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Jesse James and Late-Nineteenth Century Missouri Newspapers: They
Never Did His Legend Wrong
Cathy M. Jackson
Norfolk State University
700 Park Avenue
Norfolk, Virginia 23504
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A paper presented to the Newspaper Division of the Association for
Education in Journalism and Mass Communication for the Annual
Convention in San Antonio, Texas; August 12, 2004
This descriptive study notes the literary and folkloric rise of
Jesse James, a Missourian, who robbed and killed, yet became an
internationally known outlaw hero. Through the use of folklore and
sociological theories, his study situates him and stories written
about him in crisis-filled, post-Civil War Missouri society. An
analysis of Missouri newspapers from 1866-1882 reveals stories
infused with heroic motifs, insuring that James achieved hero fame
during his life and in history.
The Making of an Outlaw Hero:
Jesse James, Folklore, and Nineteenth Century Missouri Newspapers
Across the blood-soaked land that marked Civil War battle sites in
Missouri were nineteenth-century people who remembered the horrors of
battle. Out of the crucible of such suffering came Jesse James, a
native Missourian, who robbed and killed for 16 years, yet managed to
transcend his rural origins to become "the most famous outlaw in
American history." Sociologists and historians agree that
crisis-filled communities, such as those existing during the Civil
War and Reconstruction, use folklore and mass-mediated communication
to reconstruct criminals as outlaw heroes, but few scholars have
studied the role of newspapers in that transformation.
In that sociological light, this study notes the journalistic and
folkloric rise of Jesse James to folk hero status, and seeks to place
him; and the oral and print stories in crisis-filled, post-Civil War
Missouri. The culling of such research seeks to answer the
question: Did late nineteenth-century Missouri newspapers help make
Jesse James a literary outlaw-hero through the use of folkloric
motifs, legends, and themes?
This historical, descriptive study argues that societal crisis
encouraged late-nineteenth century Missourians to formulate
outlaw/folk heroic legends, which became narrative devices Missouri
newspapers used to frame Jesse James as an outlaw/folk hero.
Contemporary "news as narratives" research suggests that those
newspapers borrowed formulaic narratives from readers. Barkin
notes that news values and storytelling are forged in the same
There must be villains and heroes in every paper, and the storylines
must conform to the usage of suspense, conflict... and the triumph of
good that have guided the good sense and artistry of past storytellers....
In such a shared cultural environment, perhaps late-nineteenth
century newspapers could successfully construct James as an
outlaw-hero for readers, who embraced the images because they, too,
used and understood the images.
This study also argues that late-nineteenth-century newspaper
stories about Jesse James illustrate the historical, mythological
role played by newspapers. Richard Slotkin in Gunfighter Nation
suggests that the written legend of Jesse James is an excellent
example of how the mass media of that era, which included dime novels
and newspapers, used the centuries-old Frontier myth with its violent
characteristics and effectively diffused such myths throughout the nation.
Slotkin writes that:
After 1873 Jesse James was taken up by national media as the central
figure in a mass-cultural myth of social banditry.... The case of
Jesse James suggests that in modernizing or adapting the ideology of
social banditry to capitalism, mass culture gradually replaces real
historical deeds and political struggles with generic mythologies.
This is an intriguing argument that could account for Jesse James'
national appeal, but it does not consider that people use oral and
written narratives for psychological and communal reasons that are
divorced from economics.
Historical journalism research analyzing stories in
late-nineteenth century newspapers for folkloric elements about James
should do much to resolve such concerns. In addition, despite the
abundance of research defining and debunking the Jesse James legend,
none has analyzed Missouri newspapers as a source for the
legend. Kent L. Steckmesser, who examines how folklore transforms
the historical reality of Robin-Hood-type outlaws, writes that
newspapers often aided in that unhistorical process. Folklorist
Richard Dorson's arguments that the history of legends would be
poorer without the mass media, also is a point relevant to this
study. He explains: "The itinerant theatrical troupes and
grassroots newspaper editors of pre-Civil War days often drew from
and fed directly into folk tradition. When media so close to the
people gave so much attention to these characters drawn from the
people, we can be sure their antics and sayings traveled on many
lips."  The oral and print legend of Jesse James is an excellent
case study to test the theories offered by Dorson and Donald Allport
Bird. Bird's arguments suggest that mass media scholars need to
realize that Harold Lasswell's third communication function to
transmit "social heritage from one generation to the next." is the
same as one of William Bascom's folklore functions, which transmit
culture norms from "generation to generation." But prior to
describing methodology and explicating if late-nineteenth century
newspapers portrayed Jesse James as an outlaw-hero; the
social/historical context Missouri newspapers operated in, and the
oral folklore nature of the outlaw must be described.
Jesse James and Post-Civil War Missouri
Jesse James came of age during the Civil War. He was born in 1845
near Kearney, Missouri in Clay County, which borders the "burnt
district." This area of four counties along the western Missouri
border was demolished in 1863 during the Civil War by Unionist forces
operating under the orders of Union Brigadier General Thomas E.
Ewing. It was just another bone of contention for Missourians,
who fought prior to the Civil War in the Border War (1854) between
their state and Kansas. The violent legacy engendered by Border War
lasted through the end of Reconstruction in 1877.
The Border War was just one of the things dividing Missourians
during the war years. The state even had two separate legislatures,
one Confederate, one Union. Although only a handful of organized
battles between Union and Confederate troops were fought in Missouri,
residents were victimized by undisciplined men on both sides,
especially the guerrillas led by William "Bloody Bill" Anderson and
William Quantrill. According to William Settle, it was revenge
that drove Jesse James to join Anderson's raiders at the age of
seventeen. Robert Dyer in Jesse James and the Civil War in
Missouri writes that Jesse James joined the guerrillas after Union
soldiers, who were searching for his older brother Frank, beat Jesse
and abused his stepfather. Folklorists postulate that
outlaw-heroes need compelling reasons to step outside the law.
Henry Glassie suggests that to deal with the history of such horror,
people preserve outlaw heroes like James in "deathless
life." Glassie argues that one purpose of regional-type folklore
is to indicate the depth of feeling people have for the places they
inhabit. And that sense of place, of one's history, of one's
folklore "joins saint to rebel, warrior to farmer, God to man,"
and perhaps reader to their newspapers, especially during times of crisis.
Timothy Tangherlini describes why legends are spawned during times
of social upheaval. He writes that: "Legend addresses real
psychological problems associated with the geographic and social
environments, acting as a reflection of commonly felt pressures....
Much of folk narrative is the human fantasy engaging in wishful thinking.
To deal with social upheaval, Tangherlini suggests that society take
real events and weave fantasies from them or hero narratives to
escape from the problems indigenous to such periods -- economic,
political, loss of social status, etc. And Sociologist Paul Kooistra
writes that psychologically, hero narratives are soothing to those
suffering from repression and who need to release rebellious
feelings. Kooistra's contends that the heroic criminal is a socially
constructed, "cultural product" and "political symbol," which emerges
during crisis-filled periods when people feel the law is not working
Jesse James and Folklore
Sandra Dolby Stahl suggests that societal ills, which create shared
cultural traditions, such as the oral and written legend of Jesse
James, can unite people in local and regional social groups. In
such an environment, newspapers and their readers probably understood
legends told about Jesse James, because they used motifs and stock
plots familiar to both groups. If the same motifs and stock
plots appear in oral legend texts and newspaper stories, this
suggests the presence of communal folklore. Henry Glassie
suggests that the role or function of oral and print legends is best
explained when the storytellers' social and physical environments or
locales are linked to their text.
