In his “Guns of the West” article on Colt’s big Model 1898 (December 2006), Lee A. Silva writes, “Sam Colt did not invent the revolver.” I would be interested to learn the circumstances of the invention of the revolver.
West Hills, Calif.
The editor responds: Silva goes on to say that Colt did invent the first practical revolver mechanism that could be mass produced. But Colt’s design of a revolving cylinder had been tried much earlier (without great success) in matchlock pistols. In 1813 Boston gunsmith Elisha Collier invented a flintlock pistol that used a revolving powder chamber, with each shot ignited by a flintlock.John Evans & Son of London began producing them in 1819, and they were used by the British in India. In fact, it has been suggested that Colt, while on an India trip in 1830, saw one of Collier’s somewhat awkward revolving pistols and was inspired. Colt denied it.
HAND IT TO THE KID
Greetings! Readers of the February 2007 Wild West might be interested and amused to note a serious artist’s error in the 19th-century engraving of Billy the Kid committing murder (P. 45). Although the Kid might have been quite an accomplished handler of the single-action revolver, one would have to assume that he found it most difficult to draw his pistols with TWO right hands. This depiction shows him pulling a pistol with his LEFT arm ending in a right hand. Artistic license at its best!
The editor responds:Bob Winter of Gilroy,Calif.,and Dennis McAllister of Sitka, Ark., were other readers to note Billy’s two right hands (see image above).And to think that many people,including Paul Newman,once believed Billy was left-handed (because of his “mirror-image” tintype photograph).
THE KID TRUTH
I enjoy Wild West Magazine and usually read it cover to cover. The February 2007 issue concerning Billy the Kid was particularly interesting, and the articles by Dave Turk and W.C. Jameson were accurate and unbiased.
Myself and Steve Sederwall have been conducting an in-depth investigation into the circumstances surrounding the Kid’s alleged death at the hands of my predecessor Sheriff Pat Garrett. Between Sederwall and myself, we have more than 80 years of law enforcement experience. Using modern-day law enforcement technology (i.e., DNA testing and forensic crime scene processing), we have discovered some amazing facts that historians have overlooked.
Which brings me to our critics, Frederick Nolan in particular. I have never met or spoken to Mr. Nolan or his buddies who have criticized our investigation from the start. Nolan envisions himself as the supreme authority on the Lincoln County War and launches a verbal attack upon anyone who questions his infinite wisdom. Mr. Nolan, et al., dismiss modern-day law enforcement techniques as nothing but “stunts.” They even question the credentials of Dr. Henry Lee, who has assisted us with his forensic expertise in this investigation. Their total ignorance amazes me. Steve and I offered to sit down with all of our critics and discuss where we were going with this investigation and got no takers.
We respect true historians such as Dr. Paul Hutton of the University of New Mexico, Don Cline, Bob Boze Bell, W.C. Jameson, Dave Turk and others who have worked with us with an open mind. One of Frederick Nolan’s friends, Jay Miller of Santa Fe, even went so far as to write a ridiculous book about our investigation that was nothing but a personal attack on my integrity.
When the time is right and Steve Sederwall and I release our findings, it will change history. Frederick Nolan, et al., are scared to death of the truth, as well they should be.
Retired four-term sheriff of Lincoln County, N.M.
Editor’s note:For a summary of historian Frederick Nolan’s take on those who have challenged the “Pat Garrett killed Billy the Kid”scenario,please see “Nolan Not Kidding” on P. 11 of the February 2007 Wild West.
SIZING UP JESSE
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the life and times of Jesse James in the December 2006 issue of Wild West. Do you have any information on the size, weight, height and general physical features of Jesse and Frank James? This information would be of great interest to me and also to other readers. Hope you can publish this information soon.
John H. Runnels
The editor responds: At the time of Jesse James’ death in April 1882, the Kansas City Times wrote: “Jesse James was about 5 feet 11 in height, of a rather solid, firm and compact build, yet rather on the slender type.His hair was black, not overly long, blue eyes, well shaded with dark lashes, and the entire lower portion of the face was covered by a full growth of dark brown or sun browned whiskers, which are not long and shaggy, but are trimmed and bear evidence of careful attention.” Former gang member Dick Liddil added that Jesse weighed 195 pounds, wore “number eight boots,” had a 7 1⁄8-inch hat size and featured a pug nose on his light-complexioned round face. Frank James was slightly taller than his younger brother.The Kansas City Times in October 1882 described Frank as “nearly six feet in height, of slender, yet neat and trim build, who walked erect and with a quiet, easy and self-possessed gait.”
I really enjoyed the December 2006 issue concerning the assassination of Jesse James. Just like the editor, I “find this utterly fascinating and delight in any Jesse James news.” I’m lucky that I live in Waco, Texas, where Jesse supposedly buried a safe on Earle Street in 1918. I live near Granbury, Texas, where the infamous J. Frank Dalton, aka Jesse James, was buried in 1951. I also live a stone’s throw away from Blevins, Texas, where Betty Dorsett Duke believes her great-grandfather J.L. Courtney was really Jesse James. Of course I’ve made all the trips in Missouri—to Kearney, St. Joseph and Liberty. I’ve learned some history along the way, plus I’ve heard many stories that whether real or imagined are all amazing.
Ronald G. Smith
I approve 100 percent of your new format. I hope your “Ghost Towns” segment will be a regular feature of Wild West. I will save them for when I visit these areas.
The editor responds:Yes, we will showcase a different ghost town in each issue. This month, we feature Dawson, N.M., the site of two large coal-mining disasters.You can also find interesting places to visit in our “Collections” department.
Originally published in the June 2007 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.