In a town outside of Los Angeles, the son of an antique collector gifted three hotel ledger books, pages pasted with old wanted posters from over a hundred years ago, to a ROADSHOW guest. The current owner of the books, having researched their significance over the past 20 years and come up with little information, turned to the expertise of Francis Wahlgren
at the Anaheim, California, ROADSHOW event in 2013.
Hundreds of bits of ephemera, the paper wanted posters pasted into the pages, share information on some of the most notorious criminals of the turn of the century. "It was like a recycled use of these old ledgers," Wahlgren said. The hotel would have kept a record for criminals and missing persons, wanting to "collect them in some way [so] that they could refer to them to make sure that they weren't in their hotel."
A Rare Collection
The number of wanted posters pasted into the ledgers is quite unusual. According to Wahlgren, one or two posters is more common, but in this scenario having three volumes filled with this many, including some of the most notorious criminals like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, makes these collections extra special.
Face to Face with Infamy
In the 1850s, Allan Pinkerton founded the Pinkerton's National Detective Agency. This notice, including photos of George Parker, a.k.a. Butch Cassidy, and Harry Longabaugh, a.k.a. the Sundance Kid, was published at the turn of the century when Pinkerton's had over 2,000 full-time agents.
Pasted In for Reference
Here, it's clear that the ledgers were used for multiple purposes; the circulars and posters are pasted directly over old notes. The listings for criminals like Butch and Sundance (the first and second rows) came with detailed information about appearance as well as recent crimes. Between stealing horses, robbing banks and payrolls, as well as even blowing up a safe inside a train, these criminals were high-priority targets for Pinkerton's. According to Wahlgren, this particular circular by Pinkerton's has sold at auction in the range of $15,000 in the past.
Butch Cassidy, Among Other Aliases
Take a closer look at one of Butch Cassidy's mug shots. Butch had several names and aliases, including George Parker identified below the photo. The surname "Cassidy" used in his alias was acquired from his time working with a cattle rustler, Mike Cassidy, in the late 1870s and early 1880s.
Get to Know Butch
This description of Butch Cassidy briefly describes both his occupation and criminal occupation. The remarks also give idiosyncratic details about his appearance, including scars and a "small brown mole on [the] calf of [the] leg."
Up Close with Sundance
Again, a slew of names and aliases take the primary spot in the description of Harry Longabaugh, also known as the Sundance Kid. Landing in jail for stealing a horse outside of Sundance, Wyoming, in the late 1880s, Longabaugh acquired the name "Sundance Kid" from his time in prison.
Another circular features mugshots of Butch Cassidy, on the far right, as well as Harvey Logan, a.k.a. Kid Curry, another known criminal. Listed again, but without a photo in this instance, was a description of the Sundance Kid. It was not confirmed if there were more than these two circulars featuring Butch and Sundance. As they were, all the volumes together were worth from $40,000 to $60,000 at auction, according to Wahlgren.
Sunset for Butch and Sundance
Butch, Sundance and the Wild Bunch, their gang, embarked on a very successful crime spree at the turn of the century, but their reign would not last forever. After escaping the United States under cover in South America, Butch and Sundance thought they'd evaded Pinkerton's pursuit. However, in 1908, they were cornered in Bolivia and met the end of their careers and Wild Bunch gang. Though their crime days were suddenly over, the myth of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lives on, and ephemera associated with them can still possess high market values.
Check out AMERICAN EXPERIENCE's description of the legend of Butch and Sundance