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James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok: An Exceedingly Important Handwritten Letter Signed in Four Places!...

2012 December 11-12 Political, Western Legends & Americana Signature Auction - Dallas #6092

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Auction Ended On: Dec 11, 2012
Item Activity: 2 Internet/mail/phone bidders
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Location: Heritage Live!, Internet, Fax, and Mail only Session
Heritage Auctions
3500 Maple Avenue
Dallas, TX 75219

James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok: An Exceedingly Important Handwritten Letter Signed in Four Places! Among autographs of iconic figures of the Old West, Hickok stands among the very rarest and most sought after. A longhand letter like this one is almost unheard of! It appears to consist of pages 9 and 10 of a larger letter, probably to his mother or a sister. There are three distinct sections written in late August 1858, one of which is signed twice.

The first part is headed "Monticello fryday (sic) evening, August 20 1858. " The twenty-one-year old was clearly barely literate and the text is littered with misspellings and other errors. He begins with an apology "You must not blame me if you can not read my writings for every spare moment I have I sit down on my bed and put my paper on a Book and Write a few lines and then quit and that is the reason that I don't write Better." He describes his day, having just finished: "I have raked and put up A tun (sic) of hay in an hour and a half..." He talks about "considerable sickness in the teritory (sic)", but notes that "scarcely anyone dies with the fevers they have here." Hickok also inquires about progress on a Corryel (corral) being built back home.

On Monday, Aug. 23 he writes of visiting a friend, John Owens: "I go thare (sic) when I get hungry jist (sic) the same as I youst (sic) to come home to mothers to get something good to eat. " Apparently he already wore his hair long and was rather vain about it, as he writes about 'Mary' (presumably Owens' wife) trimming off a lock and telling Hickok to send it home to his mother or sisters. "...if she had not thought a good deal of you all she woud (sic) not have cut it of (sic) for she thinks a great deal of it at least she is allwais (sic) coming (combing) and curling it that is when I am thare (sic). "

The third segment, undated, discusses a letter he had received from 'Celinda', saying that Mary was going to answer it for him (apparently he wanted to impress Celinda and realized he would not do so if he penned the letter himself!).

While the content of this letter may not be highly important, it does give a fascinating glimpse into who
Hickok was at this stage of his life. In 1857, young Hickok had laid claim to a 160 acre homestead tract in Johnson County, Kansas. On March 22, he was elected one of the first four constables of Monticello Township, Kansas, demonstrating an early predilection for law enforcement. But until he left in 1859 to become a freight driver for Russell, Majors & Waddell, he mainly worked his land as described in this letter.

Interestingly, he signs as "JM Hickok". A few years later when he joined up in the Civil War, he used the name "Haycock", and most newspapers continued to report on his exploits using that spelling until 1869. Hickok had fled his original home in Illinois for Kansas in 1855 following a fight with one Charles Hudson, whom he mistakenly believed he had killed. Perhaps he feared that his past would catch up to him in the Army, but in Kansas he apparently felt safe enough to use the correct spelling of his name.

To our knowledge there are only perhaps a half-dozen Wild Bill Hickok letters in collectors' hands. We are pleased to be able to offer this important example, signed in four places! Although displaying some light general aging, it is in very good condition for display overall.

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