Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    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. Inscribed on last page, in pencil, "Tulare to Sacramento". Moderate toning to front and back covers, partial separation at folds, some glue residue on back page from previous mounting in an album, two small pieces on top of the third page have been neatly reattached and repaired with archival tape. A significant and rare artifact of the Old West and one of its most notorious folk heroes!

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2019
    4th-5th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 870

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    VIEW BENEFITS
    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
      winnings 
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 17 days left to consign to the 2020 February 22 - 23 Americana & Political Signature Auction - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    I don’t often do testimonials but in this case I felt truly obligated to thank Heritage Auctions for the extremely professional job your organization did for me.
    Charlie K.,
    Pittsburgh, PA
    View More Testimonials

    HA.com receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: Similarweb.com)

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 December 8 Civil War, Militaria, Arms & Armor Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 December 8 Civil War, Militaria, Arms & Armor Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $950,931