In the case of Jesse James, places sprinkle the legends to tell
about sites he robbed: "It was on Wednesday night, the moon was
shining bright, They robbed the Glendale train;" or hid from the law:
There's a cave down by Hermann, Missouri where he used to hide from
the law. It's a cave that goes way back into the mountains.... He
used to go into the cave and swim under the water to the other
side.... The people in them hills used to help him to get through.
Each narrator refers to someone known by them: "father,"
"grandfather," "neighbor," who either told the story or knows someone
who did, which is essential to the legend. Jan Brunvand indicates
that such referencing empowers belief and infuses the legend with
reality anchored by memories. Those memories, like legends, are
flavored by motifs and stock plots that illustrate a communal past
recreated in oral and newspaper narratives.
Whether news accounts fueled the ballads and oral legends or vice
versa cannot be determined. However, the popular legend of Jesse
James as it appeared in Missouri newspapers did contain many of the
contemporary legends. For example, there is the "widow" legend, a
widely circulated oral and popular story about Jesse James outwitting
a rich banker to help a poor widow. This legend mirrors Orrin
Klapp's clever hero, who goes along his merry, criminal way
performing deeds of wily, humorous deceit. Although, Settle
writes that there is no proof the incident ever happened,
newspapers included the story in articles written in the years
following the death of James. This is an excellent example of
how oral stories told about James were used by nineteenth-century
newspapers. The widow story is an authenticated piece of folklore.
And the mode of James' death on April 3, 1882, secured his place in
the pantheon of folk outlaw heroes, who always are betrayed by a
close friend or acquaintance. James earned the Judas motif because
he died when: "Robert Ford watched his eye, and shot him on the sly,
Which laid Jesse James in his grave."
This interdisciplinary, cultural study uses folkloric, sociological,
and historical arguments and theories, and qualitative methods. It
explores the intersection of documented oral legends and
mass-mediated information about Jesse James, who was accused of
committing 27 crimes from 1866-1881. To trace the literary legend,
the research period covered by this study will be 1871-1882. This
eleven-year span covers 17 crimes attributed to James, the outlaw's
most productive period, and his highly publicized death in 1882.
Research by the author for a longer study, shows that during
these years newspapers became more interested in James as he
continued his criminal life seemingly unimpeded by law officers,
government officials, or the Pinkerton Detective
Agency. Newspapers housed in the State Historical Society of
Missouri will be analyzed for outlaw-heroic motifs to determine the
possible presence of oral folklore in nineteenth-century Missouri
newspapers. Contemporary studies will provide the motifs,
because there are no existing collections from the late nineteenth-century.
Dorson points out that the substantial link between print, folklore,
and history spawns the creation of the "popular legend." Print-based
legends are literary, folk legends are oral, and at the juncture
where each feeds the other is the popular legend. Legends are
embellished stories told about real people. Motifs are small elements
embedded in legends, which are documented and compared by folklorists
to trace and authenticate the oral tradition in narratives told about
folk heroes. Legends often contain identifiable oral,
traditional motifs and descriptive characteristics that can account
for why and how a person becomes a folk hero.
In this study, both the terms outlaw hero and folk hero are used.
According to the Larousse Dictionary of World Folklore, an outlaw
hero commits violent and daring deeds, but is morally redeemed by a
treacherous death that insures him a "loyal, brave, and heroic" place
in folk tradition. The popularity of the folk hero often reveals a
lot about the folk group or region and their ideals and concerns.
A qualitative analysis was conducted on 36 of the approximately 53
Missouri newspapers stored on microfilms at the Missouri Historical
Society. Most of the selected newspapers were available in the
historical society for dates most closely mirroring this study's
research period. Others were chosen primarily because of their
political affiliations to determine if coverage of James was split
down party lines as Settle contended. For example, the Kansas
City Journal was a leading Republican organ; and the Kansas City
Times was a major Democratic paper.
Analysis was conducted on the following Missouri newspapers,
included in parenthesis are extant dates of publication available at
the Historical Society. Dailies were: Kansas City Journal (1878-94),
Kansas City Times (1871-1990) St. Louis Globe-Democrat (1875-1986),
St. Louis Missouri Republican (1865-88), St. Joseph Gazette
(1872-94), and the Sedalia Daily Democrat (1871-85). Weeklies
include the Clarksville Sentinel (1867-1950), Boonville Weekly
Advertiser (1873-1964), Columbia Missouri Statesman (1843-89),
Gallatin North Missourian (1872-78), Jefferson City Peoples' Tribune
(1865-83), Lexington Register (1871-80), Lexington
Caucasian (1870-75), Liberty Tribune (1846-1886), Neosho Times
(1870-84), Richmond Conservator (1866-1944), Charleston Enterprise
(1875-89), Savannah Reporter (1876-1925), Savannah Democrat
(1880-88), Bates County (Butler) Record (1868-1918), Centralia
Fireside Guard (1871-19__), Fulton Missouri Telegraph (1848-1956),
Greenfield Vedette (1867-19__), Buffalo Reflex (1869-1979), Albany
Ledger (1868-19__), Glasglow Journal (1868-89), Carthage Weekly
Banner (1866-87), Edina Sentinel (1869-1925), Brookfield Gazette
(1867-1927), Palmyra Spectator (1863-19__), Rolla Herald (1869-1953),
Unionville Republican (1865-19__), Ralls County (New London) Record
(1865-1975), Ste. Genevieve Fair Play (1872-1976), Saline County
(Marshall) Progress (1868-1917), and Memphis Reveille (1865-1969).
Each newspaper was scanned cover to cover for a two-week period
following each of the twenty crimes supposedly committed by James
from 1871 to 1881. The entire month after his death on April 3, 1882
was perused for death stories. The dates scanned for stories
corresponding to James' crimes, and the two-week time frame for analysis are:
ú June 3-17, 1871; Orobock Brothers Bank, Corydon County, Iowa.
ú April 29-May 13, 1872: Deposit Bank, Columbia, Kentucky.
ú September 26-October 10, 1872: Kansas City Exposition, Kansas City, Missouri.
ú May 27-June 10,1873: Savings Association, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.
ú July 21-August 4, 1873: Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific railroad,
near Adair, Iowa.
ú January 15-29, 1874: Stagecoach between Malvern and Hot Springs, Arkansas.
ú January 31-February 14, 1874: St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern
Railroad, Gads Hill, Missouri.
ú March 10-24, 1874, murder of Pinkerton Detective John Whicher in
ú April 7-21, 1874: Stagecoach between Austin and San Antonio, Texas.
ú August 30-September 14, 1874: Two omnibuses, one between Waverly
and Carollton, Missouri and the other across the Missouri River near Lexington.
ú December 7-21, 1874: Tishimingo Savings Bank, Corinth, Mississippi.
ú December 8-22, 1874: Kansas Pacific Railroad, Muncie, Kansas.
ú January 26-February 9, 1875, bombing of his mother's home in
ú April 12-26, 1875: Daniel Askew killed in Kearney, Missouri.
ú September 6-20, 1875: Bank at Huntington, West Virginia.
