Butch Cassidy’s Colt and the End of the Wild West

The following article is re-published with permission from rockislandauction.blogspot.com.

It is no coincidence that the Old West and gun collecting go hand in hand. For firearms manufacturers, it was a time of innovation and industrialization.  Colt’s Paterson was invented in 1836 and was the first percussion cap revolver, while Smith & Wesson’s first cartridge revolvers would be produced two decades later in 1856. These innovations in firepower were amplified by standardizations that were concurrently taking place. Guns could be mass produced for the first time making them affordable and easier to repair.  Ammunition was also becoming standardized, safer, easier to use, and more powerful.  The guns produced in this era were some of the first to utilize many of the technologies that we take for granted today . . .

The Old West also connects with gun collecting because firearms were an indispensable part of the landscape. In an era without 911, police radio, and most forensics technologies, the gun was often the only way to defend oneself from frontier wildlife, Indians, and outlaws. It could also protect your livestock, be used for hunting… and villainy.  Besides their noble and necessary roles, guns in the West obviously served several “less than savory” roles: dispute settler, stagecoach/rail/bank robber, claim jumper, border enforcer, and avenger. The gun we’ll investigate today was once the tool of one of the Old West’s most infamous outlaws and will be offered in Rock Island Auction Company’s September 2013 Premiere Auction.

Butch Cassidy is a man that many picture as a ruggedly handsome Paul Newman, when in reality he was a square-headed, straw haired, extremely successful thief. Butch Cassidy was born as Robert LeRoy Parker on April 13, 1866 in Beaver, Utah.  Known around the house as “Roy,” he was the youngest in his Mormon family of 13 children. His family being poor, Roy worked ranches at a young age and would eventually leave home in his early teens in search of greener pastures. He continued working ranches and at one point even took work in a butcher shop, earning him his lifelong moniker “Butch.”

The topic of when Roy earned his famous nickname is debated, others say he took it after he changed his last name, but everyone agrees on the occupation. On one of those ranches where he found work, Roy befriended a rancher by the name of Mike Cassidy, who had a reputation of rustling horses and cattle. No doubt that Mike Cassidy warmed right up to his protégé.  History reports that Butch was never anything but charming, kind, and well-liked with an infectious grin. Mike Cassidy taught young Roy how to rope, drive cattle, expertly ride a horse, and to become an expert marksman.

Butch’s first, lesser-known foray into crime was actually when he entered a Hay Springs clothing store, took a pair of jeans, but left a note promising to pay his debt when he next returned to the shop. The shop owner pressed charges regardless of the note, but Butch would be acquitted by a jury. Butch showed aptitude toward any task he put his mind to and had quite a reputation as a skilled and able cowboy. However, Butch would eventually take the promise he showed as a rancher and would apply that skill to other, less savory, areas.

Starting his new life, Butch decided to try his fortunes in a town called Telluride, Colorado, a boomtown full of showgirls, saloons, prospectors, miners, and gamblers. Initially paid for hauling ore, Butch would eventually begin winning money for racing horses. He was only 23 when he, along with three other cowboys, robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride and had over $20,000 to show for their excellent planning. No doubt using some of his plunder, he purchased a ranch in Dubois, WY in 1890 and returned back to his cattle and horse rustling roots.

His reputation as an outlaw began to grow after his Telluride robbery. In an attempt to honor his old  mentor and not disrespect his family, especially his mother, Butch changed his surname to Cassidy. His popularity also began to grow as sentiments again the “cattle barons” of the day grew increasingly hostile; his rustling of cattle from barons was seen as a blow against the giants for the “little guy” independent ranchers. In 1894, he would be jailed for 18 months of a two year sentence in the state prison in Laramie, WY. The prison sentence was earned from a “sting” set up by the cattle barons. They sold Butch unbranded horses for a irresistible price without papers. They then notified the local law about his “undocumented” livestock and had him arrested, ironically, for “rustling” horses that he had actually purchased.

