Meet Stan Ellsworth, your favorite new history teacher-biker-turned-TV host

History teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Stan Ellsworth's form just happens to be bigger, scruffier and more charismatic than most. The brawny intellectual is just one of many reasons to check out American Ride, a television series that highlights the best stories you may have missed in high school history classes and starts a new season tonight.

Ellsworth is a former college football coach whose handful of film stints led him to create a TV show focused on two things he loves: motorcycles and talking about America's past. Westword caught up with Ellsworth last week, when he was in Denver filming a segment for the fourth season on the cattle drives that helped make the West what it is today.

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Westword: How did you catch the history bug?

Stan Ellsworth: Originally I'm from Charleston, South Carolina, but I grew up mostly around Manassas, Virginia.

No wonder you're doing what you do now, considering all the Civil War reminders you grew up around.

When I was a little kid, I used to ride my bike up to the battlefield, and I'd look at the statue of General Jackson. And I'd say, "I'm gonna be like that man." So I started reading everything I could on him, General Lee and General Stuart.

So why are you filming here in Denver?

We came to the stockyards, one, to discuss the Goodnight-Loving Trail. And two, the Western "experience." Denver plays a large part in the cattle boom of the 1860s. After the Civil War, that's the first big money thing that hits the American economy. So you have the Chisholm Trail, which lots of people traveled. You have Goodnight-Loving, which opened up the West; it went from Fort Belknap, Texas, across the Pecos River and hitting the Rio Grande, up through Fort Sumner and up to Denver. There were a lot of people bringing beef up this way. In one of our episodes, we talk about how beef, after the Civil War, was really driving the American economy until the crash of '73. We were in Denver discussing the importance of the city to that movement.

There's been a lot of American history television shows over the years. How's this one any different?

As far as history goes, and I don't know if you watch many history shows --

I don't own a TV....

Yeah, I just watch football on it. My wife has to DVR my show. A lot of history shows are presented by a scholarly gentleman who is wearing a sweater vest and bow tie. We don't have sweater vests and bow ties. We have denim jackets and leather. It's a little out of the ordinary. There's a lot more energy in our show. And it's authentic, I believe. I'm not going to evaluate myself that way. The people who have watched the show, their perception and take is that our show presents history with a great deal of passion. Very definitely with a patriotic point of view. It's exciting stuff, and it's important that the rising generation understands what their history is. By and large we're forgetting who we are, and that's a tragedy.

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I love history programs, but unfortunately Stan was educated in the South and believes the Civil War was over State Rights, not the State's right to have slaves... Really??


My recommend that the show American Ride be made available to the U.S. school system's history departments. This Man can teach American History at college level. But his manner/manners are such that any grade from Jr.high up can really learn. And without a doubt have a positive influence and his research is incredible. Here here to all involved with his production. History at it's best. Thank you Sir. L.T.


I live in the 4 corners area Farmington N.M. have been riding 40 + years I like your show one day would like to take a ride along with you History has always been my lerning point to ride the trails on my iron horse an be were the history has been made

Greg DeBaets  look me up on face book if your in our area ill get you the info threw there thanks keep up the great work hope to mhere from ya.  


I live in the four corners area New Mexico. I have been riding Harleys motorcycles for over 40 yrs now and I have always looked into the history of were I was were I am and how things got to were they are today, In some ways because of knowing the history just might be the reason I an alive today. Your show is great teaching off the charts, it would be a great honor to one day take a ride down these trails we ride.I am an old cow boy in heart ,my horse has changed to iron my ride hard an long but every day I stay in the saddle riding these out law trails. Puts led in your pencel 

MY Name is Greg DeBaets I live in Farmington N.M. 505 325-5163  some day we can share a story or two I ride a soft tail started ridding in 1971 on the outlaw trail

Keep the bugs in your teeth sun in your face,rubber side down thanks Greg 


I taught American History at BYU in 1970 and would very much like to buy a set of DVDs covering the American Ride series - are they available?

Ken Roberts


I wish I had a teacher like you when I was young , but inspite of having teachers that did not make the subject interesting I love history.


@byutv @westwordculture Stan is Awesome great program.

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