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The Banditti of the Plains: Or the Cattlemen's Invasion of Wyoming in 1892


The Banditti of the Plains: Or the Cattlemen's Invasion of Wyoming in 1892 Cover

ISBN13: 9780806113159
ISBN10: 0806113154
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In 1894, when A.S. Mercer published this angry eyewitness account of the cattlemen's invasion of Wyoming, the book was so thoroughly and ruthlessly suppressed that few copies of that edition remain today.

Although historians have since questioned some of Mercer's conclusions about the Johnson County range war, they have never controverted the facts of the cattlemen-homesteader struggle as he grimly reported them. With the intention of "executing" alleged rustlers and terrorizing the homesteaders, a band of fifty-two cattlemen and hired gunmen invaded Johnson Country, Wyoming, in April, 1892. After besieging and killing "the bravest man in Johnson County," the raiders in turn found themselves besieged by the homesteaders and finally in the protective custody of the Untied States cavalry. Further legal and illegal maneuvering permitted the invaders to go unpunished, but the cattlemen never again attempted to retain their hold over the range with organized mob violence.

In this new edition of The Banditti of the Plains the original text has been followed with the utmost fidelity, even including the illustrations. An informed and interesting foreword by William H. Kittrell has been added to the book.


"Literature on the Johnson County War has been growing all these years. Mr. Kittrell's introduction brings both it and the range troubles back of it into focus." New York Times

About the Author

Asa Shinn Mercer founded the University of Washington and established several frontier publications before going to Wyoming in 1883. There he edited Northwest Live Stock Journal.

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David Bean, August 24, 2012 (view all comments by David Bean)
This is an unknown classic. Written by Asa Mercer, for whom Mecer Island and Mercer Blvd are named in Seattle; he was a guy that got around. He had been a journalist and booster in Seattle, and in Portland, Oregon, and had reported on the cattle business in Texas before writing book in Wyoming. This book, which is a seminal study of corporate criminality uniting with the state, was set here in the west in the 1890s. It details with a professional journalist's eye, the Johnson County Cattle Wars in the region around Buffalo and Cheyenne Wyoming. That is where the black hats (the settlers) and the white hats (the cattle syndicate men) made their cashé. The book was originally banned and labeled as pornography because it showed the governor of Wyoming in poor odor. It is a history of British land barons doing the corporate thing and putting bounties on farmers who settled in "cow country" and hiring the banditti (bandits) to kill those immigrants for fifty bucks a head, back in the 1800's. After all, the Cattle Association men had won that country by killing Indians fair and square.
At least three movies have been made about the Johnson County Cattle Wars, and from various angles: Heaven's Gate, an expensively made bomb featuring Kris Kristofferson; the Virginian, and The Cheyenne Social Club, and I think one more. More books are on the subject, but none other that was contemporary, as far as I know. A real barn burner.
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Product Details

Kittredge, William
Kittredge, William
Mercer, A. S.
University of Oklahoma Press
Agriculture & Animal Husbandry
United States - State & Local
Cattle trade
United States - 19th Century
Edition Description:
The Western Frontier Library Series
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
12 bandw illus.
7.51x4.78x.73 in. .59 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Americana » Wyoming
History and Social Science » Crime » Criminology
History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century
History and Social Science » US History » General
History and Social Science » World History » General

The Banditti of the Plains: Or the Cattlemen's Invasion of Wyoming in 1892 New Trade Paper
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Product details 200 pages University of Oklahoma Press - English 9780806113159 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Literature on the Johnson County War has been growing all these years. Mr. Kittrell's introduction brings both it and the range troubles back of it into focus."
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