Were bounty hunters approximately in the 'Wild West' and were they similar to just how pop culture portrays them?

Did they uncover a bounty poster in the city square that review 'Wanted: foolish dog Tannen. Dead or alive. Bounty $300' climate ride off and hunt under Mad Dog Tannen? after ~ apprehending him, how would he get the bounty? how did they frequently apprehend the bounty? to be it generally for major crimes choose murder and robbery or to be it for minor points that the sheriff/Marshall wouldn't bother through such as petty thievery or assault?



*

In every situation I have read about, it is lawmen or detectives, not the elevation killers you watch in films, who look for out and also collect these rewards. Then again, saying that you would certainly be ready to ride the end after a criminal was sometimes sufficient to get you a badge and to give you the auspices the the law.

You are watching: Bounty hunters of the old west

As an example of a lawman collecting a bounty, there's the famous situation of Billy the Kid. Beat Garrett, the sheriff the Lincoln County, was tasked with catching Billy the Kid. The governor of the state, Lew Wallace, had set a $500 reward for Billy's capture. Uneven the movies, this reward come out in a newspaper ad:

BILLY THE KID

$500 Reward

I will pay $500 price to any kind of person or personswho will record William Bonny, alias The Kid, anddeliver him to any type of sheriff of brand-new Mexico.Satisfactory proofs of identification will it is in required.LEW WALLACE, brand-new MEXICO

(Source: The West of Billy the Kid, by Frederick Nolan)

This phrasing to be problematic: go it suggest that the sheriff self couldn't collect? to be it impetus for someone else to carry Garrett proof? Garrett clearly didn't think so, and claimed the reward himself once he eliminated Billy.

Interestingly, the state initially tried to back out when Garrett do the efforts to collection the reward because that killing Billy. The brand-new governor asserted that Wallace had actually made a "personal offer" the was no binding on the are (this to be a barefaced lie). That was just through Garrett's insistence and also lobbying that the territory ultimately paid him on February 18, 1882, seven months after ~ the event. By the time, exclusive citizens, "disappointed by the territory's absence of budget integrity," had actually sent Garrett $1,150. Taken from Pat Garrett: The Story of a western Lawman, by Leon C. Metz.

It wasn't simply the state who would set bounties on people; companies, particularly those who had been plunder or who had actually employees killed, would set private bounties on top of what was currently being offered. Also, personal citizens would contract those who might lead to your stolen property being returned.

Apart native rewards available for dead Indians, I understand of no instance in which the "dead or alive" described killing a criminal in cold blood and also then receiving a reward because that it. In the instances I've review about, it's usually proclaimed that the reward will still be given if the fugitive is eliminated in self-defense (often, cash rewards were only available if the fugitive to be taken alive and stood trial). For example, once Robert Ford famously gunned under Jesse James (while the latter had actually his ago turned, adjusting a snapshot frame), Robert and also his brother Frank hurried to collect the reward. Instead, they gained a murder fee for death James in cold blood. Despite convicted, they were pardoned practically immediately.

The Pinkerton nationwide Detective firm made great money collecting rewards readily available for everything from murderers come robbers, cheats, swindlers, and also cattle rustlers. They were semi-official, as the firm received massive government funding, and the same agents might be rental by the federal government or by exclusive citizens. The men and also women who Pinkerton employed to be themselves periodically on the wrong side of the law. Such stays make because that fascinating analysis as they swing in between collecting rewards for bringing criminals to justice to themselves committing criminal acts. There was often a hazy line between murder-for-hire and also pursuing a reward without looking too tough at who was giving it.

I think you could be interested in the story the Tom Horn. He to be a scout, a Pinkerton detective, an outlaw, and also a rental gun for unscrupulous cattle companies. You have the right to read his own autobiography, created to vindicate himself in the murder of a 14-year-old young he to be accused of murdering because that $500. That is heavily biased, the course, however makes because that a fascinating first-hand account. The is in the general public domain, released in 1904, quickly after his fatality by hanging: https://archive.org/details/lifeoftomhorngov00hornrich A modern book about his life is Tom Horn: Blood top top the Moon, by Chip Carlson, which ns recommend (by the way, Carlson involves the conclusion the Horn was not guilty of the murder; he also runs the tom-horn.com website).

Here's how Horn describes working for the Pinkertons: "My job-related for castle was not the type that specifically suited my disposition; as well tame because that me. There to be a great many instructions and a great deal that talk offered to the operative concerning the things to do and the things that had been done." He speak the story the tracking down some train robbers, complying with leads throughout many miles and capturing an additional fugitive follow me the way. Interestingly, it's when the sheriffs and also posses offer up that the Pinkertons obtain word indigenous their ceo "to walk at 'em," an interpretation to begin the detective work.

See more: Who Is Donnie Swaggart Married To, Donnie Swaggart

Another previous Pinkerton, Charles "Charlie" Siringo, created Pinkerton's private Detective, which the agency blocked that from publishing (he ended up transforming some details and publishing it through the Pinkerton surname removed). To get revenge on the company, he published Two angry Isms: Pinkertonism and Anarchism. The book is a fascinating tell-all around the Pinkertons, their methods, and also their corruption (obviously created by a disgruntled employee, so check out it v an eye come that). Among his cases are the the Pinkertons hired themselves out without any intention of capturing criminals in some cases, just reaping every diem payments and the fees for associated costs. He also claims that, even when rewards totaled in the 10s of countless dollars, the Pinkertons were bought off not to pursue the reward. Here's an interesting quote from the book:

"With all of the agency's faults, I need to confess the they execute a lot of an excellent work in running down crime because that money. If they walk not, they could not keep their heads over the dirty water in which castle constantly flounder."

Here's a attach to the book: https://archive.org/details/cu31924002532475

(I've never tried contributing a top-level discuss this subkeolistravelservices.com before, and I recognize there space strict rules about what counts as top quality content, so I've tried come offer lots of sources and also explanation, and also to note gaps in my very own research. I, of course, welcome other contributors to to fill in the gaps or to note where I've do an untrue supposition.)

Edit: Quick modify to add line division to Billy the Kid's want ad, because I had actually used single-line breaks, which finished up in one huge text block.