For adventure-seeking travelers who are looking for something to really give them a rush, don’t turn to skydiving or bungee jumping. It would be better to head to Brazil and get yourself sucked into a waterfall.
While that might sound even more dangerous than jumping out of a plane, the danger of the site is more of an illusion than anything else. Called Pedra que Engole, which means “a stone that swallows” in English, the site is tucked into the small town of Trindade, Brazil.
You might have considered coming to Trindade for a glimpse of the picturesque river that winds its way through the town, but the main attraction will always be the falls. Located a short walk around the river bend, you’ll stumble upon a rock formation that forces the river into a short free fall.
You could simply admire the falls, but it’s more likely that you’ll be tempted to dive right in. The falls at Pedra que Engole seem small enough to not be menacing, but that’s before you watch someone appear to get sucked right under the flowing water. Moments later, your conscience can be eased when they safely emerge on the other side.
In truth, the rocks you jump into open onto a small cave, whose opening is concealed by the flowing water. Only a few people at a time can fit in the cave, which makes the jump look all the more dangerous to those on the outside.
However, once you’re inside, you can easily emerge into the waiting river on the other side, bursting through the falls to the delight of onlookers. These days, Pedra que Engole isn’t so much of a hidden gem as a major tourist destination, so once you arrive in Trindade, just follow all of the other thrill-seekers.
The legendary American frontier inspired cult classics such as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Oklahoma!, but how accurate are our modern portrayals of the time period – specifically the saloons? Did American frontier barrelhouses actually have two-way doors? What about the hairstyles and fashion of the times? Thankfully, we have some truly terrific old pictures of lounges in the American frontier, and the men who crossed through their doors.
Table Bluff Hotel and Saloon – Table Bluff, California (1889)
This saloon seems like it was a haven for hunters, given the antlers and hides that cover the walls, chairs, and even parts of the bar. In truth, men had to do whatever they needed to in order to survive on the frontier, and Seth Kinman – the man responsible for these chairs – did just that.
Kinman was an early settler of Humboldt County, California, as well as a hunter, craftsman, hotel keeper, saloon keeper, and entertainer – he once performed for President Lincoln on a fiddle made from the skull of a mule.
Orient Saloon – Bisbee, Arizona (1903)
Bisbee was founded in 1880 as a copper, gold, and silver mining town, named in honor of one of the financial backers of the Copper Queen Mine – Judge DeWitt Bisbee.
We can’t be certain what game is at play in the image above, but it almost looks like a variation of roulette, and a serious game at that – judging by the chips on the table!
Wyatt Earp’s Northern Saloon – Tonopah, Nevada (1903)
Wyatt Earp is somewhat of a legendary figure from the Old West, seeing as he was a jack-of-all-trades, ranging from frontiersman to boxing referee hustler to fugitive to eventually becoming a deputy marshall.
Earp opened numerous saloons throughout the West at one point or another – including this one in Nevada – making a tidy profit from most of them. Earp became part-owner of the Northern Saloon in 1901, but sold the bar just four years later.
Matt H. Kerais’ Tavern – Kenosha, Wisconsin (1890s-1900s)
Kenosha rose to prominence in the late 19th century as an important Great Lakes shipping port, and later in the 20th century as a budding factory town producing millions of automobiles and trucks.
So, where would weary shipmen and factory workers head after a hard shift in their respective jobs? To the tavern, of course – just like the one in the image above. You can almost smell the wooden flooring and ever-present smoke from the picture alone!
The Arcade Saloon – Eldora, Colorado (1898)
If you thought that Eldora sounds an awful lot like “Eldorado” – as in the mythical city of gold – then you wouldn’t be alone. Eldora was in fact previously known as “Eldorado”, then “El-Dora”, and was originally built as a mining town.
By early 1898, one paper reported that the settlement “already [had] six flourishing saloons, with the prospects of a dozen more within a few days,” according to the website Western Mining History. It’s not so flourishing now though, given that as of 2020, there are less than 100 people living there.
Unknown Saloon – Unknown State (1890)
Goodness, just look at the wallpaper in this saloon, not to mention the worn flooring! Clearly, this was a popular place, and while we don’t have any information for the name of this tavern or where it was located, we do know the picture was taken sometime in 1890.