The last 6 months of his sentence were commuted after he had shown he was a model prisoner and allegedly promised Governor William Alford Richards that he would no longer rustle in the state. Newly freed, Butch’s drive for crime and excitement had grown immensely and he would quickly surround himself with others of a lawless nature and form what came to be known as The Wild Bunch. They were hand-picked by Butch himself and they would bring a new level of professionalism, excellence, and precision to bank robbing. It wouldn’t be until just after their Aug 1896 robbery of the bank in Montpelier, Idaho of $7,000 that he would recruit one Mr. Harry Longabaugh, better known to the world as “The Sundance Kid.”

The next 4-5 years of Butch and his gang’s career follows a fairly predictable pattern of robberies in various Western states and then retreating to their hideout nicknamed the Hole-in-the-Wall. It was a geological formation in the Big Horn Mountains of northern Wyoming which gave the gang, and other outlaws, everything they needed: protection from the elements, an excellent vantage point, long lines of sight, seclusion, allies, food and ammunition stores, and easily defensible narrow passes. Butch loved the area so much, he would homestead there later in life in a ranch called the Blue Creek Ranch.

His reputation as a witty, charming, funny, brainy, considerate, non-violent man persisted his whole life. People always found him agreeable and when he would occasionally imbibe, he often drank less than most men. His only disdain were for those he felt had wronged him or abused their power:  big ranchers, bankers, and railroads often bore the brunt of this sentiment and is likely the result of a boyhood experience where his father lost land in a property rights dispute.

Butch’s father Maximillian was a “jack-Mormon” a term coined for inactive members, and when the land dispute arose it went to a “bishop’s court,” a customary thing in Utah at that time for both civil and occasionally criminal matters. The bishop ruled against Max in favor of a tithe-paying, active, church member and Max Parker’s family was thrown even further into poverty. Something neither Butch, nor his family would ever forget.  Butch’s rustling would frequently target the herds of “religious hypocrites.” While Butch is believed to only have used violence as a last resort, he surrounded himself with men who had no such ethical dilemmas.

Eventually the high-profile bank, train, and payroll robberies would earn Butch a little too much attention and the railroad giants, after trying to hire Butch to help guard their trains in exchange for amnesty, would hire the famous Pinkerton National Detective Agency to protect their trains. Pinkerton would form a special posse called the Union Pacific Mounted Rangers on a specially designed train with specially trained men.

The Wild Bunch was initially unconcerned and continued their robbing ways, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars.  However, it wouldn’t be long before the Wild West began to give way to modernity and the 20th Century. Many of the advances in technology shrank the world that Butch and his gang lived in and they began to feel the grip of law enforcement tightening around them.  Butch had thought previously of escaping to South America and that option got more attractive every day. So attractive, in fact, that Butch began robbing with the intent of saving enough money to make the trip and a life for himself in Argentina. During this robbing spree, the gang took the famous photo in Ft. Worth, Texas, now dubbed the “Fort Worth Five.”

The photo would ultimately hurt the gang deeply when the Pinkertons discovered it and used it to make wanted posters of the men.  Up until that time the law only had older descriptions of two of them men, including Butch’s prison photo.  It would not take long for Butch, Sundance, and Sundance’s longtime companion Ethel “Etta” Place, to feel the heat and on February 20, 1901 departed from New York City to Buenos Aires, Argentina aboard the British steamship Herminius.  They no doubt enjoyed the lavish New York lifestyle for several weeks prior to their departure.  To avoid detection aboard the ship, Butch would take the alias James Ryan and pretend to be Etta’s non-existent brother.  Upon arriving in Argentina, they quickly set up their own ranch and began living a successful life on the straight and narrow.

The pilfering pair would soon resume their lifestyle of robbing banks and trains in South America.  The “end” of Butch Cassidy’s story is clouded at best.  Most believe that the law began catching up with them in South America.  The trio would flee to Chile on several occasions, but continually return to Argentina.  Etta, for reasons unknown, would leave the group on June 30, 1906 on a ship bound for San Francisco.  Butch and Sundance tried to make an honest living for a time, by guarding a mine company’s payroll of all things.

