MovieChat Forums > The Big TrailĀ (1930) Discussion > What year is this supposed to take place...

What year is this supposed to take place in?


Does anyone know?

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It is not possible to put an exact date on it, unless maybe someone has a copy of the script, which might say. My guess is early 1850's. Most of the wagon train movement to Oregon was in the 1850's and 1860's. Everyone used a muzzle-loading rifle. John Wayne's character had a crude revolver, but most of the other pistols were single shots. By the late l850's, early 1860's both revolvers and breech-loading rifles were common, and both were considered indespensable equipment for those traveling west. Both the ladies's dresses and the men's suits seemed consistent to me with such a rough date, though I confess I'm not as up on fashion as I am on firearms. Also California was mentioned as a place people were going, and the USA didn't own it until 1848.

UPDATE: Since posting the above, I have modified my oppinion. No one mentioned the California Gold Rush which started in 1849. This considered with California not being a U.S. pocession until 1848 and the other above considerations would tend to narrow the date down to 1848. Or...?????????.

He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good... St. Matthew 5:45

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Another amended oppinion, the final, I hope. I just watched The Big Trail for the second time this evening and this time caught something that pins down the date. In the early going Marguerite Churchill's character Ruth is giving her little sister a history lesson. She asks the question, how many stars on the American flag. The correct answer is given as twenty-six. As Michigan was admitted as the 26th state in 1837, the time of the story is sometime between that year and 1845, when Florida was admitted as the 27th state.

He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good... St. Matthew 5:45

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I just watched the film and also realized that the history lesson indicates the "The Big Trail" takes place between 1837 and 1845.
In regards to California not being part of the U.S. at that time, I believe it was mentioned as a place "the Spanish call California." This doesn't seem to imply that it was part of the United States of America.

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Duke's revolver in this film is the Remington New Model Army .44 cap & ball revolver, first issued in 1863. So 1863 or slightly later, is the likely time setting. By 1863 the California Gold Rush was playing out, but farmland was still very available and very cheap in California. Cheap farmland was a very strong incentive to go to California for the latter half of the 19th Century.

"It ain't dying I'm talking about, it's LIVING!"
Captain Augustus McCrae

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-----"Duke's revolver in this film is the Remington New Model Army cap and ball revolver first issued in 1863. So 1863 or slifhgtly later is the likely setting..."------

Sorry, Cap, you can't use the actual revolver pictured, which I was well aware was a Civil War era Remmington, to date this story. You would have figured that out if you had read the other previous posts before posting yourself. You obviously have a book or two on antique revolvers, and so do I, but few people had one at the time this picture was produced. Considering the dearth of available material on the subject in the 1920's (harly anyone collected percussion revolvers, so there were few books on them), the outfitters for The Big Trail did well to know a percussion weapon was appropriate.

None of the other weapons or the costumes fit with so late a date as you came up with by glamming in on the revolver. Didn't you notice everyone else was using a single-shot pistol? Or that no one was wearing a stovepipe hat? Neither the weaponry or the costumes were appropriate the the Civil War period.

The poster who suggested a date range of 1837 to 1845 is likely correct. Wayne's character probably shouldn't have had a revolver at all, though there was such a thing at the time. The Texas Rangers were in pocession of several hundred .36 caliber "Patterson" Colts (originally belonging to the Republic Of Texas Navy), but elsewhere they were sparce.

P.S. I just realized the poster who came to the correct conclussion (1837-45) was yours truly.

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He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good... St. Matthew 5:45

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Are you guys certain about the revolver? I haven't seen the film in well over ten years, but this page says that it's an 1851 Colt Navy: http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/The_Big_Trail

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