a ranch and co-operated Flouring Mill in 1880 ( They were also active on the business of prospecting gold. Dan Doherty acted as Al’s manager in the show and in real life. E.B. Farnum owned the Grand Central Hotel. In the show he’s portrayed as an annoying businessman, but in real Deadwood, he was quite brilliant. He first opened a retail store, and seeing Deadwood’s growth, invested in a few more main street lots. He owned several claims and was involved with the school board. George Hearst was the man of his time. By the opening of Deadwood, Hearst was already a millionaire. He was a gold mining tycoon both in the show and in real life. He went onto create a publishing empire. That leads to A.W. Merrick of the Black Hills Pioneer. In the show he was the journalist. In real life, he sold the paper less than five years after owning it. Tom Nuttall was another saloon owner both in life and show. He was co-owner of The Number 10 Saloon. Con Stapleton was the dull card dealer of the Number 10, but in real life was a lawman. Charlie Utter was, in life and show, a hunter, a trapper, gold prospector, mine owner, express rider and transportation businessman (

So you can see the vastly expanding business in both the fictional and non-fictional Deadwood. The Black Hills were rich in gold, so many came for mining. But the longer they stayed in camp, the more they did there. Deadwood is one of our nation’s most famous “wild west” towns. It developed into the town that is still economically efficient today.

epkdy3cao8w2bwcacri1lkcajstctzca24nhixca88fxb3canj9ks4cab43leucacp504ccafdaa8eca5t5xmkcaj7kadlca2juvieca7716pbcavnw6ryca0v276rca4yp1iecap6vzl0cai4y9xucaq4xpotLAW There’s certainly law in 1800s Deadwood as presented in the show. Or rather a makeshift law. As Deadwood was trying to become a legitimate camp in South Dakota, the Sioux were trying to keep their land. Because of this conflict, the people of Deadwood needed to prove their legitimacy. The leaders like Cy, Al, and Seth sought to organize the camp’s dealings from shady to legal. This meant criminal justice and camp rules. They also needed a mayor, commissioner, and sheriff. There was a need to create a legitimate organization in Deadwood for the magistrate’s approval. It was very important for the creator, executive producer, and writer of Deadwood, David Milch, to keep the authenticity of real Deadwood alive in the show. Although he’s qouted in being the creative translator of history: “I want to make it clear,” he says, “that I’ve had my a** bored off by many things that are historically accurate.” Milch recognized Deadwood as a town founded by curious incidents. Being that it wasn’t subjected to American laws, Deadwood became a town through a series of incidents lead by town power houses. Because Deadwood was Indian territory, the men looking to mine gold there were outlaws, so Deadwood was founded as an outlaw community. That meant no government and no system of rules. Milch comments to, “Not only was there an absence of law, there was a premium on the continued absence of law. Economic forces organized the settlement.” So when does Deadwood become a town of real law, and how? Like mentioned before, Deadwood’s power houses like Cy and Al organize a meeting to create a basic government. In reality, Deadwood was incorporated in 1876. By 1877, the crude tents hosting miners were turning into wood and brick buildings. By 1889, South Dakota became a state and in 1891, railroads connected Deadwood to the outside world. When the 1919 Prohibition Act passed, Deadwood became the town for illegal activities, like prostitution, gambling, and drinking. Maybe because of its shady beginnings, the people were more adventurous in the prospects of illegal activities. In the show, Deadwood shows signs of law and order mid 2nd season. With bullock as sheriff and Utter as Deputy, the camp shows much progression. Also, with inventions like a bank and telegraph, Deadwood was advancing in cultural happenings. By mid-season 3 (1877s), Deadwood has its first elections as it enters the Dakota territory: Bullock vs Manning and Star vs Farnum. Another power house also starts his corruptionin Deadwood: Hearst. Hearst is a ruthless and ambitious business man. In real life, he was a successful miner and father of the famous publisher William Randolf Hearst. In the show he reeks havoc in Deadwood by trying to create unions and buy up claims. He leaves, but not after accomplishing everything he sought to do.With so amny poeple interested in Deadwood, real and fictional, the camp has grown into the legitimate, lawful, and famous city of South Dakota.

  1. great blog! interesting history facts the I never knew. I loved the series, and you have given even more interesting things to know about that time in history.

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