Several robberies were attributed to “two American bandits” and eventually they were identified thanks to a mule.  A hotel owner would recognize either the animal or the mining company’s logo on its flank and report his find to a local Bolivian Calvary camping nearby.  The cavalry sent three men to investigate and after enlisting the help of local law enforcement, they surrounded the cabin where the two stayed and a fierce firefight erupted.  Now things become even further convoluted.

1.  Some sources say that after an extended period of quiet there was a scream, a single shot which silenced the screaming, and then, after a pause, a second shot.  Those sources also state that after several hours (some even say the next day) the cavalry finally looked in, discovered two bodies with numerous bullet wounds to their limbs; one body had a bullet hole in its forehead, the other with one in the temple.  The assumption was that Butch had put his long-time friend and partner out of his suffering and then ended his own.  This story and the next both claim to take place on November 3, 1908.

2.  Others say that Sundance, out of ammunition, attempted to reach rifles and ammunition across a small courtyard.  He made it to the rifles, but was gunned down while returning with them to the cabin.  Butch retrieved his friend from the courtyard, brought him back inside the cabin, but the damage had been done.  Sundance expired in that cabin and not long after Butch took his own life with his last bullet.  This is the most accepted of all the stories.

3.  A third story says that Butch survived somehow.  Maybe he got away from that cabin.  Maybe the two “Americans” weren’t Butch and Sundance at all, there were certainly other American outlaws in the country performing the same crimes as our pair.  Some folks state that Butch and Sundance moved back to the U.S. and lived the rest of their lives in hiding under aliases.  This story is backed by many first-hand accounts saying that Butch has visited them after his alleged South American death in 1908.  These “visits” by Butch would continue to be reported through the 1930s even by his own family members, however, the accounts often conflict.  Similar evidence exists for Sundance’s return to the states and eventual death in 1936.

4.  A more specific legend has Butch going to Europe for a time, then returning to the United States under the name William Phillips.  Once back, he began living in Michigan and married a woman named Gertrude Livesay in May of 1908.  They would eventually move to Arizona to live a straight life.  He would reportedly earn a little extra money by fighting with Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution, but would eventually start the Phillips Manufacturing Company, watch it go bankrupt, make a few desperate trips back to Utah and Wyoming looking for buried caches, but ultimately find none.  Diagnosed with cancer, he would die on July 20, 1937.

5.  Still another version has Butch escaped from Bolivia, though Sundance was not so fortunate, underwent plastic surgery in France, reunited with a long lost love in Wyoming, and settled down in Washington State.  This version is detailed in a book called Bandit Invincible: The Story of Butch Cassidy written by a man named William T. Phillips -the same name allegedly used by Butch as an alias in version #4.  This means the book would not be a biography, but an autobiography!  However, this theory earns little credibility.  The book was initially considered fiction and historians say it bears little resemblance to Cassidy’s real life.  Especially damning to this theory is that after Phillips died, his wife Gertrude told a Cassidy historian that the couple knew Butch personally and that Phillips was not him.

6.  Others still report that Butch was stabbed in the slums of Paris, killed after a bank raid in Uruguay, or was shot in a New Mexico brothel.  Sundance also managed to die in any number of ways between 1920 and 1940 in Venezuela, Chile, and/or Argentina.  Even William A. Pinkerton, hearing all the conflicting reports, never officially closed the book on Butch and Sundance.

Famous photo of the “Fort Worth Five”  Left to right: Harry Longabaugh (“Sundance Kid”), William “News” Carver, Benjamin Kilpatrick (“The Tall Texan”), Harvey Logan (“Kid Curry”), and Robert LeRoy Parker (“Butch Cassidy”).

