Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    F. J. Wattron Sheriff Navajo Holbrook, Arizona Territory 1897. In November, 1899, the new courthouse jail was holding one of its most notable prisoners, a murderer named George Smiley. Convicted of having killed a railroad section foreman named McSweeney, Smiley was scheduled to hang on December 8, 1899. At this time Arizona law required that the county sheriff send "invitations" of executions to the other Arizona sheriffs, as well as certain territorial officials. However, the legislature did not provide a form for the required invitation nor any guidelines on the format.

    Goaded by his friends, Wattron decided to issue a "novel" invitation, having it professionally printed on gilt-bordered paper. However, when a reporter got a hold of the invitation, he wired it to the Associated Press.

    Before long the invitation was printed in newspapers all over the nation and even appeared in the London Times, the Berlin Tageblatt and Paris Fiarge. President McKinley then wired Arizona Governor Nathan Oakes Murphy, who stayed the execution for 30 days and issued a reprimand to Wattron Though Sheriff Wattron was seemingly un-phased, stating to a friend, "Well, I got a hell of a lot of notoriety anyway," the incident rankled him. Determined to make his point and have the last word, he prepared a second printed invitation, this time more "mournful" than the first and slightly sarcastic. It too was professionally printed, though this time the invitation was edged in black. He then waited to mail out the second invitation until he was sure it would not be received by the governor and other officials until after the execution had been performed.

    Frank J. Wattron letter signed "F. J. Wattron". One page, 8.50" x 11", asking U. S. Marshall if he needs help. "Wm. Griffith, U. S. Marshall of Arizona, Tucson, A. T. Dear Sir. If you are in need of a deputy in "this neck of the woods". I would be pleased to act. For you in that capacity, Hoping to hear from you. I remain, yours truly F. J. Wattron Sheriff of Navajo Co." Measures approximately 8.50" x 11".

    Condition: Very good-fine, punch holes top

    Fees, Shipping, and Handling Description: Flat Material, Small (view shipping information)

    Sales Tax information  |  Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
    13th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 612

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

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

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    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
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 5 days left to consign to the 2018 June 10 - 11 Luxury Accessories Signature Auction - Chicago!

    Learn about consigning with us

    Heritage Auctions and Mr. Chad Reingold were...professional and courteous in all transactions and provided outstanding service in answering my many emails. I recommend them at the highest level.
    Killy M.,
    Melbourne Beach, FL
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2018 March 17 Western Americana & Texana Grand Format Auction - Dallas
    2018 March 17 Western Americana & Texana Grand Format Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $327,896