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    Judge Roy Bean: His Rare Signature Matted with an Apparently Unpublished Cabinet Photo by Del Rio, Texas Photographer J. C. Charles. Roy Bean (1825-1903) may well have been the most colorful character in the history of the Old West. During the last decades of the 19th century he operated a series of saloons in Val Verde County, a remote corner of southwest Texas, where he served notoriously as the Justice of the Peace, the self-styled "Law West of the Pecos." Although later books and films dubbed him "The Hanging Judge," he is documented to have ordered only two hangings.

    Bean had a nefarious past, among other things working as a blockade runner during the Civil War, a dairy merchant who was found to be watering down his milk, a butcher who rustled his beef from nearby ranches, and a firewood vendor who cut down his neighbor's timber. But by the later 1870s he had found his true calling as a saloon proprietor.

    Bean's approach to the law was predictably unorthodox. He owned only a single law book and had no background in the subject, so his rulings were often bizarre. In one case, an Irishman had been arrested for shooting a Chinese laborer. A mob of Irish supporters rushed the jail, threatening to lynch Bean if their cohort was not released. The "judge" ruled that "homicide was the killing of a human being, however, he could find no law against killing a Chinaman," so he dismissed the case. In 1882 he was formally elected as Justice of the Peace, and continued to be re-elected until 1896. But even after being voted out of office, Bean "refused to surrender his seal and law book, and continued to try all cases north of the (railroad) tracks." Bean's saloon office lacked a jail, so offenses in his court were punished purely by fines-all of which the "judge" retained. Jurors were hand-picked from his best bar customers.

    The autograph offered here is cut from the bottom of a legal document, which he signed, "Roy Bean J. P. and Ex officio Notary Public." A few drops of water have caused some running of the ink, but the specimen is otherwise in excellent condition. It has been matted with a rare cabinet photo of Bean standing with an unidentified man. The photo is somewhat light, and has surface soiling which could largely be mitigated by professional cleaning. Considering his long public career, Roy Bean's autographs are surprisingly rare. A terrific pair!


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    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    7th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 544

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