ú July 7-21, 1876: Missouri Pacific train, Rocky Cut near Otterville, Missouri.
ú September 7-21, 1876: First National Bank, Northfield, Minnesota.
ú October 8-22, 1879: Chicago, Alton and St. Louis train, Glendale, Missouri.
ú July 15-29, 1881: Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific train near
ú September 7-21, 1881: Chicago and Alton Railroad near Glendale, Missouri.
Also included is the bombing of James' mother's home by Pinkerton
agents in 1875 to determine if newspaper coverage used the revenge
motif, which is included in the twelve motifs of the outlaw hero
outlined by Richard Meyer. The analytical tool for this study is
Meyer's outlaw-hero motifs. A folklorist, Meyer's study clearly
demonstrates how the commingling of oral and literary folklore helps
cement the popular legend of outlaws. Using excerpts from ballads
and legends about Jesse James, Meyer writes that twelve factors must
occur to transform the outlaw into a folk hero. The motifs are:
(1) The outlaw must be "a man of the people," someone the locals can
identify and rally around because he fights against unjust laws and
oppressive civic and economic systems (Native son). (2) He only
embraces outlawry to revenge a personal injustice (Revenge). (3) The
outlaw-hero only robs the rich who are the oppressors, and gives to
the poor who are his allies (Robin Hood). (4) The outlaw-hero is
kind-hearted, gay, and even-tempered, pious, never harming anyone
until he is forced (Gentleman bandit). (5) He does daring and
extraordinary feats (Derring-do). (6) He is Orrin Klapp's
quintessential "clever hero," whose wit and trickster-like skills
cannot be matched by the lumbering agents of the law (Clever
hero). (7) The people not only help the outlaw-hero, but he is the
subject for their admiration (Beloved). (8)He successfully evades the
law (Escape artist). (9) His death is caused through treachery by a
friend or Judas-like character (Judas). (10) His death is mourned by
the people (Grieving crowds). (11) The outlaw-hero is gone but not
forgotten; he lives on in memory and often his doppelganger appears
(Undead). (12) There must be a constituency who does not approve of
the outlaw-hero's deeds (Dissension).
Each newspaper was read thoroughly for any mention of Jesse James,
and then analyzed for Meyer's twelve outlaw-hero motifs. Each time a
passage or a word mirroring one of the twelve outlaw-hero motifs was
found it was counted. The preceding motifs also bear a strong
resemblance to contemporary and historical news values: Conflict,
impact, proximity, unusualness, prominence, timeliness, and human
interest. For example, conflict is found in dissension, revenge,
Robin Hood, Judas, and the native son motifs. Given that journalists
use news values to determine what is newsworthy, folkloric motifs can
serve the same purpose. Therefore, newspaper stories about Jesse
James should be well stocked with outlaw-hero motifs.
Jesse James and Missouri Newspapers: Findings
In addition to the previous oral legends found in late-nineteenth
century newspapers, each of Meyer's twelve motifs was found in
Missouri newspapers. A qualitative analysis of the 36 newspapers
revealed 501 full-length stories on his alleged crimes and 486
stories on his death. This does not include 134 editorials, short
blurbs and full-length on his crimes, and 444 on his death.
This motif was counted in stories that noted his fight against
oppression and the Yankees, his rural, common man roots, his good
family background, including his wife's, the birthplace or certain
areas where he lived or was sighted (Missouri, Clay County, Cracker
Neck region, Western Missouri, etc.); and any mention of James
fighting in the Civil War for the South.
The native son motif appeared 151 times, most notably when his
mother's home was bombed, when Askew was killed for leading the
Pinkerton detectives to his mother's home, and after he robbed
trains. In 1881, an editorial in the Richmond Conservator suggested
that the second Glendale train robbery was caused by Yankees, who
were to blame for "the deeds of devilment done by the banditti on our
border,' which was "a well-conceived scheme to give Missouri a bad
name and thus turn the tide of emigration now pouring into this state
elsewhere.... The Yankee at times works in a mysterious way his
object to accomplish and it is said that one of the leaders in the
late Blue cut robbery had the regular New England twang in his
voice." Such sentiments illustrated the Conservator's Southern
bias against Northern interests, served to cast suspicion away from
James, and helped fuel the native son motif that James was fighting
against Yankee oppressors for the good of Missourians.
In death stories, the native son motif made 1,076 appearances, which
includes 381 citing the region where he committed crimes and lived,
248 mentions of his good family background, 214 mentions of
war/oppression, and 133 mentions of his rural roots. The St. Louis
Globe-Democrat depicts the native son motif in this interview with
B.A. Markham, an undertaker, who buried three members of the James'
gang and knew Jesse James. Markham said he "first became acquainted
with the James boys when they came to Independence to attend
parties. The boys were well thought of then for the reason that
their father was a Baptist minister and an honest man. They lived on
their father's farm, near Kearney, until they joined Quantrell's
guerrilla band, which was made up of men who hailed from Jackson, Ray
and Clay counties." The native son motif is well defined in this
passage, which includes references to James' good family background,
rural and regional background, and involvement in the Civil War.
Meyer writes that there are reasons why the outlaw hero enters a
life of crime. Analysis revealed this motif in stories about revenge,
the lingering effects stemming from James experiencing the violence
of the Civil War and the guerrilla training he learned in the war;
and a defeated legislative resolution for amnesty for his war crimes
in 1875. No immunity for his post-war crimes also is a reason
for James' subsequent crimes and his inability to hang up his weapons
and have a peaceful life. Appearing 89 times in crime stories, the
reasons' motif was noted in stories about the bombing, the murdering
of Askew, and amnesty attempts. During the war years, stories about
the hanging of his stepfather and James' beating by Union soldiers
also alluded to the reasons' motif. In death stories, 464 reasons'
motifs were used. The Civil War and Yankee oppression topped the
reasons' list with 234 motifs followed by 145 no peace reasons. The
following passage from the front page of the St. Joseph Daily Gazette
contains the no-peace rationale; and native son, undead, grieving
crowds, and beloved motifs: "The name of Jesse James will have no
grave while Missouri's history is remembered, but under four feet of
the loam of old Clay his body now is sleeping. It is the only peace
his troubled life could find.... No obsequies in Clay were ever so
attended; to none was there ever a greater popular interest given."
The St. Louis Republican in a story headed "Biographical", also
extolled the reasons (war/oppression, no-peace), and native son motifs.
The manner of their (the James brothers) entry into guerrilla warfare
was similar to that which prevailed at that day, in that
section, ...after the war the Quantrill crowd were restless as ever.
They were hunted and called to answer for the deeds of the
border. Some ... succeeded in settling down and becoming good
citizens, but a large number either could or would find no rest. The
result was they ... became outlaws.
Readers, who read such stories probably, sympathized with this outlaw
hero who had gone wrong because he fought for the South. The
lingering bitterness caused by the loss of the Civil War and the
humiliation visited upon Missouri by Northerners and Radical
Republicans during Reconstruction helped James become an outlaw hero,
who would avenge Missourians. In the process, he would rob the rich
(Northern-owned banks and railroads) and give to his poor, fellow Missourians.
