Why 1883’s Most Hated History Error Couldn’t Be Avoided

Why 1883’s Most Hated History Error Couldn’t Be Avoided

1883, the prequel spinoff series to the neo-Western Yellowstone, has been lauded for its historical elements – save for one detail that bothers fans.

Warning: the following contains SPOILERS for 1883.

1883’s portrayal of the lives and struggles of pioneering American settlers from the late 19th century has been celebrated for its authenticity and historical accuracy – although one detail stands out to irk the most hardcore of period drama fans. While the Yellowstone prequel’s tale of the old wild west is entirely fictional, true stories inspired the characters in 1883, who are based on actual people and the social realities of the era. However, as fans point out certain details that have prevented their full immersion into the period drama, the 1883 show’s historical accuracy has been put into question.

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Historical accuracy is doubtless one of the main strengths of 1883. Set in the late 19th century, within the lands claimed by the U.S. government through the Louisiana Purchase, 1883 reveals the roots of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch empire in Montana. This includes the struggles of  – the ancestors of Yellowstone’s John Dutton (Kevin Costner) – as they leave Tennessee in search of greener pastures in the frontier. There’s also Thomas (LaMonica Garrett) and Shea Brennan (Sam Elliot), former Union soldiers leading a group of German and Romani settlers searching for the same. 1883’s depiction of diseases like smallpox and cholera further adds to the authentically bleak and grim picture that Taylor Sheridan paints in the spinoff. 1883 also dives deep into how the pioneers both survived and died while attempting dangerous river crossings, fending off bandits, and leaving their precious material possessions behind for a lighter journey. While 1883 shares many key elements with Yellowstone, unlike the original series, 1883 is a period drama that’s thematically closer to traditional Westerns.

Related: Yellowstone: Every Upcoming Season & Spinoff Show

1883 viewers, however, have pointed out the fact that all of 1883’s characters have clean, healthy teeth, which was very uncommon in the late 19th century. Although dentistry in the U.S. started developing in the mid-1600s, there weren’t that many dentists by the late 1800s, especially in frontier towns. Even in the cities and economic centers where dentists were much more common, their services were too expensive or painful for most. This is why it’s strange that the entire cast of characters in 1883 have either regular or perfect teeth. That said, the 1883 show’s historical accuracy issues don’t really interfere with immersion. As some fans argue, the makeup and/or CGI costs of historically accurate dental work would siphon time and resources from the show’s other more prominent visual elements, all of which are more essential to depicting the Wild West in a convincingly authentic manner.

Is The Show 1883 Historically Accurate?

yellowstone 1883 cast character

Indeed, even though 1883’s strength lies in historical accuracy and authenticity, it’s also not a documentary. Rather, 1883 is a prequel spinoff series to one of the most entertaining and fast-paced neo-Western dramas of all time. It only makes sense for showrunners to focus their resources and efforts on elements that contribute more to establishing 1883’s overall atmosphere. While there’s truth to the opinion that the 1883 show’s historical accuracy isn’t perfect, 1883’s numbers on streaming platforms like Paramount+ and Peacock speak for themselves.

1883 is a fairly realistic depiction of the socio-political realities and harsh material conditions faced by American pioneers. It also offers crucial insights into the roots of not just the modern ranching industry, but also of the deep divides between white and Native Americans. Whatever misgivings might be fair concerning the 1883 show’s historical accuracy problems, it remains a fresh and highly compelling take on the played-out narrative of surviving in the Wild West.

Is 1923 The Second Season Of 1883?

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Although 1923 was originally planned to be the second season of 1883, both eventually grew into their own independent spinoffs. While the upcoming series will also tell another generation of Duttons’ story, there are enough decades between the two timelines to make 1923 considerably different than 1883. In fact, with Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren in 1923’s cast, the spinoff clearly seeks to establish a standalone timeline in Taylor Sheridan’s neo-Western universe. Sheridan’s decision to flesh out these two very different eras as separate productions suggests that the upcoming series might not suffer the 1883 show’s historical accuracy issues, especially as the era being closer to the present makes it easier to simulate for television. Meanwhile, although Sheridan has revealed that he has plans to make 1883 season 2, especially following the first season’s success, it likely won’t begin production until after the respective first seasons of the various Yellowstone spinoffs have wrapped filming.

Related: 1883’s Season 1 Finale Secretly Spoils Yellowstone Season 5’s Ending

Why Yellowstone Prequel 1932 Changed To 1923

1923 title change for yellowstone spinoff with harrison ford and helen mirren

Following 1883’s conclusion, it was announced that 1932 will instead be called 1923, which was actually prompted by concerns related to maintaining historical accuracy. The reason why Sheridan’s 1932 changed to 1923 is that back in 1926, Montana actually became the first state in the union to repeal prohibition. As 1932 was billed as a story about how the Westward Expansion and prohibition shaped the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, it makes sense to change it to 1923 – just three years before Montana repealed the law. Perhaps this is an indication that 1923 will even more careful in terms of preserving crucial historical elements in the story of the Dutton family.

More: 1883: Tom Hanks’ Yellowstone Cameo Explained – Who Does He Play?

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About The Author

Peter Mutuc
(291 Articles Published)

Born, raised, and still based in the dystopian hellscape of Metro Manila, Philippines, Peter Mutuc’s knowledge of geekdom was forged in the ancient, lagging fires of 56kbps internet and dodgy forums – but now burns bright with the light of the eternal datasphere. Before his current foray into series and movie feature writing, Peter was a ghostwriter who aimlessly haunted the wasteland for copper pieces and XP. In the physical world, Peter was obsessed about biking as far as humanly possible and petting the occasional strange doge. Today, when he is not rummaging through the drit looking for useful numenera, Peter is either bothering his black-brown-white tabby cat T’Challa Kittenbane or brewing ginger beer at home. During the pandemic, while stuck inside a tiny condo unit that thankfully had a somewhat nice view, Peter also translated the book Migrantik by his favorite Filipino (Tagalog) author Norman “4 Joints” Wilwayco into English. The English translation of Migrantik, a novel about a pinoy immigrant parent’s journey in Australia and the drug war back at home, is now available on Amazon.

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