How the West Was Won (TV series)

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How the West Was Won
How the West Was Won title screen small.jpg
Also known as The Macahans
Genre Western
Directed by Bernard McEveety
Irving J. Moore (one episode)
and others
Starring James Arness
Bruce Boxleitner
Fionnula Flanagan
Kathryn Holcomb
William Kirby Cullen
Vicki Schreck
Composer(s) Jerrold Immel
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 28 (and 1 pilot) (list of episodes)
Original channel ABC
Original run Pilot:
January 19, 1976
February 6, 1977 – April 23, 1979

How the West Was Won is an American western television series that starred James Arness, Eva Marie Saint, Fionnula Flanagan, Bruce Boxleitner, and Richard Kiley.[1] Loosely based on the 1962 Cinerama film of the same name, it aired as a mini-series in 1977, and as a regular series in 1978 and 1979. A 2-hour pilot film, The Macahans, ran in 1976.[1] A total of 25 episodes were aired.

The show was a great success in Europe, apparently finding a larger and more lasting audience there than in the United States. It has been rebroadcast many times on various European networks, e.g. in France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, and has built a cult following.[2] It was released on DVD in Europe in November 2009.

A sequence of paintings by Charles Marion Russell were shown during the end credits.


Zebulon Macahan is a well known mountain man, trapper/trader, and scout working for the U.S. Army in the Indian Territories. The Sioux and many other Indian tribes have given Zeb Macahan the name, White Eagle. The legend among the Indian tribes is that "a bullet has not been made that can kill him." In the early 1860s, as the Civil War is beginning, he is reminded that he has family back in Manassas, Virginia that he has not seen in far too long. He journeys back there. When the war comes too close to home, Zeb's sister in law, Kate convinces her husband Tim, Zeb's brother, to pack up their family, including two sons (Luke and Josh (named Seth and Jed in the pilot episode)) and two daughters (Jessie and Laura) and make the move out west.

Once out west the family learns from an Army unit heading east that the first battle of the war is likely to occur at Bull Run, right near Zeb and Tim's parents' home. Tim argues that he, not Zeb, should go east to fetch their parents because Zeb knows the west and can care for his family while he is gone. Tim leaves to return to Virginia, while the family winters in the Indian Territories. After that Zeb builds a sod house for the family. Then Zeb is told by a fellow frontiersman that a young friend of Zeb's has been murdered by a renegade mountainman who has escaped from an Army Guardhouse that Zeb originally helped put him in for murdering innocent Indians. Zeb leaves the family in order to track down this killer. He intends to be gone for only a short time. When he and Tim are gone too long, Luke goes back east as well to look for his father and grandparents. Luke finds Tim, but Tim is dying from wounds received in battle and Tim's parents are dead. Luke is unwillingly conscripted into the Union Army. After a brutal battle where almost all of Luke's platoon is killed Luke decides to head west to find his family. While traveling west through a small town he is accused of being a horse thief by southern sympathizers because he is wearing Union army trousers. While escaping the attempted lynching he wounds the local southern sheriff in the arm. At first Luke is pursued by a bounty hunter, who holds a commission as an Army Provost Marshal, in order to pursue and kill soldiers accused of desertion. Then the former southern sheriff, seeking vengeance, pursues Luke. Luke gains a reputation as skilled gunfighter. Luke is forced to spend most of the rest of the series fleeing pursuit (not being cleared of the charges until the final season). The remainder of the series involves the rest of the family and their lives as they settle in and build up their farm and horse ranch with Zeb as their patriarch. The matriarch of the family, Kate, dies between seasons, and is replaced by her wealthy sister Molly Culhane, who has journeyed west to look after her nieces and nephews.


In the pilot episode, Tim's sons have different first names than in the rest of the series. Originally "Seth", Bruce Boxleitner's character was renamed "Luke", and William Kirby Cullen's character "Jed" was renamed "Josh".

Guest stars included Ricardo Montalban as Satangkai, a chief of the Sioux Nation, Ron Hayes as Sheriff Pinter, Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., Harry Lauter as Sheriff Charlie Benton, Gregg Palmer as Loman, Tom Simcox as Marshal Logan, Read Morgan as Morton in "The Slavers", and John M. Pickard as Colonel Caine and Jim Turner (three episodes). Actors Richard Basehart, Ken Curtis, Michael Conrad, and Jack Elam also guest starred on this series.

DVD releases[edit]

How the West was Won has been released in Scandinavia as Familjen Macahan (Macahan Family) in 5 boxes: Box 1 - November 25, 2009 (4 episodes including Pilot); Box 2 - February 24, 2010 (5 episodes); Box 3 - May 12, 2010 (5 episodes); Box 4 - September 8, 2010 (5 episodes) and Box 5 - December 1, 2010 (6 episodes). The series were released remastered during 2012, also in 5 boxes (Box 1 – August 31; Boxes 2-5 - September 25), as well as a complete box November 21, 2012.

Warner Home Video released the complete first season on DVD in Region 1 on July 9, 2013.[3] Season 2 was released July 15, 2014.[4]

A more accurate list of the 14 episodes from season 2 can be found inside the Season 2 DVD case released in July 2014. This new DVD episode list fixes errors found in most web sites.


In January 1978, a nearly 400-page "epic length" paperback novelization of a number of early episodes, written by Lou Cameron, was published by Ballantine Books. A prolific and versatile paperback scribe whose credits include winning a Western Writers of America Spur Award for his novel "The Spirit Horses", Cameron's novelization adapted teleplays and screen stories by Calvin Clements, Colley Cibber, Howard Fast, William Kelley, John Mantley, Katharyn Michaelian, Jack Miller and Earl W. Wallace. The novel, sharing the title of the series, is not to be confused with the identically titled novelization by Louis L'amour of the 1962 feature film.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jackson, Ronald; Abbott, Doug (2008). 50 Years of the Television Western. Bloomington: AuthorHouse. pp. 288–89. ISBN 978-1-4343-5925-4. 
  2. ^ Nordström, Andreas (11 February 2010). ""Familjen Macahan" är en storsäljare". Expressen (in Swedish). Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  3. ^ 1st Season DVDs with James Arness, Eva Marie Saint, and Bruce Boxleitner
  4. ^ DVD Date, Cost and Info for 'The Complete 2nd Season'

External links[edit]