>>> Item number 1128, dated 95/02/23 07:34:52 -- ALL
Date: Thu, 23 Feb 1995 07:34:52 -0600 Reply-To: H-Net and ASLH Legal History Discussion list <H-LAW@UICVM.BITNET> Sender: H-Net and ASLH Legal History Discussion list <H-LAW@UICVM.BITNET> From: Chris Waldrep <email@example.com> Subject: Jesse James
The following exchange is from H-Net's Southern History Discussion List <H-SOUTH@UICVM.BITNET>. Since it has to do with crime, I thought it would be of interest to H-Law subscribers.
From: Terence Finnegan <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: this date in southern history (Feb 13)
On this date in 1866 Jesse and Frank James held up their first bank in Liberty, MO. Jesse and Frank James were Missouri farmers and both joined Confederate guerrillas during the Civil War. The brothers both participated in the infamous Confederate raid on Lawrence, Kansas in August of 1863 that resulted in 150 dead. During the war Frank James met another Confederate guerrilla fighter, Cole Younger, and Younger and his brothers joined forces with the James brothers during the late 1860s to form the James gang. The James gang robbed banks, stagecoaches, stores and individuals, and in the early 1870s they began preying on trains. The gang was decimated during an 1876 bank robbery in Northfield, MN that resulted in the death or capture of the entire gang except for the James brothers themselves. The James brothers then formed another gang and resumed activities in Missouri. In 1881 the governor of Missouri offered a $10,000 reward for the capture of the James brothers, dead or alive. In April of 1882 Jesse was murdered by a fellow gang member, Robert Ford, who wanted the reward. Frank turned himself in voluntarily and was tried for murder and armed robbery but was never convicted. Thereafter Frank retired to a life of farming and he died in 1915.
William Paterson College
Henry Kamerling <email@example.com> writes: University of Illinois @Urbana-Champaign
Terry Finnegan writes about Frank & Jessie James in "This Date in Southern History." I have been teaching a course on The State, Crime, & Deviance in American History. Last week we disscussed why we as a country make heroes out of criminals like Jessie James. For the disscussion the class read Paul Kooistra's work, _Criminals as Heroes_. Kooistra, a sociologist, argues that heroic criminals are a product of structural changes in society, like econominc depression and dislocation, and that that the heroic criminal is an explicitly political figure.
The James Gang's attacks on trains and banks had a resonance with a country experiencing the viscisstitudes of industrialization. Kooistra connects James with the same larger forces that produced the agrarian/populist revolt of the late nineteenth century. On the political level, Kooistra agrues that the James Gang explicitly identified with the Cult of the Lost Cause and that regional sympathy for the gang was partly an expression of political conflict between Democrats and Republicans in Missouri.
I have found that few scholars take up issues like the one Kooistra has--even fewer historians. I was wondering how people on H-South would react to Kooistra's interpretation and the larger (more historical) question of what, exactly, if anything these heroic criminals tell us about the age which produced them?
Furthermore (and finally) how would one fashion an interpretation about more marginalized or controversial heroic criminals such as John Brown or Nat Turner? It strikes me that the South and West may have produced a greater share of these kinds of characters than the North.
From: "J. Douglas Deal" <deal@Oswego.Oswego.EDU>
The social/political aanalysis of the criminal as hero was pioneered in the modern era by historians like Eric Hobsbawm. His books PRIMITIVE REBELS and BANDITS are the ones to consult on this theme. American historians who discuss "social banditry" (James Green and other historians of radicals in the South and Southwest come to mind) usually draw at least some of their ideas from Hobsbawm. I'm not familiar with the sociologist mentioned by Henry Kamerling, but I bet he uses Hobsbawm's work too.
The "heroic criminal" can be a stimulating, fascinating topic that may reveal much about the times which produced them, but I wonder if they are always "political." And also shold we restrict the question to the postbellum industrialization? Were similar "heroic criminals" extant in rapidly industrializing New England prior to the Civil War? And were all the "gangster" heroes of the 1930s explicitly political? On these latter I highly recommend the little essay by Robert Warshow from his _Immediate Experience_ entitled "The Gangster as Tragic Hero."
The structual change/industrialization argument can also be found in Altina Waller's _Feud_ which tends to heroicize "Devil Anse" Hatfield.
Lou Athey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
From: email@example.com (Christopher D. Geist)
Since this thread emerged I have been involved in a mild disagreement with one of my colleagues. He argues that Cole Younger was a cousin of the James Brothers. I can't find this in any reference I've checked (though I have yet to trudge out to the library). I believe that he has this impression from one or more film versions of the James story. Do any of you know if the two families were indeed related? Sounds a bit too romantic for me, but I am certainly willing to be corrected!
Christopher D. Geist Phone: (419)372-2981 Chair, Department of Popular Culture FAX: (419)372-2577 Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, OH 43403 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
From: William Albert Davis <email@example.com>
It has always been my understanding that Jesse James and Cole Younger were cousins, and THE KENTUCKY ENCYCLOPEDIA gives the name of Jesse James's mother as Zerelda Cole.
I second the poster who mentioned Altina Waller's _Feud_ as an excellent analysis of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.
The work of Richard Slotkin, _Regeneration Through Violence_ and _Gunfighter Nation_, also examines the theme of hero-outlaw, specifically in the context of our myth-making efforts to create a "national character." Much of this I think stems from our revolutionary origins, encounters with native Americans, and a general acceptance, even enshrinement, of violence in our history.
Interestingly enough, in _Regeneration_, the index entry for "Revolution, American," says "see rebellion." --
Tom Costa Dept. of History and Philosophy firstname.lastname@example.org Clinch Valley College, Wise, Va. 24293
From: "J. Douglas Deal" <deal@oswego.OSWEGO.EDU>
After a bit of digging, I found a reference that explicitly connects the James gang with the social banditry analyzed by Hobsbawm (and mentioned by me in an earlier posting). It is David Thelen's PATHS OF RESISTANCE: TRADITION AND DIGNITY IN INDUSTRIALIZING MISSOURI. See pp.70-77, "Jesse James, America's Classic Social Bandit."
On the connections between the James Gang and the turmoil of the Civil War in Missouri, I highly recommend Michael Fellman, Inside War: The Guerilla Conflict in Missouri during the American Civil War.
Chris Morris email@example.com
See also David Brion Davis in *American Quarterly* (Summer 1954); John Newman Edwards, *Noted Guerillas, of the Warfare of the Border* (1877); William A. Settle, Jr., *Jesse James Was his Name* (1966).