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"Beatus homo qui invenit sapientiam”






Jesse Woodson James
Original ambrotype, consigned by relatives of James, and previously unrecorded.

On March 20, 1868, if you'd been at the Nimrod Long Banking Company in Russelville, Kentucky, then you may have had the chance to meet a legend in the making.  Then again, you may not have lived to tell the story.

A young Jesse James, with gang and guns in tow, entered the bank with the intention of making a withdrawal.  One gang member approached the bank's president and requested change for a $50 bill.  When Nimrod Long suggested the note was counterfeit, Jesse and Frank James drew their pistols.

Long was instructed to hand over the bank's money, but Long bolted for the door.  A member of the James gang fired, and Long fell to the floor.  Down, but not out, Long regained his footing and fled through the back door.

When he exited the bank, he was met by two other members of the gang, and they fired at him.  But it wasn't Long's day to die.  The bullets missed their mark, and Long fled to safety.

Inside the bank, the other bank employees felt more obliged to comply with the wishes of the James gang.  After filling wheat sacks with money, the James gang jumped on their horses and beat a hasty retreat, galloping out of town under a hail of gunfire. 

Authorities gave chase.  One gang member was captured, and another was killed.  Jesse got away, and where he went remained a mystery.

This is the story you've known... now for the story you haven't.

The following account has been passed down within the family of James's relatives, along with the ambrotype photograph being offered in our August 26th auction:

Jesse knew he was being hunted, and he needed to find a place to hide where his presence would raise no suspicion.

He decided to visit his cousin, Sarah Mariah Martin Meguiar.  Sarah was unaware that Jesse was fleeing from the law, and certainly Jesse would give her no such indication. 

We can only assume that the visit went pleasantly.  Meals were shared, memories recounted, and tales were told.  But the tale told above was one which Jesse kept to himself.

Before he left, as an expression of gratitude, Jesse gave to his cousin Sarah the ambrotype photograph present here.  Shortly thereafter, Sarah would become aware of the reason behind Jesse's unexpected visit.

This ambrotype, along with its history, has been passed down in the Meguiar family. 

Sarah passed it to her son, Thomas Meguiar.  Thomas passed it to his daughter, Pattie Wilson Meguiar Simmons.  Pattie passed it to her great nephew, Patrick Meguiar, in 1977. 

Patrick has held the ambrotype for 40 years.  And now, the image and the history are being shared with the world.

The photo itself (being a reverse image) depicts a young Jesse James of approximately 21 years of age.

It's interesting to view this photo in contrast to the previously known Jesse James photo depicting the 19 year old James dressed as a Quantrill Guerilla.

In the guerilla image, you'll note the thin 19 year old James in a somewhat menacing pose, with chin held high, furrowed brow, gun in hand, and projecting the image of a meaner-than-hell son-of-a-gun.

The present ambrotype is remarkable in that it appears to depict James in his more natural and reposed state, without contrivance, but with a calm and resolute confidence.  While his pose is non-threatening, his countenance projects danger and suggests he is not to be trifled with.

His appearance seems to have changed very little from 19 to 21. He certainly tries to project a different image, and perhaps he's gained 10 pounds.  It would appear that, at this stage in life, he realized that he'd do best to blend in rather than stand out.  At 19, he wanted the world to know he was meaner-than-hell;  at 21, he was meaner-than-hell but thought it best to conceal it as he now had a few robberies under his belt.

Also of note is that the present ambrotype truly captures James's eyes.  According to James family records, Jesse's strongest and most striking feature was his piercing, crystal blue eyes.  This ambrotoype captures this remarkable feature quite well. 

We are proud to be offering this unique piece of Americana.  We know that only one bidder can win the auction, but we are delighted to be bringing this previously unknown image to light.

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to our consignor, Patrick Meguiar...  distant cousin of the outlaw Jesse Woodson James.

Click on the chart, right to enlarge,.        >>>>