Despite its integral role in the oral and popular legend of the
outlaw hero, and its sociological place in the rise of the social
bandit, this motif did not appear a great deal in late-nineteenth
century Missouri newspapers. It made four appearances in crime
stories, and ten in death stories. Meyer writes that "...countless
instances occur in legends and ballads dealing with American outlaws
wherein their criminal efforts are consciously equated with... the
figure of Robin Hood, the medieval English prototype of the
outlaw-hero." Meyer notes that it is mostly within "the context of
the oral testimony" that parallels are drawn between outlaw heroes
and Robin Hood. In the case of the analyzed newspapers, this
argument holds true. Among the few incidents of the motif appearing
include this example in the Kansas City Times, which features an
interview with Fred A. Mitchell, who was a prominent lawyer in
Jackson County, and well-acquainted with James. Datelined Chicago,
the story illustrates well the Robin Hood motif:
He was impulsive and kind to a fault. Instances of his kindness to
poor Missourians are absolutely innumerable. If he found a man that
he had ever known so poor he could not put in his crop, his first
inevitable act would be to put his hand into his pocket and give him
the money he needed, though it be the last shot in his own locker.
The outlaw hero of oral legend, who robbed the rich and gave to the
poor, became a popular legend to rural Missourians, who saw him as a
true native son.
Appearing 809 times in death stories, this motif is characterized by
mentions of his good nature; piety; his kindness, courteousness, and
gentlemanly behavior towards women; the love his wife bore him (how
could he be so bad if such a good woman loved him?); and his role as
a good husband, devoted father of two, and beloved son to his mother.
Crime stories bore the gentleman bandit motif 85 times. There was no
mention of his family and only one reference to his pious demeanor
when he was alive. His good-natured, kindness permeated the crime stories.
During the robbery of a Texas stagecoach between Austin and San
Antonio on April 7, 1874, the Centralia Fireside Guard portrayed the
gentleman bandit motif: "The robbers were very tender and gentlemanly
in their bearing towards the passengers and particularly polite to
the ladies of the party. They wished to avoid ruffling or
frightening them.... It was a very neat, pleasant job of the kind....
After his death, the St. Joseph Daily Gazette interviewed several of
James' neighbors. One young lady, who engaged in snowball fights
with James, alias Thomas Howard, said: "I would do so again if he
were alive and I knew he was Jesse James. For no matter what is said
of him, I am sure he would not have harmed a woman. Nothing in his
appearance or his actions but was kind and gentlemanly. Indeed I
never met a more perfect gentleman than Mr. Howard."
James' kindness, good nature, and piousness appeared 166 times. Dr.
W.H. Price of Kearney, who said he was a former schoolmate of James,
told the Kansas City Times "Jesse joined the Baptist church... in
1866. I think he was baptized... He was liked by everyone who knew
him." Pious, good, kind James rode through the pages of Missouri
newspapers like a chivalrous knight in this editorial published in
the Lexington Register after the 1874 robbery of the omnibus. The
article pondered the whereabouts of those who once robbed with courtly skills:
"Where are the accomplished and gentlemanly appropriators of
travelers' cash and watches? Where the polite marauders who while
sternly stripping the virile pilgrims did courteously spare the
feminine -- sometimes rifling only a kiss...? To this somewhat
elaborate interrogatory we answer: "They are in Missouri." "The James
Closely aligned to such favorable stories are the ones depicting the
daring exploits of James. This motif appeared 272 times in crimes
stories and 219 times in death stories. Numerous headlines and
stories attested to his daring. A death story, "Stilson Hutchins
on the Career of Jesse James", in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat that
was reprinted from the Washington (D.C) Post, proclaimed James'
derring-do: " There may have been more daring and desperate men in
the olden time than Jesse James, the Missouri bandit, who was
assassinated last Monday at St. Joseph, but it is not probable that
for audacity, for cool, calculating courage and resources of skill
and endurance, his equal has either been seen during the last twenty
years or survives him." This passage abounds with favorable
motifs such as native son and beloved.
One nineteenth-century journalist, John Newman Edwards wrote many
articles that helped to establish the popular legend of Jesse
James. His first "heroic" article about James, which appeared after
the 1872 robbery of the Kansas City Exposition, did not mention the
outlaw by name, but hailed the "wild audacity ...courage... and
daring" of the person responsible. Edwards, then editor of the
Kansas City Times, wrote:
Whence they came or whither they went no one knows, but they came and
went, and while they stayed they made a page in the criminal history
of the country that will probably stand for many years single and
singular for wild audacity, reckless courage, invincible nerve and
utterly indescribable daring....
Fellman writes that Edwards' honorable depiction of the guerrillas,
which included Jesse James, "replace [d] realism with
supernaturalism.... by relating the guerrillas to the stock romantic
dragon-slaying hero of popular literature."
Other examples of "derring-do" were found in the Richmond
Conservator, which reported that after the daring robbery of the
Orobock Brothers' Bank in Corydon, James enlisted the aid of people
in the area: "They seemed to know every inch of the ground, and to be
familiar with the names of parties along the road."
James' cunning avoidance of capture made him a clever hero. He not
only outwitted lawmen, but also provided amusing anecdotes for
late-nineteenth century newspapers and comic relief for their
readers. The clever hero motif made 553 appearances in death stories
and 130 in crime stories. The stories hailed James' disguises, how
he outsmarted posses, and sent alibi letters to newspapers.
After his death, anecdotes regaling James' wit and his disguises
filled the newspapers. The Sedalia Democrat and the Kansas City Times
reprinted "amusing incidents" from the St Joseph Gazette on James'
visits to a local drugstore, where the owner Aust Brokaw sold him
cigars. During his visits, Brokaw said James "represented himself to
be railroad man in quest of work and would sit for half an hour
almost every day chatting and smoking and telling funny stories."
According to the Kansas City Times, James cleverly read newspapers
to discern the locations of pursuing lawmen: James "...no doubt read
about every party sent out to catch him, and all the while was
laughing in his sleeve." Apparently James also scanned the
papers for alibi letters he sent to them. Two days after his death,
the Missouri Republican reprinted three letters from James. For
example, after Daniel Askew's murder, this letter, dated June 10,
1875, from Comanche, Texas, was printed: "I can prove I was in Texas,
at Dallas... when the killing was done.... Yours faithfully Jesse." 
Like the cleverness of his letters and telegrams, stories about
James noted his extraordinary abilities to outwit posses. The
Globe-Democrat reported that the James' brothers escaped Northfield,
Minnesota lawmen when they "...endeavored to conceal their tracks and
spoil the trail ... -- by turning in their tracks, walking on their
heels and then on their toes; and by jumping." His talent for
disguises also was illustrated by a death story, "Jesse's Ruse", in
the Savannah Democrat: "...the most successful means of concealing
identity used by the famous freebooter...was a kind of dye used...
for the purpose of coloring..." James' hair and beard."
Stories that praised James' daring were akin to ones that lavished
him with flattering adjectives regarding his appearance in life and
in death; his possession of excellent horseflesh and the latest
weapons; and his skill at planning robberies and handling firearms,
The beloved motif also includes passages and words describing the
amnesty attempts, sympathy over his death, imitators of his crimes,
revenge for his death, admirations for his wife; and how he was
helped, hidden, and supported by Missourians, which also is evidenced
by the alibis printed in newspapers that were purportedly from James
and other defenders. Beloved motifs were counted 1,294 times in death
stories, and 116 times in crime stories.
