I will start off by saying that this article could be a moot point depending on your beliefs about the death of Jesse W. James in 1882. I will also say that I’m just repeating the information so that anyone interested will have a chance to read it and maybe follow up on it in some way. Should that have been in fine print?
Robert Ford, “the dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard”.
It seems that shooting a man in the back didn’t pay very well or at least not too quickly back in the 1800s. I have found in several newspaper articles of the time that Bob Ford apparently did not receive all of the promised $10,000 reward after he supposedly shot Jesse James. I haven’t found the exact amount that he was paid but It would appear that what ever amount he did receive, he didn’t get it very quickly. On May 4th, 1882 Bob Ford pawned the handgun he used to “shoot Jesse James” with because he needed money. I can only assume he got the pistol out of pawn later but prior to pawning the handgun Bob Ford was made to sign a sworn affidavit testifying to the authenticity of the pistol.
That affidavit read:
“Personally came before me, J.C. Ranson, justice of the peace in and for the county of Jackson, Robert N. Ford, who, having been by me duly sworn, deposes and says that the pistol, NO. 50-432 Colt 45 calibre, here shown, is the same that he, Robert N. Ford, used to shoot and kill Jesse James, at the city of St. Joseph, on the 3rd day of April 1882.
[signed] ROBERT N. FORD
How big was that hole in the back of Jesse’s skull that they exhumed in Kearny, MO? Didn’t they find a .38 caliber round in the coffin?
I think Bob Ford probably made a few extra bucks selling “the gun” that killed Jesse James more than once. In 2003 there was an auction in Anaheim, California where the “gun that killed Jesse James” was up for sale. This gun happened to be a nickel-plated Smith & Wesson single action revolver in .44 caliber made sometime around 1875.
According to the auction house this Smith & Wesson supposedly had “extensive documentation about the origin, or "provenance." And the Jesse James gun comes with an unbroken provenance.”” "Documentation includes a sworn affidavit dated February 1904 that says James gave the gun to Ford days before the shooting. For a while in the 1960s, the gun's whereabouts were unknown after it was stolen from a museum.” They didn’t mention who signed that affidavit though.
The gun had previously been sold to a man in England for $160,000 and at this auction it sold for $350,000! That’s a lot of money for something that may be a fake in more ways than one. If Jesse James staged his own death then the pistol is a fake. If Bob Ford used a .45 Colt then the pistol is a fake. Does anybody need a bridge?
The picture at the top of this article is Bob Ford supposedly holding the gun that he shot Jesse James with. It's definitely a single action revolver and from what I can see of it, it appears to be a Colt but based on the difference in color between the wood grips and the backstrap this gun looks to be nickle-plated. There was nothing in Bob Ford's affidavit about the gun he pawned being nickle-plated but maybe the judge left that out. The only single action Smith & Wesson I'm aware of that was made during that time period was the S&W Schofield #3 or it's variants. That pistol looks nothing like the one in the photograph with Bob Ford.
Just one more thing to add to the pile of stuff that will probably never be figured out.