Whatever the ending of Robery LeRoy Parker’s story, it is a tale that has stood the test of time.  It also marks the end of the last great Western outlaws and some say the end of the Old West itself.  Thankfully, this gun endures as a connection to both the man and the era in which he thrived and Rock Island Auction Company is honored to have a temporary custody of such a historic firearm.  It was given by Butch Cassidy to a small time outlaw Joe Davenport, an occasional member of the Wild Bunch.  When Joe retired from crime and went straight, he took a job as a night watchman in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  He would later give this revolver to a dentist named Dr. Breihan possibly for services rendered.  The dentist would eventually pass the revolver on to his son, who would trade it to a man named Jack Wallace for his services as a machinist.  Jack would father a Lt. Col. John W. Wallace, who would inherit the pistol from his dad and document its vast history in the included affidavit.

Butch Cassidy is truly a man of his times.  He innovated his depraved art, just as the Industrial Revolution did with so many products and the young United States.  He enjoyed a sense of adventure as did so many Western-bound settlers in those days.  Perhaps most importantly, he lived and faded right along with his beloved Wild West.  They peaked together, but all the new technologies and innovations which had been used to such success would prove the end of both.  How perfectly fitting that they should fall together.  No one could ask for a more suitable man to herald the end of this age.

SOURCESPhillips, William T. The Bandit Invincible: The Story of the Outlaw Butch Cassidy. Hamilton, MT: Rocky Mountain House, 1986. Print.http://www.biography.com/people/butch-cassidy-9240908?page=1

http://www.utah.com/oldwest/butch_cassidy.htm

 

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

26 Responses to Butch Cassidy’s Colt and the End of the Wild West

  1. avatarTom in Oregon says:

    Love this stuff!

  2. avatarjwm says:

    I’m a history buff. Most of us gun buffs are to some extent. Seperating truth from altered truth can be a bit difficult at times.

    One of my favorite stories of the aftermath of the wild west days involved Bat Masterson. Later in life he left the west and settled in New York where he wrote for a newspaper. I believe he was a sports writer. As the story goes he would go to pawn shops and buy a couple of wild west revolvers. These were blackpowder period correct guns and since the world was making the transition to smokeless powder the guns were pennies on the dollar. He would lock a couple in his desk drawer and when the star struck would seek him out to recount his adventures he would regale them with tales of derring do.

    In the right moment of the story came he would produce the revolver that saved his life in many adventures and after some persuading he would sell the much valued piece to the star struck individual.

    I always hoped this story was true from the first time I heard it.

    • avatarknightofbob says:

      There are similar stories that Billy the Kid’s mother, after his death, would go to the local hardware and regularly buy out the stock of broken and rusty revolvers, and then go retrieve one all teary-eyed and heartbroken when she’d agree to sell it to the souvenir collectors who would come to find her, cash in hand.

      • avatarJohn in AK says:

        That’s much like Jesse James’ mother, who’d go down to the creek behind her house, stock up on pebbles, and sell them as coming from Jesse’s grave. When she’d run low on pebbles, she’d head on back to the creek for another stock.

  3. avatarDm says:

    I would be all over that gun auction but I just got a sweet deal on a bridge. It’s in a great location in Brooklyn, I’m sure you have seen it….

  4. avatarCalvin says:

    I think the author meant the Bolivian CAVALRY; Calvary is a hill in Jerusalem. OTOH, cool story.

  5. avatarJohn in AK says:

    I”d be leery of claiming that the Colt in the photograph was used by Cassidy; It’s a .32-20, for one thing, which isn’t considered much of a man-stopper. It’s also ‘pristine’–not even a damaged screw slot, not a sign of holster wear at the muzzle. I see only a cracked grip panel, which with the hard rubber of the time was a normal thing. Unless Mr. Cassidy bought this and put in a drawer under his undies, I doubt that it was his.

    • avatarknightofbob says:

      I’d say the auction house has its doubts as well, they’re only predicting $2500 to $5000.

    • avatarDano says:

      Pristine yes…I take it you did not read the description and condition statement on the pistol? It clearly states it has been refinished.