Earlier in the century cowboys were few in number across the American West, though that began to change as the demand for beef in the industrialized north began to grow. By the 1870s, almost the entire country was full of cattle and their keepers.
Unknown Saloon – Unknown State (1915)
Now this looks like a saloon catered towards a very specific sort of customer. Two card tables sit in close proximity to a pool table where these gentlemen pause their game to pose for the shot.
Though the picture was taken towards the end of the Old West era in 1915, it’s still very much a stereotypical scene from frontier life. You may have even spotted the poster for Buffalo Bill on the rear wall, advertizing his latest Wild West-themed production.
Unknown Saloon – Ehrenburg, Arizona Territory (c.1911)
Named after its founder Herman Ehrenberg, the historical town of Ehrenburg (historical spelling) was founded in 1863 as Mineral City, but was renamed to ‘Ehrenburg’ in 1869. The town grew in size thanks to a steamboat landing that was established on its river, though with the introduction of railroads at the start of the 20th century the town began to fade away.
Fitting, therefore, that this picture shows an automobile in Arizona, which must have been a foreign sight to the local population. One wonders what the driver was doing in such a tiny town – but perhaps he was stopping by the local saloon for a refreshment.
Unknown Saloon – Unknown State (1890s)
Many of the images of the old frontier that survive today sadly don’t come with accompanying information to let us know where they were taken – but at least they do provide us with a good idea of what the saloons of the time looked like.
Indeed, this particular bar could have been found anywhere from Arizona to Alaska, given their widespread uniformity. After all, these kinds of places didn’t need a unique selling point to survive – they just needed to provide the requisite refreshments and refuge for weary workers and travelers.
Unknown Saloon – Seattle, Washington (c.1918)
We can safely say that this is a prohibition-era shot of a saloon in Seattle, given that the Evergreen State started followed prohibition rules by the mid-1910s.
That means that this watering hole could have been a speakeasy, or perhaps the bottles behind the bar are all for show. Or, arguably more likely but admittedly less fun, it’s possible this photo has been incorrectly dated. Regardless, all the patrons in it seem to be enjoying themselves.
Military Plaza Saloon – San Antonio, Texas (1876)
San Antonio was the site of several key battles during the Texas Revolution (1835-1836), including the famous Battle of the Alamo. At the time, the plaza was an open training ground for troops, and it was also the scene of a momentous transfer of power at the conclusion of the Texas Revolution in 1836.
Fast forward to one year after this photograph was taken in 1876, and San Antonio became the latest U.S. city to join the railway network, bringing settlers in from all corners of the union.
Unknown Saloon – Everett, Washington (1907)
Look to the floor of this Washington saloon, and you’ll notice a few spittoons lining the floor. Their purpose? To catch any spit from the men at the bar. Charming, right? And very sanitary, we’re sure.
Yes, spittoons were a common sight in the late 19th and early 20th century, as well as the bar rail that allowed patrons to lean and relax – not that they would be fighting for space, judging by the lack of customers in this particular establishment!
Billy The Mugs Saloon – Seattle, Washington (c.1895)
Immigrants first began flowing into the Pacific Northwest in the mid-19th century, where they held a surprisingly amicable relationship with the existing Native American people of the region – so much so that they named their settlement (Seattle) after the indigenous commander’s name.
Billy the Mug’s was a notorious saloon that operated in Seattle’s Skid Road area, and was one of 13 saloons within the three-block Skid Road vice district at the time. Judging by the number of clients in the establishment from this photo, it was one of the more popular bars.
Long Branch Saloon – Dodge City, Kansas (1870-1885)
The undeniably fantastically named Dodge City (named after Fort Dodge) is famous for its history as a wild frontier town of the Old West. It was known as the “queen of the cow towns” due to its crucial involvement in the cattle trade.
The Long Branch Saloon itself was the scene of several altercations, shoot-outs, gunfights, and standoffs. There was also a period where the community held no real legal infrastructure, but by 1886 the cowboys, saloon keepers and gamblers had packed up shop and moved on to greener pastures.
