A simple wooden gun linking two of the American Old West’s most legendary figures is heading for auction in Ohio.
The gun was carved by notorious outlaw Frank James, and gifted to Buck Taylor, a star in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.
The gun will be offered at Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati on September 8, as part of the renowned Americana collection of Eric C. Caren, with an estimate of $4,000-$6,000.
Frank James (1843-1915) was a notorious outlaw who alongside his younger brother, the even more infamous Jesse James.
As part of the James-Younger Gang the brothers spent 10 years robbing banks, trains, and stagecoaches, during a murderous crime spree which saw them hailed equally as folk heroes and public enemies.
But whereas Jesse’s life of crime ended with a bullet in 1882, Frank James merely retired and surrendered to the law.
He spent the last 40 years of his life as a happily married family man, working as everything from a shoe salesman to a telegraph operator, and often gave public lectures on life in the Old West.
He ended his days giving tours of his family farm in Clay County, Missouri, where in February 1913 he met another famous Old West figure.
William Levi ‘Buck’ Taylor (1857-1924) was a Texas cattle worker who became an international celebrity as part of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show.
Standing six feet four inches tall, the handsome Taylor was the first person Cody hired when he opened his travelling show in 1883, and he entertained crowds with his roping and riding skills alongside fellow performers Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull.
Cody billed him as the ‘King of the Cowboys’, and he later became the hero of a series of dime novels written in the 1890s by Prentiss Ingraham.
These books, along with Taylor’s dashing image, helped popularize the idea of cowboys as noble heroic figures, as opposed to the lowly ranch hands and drifters they had once been.
However, by the time Taylor met James in 1913, the American West as they had known it was gone forever, and the wooden gun was simply a gift from an old outlaw to an old cowboy.