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The Long Branch Saloon: The 'Gunsmoke' Hangout Was Rooted in Dodge City History

The Long Branch Saloon of Dodge City, Kansas is one of the most famous Old West saloons in the United States, dating back to when outlaws and gunslingers were still roaming the country in the 1800s. Did you know that the famed wild west saloon really existed? And it's still open for business...sort of. 

As the story goes, the saloon first came to be over a little game of ball. The game was divided soldiers vs cowboys and a bet was placed that if they lost, the soldiers would need to provide materials to build a local saloon. Well, they lost. And the Long Branch Saloon was built in 1874. The saloon was purchased a few years later by Chalkley Beeson and William Harris, who named the saloon after his hometown of Long Branch, New Jersey. 

Long Branch Saloon
Wikipedia Commons/ Public Domain

Pretty soon, the new owners had turned the saloon into the most popular place in Dodge City. It hosted many big names in the West like Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Frank Loving, Town Marshal Charlie Bassett and brothers Ed, James and Bat Masterson. Anheuser Busch was even the original beer served in the saloon along with other staples like tea, lemonade and sarsaparilla. But it was no family restaurant; it was one of the rowdier saloons in the West.

In 1879, the famed Long Branch Saloon gunfight took place between Frank Loving and Levi Richardson. Unfortunately, just a few years later, a fire ripped apart the Front Street buildings, and the saloon was destroyed. But in 1947, the area was reconstructed to mimic its former Wild West glory. 

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The name "Long Branch Saloon" was popularized when it was used in the incredibly popular western TV series, Gunsmoke. The saloon was integral to the plot with Miss Kitty even becoming a partial owner during the show. There are endless scenes filmed in the saloon between Miss Kitty and onscreen love interest, Marshal Matt Dillon. For the show, these scenes were filmed in a lot in Hollywood. But it was inspired by the real thing. 

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Today, the Boot Hill Museum is a one-stop-shop to learn everything about the Old West with over 20,000 authentic artifacts and over 200 original guns from the time period. There's even a general store. The museum has built itself up inside the refurbished Front Street buildings so you can get an authentic view of what the little town was like in its heyday during your visit. You can even see simulated gunfights and grab sarsaparilla in the saloon. The museum complex also houses the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame

You'll need your credit cards when you visit so you can see "Miss Kitty" perform with her dancers in the saloon over a country-style dinner. The whole family can enjoy a little taste of history in this historic spot.

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The Long Branch Saloon: The 'Gunsmoke' Hangout Was Rooted in Dodge City History