On July 21, 1873, infamous outlaw and American folk figure Jesse James robbed his first train in Adair, Iowa with the help of his posse, the James-Younger Gang. The outlaws used stolen tools to pry up part of the track, pulling it aside with rope as the train rounded a blind curve. They boarded the crashed train wearing white Ku Klux Klan masks and searched the safe that they believed held gold bullion, only to be disappointed by a meager $2,000. They then collected valuables from the passengers, bringing the total up to about $3,000 (about $50,000 by today’s standards).
After 141 years, Jesse James remains one of the most iconic and romanticized figures in American history, even though he had little regard for the lives of others (such as the engineer of the train, who died as a result). Many people even see Jesse James as a type of Robin Hood or folk hero, despite his sometimes murderous ways.
Although separating fact from fiction can be quite a task when it comes to folk figures like Jesse, we’ve dug up some interesting tidbits about this mythical man of the West that we think you’ll enjoy. Giddyup!