The Lexington Register published a front-page editorial after the
1979 robbery of the Chicago, Alton and St. Louis train at Glendale.
Fully outlining the beloved motif, the Register reported that: "...
`first citizens' are proud to have it known that they are of
sufficient importance to be recognized as friends by these `bold
knights of the pistol,' these heroes of the hour."
James' death was a propitious time for newspapers to insert the
beloved motif in stories. Although it is satirical, this death
editorial from the Globe-Democrat includes not only the beloved
motif, but also grieving crowds, political dissension and native son:
The Democratic Saint James, whose earthly career was unexpectedly
closed on Monday last, will live long in the hearts of the people of
Clay, Cass and Jackson counties. Their grief at his demise is
inconsolable...When these Democratic patriots were asked of whom they
were most proud, they pointed to the James boys -- Frank and Jesse.
Beloved/admiring motifs sprinkle a death editorial in the Kansas
City Times, which compared James to legendary outlaw heroes like Rob
Roy of Scotland, and Robin Hood of England. The editorial invoked
the tenets and theories of oral folklore, including comparative
analysis, and the migratory nature of motifs. The editorial
concluded with the Judas and escape motifs that further illustrated
its beloved quality: "The law has ever been powerless to capture...
these outlaws, until treachery was involved to accomplish what the
law failed to do."
Story after story noted that the treacherous manner of James' death
resulted from the law's inability to capture the outlaw. The escape
artist motif appeared 322 times in crimes stories, and emerged 1,145
times in death stories, many of which, especially in the daily
newspapers, retold each of James' criminal misdeeds. In death
stories, the escape artist motif appeared in phrases illustrating
disbelief that James was dead; and in crime stories that noted the
number of men forming unsuccessful posses, how James and his gang
members eluded capture, and how awards for his capture rose after each crime.
However, the crime story that cemented James' superior abilities to
escape lawmen was the 1876 attempted robbery of the First National
Bank in Northfield, Minnesota. After James' death, the Globe-Democrat
recapped the Northfield escape: "...the story of the chase abounds in
incidents almost too marvellous for belief.... and though the
scouting parties increased to a thousand, two days later the robbers
had been completely lost." Although they were hungry, coatless,
horseless, cold and confused by unfamiliar country the James brothers
traversed more than 500 miles back to Missouri. A decked head in the
Globe-Democrat on September 14, proclaimed "A Thousand men in Pursuit
of the Minnesota Bandits." The story reported:
"It may look ridiculous for 1,000 men to hunt down six outlaws, one
or two of whom are wounded. But the woods afford splendid opportunity
for ambuscade; the people of the section where the robbers have been
discovered are ignorant, superstitious Bohemians, who could readily
be made the obedient tools of the men, who scruple at nothing."
Once again, it was easy for James to escape lumbering, slow-witted
posses to rob another day. An editorial in the Kansas City Times
noted the uninterrupted 16-year span of James' criminal career and
his unparalleled skills at escaping, as though he had "... the power
of becoming invisible at will..."
The inept posses chasing James also were depicted in a Sedalia Daily
Democrat story on the robbery of the Chicago, Alton and St. Louis
train: "One `old soldier' (a posse member) had six cups and a
coffeepot tied to the pommel of his saddle." As the posse got ready
to leave, a man stopped them to tell them of a "suspicious gang of
men" he thought to be the James boys. The man said the "suspicious
gang" was "... riding terribly fractious horses. One of these backed
into the gentleman's buggy and nearly ruined it. That made him think
it was a robber's horse that had been trained to tip over a buggy by
backing into it before they robbed the passengers. Another young man
(in the same suspicious gang) had adopted a terrible disguise -- he
had slid his saddle clear around under his horse's belly and was
having a hard time to keep from sliding in the same direction
himself." It was discovered that the "suspicious gang" was "only
Captain Craig and his band of honest rangers on their way to capture
the James boys." Late-nineteenth century readers must have read
such reports with glee, laughing at the antics of absurd lawmen on
the trail of the Jesse James, a man, "with the cunning of a human....
(And) ...all the viciousness of a tiger, combined with the
extraordinary powers of a man to elude capture...."
James' talents to escape led to the Judas motif. Treachery was the
only way he could be captured. This motif, which only appeared in
death stories, emerged 1,074 times in stories and decked
headlines. The treachery aspect of James' death was noted in decked
headlines in the Kansas City Times, "Bob Ford, a Mere Youth, Who
Lived With Him and Watched His Opportunity Does the Deed", by
"Stealing Behind Him, While He is Unconsciously at Work, He Puts A
Bullet Through His Brain".
The Callaway Gazette in a reprinted editorial from the Cincinnati
Times-Star utilized the Judas motif to depict its dissatisfaction
with the way James was killed:
"...In justice to the dead outlaw let it be said that never in all
his career, was he guilty of a deed as cowardly and atrocious as that
of the base wretches who shot him down when his back was turned.
Human nature revolts at the cool, calculating, heartless villainy of
men, who, in the guise of friends, plotted the murder of a comrade in
crime... and only dared attempt it when he was utterly defenseless.
The Callaway Gazette was among the Missouri newspapers that used the
dissension motif to condemn the way James was killed. By dying at the
hands of a trusted gang member, James secured his reputation as an
escape artist unable to be captured or killed in a face-to-face
confrontation. Jesse James could not be killed by ordinary means,
because he was not an ordinary outlaw, nor would he be mourned like a
The crowds that attended James' funeral or wept at news of his death
were noted 199 times by the newspapers. On April 9, the St. Joseph
Daily Gazette reported from Kearney that on the day of his burial
public schools were closed, and crowds contained "...friends true and
warm, ...to the great outlaw, and among themselves many expressions
of a regret... were given tongue." In another story on the same day,
the Gazette stated that the funeral procession was "...more than a
mile in length. Already the church was filled -- and had been for
hours -- while standing about it was a crowd of hundreds who had not
even standing room within." And the Kansas City Journal reported
that April 6 was a day "...to be a remembered one, as the burial day
of the CELEBRATED MISSOURI OUTLAW, Jesse James...." Such passages
illustrate Meyer's description of an event that binds "the stuff of
outlaw folk tradition with verifiable history" of outlaw heroes like
Pretty Boy Floyd and John Dillinger, whose funerals were attended by
more than 20,000 people each.
Because of its very definition, this motif only appeared four times
in crime stories to note when someone claimed they had killed
James. In death stories, 321 undead motifs were counted. Undead
motifs were explicated from excerpts that noted attempts to
immortalize him through purchasing of relics from his home; and
selling his horses for dramatic plays, traveling circuses, and Wild
West shows. The undead motif also was invoked by the writing of
biographical books, holding s‚ances to speak to James' ghost,
mentions of a doppelganger, and times when James was supposedly
killed prior to and after his assassination. The idea that James was
not dead is illustrated by this story in the Globe-Democrat that
quoted an insurance man, who said:
I, for one, am not convinced...Jesse James is dead.... In the James
case isn't it probable that Jesse, getting tired of being hunted down
like a wild beast, resolved to turn over a leaf and lead a new life?
...I believe that Jesse James found a person corresponding to his own
description, and then induced his wife to inveigle him to their
house... he arranged to kill him, and thereby...earn the reward of
$10,000 and mislead the people into believing him dead.... You say
the body was identified. By the very men who are most interested in
having his death an accomplished fact; by his wife and mother... 
