Category Archive 'Old West'
10 Apr 2019

Clay Allison

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26 May 2018

“A Long Way From Home”

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18 May 2016

The Bridgeport Rig

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The Bridgeport Rig was patented by Louis S. Flatau of Pittsburg, Texas in 1882 and manufactured by the Bridgeport Gun Implement Co., of Bridgeport, Connecticut. One’s Colt Peacemaker could be drawn quicker by simply sliding it in a straight line forward from its clip, and it could even be fired potentially faster still by leaving it attached and just swiveling the gun.

I’ve heard of this before, but Fred Sinclair has some details I didn’t know. Apparently, they actually sold 500 of the rigs to the US Army. It’s not hard to see that soldiers wouldn’t like them. A Bridgeport Rig could be just the thing tucked away under your long coat for a night gambling in the town saloon, but it would be a trifle insecure, bouncing around on top of a horse, and for field duty you’d want a holster with a flap, not an arrangement that left your expensive revolver completely exposed to the weather.


Elmer Keith wore a Bridgeport rig as did James Gillett when he was Marshall of El Paso, Texas in the 1880s; it is sometimes referred to as the “Gillett Rig” for this reason.

14 Oct 2015

New Billy the Kid Photo Authenticated

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Young man identified as Billy the Kid (on left) playing croquet with other regulators, Summer 1878.

Fox News:

A rare coin dealer in California has concluded that a grainy image of legendary gunman Billy the Kid playing croquet is the real thing and could be worth as much as $5 million.

That is not bad for a photo purchased by Randy Guijarro of Freemont, Calif. for $2 as a part of a miscellaneous lot at a Fresno junk shop in 2010… The company is negotiating a private sale of the photo. …

The 4×5-inch tintype – which depicts Billy the Kid and several members of his gang, The Regulators, relaxing in the summer of 1878 – will be the subject of a two-hour documentary airing Sunday on the National Geographic Channel.

Taken just one month after the tumultuous Lincoln County War came to an end, it offers a rare window into the lives of these gunmen. Rather than a threatening outlaw, Billy the Kid seems to be enjoying some downtime following… a wedding.

Kagin’s web-site.

14 Aug 2015

Tall Tale From the Old West

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New Falcon Herald:

Pikes Peak was the scene of a fraud perpetrated in 1876 by John O’Keefe, whose job was to take weather readings on the summit and signal them to the city below.

O’Keefe’s tall tale about rats on the peak’s summit was first printed in the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper. The tale then spread to the Rocky Mountain News, which published an articled entitled “Rodents on the Rampage – an Awful and Almost Incredible Story, a Fight for Life with Rats on Pikes Peak.”

In the Rocky Mountain News story, O’Keefe claimed the top of Pikes Peak was overrun by rats the size of cats that fed on “saccharine gum that percolates through the pores of the rocks.”

The story continues:

    “Since the establishment of the government’s signal station on the summit of the peak, these animals have acquired a voracious appetite for raw and uncooked meat, the scent of which seems to impart to them a ferocity rivaling the fierceness of the starved Siberian wolf.”

O’Keefe claimed that on his first night at the station, he and his wife were attacked by rats and would have been overwhelmed had they not electrocuted them using electrical wire powered by a battery.

When the battle was over, they discovered the rats had eaten their infant daughter, Erin.

O’Keefe claimed he buried all that was left of Erin (her skull) under a pile of rocks with a marker and this inscription, “Erin O’Keefe, daughter of John and Nora O’Keefe, who was eaten by mountain rats in the year 1876.”

The grave became a popular tourist attraction, and O’Keefe charged 50 cents for tourists to have their picture taken at the site.

O’Keefe was eventually revealed as a fraud. He didn’t have a wife or daughter, and probably buried his dead burro under the rocks.

Via Ratak Monodosico.

22 Jul 2015

Wild Bill Hickok’s First Gunfight

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Amy Athey McDonald, at Yale News, describes Wild Bill’s first gunfight, and shows us a revolver once owned by Hickok, now in Yale’s Peabody Museum collection.

Davis Tutt shouldn’t have taken Wild Bill’s watch.

