Gangsters and Gunslingers: The Good, the Bad & the Memorabilia at the American Museum in Britain

by FrancesSpiegel

Gangsters & Gunslingers: The Good, the Bad & the Memorabilia, explores two key chapters that shaped America's national identity: the Wild West, and the riotous years of Prohibition

Events in America's so-called Wild West, that period from about 1860 to 1880, and the Prohibition/Depression era, from the 1920s to the early 1930s were vital episodes in American history that helped shape America's national identity.

Vibrant personalities of the Wild West, such as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Frank James
and lawless characters of the Depression era, such as Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone and John Dillinger, are brought to life in this exhibition.

How Fiction Became Fact?

Gangsters and Gunslingers shows us how popular culture, through the media of newspapers, pulp fiction and films somehow changed fiction into perceived fact. The colourful personalities of the Wild West and the notorious characters of the Depression era were immortalised forever.

Gangsters & Gunslingers - Highlights of the Exhibition

Gunslingers of the Wild West

The exhibition provides an insight into life in the Wild West through a selection of historical items and memorabilia from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Silent movies presented the stories of the Wild West and the punters couldn't get enough of it. Former cowboys became film extras and consultants. Wyatt Earp, survivor of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, became a studio gofer and bit-part actor, passing on his stories to anyone willing to listen. Earp was subsequently immortalised by director John Ford and actor John Wayne.

The scene is set - Tombstone, Arizona Territory, Wednesday, October 26th,1881. In the short space of just a few years, Tombstone's population had increased from 100 to about 14,000 souls, all attracted by the prospect of instant wealth to be found in the town's richly-veined silver mines. With such a rapidly expanding population came gangs, gang warfare and gunfights such as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 1881. The battle took place between cowboys Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury and lawmen Virgil Earp with his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, ably assisted by gambler, gunfighter and dentist Doc Holliday.

After the gunfight, Tombstone doctor, Doc Goodfellow carried out autopsies on Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers. The exhibition features Doc Goodfellow's medical instruments and Wyatt Earp's Gambling Dice and Secret Card Feeder.



Wyatt Earp's Gambling Dice and Secret Card Feeder

Wyatt Earp's Gambling Dice and Secret Card Feeder
Wyatt Earp's Gambling Dice and Secret...
David Gainsborough Roberts Collection...

Doc Goodfellow's Surgical Instruments

Doc Goodfellow's Surgical Instruments
Doc Goodfellow's Surgical Instruments
David Gainsborough Roberts Collection...

Gangsters of the Depression Era

John Dillinger - Public Enemy No. One

Gangsters & Gunslingers also looks at the bad guys of the Depression-era. John Dillinger, America's first Public Enemy Number One, had robbed about two dozen banks and had a $10,000 bounty on his head. It is alleged that he used a fake gun to make his escape from a jail that authorities said was escape-proof. Dillinger was fatally shot in an ambush in 1934, and the exhibition features a death mask that clearly shows the exit wound of the bullet that killed him just below his right eye.

John Dillinger's Death Mask

Dillinger's Death Mask
Dillinger's Death Mask
David Gainsborough Roberts Collection...

The Notorious Bonnie & Clyde

Also on display are various items once belonging to Bonnie and Clyde including Clyde Barrow's bullet-proof vest that he was wearing in the fatal ambush of 1934 and a book of poems by Bonnie Parker. The poems, some written by Bonnie, are written in a bank book. The book itself is too fragile to be handled and has been digitised so that visitors can virtually thumb through the pages and read the contents.

Clyde Barrow's Bullet-proof Vest

Clyde Barrow's Bullet-proof Vest
Clyde Barrow's Bull...
David Gainsborough ...

Poems Composed by Bonnie Parker

Poems Composed by Bonnie Parker
Poems Compose...
David Gainsbo...

Buy Tickets for the Exhibition

Gangsters & Gunslingers - The Good, the Bad & and the Memorabilia will open from 23rd March to 3rd November 2013. Tickets and further information can be obtained from The American Museum in Britain.


Getting there...


Updated: 07/05/2013, FrancesSpiegel
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