Wild West Gunslingers – in Florida
Posted on June 7, 2012
Tombstone, Arizona, the subject of Kevin Britz’s essay in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition, was hardly the only place that staged Wild West gunfights for tourist audiences. In addition to other “real” western “ghost towns,” specially contrived ghost-town tourist traps opened all across the United States in the 1960s at the height of the TV-western craze.
At least three of the most notable examples were about as far from the West as you could get in the U.S.: Florida! Osprey (between Sarasota and Venice), Panama City Beach, and Silver Springs enthralled tourists with daily gun battles on sandy streets against a backdrop of mock storefronts and saloons.
The following images, drawn from the State Archives of Florida, depict these long lost attractions. As the infatuation with “westerns” faded, these attractions also declined, leaving the “real” versions like Tombstone, where a sense of authenticity has enabled ongoing success.