The former Confederate soldier and gambler was shot down by James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok 150 years ago in Springfield, Missouri, in what is today recognized as the first quick-draw gunfight of the American West.

Events leading up to the legendary shootout began the night before with a dispute over a gambling debt. Hickok and Tutt had known each other for years, but there had been a falling out and Wild Bill refused to play cards with Tutt. According to an account by a witness who called himself “Captain Honesty,” Tutt retaliated that evening by giving money to every other man around the table playing against Hickok. A successful gambler, Wild Bill won nearly $200 that night, which angered his one-time associate even more.

Tutt called in a past debt of $45 on the spot from Hickok, who promptly paid up. Tutt then claimed another $35 debt owed from a previous game. Hickok disagreed with this second claim, saying he only owed Tutt $25. It was at this point that Tutt took Hickok’s gold Waltham watch from the table and said he would keep it until the debt was paid. Hickok warned Tutt against such a foolish action. Trial testimony from a J.W. Orr noted that Tutt later raised his price to $45.

While the details of what happened the next day on July 21, 1865, are not entirely clear, historians agree that Tutt showed up in the town square in front of the courthouse around 6 p.m. with Hickok’s watch. Wild Bill appeared at the other end of the square and warned Tutt not to come any further. The two began to cross the square toward one another, drawing their pistols. Exactly how far apart they were and what guns were used are not definitely known. It’s written that they were facing side-on, dueling fashion, almost 100 paces apart, with Hickok using his Colt Navy.

Tutt and Hickok fired one shot each. Tutt missed; Hickok didn’t. Tutt staggered and fell, shot through the heart, and Hickok was soon arrested and charged with murder. The charge was later reduced to manslaughter, but the jury found that Hickok acted in self-defense and he was acquitted.

The shootout launched Wild Bill’s fame as a gunman.



French .44 Pinfire Revolver of unknown manufacture, presented by James Butler Hickok to Wild West Show manager William Green, Yale Peabody Museum.

21 Jul 2014

“The Gunfighter”

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Via Theo.

26 Apr 2014

John C. H. Grabill’s Photos of the Old West

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Between 1887 and 1892, John C.H. Grabill sent 188 photographs to the Library of Congress for copyright protection. Grabill is known as a western photographer, documenting many aspects of frontier life & hunting, mining, western town landscapes and white settlers’ relationships with Native Americans. Most of his work is centered on Deadwood in the late 1880s and 1890s. He is most often cited for his photographs in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee Massacre on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. link

02 Apr 2014

Barbed Wire

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How the West was Fenced – Like a cattle-brand, local family ranches in the late 1800’s made their own barbed wire and used it to identify their property lines and retain their stock. What’s a good indicator that you’re a badass..? Making your own barbed f’n wire! The hardy bastards probably flossed their teeth with it too..

Via Ratak Monodosico.

31 Aug 2013

Captain Frank Jones’ Company, Frontier Battalion, Texas Rangers 1887

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Company D, Frontier Battalion, Texas Rangers, 1887

Heritage Auctions is selling the original cabinet card photo of this iconic Western image from the John N. McWilliams Texas Ranger Collection on September 20th in Dallas.

Back row from left: Jim King (murdered while working undercover February 11, 1890), Bass Outlaw (discharged 1889, killed by Constable John Selman in El Paso April 4, 1894), Riley Boston, Charles Fusselman (ambushed and killed by rustlers April 17, 1890), James William “Tink” Durbin, Ernest Rogers, Charles Barton, Walter Jones; Sitting (from left): Robert Bell, Cal Aten, Captain Frank Jones (Killed in a fight with Mexican bandits near San Elizario, Texas, June 30, 1893, Joseph Walter Durbin (retired and became sheriff of Frio County), Frank L. Schmid Jr. (died June 17, 1893 of gunshot wounds received August 16, 1889 in Fort Bend County when caught in a crossfire between two hostile political parties).

Winchester and Colt Model 1873s seem to be the universal choice.

The mortality rate from gunshots for members of this small group of men was pretty impressive. Five out of fourteen (four on the right side of the law) were dead with the next seven years.

