A remarkable photographic album featuring some of the Old West’s most notorious outlaws is heading for auction in Cincinnati this month.
The book, which dates from the late 19th century, includes more than 70 photographs of criminals wanted for robbing banks and stagecoaches owned by the legendary Wells Fargo company.
Established in New York in 1852, Wells Fargo provided financial services to miners, merchants and ranchers throughout the Old West.
The company opened a San Francisco office for gold miners who needed to send their money back east, and soon became the biggest mail deliverer, bank, express agency and stagecoach company in the West.
However, this success made the company a target for outlaws, and Wells Fargo operated its own large team of special police officers and detectives to hunt down criminals who targeted their banks and stagecoaches.
It’s believed that the album on offer at Cowan’s was the official Wells Fargo "corporate mug book", featuring criminals that had committed crimes against the company.
These striking images range from carefully posed portraits taken in photographic studios, to deathbed shots of those who met their end in a hail of gunfire, or on the end of the hangman’s noose.
Amongst the most infamous men featured are members of the Cook Gang, who robbed banks, stores and stagecoaches across Oklahoma in 1894, killing at least eight people.
The album contains photographs of members Cherokee Bill Goldsby, gang leader Bill Cook, Henry Munson, Elmer ‘Chicken’ Lucas, Curtis Dayson, Thurman ‘Skeeter’ Baldwin and Lou Gorton – all of whom were either imprisoned, executed or killed resisting arrest.
Further notable names in this rogue’s gallery include Marion Hedgepeth, a sharply-dressed outlaw also known as the Handsome Bandit; Henry Starr, who robbed more banks than both the Doolin-Dalton Gang and the James-Younger Gang combined; the train robber and cop killer Josh L. Craft; and Willis Brown, a member of the Rogers Brothers Gang.
The album originates from the collection of the late E. Norman Flayderman (1928-2013), the highly renowned antique arms dealer and a prolific author.
The Cowan’s sale will offer an array of items from Flayderman’s collection, including historic firearms, militaria, Civil War broadsides and imprints, American Folk Art and 18th-20th Century manuscripts.
"He was such a versatile dealer,” said Jack Lewis, Cowan’s director of Historic Firearms and Early Militaria. "I don’t think enough can be said about him. He was iconic. There were several great people who came from that era and he was certainly at the top of the list."
Property of N. Flayderman & Co. and Selected Additions takes place at Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati on February 21.