I just finished reading John Koblas great book titled “The Great Cole Younger and Frank James Historical Wild West Show.” A lot of this book describes how Frank and Cole, the remaining members of the James Younger gang tried to run a clean, ethical, historical show. However, the managers and owners had other ideas. The show was followed by a large group of grifters, gamblers, con men, and swindlers.
Frank was often approached by the local sheriffs with complaints. It got to the point that Frank started to wire mayors and lawmen in the towns they were going to visit to beware of this crowd. As a result, after a brief scuffle, many of this bad element were rousted out of town or arrested. This really upset the managers and owners of the show who approached Frank with their thugs. At one point guns were drawn. Frank leveled his Luskard, S&W .38 at the men with steel in his eyes. As the ruffians looked down the barrel of the elder James silver plated, mother of pear stocked revolver- they backed down.
The owners plotted to assassinate the uncooperative James. On at least two occasions they confronted him when alone, luckily Cole Younger showed up in the nick of time at each occasion with his S&W double action .38. Friends on both sides calmed things down and I guess the “bad guys” still thought there was enough fire in the two old guerrillas not to open fire. As a result, both James and Younger went about always armed. One of Cole’s last statements to the owners was “I will drop any man that touches Frank.” Soon both James and Younger notified the show that they were leaving at which guns were drawn again.
After this the two last James Younger gang members continued to tour alone with one lecture group or another, careful never to go into Minnesota who threatened to revoke Cole’s parole, or to bring charges against Frank for the Northfield robbery.
In 1904, while touring with a lecture group in Butte, Montana, a relative of the cashier killed in the Northfield raid threatened to kill Frank publicly. The police asked Frank to get out of town. Frank replied “I will go when I am ready.” At that point Frank James started carrying his last gun, a new Colt 1903 hammerless .32 caliber auto pistol. It is hard to get your head around the fact that Frank started out with percussion, single action pistols in the Civil War, went on to cartridge revolvers for his outlaw career, and ended up with a semi auto pistol. I was able to find a photo which is posted with this history. Now you can finish your coffee ~ Alan
P.S. It is a small world. I was just contacted by the current owner of the Frank James Colt .32 Auto and he will be bringing it to this year’s gathering of the National James Younger Gang in October at the Jesse James Farm in Kearney, MO. While there we will be able to examine it and make a pattern. More to come~