Unknown Saloon – Arizona (1895)
Ever heard of the card game ‘Faro’? The image below shows a few gentlemen enjoying a game. During the 1800s it was the preeminent card game of choice hosted in every Old West gambling house until it was eventually surpassed by poker in the early 1900s.
The game was imported from France, and was popular due to its fast action, easy-to-learn rules, and better odds than most games of chance. A player would win (or lose) when cards turned up by the banker (dealer) match those already exposed on the table. The game had such favorable odds, in fact, that casinos soon struck it from their rosters.
Gunn House Saloon – Sonora, California (1898)
You may be surprised to learn that the Gunn House Saloon – now operating as the Gunn House Hotel – is still in business today. The saloon is named after Dr. Lewis C. Gunn, a native Philadelphian who was lured to the area to seek his fortune in the California gold mines.
The image shows some modern features for a facility at the time, including electric lights and what appears to be a telephone in the corner. But of course, you still have the classic card games and bartender that were synonymous with saloons in the region at the time as well.
Perley McBride’s Shop – Unknown State (1906)
Judging by how tidy and presentable this establishment – and its taverner – may have been an oddity from the more ‘rough and ready’ saloons throughout the frontier at the time. Or, perhaps, the early 20th century marked a shift to more presentable and orderly taverns.
This is reflected by the sign that states, ‘NO LOAFING ALLOWED HERE’. Loafing is defined as “Keepin’ ‘bout as busy as a hibernatin’ bear,” according to the 1944 dictionary Western Words, but we might understand the term better as loitering.
Unknown Saloon – Unknown State (Unknown Date)
Finally, we get a good closeup of the archetypal cowboy and his traditional attire, complete with waistcoat, necktie and leather chaps. For those who didn’t know, a cowboy is an animal herder who tends cattle on ranches, traditionally on horseback, and has historic roots tracing back to Spain and the earliest European settlers of the Americas.
Given that these men are still wearing their hats and have gloves in their pockets, it’s a safe bet they came to this saloon straight from the fields after a hard day of work.
Shamrock Saloon – Hazen, Nevada (1905)
As explorers, cowboys, and immigrants journeyed across the American frontier in hopes of striking gold and making a new life for themselves, they typically christened a new site by building a saloon.
Indeed, saloons became crucial to the leisure time of the working class, but they also served as an important meeting place, given their size and permanent structure in a new town. It wasn’t uncommon to see saloons serve as stations for official local duties, including administrative centers and even places of worship.
The Klondyke Dance Hall and Saloon – Seattle, Washington (1909)
As you might have guessed, the Old West was a pretty prejudiced place, and that extended to the saloons of the towns.
Most saloons barred women from entering, and the Anti-Saloon League (set up in 1893 to protest saloons) would pressure local police to take licenses from establishments that had the audacity to serve them. However, some places – like those that hosted dances – would welcome the women of the community through their doors.
Unknown Saloon – Unknown State (1927)
We’d love to believe this was a candid shot of a chaotic, raging saloon, but it’s more likely the picture was staged. Even so, such an image does provide an apt reflection of the violence of the Wild West, where men frequently clashed at watering holes throughout the country.
After all, without such images, where would we have the inspiration for the classic brawls and shoot-outs we’ve seen in movies for almost 100 years?
Circle City Saloon – Nome, Alaska (1902)
It may seem odd to consider Alaska part of the ‘old frontier’, given just how far west the state is located, as well as its cold climate. But as was the case for many other remote locations in America, the discovery of gold saw an influx of prospectors to The Last Frontier (Alaska’s state nickname).
This proved true for the isolated town of Nome following the discovery of gold there in 1898. By 1899, the area was organized as the Nome mining district, the town had a population of 10,000, and gold kept turning up on the beaches lining the coast of Nome. In June of 1900, the town average 1000 newcomers a day.
Unknown Saloon – Unknown State (1895)
There’s something to be said for simplicity, right? A primitive structure with a bold sign with the word ‘SALOON’ emblazed across it was enough to draw the crowds, as this picture shows.
This picture is a stereograph – a nineteenth-century predecessor of the Polaroid. As the American Antiquarian Society explains, “Placed on cardboard were two almost identical photographs, side by side, to be viewed with a stereoscope. When viewed through a stereoscope, the photograph appeared three-dimensional, an awe-inspiring illusion for anyone during that time.”
