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It’s been several years since the Cartwright boys rode the vast ranges of the Ponderosa, overseeing their land and fighting to protect their own little slice of the American Dream. What began as an almost failure blossomed into the second-longest running Western to hit the small screen, airing from 1959 to 1973, and then in perpetual syndication somewhere. The lives and loves of the Cartwright men were some of the most beloved and enduring tales on television. The history of this storied drama is as vast as the Ponderosa itself, so here are a few facts about one of the most popular TV Westerns ever.

1. Truly Equal Billing

There really was no star on Bonanza. Its four leads — Patriarch Ben, oldest son Adam, best son Hoss, and youngest son Little Joe — were given equal screen time in the opening credits. The producers even went so far as to swap the order in which the cast members were billed in order to keep things fair.


2. Papa Cartwright Might Have Been a Murderer

Okay, so Ben Cartwright was totally a good guy … but is the fact that he was thrice-widowed not a cause for concern for anyone? I know the frontier is hard, but three mysterious deaths for the mothers of each of his three sons? I don’t want to say “weird heir collector” but sometimes you have to wonder about a man who’s THAT open-hearted. Just sayin’.


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