Like this story, there were other editorials and stories that either
expressed doubt of his death or stated that he was playing a clever
trick to get the reward money offered for him.
Other crime and death stories laid the groundwork for skepticism
about James' death. In 1879, newspapers reported that George
Sheppard shot and "killed" James. The Kansas City Times noted that
the Sheppard hoax, which "was a put up job" to get the reward for
James, made Missourians wary of any reports about James' death.
These stories illustrated Meyer's contentions that the outlaw hero
fakes his death to collect reward money and live another day as
Newspapers also used satire to invoke the undead motif. The
Richmond Conservator in an editorial taken from Bill Nye's Boomerang,
noted that it was:
Once more pained to announce the death of Hon. Jesse James. We speak
of him as Honorable Jesse James because it is possible he may not be
dead yet... The regular semiannual death of Jesse James has been a
cause for national sorrow for some time. His obit has been written
seven or eight times by the faltering hand that pens these lines, and
we are still young.
Whether he was dead or not, many sought to immortalize him.
According to the Bates County Record a "preserving company" tried to
give James' mother $10,000 to preserve the body and exhibit it
nationwide. After so much immortalizing, it was a small leap for
some newspapers to report a s‚ance where a medium spoke to the dead
outlaw's spirit. Meyer writes that the supernatural image of the
outlaw hero is one of the ways that he never dies. In a story,
headlined "Jesse James Summoned from the Spirit Land," a
Globe-Democrat reporter recited his anonymous visit to a spirit
medium, which he paid to contact James' spirit. During the
"interview" with James' spirit, the outlaw confessed to eight
murders, said he suspected Robert Ford, and would have killed him.
Such stories about an undead, immortalized James inspired several
people to claim they were the dead outlaws. Settle suggests that
such claims were outgrowths of the massive publicity given the
outlaw's death. Dissension was an integral part of that publicity
as Missouri newspapers and others throughout the nation either
approved or disapproved of the manner of James' death.
This motif appeared 242 times in crime stories. Dissension emerged
in nine ways: Political, editorial, sectional; and condemnation or
approval of crimes and the method of James' death, satire, moral
warnings, and the disposal of his weapons and even his body.
Editorial dissension is defined as a newspaper's overt literary
attacks against another newspaper. Editorial strife also was caused
by in-state regionalism. For example, some editorials in St. Louis
displayed offense at stories/editorials written by Kansas City papers
and vice versa. Sectional dissension was motivated by either
negative image of the state or of James' crimes written in
Death stories and editorials contained 4,354 depictions of the
dissension motif, including 1,841 condemnation references. Motifs in
the death stories focused on either condemnation or approval of how
he was killed; arguments over who was entitled to his body and his
arms; satire; and moral warnings about his death and the way he
lived. Dissension over James' crimes was illustrated by the use of
satire poking fun at the outlaw. Newspapers used satire 175 times to
indicate humorous disapproval of James' crimes and death. Such
editorial satire was reprinted from papers both local and
national. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat used satire; and Judas,
condemnation, and political and editorial dissension motifs to state
its approval of James' death: "Jesse was a born Democrat -- a
Bourbon, in fact, who never learned much and seldom forgot anything
until last Monday morning, when he forgot himself long enough to lay
down his pistols and permit another Democrat to get behind him...."
Other newspapers used a direct approach to approve or disapprove of
the way James died, approvers included the Glasglow Journal: "Mad
dogs, outlawed murderers... and other vermin dangerous to life and
safety are killed in the shortest way. The great point is to kill
them quick enough and dead enough." Among the detractors were the
Kansas City Times: "While all are glad Jesse James is numbered among
the dead, there is universal loathing for the manner of his taking
Editorial dissension, displayed in 377 motifs, became especially
virulent after James' assassination as state newspapers excoriated
each other. Other newspapers criticized Northern ones with
sectional/dissension motifs. In 1874, three Pinkerton detectives were
killed in Missouri, including John W. Whicher, killed by the James
brothers. Afterwards, a Brookfield Gazette editorial noted that:
"Missourians have no love for Chicago people at best... They had
their [italics not mine] time during the war.... if they have any
more detectives up that way they had better keep them at home."
Still Missouri newspapers whose editorials and stories alluded to
defense of James because he was a native son fought the Civil War.
Late-nineteenth century newspaper coverage of James was not
clear-cut; it was defined and shaped by historical, social, cultural,
and political influences, especially those caused by the Civil War
and Reconstruction. Yet, in the aftermath, the popular legend of
James grew to exist over 100 years later in songs, plays, movies,
books, and folk legends. Despite his notorious past, the heroic
image of James persists, and the legendary outlaw still fixates
In July 1995, the exhumation of James' corpse, conducted to
determine authenticity of the remains and to stop bickering among the
several groups of descendants claiming James as their ancestor, was
surrounded by media frenzy. Over 1,000 articles in newspapers local
and nationwide referred to James, 103 years after his
death. Reporters from around the nation and other countries
attended the October 1995 reburial of James. Blaine Harden of the
Washington Post, wrote that Jesse James is: "...a quasi-fictional,
quasi-admirable icon who's been sentenced to wander forever through
our collective consciousness. His abiding undeadness owes less to
achievement or villainy or verifiable fact than to
accident.... Jesse James unintentionally sated a populist hunger for
In Missouri, populism spawned by a deep-seated anger and distrust of
Northern industry connected local and regional history to the Jesse
James legend and cemented its longevity and popularity for the state
and the nation. Dorson writes that the "union between the historical
and legendary narrative is firmest at the level of local
history." Legends told and written about Jesse James, was and is
a part of Missouri's local history that tie residents to their
traditional past. Dorson writes that history links to folklore
through legends told about "strong men," and "local traditional
events," such as robberies, murders, and fate's hand in the destiny
of Missouri villages and cities.
And newspaper journalists not only recognized the story for its news
values of conflict, unusualness, timeliness, and proximity, but for
the power of heroic motifs to tell a familiar narrative. Headline
after headline and story after story displayed the "Judas", "grieving
crowds", and "dissension" motifs, echoing Kooistra's and Steckmesser
arguments that James became a folk hero and a popular legend because
of crises-filled times. It certainly cannot be proven that such
sociological theories engendered Missouri newspapers to use Meyer's
twelve motifs, but this study is powerful evidence that their
coverage cemented his destiny as an outlaw hero and a popular
legend. Given the newspapers' propensity towards sectionalism and
using journalistic opportunities to vilify those who opposed their
ideological worldviews regarding the war and Southern allegiance,
Missouri newspapers mirrored the sociological leanings of that time
period. James appeared as a symbol of that allegiance in the
interviews Missourians gave and the stories printed about his crimes
and his death. The highly descriptive adjectives describing his
exploits, even when couched in hostile outpourings were not the words
used to portray an avowed enemy. In the state that harbored the
places they called home, Missouri newspapers and folk groups might
have used folklore and popular legends to unify a torn state after
the Civil War. Jesse James eluding the slow-witted posses, merrily
laughing as he waved a grain sack filled with Yankee bank and train
loot, was evenly depicted in all the newspapers.
