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Cool Things - Dalton Gang Souvenirs

Fragments cut from the trousers of Dalton Gang members, 1892.A small town newspaper editor collected these cloth fragments as souvenirs from one of the West's most legendary outlaw families.

It seemed like the perfect chance to become legends. A group of outlaws known as the Dalton Gang planned to rob two banks simultaneously in Coffeyville, Kansas, on Oct. 5, 1892. The banks were located across the street from each other. Three members of the five-person gang—Bob, Grat, and Emmett Dalton—knew the town well because their parents had once owned a farm in the area. They knew exactly where to hitch their horses and which streets to take for the fastest getaway. Even the James Gang hadn't been able to pull off a double heist. The Daltons would be infamous.

The Dalton Gang had gained notoriety as highly successful horse thieves and train robbers; however, the Coffeyville raid would be different. City residents knew of the Dalton's exploits and recognized them when they rode into town. They were determined to protect their money and their town. Just 15 minutes after they entered the banks, four of the outlaws fell dead, shot by the townspeople. Only Emmett survived, despite receiving 23 gunshot wounds.

Post-mortem photo of the Dalton Gang in Coffeyville, 1892.Though the robbery was a failure, the Daltons proved successful at achieving fame. People descended upon Coffeyville as soon as word of their demise spread. Souvenir hunters cut pieces from their horses' manes, tails, and saddles. The fabric fragments shown here are two of many pieces cut from Bob and Grat Dalton's clothing. Photos taken of the bodies show a large area cut from Bob's pants, and Grat's jacket is missing a sleeve.

William Dalton, older brother of the outlaws, claimed that more than horsehair and bits of clothing had been removed from the scene. From one of Emmett's statements, William learned that the group had ridden into town carrying $920, plus personal effects including watches, jewelry, and guns. Most of these items were missing after the bodies had been displayed. William threatened to sue the city for losses that occurred while the bodies were in its care, and for allowing people to rifle the deceased for souvenirs. The only items returned to William were Emmett's guns, which had been collected by the local newspaper editor for "safekeeping."

The fragments of Bob and Grat Dalton's clothing shown here were collected by J.J. Rambo. Rambo was a newspaper editor in nearby Chetopa, Kansas, who traveled to Coffeyville to cover the fall of the Dalton Gang. Shortly after collecting these fragments, he donated them to the Kansas Historical Society, where they are part of the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.

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Entry: Cool Things - Dalton Gang Souvenirs

Author: Rebecca Martin

Date Created: March 2011

Date Modified: November 2012

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.