  6. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Touched upon tangentially in that piece was the friction between the cattle barons (usually out of Europe or backed by European money) in Wyoming vs. the small ranchers and farmers. In the late 19th century, the cattle barons and their interests were best represented at that time by the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association. By 1885 or so, the cattle numbers in the west had exploded wildly beyond the carrying capacity of the range. In 1886, range conditions collapsed due to rampant over-grazing, and then came the winter of 1886 to 1887. Cattle died like flies. I mean by the thousands upon thousands. In Montana, to this day, that winter is called “The Big Die-up.” About all the barons could do by spring/summer of 1997 was pay hands to strip the hides off the dead beeves. The meat was left to rot, the hides were shipped east.

    From this period came the most famous of Charley Russell’s postcards:

    http://cmrussell.org/sites/default/files/imagecache/product_full/LASTOF5000.jpg

    The cattle barons took a loss like they had never known to this point, and they started blaming “rustlers” (a term the barons used to describe any small rancher or farmer in Wyoming in the period 1885 to 1893 or so) for their huge losses of cattle. Starting in 1888, the barons started hazing and harassing the small livestock producers as never before, trying to gain back the huge losses they took on dead cattle all over the range. It should be noted that what the barons were complaining about with “rustling” was actually an oversight in the brand laws in the state at that time, coupled with the barons’ own lazy mis-management of their herds.

    Back then in Wyoming (which was before we were a state, BTW), if you found a calf not wearing a brand that was not sucking on a branded cow out on open range, you could put your brand on it and claim it as your own. The barons thought that they had the right to graze on entire counties in those days. There was nothing like the Taylor Grazing Act in place, no grazing allotments, etc, and brand inspection laws were much less stringent than today. So when a small farmer or rancher used the Homestead Act or Desert Land Act to homestead a small place in the county and they started fencing in pastures of their own, the barons got royally pissed off. They thought entire counties outside of the town that was the county seat was theirs, period, no documentation required.

    These small landowners would spot cattle or horses wandering the range around their farms or ranches without any brand on them, round them up and put their own brand on them. The barons considered this “rustling.” Today, we’d called those “estray livestock” in most western states, and laws vary as to what happens to them. In some states with open range, if estray cattle without a brand wander onto your land or your allotment, you can brand them by law and they’re now yours. What really set (and still sets) a real rustler apart from people who are merely collecting estray cattle is the possession of a running iron. Much as being found with lock picking tools is taken for evidence of burglary, being found in possession of a running iron is considered evidence of rustling.

    By 1892, the barons were no longer merely hazing and harassing small ranchers and farmers to “get off the range,” the barons were now out for blood by the bucket full. We now had “real” politicians in Cheyenne, and the WSGA was there in Cheyenne, and they bought politicians with money, liquor and whores. Same as today – that much hasn’t changed. What was different was how brazen and open the WSGA was about their intent to kill dozens of small ranchers, farmers, local community leaders and even a judge in Johnson County. They didn’t hide behind euphemisms. They had a hit list and the WSGA was explicit in their desire to see people on that list dead.

    The result was one of the better examples of a community availing themselves of their Second Amendment rights in the Johnson County War, wherein the European cattle barons, usually HQ’ed in Cheyenne, hired assassins out of Texas to murder a “hit list” of 70+ people in Wyoming, most in the Johnson County area. For those unfamiliar with our fair state, Johnson County lays between Casper (Natrona County), and Sheridan (Sheridan County). The county seat is, as was then, Buffalo.

    When the locals got word of the two cowboys murdered by the Texans down near Kaycee, the people of Buffalo armed themselves and proceeded to give the Texans blistering hell. The governor of Wyoming, prodded by the WSGA, called upon the President to send in troops to rescue the Texans.

    It is, in retrospect, a huge example of why the Second Amendment sets the US and Americans apart from other countries. Big money interests and bought politicians got their comeuppance where they had previously been planning on killing for commercial interests. To this day, you can find bumper stickers in Johnson County on ranch pickups that express “Not trusting Cheyenne since 1982.” Most outsiders don’t get it.

    What brought about the “end of the West” wasn’t modern law enforcement, but the Glidden’s invention and the fencing of the west. The final end of the “old west” was the Taylor Grazing Act. We had range wars in the west clear through WWI, but because most history books are written by soft men in clean clothes sitting in cushy university departments, these battles are mostly unknown to the urbanized world.

