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    Description

    Ben Wheeler (and Possibly Henry Brown's) Caldwell, Kansas Assistant Marshal's Badge. Impeccably provenanced, this badge was acquired in 1989 directly from the ninety-nine year-old daughter of Alice Wheeler (later Barrett), who until he was hanged in 1884, was the wife of Ben Wheeler. In a detailed, witnessed statement she declares that the badge was the property of her mother's first husband Ben F. Burton (the name under which the couple married). In a questionnaire about the family provenance she lists his occupation as "sheriff" and, asked if she knew how the marriage ended, "Sheriff died - he was a crook - in 1884."

    Burton was an alias, and after the couple married in 1881, he adopted the name of her family - Wheeler. His actual given name was Robinson or Robertson. It is believed that he left his native Texas and assumed the alias of Ben Burton to escape being tried for a "shooting scrape" there. A detailed document which accompanied the badge when it was sold to Len Gratteri in 1989 (pictured on our website along with Alice Wheeler's statement) provides additional background. Alice's daughter also signed the back of a photo of the badge, confirming its provenance. This signed photo accompanies the lot.

    It seems entirely plausible that this badge was also worn by Henry Brown. He was originally hired as an assistant marshal in Caldwell, and it is possible, if not probable, that the badge was worn by him before being given to Ben Wheeler when he was hired as assistant marshal. Certainly the badge has a patina that would indicate some years of use before Wheeler was hanged in 1884 and it was put away by his wife. A much-published photograph of Brown shows him wearing a badge which clearly conforms to the size and shape of the example offered here. Brown, incidentally, had a formidable record as a gunfighter: four confirmed kills (the same number as Billy the Kid) and ten confirmed gunfights (more than such Western legends as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Bat Masterson, Johnny Ringo, Cole Younger, John Slaughter, and Wild Bill Hickok, according to Bill O'Neal's Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters).

    The diameter of the badge is 1 15/16", in excellent but well-used condition with original pin on back. Even generic badges of this era from notorious towns like Caldwell are highly collectable. The opportunity to obtain such an historically important badge with such direct provenance comes along only very rarely.

    For more information about the Medicine Lodge Bank Robbery and the Henry Brown & Ben Wheeler collection, please click here.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2014
    14th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,376

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