Analysis proved that neither partisan nor vitriolic coverage of
James was void of Meyer's twelve motifs, which appeared in both
Democratic and Republican, and negative and positive stories. More
motifs appeared in larger papers due to larger news holes, but rural
weeklies did not falter in their output of motif-filled stories. In
both weeklies and dailies, the beloved motif appeared with the
condemnation/dissension motif; the Judas motif reared its head in
negative and positive stories; and the gentleman bandit motif graced
the same stories as the ones that condemned his crimes. He was the
clever hero, the escape artist, the undead, great outlaw that the
Callaway (Fulton) Gazette noted "...had gone from the sight of
men...." but "his memory alone remained to mark his name among the
living. Memory and a mound." It was a great story by any
century's definition, and late-nineteenth century newspapers
recognized it for its economic and entertainment possibilities. That
fact permeated this satirical editorial in the Kansas City Times
printed three days after James' death:
Poor Jesse is gone. With all his faults he was the newspaperman's
best friend, for when news was dull and sensations flagged, a few
good, readable, spicy columns of journalistic hyperbole concerning
his latest death or freshest killing always came in handily...
Palsied be the hand which struck him down at a time when the city
election and lynching matinees were booming. Mr. FORD was, moreover,
thoughtless enough to kill him in good time for the evening papers,
hence the deep damnation of his taking off.
Facetious humor aside, newspapers recognized James' crimes and death
as good stories. As his crimes escalated in derring-do, so did the
coverage moving from inside to front pages, which J. Cutler Andrews
suggests gained importance as a place for news during the Civil War
when Southerners became more interested in news. Prior to the war,
ads covered the front pages. In the case of James, the train
robbery at Gads Hill propelled him to the front pages in 1874 and he
never left until over a month after his death in 1882.
Print, especially newspapers of the nineteenth century, has meant
survival for many oral legends, Dorson writes. In some cases, the
oral to print process has spread the legend across the nation and
caused an oral revival among people who read the stories and repeat
them to others. There is a link between late-nineteenth century
newspapers, their word usage and popular legend making. And once that
journalistic process is wed to folklore it becomes "an indicator of
the culture of a people, their collective sense of place in the
world, and of the meanings with which they imbue the landscape,"
history, and their lives. Jesse James was linked to a sense of
place for late nineteenth-century Missourians. Kent C. Ryden writes
"the sense of place ends at that point on the ground where the long
story of the past is no longer known, where the land and the stories
on the other side belong to someone else." The long story of
Jesse James past did not end at Missouri's geographical borders. It
spread and somehow became an American story.
 Marley Brant, Jesse James: The Man and the Myth (New York:
Berkley Books, 1998), 1.
 See S. Elizabeth Bird, For Enquiring Minds: A Cultural Study of
Supermarket Tabloids (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press,
1992), 3, 101. Bird and Robert W. Dardenne, who quoted John Cawelti
in "Myth, Chronicle and Story: Exploring the Narrative Qualities of
News," in Dan Berkowitz, Social Meanings of News (Thousand Oaks,
Calif.: Sage Publications), 1997, 344.
 Steve M. Barkin, "The Journalist as Storyteller: An
Interdisciplinary Perspective," American Journalism, 1/2 (1984), 30.
 Slotkin does not use the folkloric definition of myth. He argues
that in cultural history, "myths are stories drawn from a society's
history that have acquired through the persistent usage the power of
symbolizing that society's ideology and of dramatizing its moral
consciousness," Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in
Twentieth-Century America (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), 5, 128.
 Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation,128.
 Kent Ladd Steckmesser, "Robin Hood and the American Outlaw,"
Journal of American Folklore 79 (1966), 354.
 Richard M. Dorson, America in Legend: Folklore from the Colonial
Period to the Present (New York: Pantheon Books, 1973), xiii-xv, 58,
61-63, 83-4, 247-8.
 Donald Allport Bird, "A Theory for Folklore in Mass Media:
Traditional Patterns in the Mass Media," Southern Folklore Quarterly
40:3-4 (September/December 1976), 285.
 Harold Lasswell, "The Structure and Function of Communications in
Society," in Mass Communication, Wilbur Schramm, ed. (Urbana:
University of Illinois, 1960), 118.
 William R. Bascom, "Four Functions of Folklore," Journal of
American Folklore 67 (1954), 297.
 The counties, located along the western border shared with
Kansas, were the northern half of Vernon and all of Bates, Cass, and
 Michael Fellman, Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri
During the American Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 95-97.
 Fellman, Inside War, 90-91.
 William A. Settle, Jr., Jesse James Was His Name: or Fact and
Fiction Concerning the Careers of the Notorious James Brothers of
Missouri (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1977), 6-17;
Fellman, Inside War, 23-65, 207-209. William E. Parrish, Charles T.
Jones, Jr., and Lawrence O. Christensen, Missouri: The Heart of the
Nation, 2nd ed. (Arlington Heights, Ill.: Harlan Davidson Inc.,
1992), 131-145, 175-186.
 Settle, Jesse James Was His Name, 26.
 In 1966, Settle wrote that no evidence existed to support this
story, Jesse James Was His Name, 26. He attributed it origins to an
oral tradition that was spread by the print media. However, Marley
Brant, who quotes In the Shadow of Jesse James, a 1989 book written
by Jesse James' daughter-in-law Stella Frances James, uses it as fact
in her 1998 book Jesse James: The Man and the Myth, 27-8. The story
also is mentioned by Croy, Jesse James Was My Neighbor, 27-29. In the
MidAmerica Folklore Journal, 55, parts of the story appear in a
legend text collected by George West in December 1977 from Emmett
Ramsey of Green Forest, Arkansas. West's collection is maintained at
the Arkansas College Folklore Archive, Batesville, where it is filed
as 78-17, Tape 185.
 Henry Glassie, Passing the Time in Ballymenone: Culture and
History of a Ulster Community (Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1982), 664-65.
 Glassie, Passing the Time in Ballymenone, 201.
 Timothy Tangherlini, " `It Happened Not Too Far From Here...': A
Survey of Legend Theory and Characterization," Western Folklore 49
(October 1990): 381.
 Paul Kooistra, Criminals as Heroes: Structure, Power & Identity
(Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press,
1982), 12, 18-30.
 Sandra Dolby Stahl, Literary Folkloristics and the Personal
Narrative (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press,
 Stahl, Literary Folkoristics, 37.
 Stahl, Literary Folkoristics, 14, 20, 45.
 Henry Glassie, "Structure and Function: Folklore and the
Artifact," Semiotica 7 (1973): 335.
 Henry Belden collected this ballad in 1906 from George Williams
of Bollinger County, Missouri. It is listed in "Special Double Issue:
The Folklore of Jesse James," MidAmerica Folklore 8:1-2 (Spring-Fall 1980), 45.
 MidAmerica Folklore, 59. Mike Galvin collected this legend 84
years later from William Schmitt. The legend text is housed at
Indiana University (67/100).
 Jan Harold Brunvand, The Study of American Folklore: An
Introduction, 3rd ed. (New York and London: W.W. Norton, 1986), 159.
 Settle, Jesse James Was His Name, 171-2, 227. Steckmesser,
"Robin Hood and the American Outlaw," 351. "Legend Texts of Jesse
James," MidAmerica Folklore: 64-66.
 Orrin E. Klapp, "The Clever Hero," Journal of American Folklore
67 (1954): 22.
 Settle, Jesse James Was His Name, 172.
 See the Kansas City Daily Journal, 4 April 1882.