    BTW, the term “Jack Mormon” implies a bit more than a merely non-active member of their ward. I won’t delve into that here, but let’s say that mis-applying the appellation could get one into trouble in some parts of the west.

    • avatarSkyler says:

      Fascinating. Is there a book you can recommend on this subject?

      • avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        There have been several books written on the subject of the Johnson County War, the most recent (and one of the best, IMO) is this one:

        http://www.amazon.com/Wyoming-Range-War-Infamous-Invasion/dp/0806142618

        The other very good book is from the 1960′s:

        http://www.amazon.com/Powder-River-Helena-Huntington-Smith/dp/0803251882/ref=pd_sim_b_6

        What one should remember is that the cattle war in Wyoming was a period of years, not a single event. Here’s one of the early notorious events that showed just how ruthless and blood-thirsty the English and Scottish cattle barons were going to become:

        http://www.amazon.com/Wyoming-Lynching-Cattle-Kate-1889/dp/0931271169/ref=pd_sim_b_1

        To those books, I’ll add this caveat: If one does their own research into these events in the newspaper morgues of the Wyoming papers of the day, it is important to remember that the basic character of the newspaperman has not changed a whit in over 100 years. People in the press are now what they were then: the supine bootlickers of those with money and power that they have always been.

        In 1889, the press branded Cattle Kate a prostitute and painted her with scurrilous rumors and innuendo to make it appear that the assassins had done the greater community a service in killing her. In 1892, the newspapers in Cheyenne, Laramie, Sheridan and other points made it seem that the Texas thugs were horribly wronged and set upon by a lynch mob outside of Buffalo. How the Texans magically and innocently appeared in Johnson County, armed to the teeth, was left for the reader to ponder.

        A good place to visit to see exhibits and history of the JCW is the Jim Getchell Museum in Buffalo. You can’t miss it – it is at the corner of Main Street and US-16, on the southwest corner.

        From a firearms perspective, it is interesting and wryly amusing to see the historical accounts of what happened when the Texans, full of the usual Texas bluster, thought their 1873 Winchesters were going to settle the issue so easily. What they didn’t count on was one of the hardware stores in Buffalo handing out 1886′s to men who could shoot well. The assassins from Texas learned they’d best restrain their enthusiasm for getting into fights with hard men packing real rifles chambered in real rifle cartridges when the Texans were carrying carbines chambered in pistol calibers.

        In my above posting, “1997″ should be “1887,” referring to the spring following the horrible winter of 1886 to 1887. It was late when I tossed off that reply and I was getting sleepy, so keypunch errors happen.

        • avatarjim says:

          Interesting about Cattle Kate – just heard a story on NPR this morning about a white mom from Detroit who was involved with the NAACP in the 60s and went South with her local chapter to take part in the Selma-Montgomery march. And got murdered by the Klan. Not only were her young children subjected to chanting, rock-throwing mobs (Detroit being the enlightened, progressive Northern city it is) but for years they were dogged by media accounts that hinted their mom had been a drug addict to went to Alabama to have interracial sex. Took decades for the family to get her FBI file declassified… of course it turned that the media’s off-the-record source for the drug/ sex was J. Edgar Hoover himself. The personal-agenda-driven politician in concert with the media… always a scary combination.

      • avatarJay Dunn says:

        There is a movie called, wait for it, “The Johnson County War”. Check the IMDB.

        Similarly, Steve McQueen’s second to last movie, “Tom Horn”, was also about the Wyoming Cattle Baron Wars.

    • avatarVenator Magnus says:

      I agree about the “Jack Mormon” thing. It’s a “Mormon in name only” sort of issue. 19th Century Mormons, particularly the ones in southern Utah, lived a kind of voluntary communalism with the Bishop being the de-facto person to go to in order to resolve domestic disputes, since going to state or federal authorities was usually more trouble than it was worth because you could be jailed as a polygamist even if you weren’t one.

