The glory days for the American cowboy were from 1866 to about 1873. Those were the days of the long trail drives from Texas to the rail heads in Kansas.
By 1876 the cowboy, as he defined himself, was almost finished, brought down off his high horse by one man; Joseph F. Glidden, the inventor of barbed wire. When farmers and ranchers started fencing off their land, herds of Texas cattle were blocked from the Kansas markets. The trail driving, hard riding, fancy dressing, six-shooting, king of the saddle was forced to dismount and look for a day job, - on foot.
But from the ashes of this western Phoenix rose a cowboy more dashing, more daring, more handsome and hard riding, more,…well, more of everything that the real cowboy was, or was not. Out of the west came the mythical cowboy! The dime novel cowboy! The movie cowboy! The singing cowboy! and, The urban cowboy!
The myth of the cowboy and what he looked like and what he did and how he did it took hold in American and the image of this hard riding king of the plains soon made the real working cowboy irrelevant. Americans, indeed the whole world, wanted the mythical over the real, - and there were plenty of people ready to give it to them, chief among them was Buffalo Bill Cody. His Wild West shows were wildly popular here in America as well as over seas.
There was one man however who was a little bit too real to play the "mythical"roll long. That man was James Butler, “Wild Bill” Hickok.