The Moment the Old West Shootout Was Born 

How “Wild Bill” Hickok created a cinematic archetype, 150 years later. 

“Wild Bill” Hickok is a legend of the Old West. With an origin story that includes a stint as a Union army spy, a knife fight with a bear, the famous poker-related death, and that unmistakable mustache, his life was an amalgam of Western movie tropes come alive.

And in some cases, he not only lived out those iconic John Wayne moments—he created them. Among Hickok’s many contributions to Old West lore, arguably none is more important or iconic than how he made his name: the quick-draw shootout.

On July 21, 1865—150 years ago today—Hickok shot and killed Davis Tutt in the center of Springfield, Missouri in the first example of the type of Old West showdown that defines the era on the big screen. The video above will tell you more than you needed to know about the day that Hickok’s lightning-quick revolver saved a life, took a life, and created a cinematic trope.