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    Black Bart the Poet: 1882 Wells, Fargo & Co. Reward Circular. 17" x 11 1/4" (unfolded) two-sided circular, San Francisco, December 18, 1882, issued by Wells, Fargo & Company, offering an $800 reward leading to the arrest of a prolific stage robber who had an endearing habit of leaving behind poems apropos of his crimes. These poems were signed "B.B.", or more typically "Black Bart the Po 8". The circular describes sixteen stagecoach robberies perpetrated in Northern California between 1877 and 1882, all attributed to this one individual. It also gives his modus operandi and a physical description, erroneously calling him an American. He was in fact English, real name Charles Earl Bowles. The circular correctly states: "He has never manifested any viciousness, and there is reason to believe that he is adverse to taking human life. He is polite to all passengers, and especially so to ladies. He comes and goes from the scene of robbery on foot; seems to be a thorough mountaineer, and a good walker..." Bowles served in the Civil War in Company B, 116th Illinois Regiment and was seriously wounded at the Battle of Vicksburg. He was breveted as a first lieutenant and discharged on June 7, 1865. He spent 1867 prospecting for gold in Idaho and Montana, but a run-in with Wells Fargo agents prompted him to vow revenge, and he was true to his word. His last robbery on November 3, 1883 resulted in a slight hand wound and his ultimate arrest and conviction. He spent 4 years in San Quentin and, upon release, vanished from sight. His gentlemanly conduct (never fired a shot, though armed with a shotgun), literary propensity, trademark flour sack mask, linen duster and derby hat, all earned him notoriety among the public. Perhaps inspired by English highwaymen of yore, he became the most famous stage robber of the West. The circular has some light toning with archival tape repairs to a few short border tears and the central folds, all barely noticeable. A significant and rare artifact of the Old West and one of its most notorious folk heroes!

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    7th Saturday
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