08 Feb 2013

Bigfoot Wallace

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William Alexander Anderson “Bigfoot” Wallace (April 3, 1817 – January 7, 1899)

The highlight of Heritage Auctions’ upcoming March 1-2 “Texana” sale seems to be an albumen photograph dating from 1872 of the famous veteran of the Texas War of Independence and the Mexican War, Indian fighter, and Texas Ranger “Bigfoot” Wallace.

Bigfoot Wallace appears in the Larry McMurtry novel Dead Man’s Walk, later made into a movie in which Wallace was played by Keith Carradine.

It’s interesting to note that, as late as 1872, the legendary frontiersman is found leaning on a percussion lock long rifle. No Spencer repeater or Model 1866 Winchester for him. Wallace is also packing some unidentifiable large pistol in a covered holster, facing forward on his left hip. He looks like a tough hombre.

06 Dec 2012

George Armstrong Custer’s “Trusty Spencer”

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George Armstrong Custer’s Personal Army-Issue Model 1865 Spencer Carbine

A good friend from Yale, Tom Slater (JE ’72), is Director of Americana at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. An email update from that auction house reports that Tom has outdone himself in putting together a really spectacular group of offerings for Heritage’s December 11th & 12th Western Americana auction

The undoubted highlight of the sale is George Armstrong Custer’s personal Spencer repeating carbine, bearing his name scratched on the buttstock, and frequently mentioned in his accounts of hunting. The bidding starts at $50,000; but, even with recession clouds still lowering over Obamistan, it will probably go much higher.

[T]he Spencer carbine offered here pre-dates his Fort Abraham Lincoln period, it does date from the Indian Wars, and could quite possibly have been with him at the Battle of Washita.

It was part of the legendary collection of Dr. Lawrence A. Frost of Monroe, Michigan, who at one time had what may have been the most extensive private collection of Custer artifacts and relics ever assembled. A signed identification tag in Frost’s hand which accompanies the gun identifies it as a “Spencer Carbine – Saddle Ring / Cal. 50, No. 3658, Model 1865 / ‘G. Custer – 7 Cav USA’ cut into wooden stock…Used by Gen. Custer in Kansas in 1867 campaign.” …

Dr. Frost purchased the carbine in 1955 from Howard Berry. A notarized bill of sale describes the gun in detail. In a 1973 letter (a copy of which is included in this lot), Frost refers to purchasing various Custer items from Berry, whom he describes as “a former 7th Cavalryman”. Frost states that he showed them to James Calhoun Custer (a nephew of Gen. Custer and son of Nevin Custer), and that Custer assured him he remembered these items which had been shown to him by his father who stated that they were the General’s.

Custer used a wide range of military and commercially available firearms over the course of his career, but he had a special familiarity with Spencer carbines. During the Civil War his Michigan regiments were armed with Spencers (Carbines of the U.S. Cavalry, John McAulay, p. 32). As the war ended, a new Spencer model was issued to the army with a more powerful 56-50 cartridge (Spencer Repeating Firearms, Roy Marcot, pp. 80-81). When the 7th Cavalry was formed in 1866 (Bugles, Banners and War Bonnets, Ernest Reedstrom, pp. 1-2), the Spencer Carbine became standard issue (Carbines of the U.S. Cavalry, p. 88), and was in use by them until replaced by the Sharps carbine in 1870 (Carbines of the U.S. Cavalry, p. 95). In his 1980 book, Nomad, George A. Custer in Turf, Field and Farm, Brian W. Dippie reproduces an 1867 article written by Custer in which he describes in great detail a buffalo hunting expedition. He describes learning that pistol shots “only seemed to increase (the buffalo’s) speed.” Accordingly, Custer wrote, “I concluded to discard the use of my revolvers and trust my Spencer carbine” (p.117). The example offered here, serial #3658, is the 1865 model and should not be confused with the Spencer rifle gifted to Custer in 1866; that gun has never surfaced (Spencer Repeating Firearms, p. 152). The presentation gun would have been the 56-44 sporting model.

Custer’s regard for his Spencer carbine is evidenced in his own words in his autobiography, My Life on the Plains, where he writes: “Leaping from my bed I grasped my trusty Spencer which was always at my side” (p. 77).

“G. Custer — 7 CAV, USA” cut into buttstock.

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