Prior to about 1800, the crest of the Appalachian Mountains was seen as the western frontier. Since then, the frontier moved further west and the Mississippi River was referenced as the easternmost possible boundary of The West.
In the 21st century, the states which include the Rocky Mountains and the High Plains to the West Coast are generally considered to comprise the American West. Learn more about the geography of the west in regional magazines like Western Living, National Geographic Adventure and Outdoor Life.
During the 1840s the western territories were quickly settled, mostly by migrant workers. The now-famous California Gold Rush occurred in 1849. California was settled so quickly that it was admitted to statehood in 1850 without the normal transitory phase of becoming an official territory. To learn more about this period in American history, read magazines like Wild West, Cowboys & Indians, and Guns of the West.
In 1898 the first magazine all about the west appeared. It was Sunset magazine, a promotional magazine for the Southern Pacific Railroad. The original purpose of Sunset magazine was to combat the negative Wild West stereotypes about California. The magazine was named for the Sunset Limited, the premier train on the Southern Pacific Railroad's Sunset Route. To learn more about the railroad system at this time read railroading magazines like Railfan & Railroad and Trains magazine.
Sunset Magazine was available on board and at the station. The magazine ran content that hoped to entice tourists onto the company's trains, entice guests to the railroad's resort and to stay and buy land. Southern Pacific was the largest single landowner in California and Nevada.
The first issue of Sunset featured an essay about Yosemite, with photographs by noted geologist Joseph Le Conte. There were social notes from Western resorts and information about train travel.
In 1914 the railroad sold the magazine to its employees, and Sunset began to publish original articles, stories and poetry focusing on the West. Today, Sunset magazine continues to be a successful lifestyle magazine. The magazine's editorial focus is still on Western living, albeit without the focus on train travel. Instead, each issue of Sunset magazine emphasizes western living through features on homes, cooking, gardening and travel of all kinds.