Unknown Courthouse and Saloon – Langtry, Texas (1900)
This photo may be of an ‘unknown courthouse and saloon’, but we can safely assume it belonged to Judge Roy Bean, the “Law West of the Pecos”. Bean wasn’t a ‘real’ judge by any modern definition and used his position of power to defraud people during cases and trials.
The name of this saloon was the Jersey Lilly Saloon, and you can still see the property today! The image shows a rustler being convicted for his crimes by Bean, though we also see a sign advertising “ice cold beer” – where else could you find such a scene except for the Wild West?
Unknown Saloon – Alaska (Early 1900s)
This picture is taken from a saloon in Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush – which was a migration by an estimated 100,000 prospectors to the Klondike region of the Yukon, in north-western Canada, after gold was discovered in the area. To get there, many prospectors took the route through the ports of Dyea and Skagway, in Southeast Alaska.
Returning to this photo, it looks like it’s been staged, which is a shame given the entertaining scene in progress. Alas, if this was a true argument breaking out over the card game, there would surely have been enough movement to disrupt the exposure of the image.
J. W. Swart’s Saloon – Charleston, Arizona (1885)
Charleston was founded in 1879 as a milling site for the silver mines around Tombstone. At its peak in the mid-1880s, Charleston was a bustling community, and boasted four general stores, a meat market, drug store, two restaurants, two laundries, two hotels, several boarding houses and an estimated 13 to 15 saloons.
Said saloons offered cheap drinks, but the quality was often poor, as drink purveyors would beef up their drink with things like chili powder and harmful chemicals.
Unknown Saloon – Unknown State (1890s)
Notice anything different about this picture (apart from the somewhat creepy portrait on the wall)? Well, for one thing, we can see the outline of the man who took the photograph, thanks to the mirror behind the bar.
Secondly, one of the patrons at the saloon is smiling – a rarity for a frontier-era picture, given that people had to hold the same expression for an extended period due to the exposure time of old pictures. But this gentleman is holding a good grin, even though he might be nursing some sort of ailment, what with the cane and all!
Dew Drop Inn Saloon – Unknown State (c.1900)
It’s hard to tell whether this saloon was still in business when this picture was taken, given some of the boarded-up windows in the foreground.
What we can also see is that this saloon doesn’t have the swinging “batwing” doors you so often seen in the movies. No, cafe doors were not very practical in real life, given that they posed a massive security issue and proved incapable of keeping out the dust, dirt and critters present in every frontier town.
Toll Gate Saloon – Black Hawk, Colorado (1897)
The tiny city of Black Hawk (with a population of 127 as of 2018) is a historic mining settlement founded in 1859 as a result of the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, later known as the Colorado Gold Rush, where an estimated 100,000 gold seekers took part in one of the greatest gold rushes in North American history.
The area blossomed during the late 19th century as prospectors came in search of gold, boosted by the addition of mills (the city’s nickname is “The City of Mills”) and a railroad link to Golden.
Wild West Bar – Unknown State (1900s)
Here we can see a herdsman in full get-up enjoying a presumably hard-earned beverage. An interesting aspect of the cowboy ‘culture’ that many people don’t know about is the regional variations that were present across North America and still exist today.
There is the “Vaquero” (also known as the “California Tradition”), the Spanish or Mexican cowboy who worked with young, untrained horses, the “Texas Tradition”, the “Florida Cowhunter”, and the “Hawaiian Paniolo”, to name just a few.
Brunswick Saloon – Telluride, Colorado (c.1900)
Telluride was originally founded in 1878 as “Columbia”, but as it shared the same name as a town in California, it was renamed Telluride in 1887 for the gold telluride minerals found in other parts of Colorado.
While telluride was never found in the town itself, the area’s mines did provide zinc, lead, copper, silver, and other gold ores for some years, making it a quite a wealthy place, as the image shows (telephone lines, metal chimneys and clean wooden pavements were the sign of an affluent town).
