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Hangings and Shootings (Caution!)
The photos in this section are as billed, all about just what the name says…
Consider whether you want to view these photos, some of ’em are pretty rank…
You Have Been Warned!
All photos included here are in the Public Domain in the United States of America unless noted otherwise. Western photographers are noted in the Players (if I have a workable date for them) [LOC = Library of Congress]. Nothing in the way of enhancement has been done to these photographs they are as originally produced.
So, why did they take picture like these?
Ways and means of preserving dead bodies and moving them about, weren’t terribly efficient or available in the times. There were the practical matters of proving a specific outlaw/person dead for the peace of the populace, various legal issues; the settling of charges, court records and perhaps most important, the issuing of rewards, inheritances and property claims.
Then too, photography was new and societal standards were different. Partly because they could, journalism was far more sensational than today and the pictures sold papers. The lure of the west and the tales of the outlaws exploits had a large paying audience. Clothes, corpses and various parts of famous/notorious outlaws were sometimes “preserved” and toured about the country for paid viewing. Zerelda James was offered $10,000 for Jesse‘s corpse and had to bury him under concrete in the front yard to keep him from being purloined for such profit making endeavors.
A photograph with a dead famous outlaw proved you were there,
maybe proved you were the one that got him.
As noted above, about rewards and the “show/lecture” circuit and such.
Maybe it showed others how tough or dangerous you were.
They were certainly a clear warning to the outlaw element of the fate that might await them.
It was a message that the public and government were taking action.
So we don’t forget.
A Victorian tradition where a photo of the deceased was taken with family members. Very common with babies and children. Eyes of the deceased might be painted over in the photo to appear open and alive. Also the taking of locks of hair from the deceased, usually to be worn in a locket.
Some Comment on the Times
Further related reference in Old West Daily Reader
Grand pappy told my pappy,
“Back in my day son
A man had to answer
for the wicked he’d done.
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree
hang ’em high in the street
for all the people to see.”
Beer for My Horses © Toby Keith & Scott Emerick
Sometimes legal, sometimes not. This was generally the result when you see the word Vigilantes in Old West Daily Reader. Frontier law, whether elected or self appointed could be harsh and swift and… wrong. More than just a few innocents got their neck stretched by accident or for someone else’s nefarious purposes. Anyhow, here’s a few pictures of the real thing and it ain’t all pretty…
Killin’ Jim and co-conspirators