  7. avatarjim says:

    As a gun nut and lifelong history fanatic, interesting article. But, while Colt SAAs (even in ,32-20, one of my favorite cartridges) are almost as cool as S&W Schofields, Remington 1875s, and the massively cool Merwin & Hubert…. it’s worth noting that in the Old West (and Old East) cheap little pocket revolvers like the Webley Bulldog (damn it is hard to find .450 Short ammo) and breaktop .32s from H&R, Iver Johnson, Hopkins and Allen and the like were much more common. The cowboy shooting sports crowd could really use a modern replica of the breaktop hammerless S&W “lemon squeezer” in .38 S&W, which was a lot more common than the Single Action Army and was the most ergonomic handgun ever made. Just don’t get me started on the merits of the .41 Long Colt, which predated the .40 cal/ 10mm by a century or so….

  8. avatarOut_Fang_Thief says:

    Like a man once said, “The tallest of tales are the shortest of truth.” This tale is about the fish that did, or didn’t get away. History is like that, don’t ya know.

    As far as taking things for granted, I don’t think many people of the gun fall into that category. The gun control people have a lock on that one. What is amazing to most of us, is the way that the anti-gun people seem to forget how recently we carved out this country from a wild and nearly ungovernable territory chock-full of pissed-off indigenous tribal people, and all manner of lawless characters. They somehow believe that we’ve evolved to a point in civilized society that we don’t still need guns to defend ourselves from those bad lawless characters. Ironically, most of these flat-earther’s live in cities with the highest crime rates and the highest restrictions on guns. That they can’t seem to make the connection of these two, is what stupefies us to this day. Mother Mary and Joseph, how much more in denial can these people be? I’ve got a family full of them.

    • avatarThomasR says:

      Yeah, the part that is hard to understand is in one breath the anti-gunners say we need gun control to stop a mass shooter; but when a person carries a gun to protect against a mass shooter they are attacked for being paranoid.

    • avatartdiinva says:

      Things have not changed since the days of the old West. The “civilized” portions of the country back east were places where gangs ruled the streets and no citizen was safe from crime. The West, with its “cowboys,” was a much safer place to live when it came to human interactions. If you want to get a good sense of what eastern cities were like in the 19th Century there is a great show on BBC America called “Copper.” It is sort of “Blue Bloods” circa 1865, It is well researched and gives you a real sense of what New York City was like 150 years ago.

  9. avatarRenegadeDave says:

    Really enjoyed this. Please post more bits of gun related history.

  10. avatarSoccerchainsaw says:

    Interesting stuff.

    I do find tales that glamorize criminals worrisome. Not that I could afford it, but I would never bid on such an item.

  11. avatarSkyler says:

    I’m no expert on antique firearms, so I pose this as a question, not a criticism. The pistol shown appears to have Bakelite grips. Bakelite was invented in 1907. So is this supposed to be a picture of his pistol, or just any old pistol, and is it from the days of his notoriety or from one of the speculative histories about his later years?

    • avatarSkyler says:

      My wife’s uncle asked for my help in repairing his father’s Colt Police Positive from 1918 that had Bakelite grips that had disintegrated. I’m guessing that first generation Bakelite is not going to be lasting much longer.

    • avatarJohn in AK says:

      Colt started selling hard-rubber (rubber mixed with sulphur and vulcanized) two-piece grips for the civilian market around 1882 or so; Bakelite came out, as you say, much later. Another grip material was ‘gutta-percha,’ a vulcanized South American tree gum.

  12. avatarJohn Gray says:

    The following book, Butch Cassidy, My Brother, by his sister Lula Parker Betenson, and Dora D. Flack, was not mentioned in the article and it well worth reading. His sister tells of his return to the states and of the life he led. There are also a number of accounts in the Star Valley of Wyoming that Butch would come in and buy stock for his ranch in the Willamina Valley of Oregon .

  13. avatarjimmyjames says:

    Good article. The old west/wild west is a romanticized (to this day) period of time that only really lasted from the end of the civil war (1865) to the turn of the century (1900). Some historians say the era of the “cowboy” was really only a 25 year period during that time before the railroad made cattle drives obsolete.

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