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1883 (2021-2022) is the first prequel series of the Paramount hit series Yellowstone (2018- ). The period drama premiered on the network’s streaming service Paramount+ on December 19, 2021.
Starring country singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and seasoned western actor Sam Elliott, the show follows the perilous journey of James Dutton and his family across the Great Plains
In the hope of a better future, the Duttons join a group of German immigrants traveling from Fort Worth in Texas to Oregon. However, the family will eventually settle in Montana, where they establish the iconic Yellowstone ranch we are familiar with.
Similar to other western TV series of Taylor Sheridan, the characters of 1883 are remarkably authentic and lifelike. As a result, fans are wondering whether the show is actually based on a true story.
Is 1883 Based on a True Story?
1883 isn’t based on a true story. However, it does contain many historical references and elements that make the show an accurate representation of the time period.
While the story of 1883 might not be real, the actors and background certainly look the part.
Take lead actor Tim McGraw, for example, who plays the head of the Dutton family, James Dutton.
Due to the lack of water and chances to shave throughout the journey, his beard keeps getting longer and longer, as it would in real life.
However, the show wouldn’t have been nearly as immersive and accurate without extensive research and the crew’s expert knowledge of this time period.
The show’s creator Taylor Sheridan worked closely together with everyone on the set to make the show as authentic and believable as possible.
Is 1883 Based on a Book?
The series 1883 was not based on a book or book series. The Yellowstone prequel is purely the product of Taylor Sheridan’s imagination, just like its popular parent series.
In recent years, Sheridan has been churning out screenplays for one great western drama after another. It’s no coincidence he’s been called “our generation’s greatest Western storyteller” by Esquire.
Is 1883 Historically Accurate?
The Yellowstone prequel 1883 is fairly historically accurate, but not perfect. While the lawlessness and harsh life of the period are portrayed really well, small details like the characters’ flawless teeth spoiled the experience for some viewers.
However, there’s no debating that the journey our heroes undertook from Fort Worth to Oregon is one that could’ve happened 150 years ago.
The bandits, rustlers, rattlesnakes, diseases, and other challenges the characters encounter along the way all add to the historical accuracy of the journey.
Moreover, the location of the Comanche tribe’s territory at the time also checks out. In addition, the part of Texas the caravan travels through is close to the Goodnight-Loving Trail, a famous route cowboys used to drive cattle into New Mexico in the 1860s.
Also, see our guide on the route the Dutton family took in 1883, from Fort Worth, Texas, to Montana. It also includes a handy map!
Some 1883 Characters Are Based on Real People
Although the storylines of the show are fictional, a few characters of 1883 are based on real historical figures.
In a flashback to the Battle of Antietam in episode two, we briefly see General George Meade consoling James Dutton after the death of his fellow soldiers.
Played by American actor Tom Hanks, this character is based on the historical figure of the same name who was a real Army officer during the Civil War.
Moreover, the character Marshal Jim Courtright played by Billy Bob Thornton is based on Wild West gunslinger Timothy Isaiah Courtright. Born in 1845, he was killed in a gunfight at age 42 by gunslinger and gambler Luke Short in Fort Worth, Texas.
Last but not least, cattleman Charles Goodnight who helps fight off the rustlers in episode seven is also a historical figure. Portrayed by show creator Taylor Sheridan, the character is based on the most famous Texas rancher in history.
The real Charles Goodnight fought in the Civil War, after which he became involved with breeding cattle and preserving bison.
In 1955, he was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
1883 Period Costume and makeup
The one thing that bugged many 1883 viewers about the show was that all characters had clean, white teeth, which was very unusual in the late 1800s.
During this time period, dentistry was still largely inaccessible to most people, either because it was too expensive or too painful to bear.
While the blinding white teeth of weathered cowboys and Indians certainly is annoying, 1883 makes up for this small blunder with well-designed costumes that match the era. However, making the character’s appearance authentic was a learning curve for both Sheridan and his crew.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, costume designer Janie Bryant revealed that the actors just didn’t fit the background at first.
“I was with my team on probably the first or second day of shooting. It was all hands on deck and we were throwing fake dirt on the actors because I was like, ‘It has to be dirtier’—and we were already up to our elbows in fake dirt and distressing the material,” she said.
Where to Watch 1883
If you’re wondering where you can catch up with the Yellowstone prequel, 1883 is streaming exclusively on Paramount+.
The streaming service has recently launched outside the United States and is now available in the following countries and regions: the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Australia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Canada.
You can subscribe to Paramount+ from your mobile, tablet, or computer to access 1883 and lots of other great shows. The service currently offers two subscription plans – Essential and Premium.
The Essential plan costs $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year and includes the entire Paramount+ library in addition to ads. The Premium plan offers the same but with limited ads for $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year.