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Black Bart: Topics in Chronicling America

In the late 19th century, Black Bart became a reputed bandit who robbed coaches while being a gentleman. This guide provides access to materials related to the "Black Bart" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"'Black Bart, the PO8,' was the greatest of all bandits of the 'wild west.'" July 29, 1913. The Day Book (Chicago, IL), Image 13. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Charles E. Bowles (1829-1888), best known as “Black Bart,” was a lone bandit who robbed stage coaches in the late 19th century. What set him apart was that he was a gentlemanly thief, always conducting his heists in the politest fashion and toting an unloaded shotgun because he never intended to harm anyone. Black Bart also often left doggerel poems at the scene, further catapulting his legacy as the most well-bred and well-mannered outlaw to ever terrorize the Wild West. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

1877-1883 Black Bart robs twenty-eight stage coaches.
November 12, 1883 Black Bart is apprehended by the authorities.
November 16, 1883 Black Bart pleads guilty and is sentenced to 8 years in jail.
January 1, 1888 On account of good behavior, Black Bart is released from prison.
1902 Robberies resembling those of Black Bart’s begin to surface.