Various Saloons – Rawhide, Arizona (Unknown Date)
Rawhide was formed in the late 1800s as a frontier town, named after Charles “Rawhide” Rawley, a tradesman who wanted to found a place where he could set a store to provide goods, services, and jobs for other settlers in the area.
Many a voyager passed through Rawhide, primarily via wagon trains – the preferred mode of transport before trains and railroads were built across the land. But traveling by wagon was no easy task, thanks to violent weather, attacks by robbers, and the spread of disease throughout a convoy.
Road House Saloon – Bluff City, Alaska (c.1906)
Alaska’s state motto is “North to the Future” – meant to represent the state as a land of promise. Indeed, as the frontier era in the south of America began to draw to a close, many pioneers headed to Alaska in the hope of finding new treasures.
Bluff was one such town that sprang up to accommodate these travelers, built in the summer of 1900 as a result of the Nome Gold Rush. The town appeared once on the 1940 U.S. Census as an unincorporated village, though it hasn’t appeared since. However, there are still a few surviving buildings in the area, which is kinda cool.
Behling Bros. Pool Room – Concord, Michigan (1892-1910)
This old pool-hall snap provides an insight into the various styles of the frontier era. Gone is the cowboy style of chaps, caps and checkered shirts, to be replaced with a variant of outfits, including grubby dungarees and sharp waistcoats.
As you might expect, the clothes and style of a person would vary greatly depending on that individual’s wealth and occupation. Another neat part about this shot – notice the iconic “Coca-Cola” logo on the left of the picture! The company was founded in 1892 in Atlanta, Georgia.
John Hoffman & Co. Saloon & Grocery – Unknown State (Unknown Date)
In the saloon’s heyday, the proprietor controlled every aspect of the business – from keeping the doors open 24/7 or for only an hour a week, to also selling groceries and other items not typically associated with a saloon, it was up to the owner’s whim.
Even if the establishment had a less than stellar history, shall we say, it didn’t matter – they were allowed to operate freely, as long as they paid their dues to the state authorities.
Santos Saloon – Turlock, California (c.1908)
Turlock is one of the few towns on this list that has survived and flourished to this day (the city has a population of 73,631 as of 2019).
Turlock flourished as an agricultural town, with large herds of cattle and sheep sold to gold miners and other prospectors as they arrived. Turlock would go on to be known as “The Heart of the Valley” thanks to its agricultural production (agriculture remains the major economic force in the region).
“Temporary” Saloon – Turlock, California (c.1908)
Now this is a unique sight – one that would turn heads even today – a mobile saloon! What a relief the sight would be for weary travelers making their way across the country. There was just one catch – the saloon didn’t actually start serving until it reached Turlock.
Thanks to the Online Archive of California, we have some additional information about this image: “John J. Vignolo had the Turlock Hotel torn down and replaced it with the Hotel Carolyn that was completed in 1909. This photograph depicts the building that was hauled to Turlock to be used as the ‘temporary’ saloon.”
Unknown Saloon – Unknown State (Unknown Date)
On the wall behind the bar in this photo, you’ll see a vast collection of buffalo horns. These great beasts, also known as American bison, used to roam North America in vast herds, with a population of 60 million in the late 18th century.
However, with the onslaught of settlers moving into the American West, the bison nearly went extinct, with the species dropping to just 541 animals by 1889. Thankfully the bison survived, and today they number around 31,000, largely restricted to a few national parks and reserves.
Charlie Binder’s Saloon – Ann Arbor, Michigan (1880)
You may happy to learn that Chalie Binder’s Saloon is still operational today – though under its new name of the Alley Bar. In the late 19th century Ann Arbor was filled with breweries that delivered their products to dozens of saloons in the town before prohibition kicked in.
Even so, some breweries were able to pivot and started producing ice cream instead! It seems that this saloon was able to survive, in one form or another, to this day.
Unknown Saloon – Round Pond, Oklahoma Territory (1894)
Eventually, the saloons of the Old Frontier would dry up and die out, thanks in large part to the people who came out west with the hope of starting a new – and civil – life.
Such civility was hard to achieve with the abject lawlessness of saloons, prone as they were to debauchery, fights, and other less-than-pleasant activities. So even before nationwide prohibition kicked in, these drinking dens were already on their way out.