 Richard M. Dorson, American Folklore and the Historian (Chicago
and London: University of Chicago Press, 1959), 241-42. Richard and
Judy Dockrey Young, eds., Outlaw Tales: Legends, Myths, and Folklore
from America's Middle Border (Little Rock, Ark.: August House
Publishers, Inc., 1992), 134-37.
 E. C. Peffow, "Songs and Rhymes From the South," Journal of
American Folklore 25:95 (January-March 1912), 146. Collected from
Mississippi; country whites; manuscript of Ben Bell, student; 1908.
 This research paper is part of Chapter 4 of the author's
uncompleted dissertation: "The Making of an American Legend: Jesse
James, Folklore, and the Nineteenth Century Press."
 This study is taken from Chapter 3 of the author's unfinished
dissertation: "The Making of an American Legend: Jesse James,
Folklore, and the Nineteenth Century Press".
 Newspapers selected for this study were those that were
available in the state historical society and whose microfilmed dates
corresponded most closely to this study's research years. Of the 53
newspapers mirroring the research years, 37 were selected.
 Dorson, American Folklore, 160-61.
 Definitions are taken from Brunvand, The Study of American
Folklore, 158, 170-74.
 Alison Jones, Dictionary of World Folklore (New York: Larousse), 225.
 Settle, Jesse James Was His Name, 99.
 Richard E. Meyer, "The Outlaw: A Distinctive American Folktype,"
Journal of the Folklore Institute 7:2-3 (May-December 1980): 94-111.
The Jesse James' ballads Meyer uses are in authenticated collections
such as John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, eds., American Ballads and Folk
Songs (New York: Macmillan Co., 1934); H.M. Belden, ed., Ballads and
Songs Collected by the Missouri FolkLore Society (Columbia:
University of Missouri Press, 1940. Legends were gleamed from Homer
Croy's Jesse James Was My Neighbor, the Indiana University Folklore
Archives, 67/100, Mike Galvin, "Collections of Folklore," and
Settle's Jesse James Was His Name. The same lore and others that
support Meyer's arguments are in the 1980 special, double issue of
the MidAmerica Folklore, entitled "The Folklore of Jesse James,"
which contains legend texts, ballads, films, and recorded songs about
the outlaw. The words in parenthesis are the author's abbreviations
of the motifs, which will used to refer to the motifs.
 For historical news values, see Helen MacGill Hughes, News and
The Human Interest Story and Hazel Dicken-Garcia, Journalistic
Standards in Nineteenth Century America (Madison: University of
Wisconsin Press, 1989). For contemporary news values, see Carole Rich
in Writing and Reporting the News: A Coaching Method, 2nd ed.,
(Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1997), 23.
 Richmond Conservator, 16 September 1881.
 "Dead Outlaw," St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 5 April 1882, 8.
 Meyer, "The Outlaw," 99-101.
 "The Bandit's Burial," St. Joseph Daily Gazette, 9 April 1882; 1.
 "Biographical," St. Louis Republican, 4 April 1882.
 Meyer, "The Outlaw," 101.
 "A Talk with F.A. Mitchell," Kansas City Times, April 1882; 1.
 Centralia Fireside Guard, 18 April 1874.
 "His Home Life," St. Joseph Daily Gazette, 12 April 1882.
 "Missouri Cavaliers," Lexington Register, 24 September 1874.
Editorial is reprinted from the New York Tribune.
 Hutchins, the founder of the Washington Post, was the principal
owner of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. James Settle wrote that in
1875, Hutchins, one of the most powerful Democrats in Missouri,
initiated a legislative bid for amnesty for James. The defeated
resolution would clear James of war crimes and secure him and his
gang a fair trial for on post-war crimes. See Settle, Jesse James Was
His Name, 78- 82.
 "Stilson Hutchins on the Career of Jesse James," Globe-Democrat,
11 April 1882; 11.
 Kansas City Times, 27 September 1872.
 Fellman, Inside War, 251.
 Sedalia Daily Democrat, "Jesse," 9 April 1882.
 Kansas City Times, 4 April 1882.
 "Letters from Jesse James," St. Louis Missouri Republican, 5 April 1882.
 "Hunting the Bandits," Globe-Democrat, 18 September 1876; 5.
 "Jesse's Ruse," Savannah Democrat, 14 April 1882; 1. Story is
copied from the St. Joseph Gazette.
 Lexington Register, 23 October 1879.
 St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 9 April 1882, 4.
 Kansas City Times, 5 April 1882.
 "Biographical," St. Louis Missouri Republican, 4 April 1882; 1.
 "Hunting the Robbers," St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 14 September 1876; 2.
 Kansas City Times, 5 April 1882.
 "The Train Robbery," Sedalia Daily Democrat, 10 September 1881.
 "The Outlaw James," Globe-Democrat, 10 April 1882. This was an
editorial reprinted from the Independence Sentinel.
 Callaway Gazette, 14 April 1882.
 "The Bandit's Burial," and "The Funeral," St. Joseph Daily
Gazette, 9 April 1882; 1.
 "Finis," Kansas City Daily Journal, 7 April 1882; 1.
 Meyer, "The Outlaw," 110.
 "Is Jesse James Dead," Globe-Democrat, 7 April 1882, 9.
 "Jesse James Body," Kansas City Times, 5 April 1882.
 Meyer, "The Outlaw," 110-11.
 "Death of Mr. James," Richmond Conservator, 7 April 1882.
 Bates County (Butler) Record, 15 April 1882.
 Meyer, "The Outlaw," 111.
 "Table Talk," Globe-Democrat, 16 April 1882; 6.
 Settle, Jesse James Was His Name, 170-71.
 Settle, 121.
 "The Lost Leader," St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 8 April 1882, 9.
This editorial was taken from the Kansas City Journal.
 "Various Views of the Press," Glasglow Journal, 20 April 1882.
Reprinted from the Marshall Progress.
 Kansas City Times, 7 April 1882, 1.
 "The `Organ' on Missouri Bandits' Exploits," Brookfield Gazette,
24 December 1874; 2. Editorial reprinted from the St. Louis Dispatch.
 In terms of historical, legal accuracy, Jesse James was never
convicted of any crimes, although arrest indictments for him were
issued and he was named in a postmortem indictment (1882) for
complicity in a robbery in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. See Settle, Jesse
James was His Name, 2, 137.
 Lexis/Nexis news service, which listed approximately 200
newspapers, contained over 1,000 entries citing Jesse James' name in 1995.
 The Kansas City Star, 21 October 1995, 1.
 Blaine Harden, "Jesse James: Dead or Alive. Why America Won't
Let Its Outlaw Celebrities Rest in Peace," The Washington Post
Magazine, 19 Nov. 1995, 18(W).
 Dorson, American Folklore, 148.
 Dorson, American Folklore, 154-55.
 "The Last of Jesse," Callaway Gazette, 14 April 1882.
 J. Cutler Andrews, The South Reports the Civil War (Pittsburgh:
University of Pittsburg Press, 1985), 47-48.
 Dorson, American Folklore,173-75.
 Edmunds V. Bunkse, "Commoner Attitudes toward Landscape and
Nature," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 68 (1978), 556.
 Kent C. Ryden, Mapping the Invisible Landscape: Folklore,
Writing, and the Sense of Place, with a forward by Wayne Franklin
(Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1993), 69