Harrisburg to auction a trove of Wild West artifacts

The bankrupt Pennsylvania city is selling off Doc Holliday's gun, a Jesse James arrest warrant and thousands more such items.

By Jonathan Berr Jul 10, 2013 1:14PM
A wooden Indian statue meant for a Wild West museum sits in storage in Harrisburg, Penn., on October 28, 2011 (© Paul Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images)Harrisburg, Pa., may not be what most Americans think of when it comes to the country's frontier heritage. But former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen R. Reed sure did, so he amassed a trove of 10,000 Western artifacts in hopes of opening a Wild West museum in Pennsylvania's capital city. The museum never came to fruition, and the debt-ridden city is now unloading Reed's collection.

Auction house Guernsey's will begin with a preview of the holdings on July 13-14, followed by several days of auctions ending July 21. Mayor Linda Thompson, who ousted Reed after he held the job for 28 years, estimates the city could net $1.2 million to $3 million, according to the Patriot-News, a local newspaper.

"We expect to be crawling with all types of potential buyers," Thompson told the paper. "I'm told there may not be enough hotel rooms."

According to media reports, plenty of cool stuff will be up for sale, including an arrest warrant for Jesse James, Doc Holliday's pearl-handle revolver, a battlefield promotion signed by Gen. George Custer, a 12-foot-tall bronze cast of Frederic Remington's "The Bronco Buster" and a Stetson hat that belonged to President Lyndon Johnson.

Harrisburg certainly could use the money.

The city filed for bankruptcy in 2011 because of a botched trash incinerator deal that Reed pushed. Since it's in default on its debt, Harrisburg is effectively shut out of the municipal bond market, which is what municipalities use to fund their day-to-day operations. Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Harrisburg of misleading investors about the state of its finances.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the city's woes continue and it can't afford to fix more than 40 sinkholes, among other things. Contractors also want assurances that the city will be able to pay them. Harrisburg has more than $300 million in debt, so while every little bit helps, this auction is hardly the answer to the city's prayers.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jul 10, 2013 3:52PM
Sad part is I bet some of those artifacts were donated by families who wanted their prized antique in a museum. That's why they didn't sell it themselves.
Jul 10, 2013 3:46PM
Democrats have been in power in Harrisburg since the early 1980's. Are you surprised that they're so far in debt?
Jul 10, 2013 3:14PM
A Wild West museum in PA. I would think to go to Wyoming or Arizona to see a Wild West Museum

Perhaps they should have stuck with a Gettysburg  museum.
Jul 10, 2013 3:59PM
Harrisburg? I thought they were talking about Detroit at first, then Flint, then Buffalo, then Rochester, NY, then Syracuse, NY, then my attention wandered back home, to  Philadelphia. What U.S. city isn't either in bankruptcy or some kind of severe financial distress? Too bad we don't have a U.S. city named "Recovery". Now that would be a real hoot.
Jul 10, 2013 4:03PM
go to show you that one person can destroy a town.
Jul 10, 2013 4:08PM
Hopefully these historical items will be in better hands...
Jul 10, 2013 4:11PM
Capitalism even works for government if they give it a chance.
Jul 10, 2013 4:43PM

This is what democrats do - treat YOUR tax dollars like THEIR personal slush fund.

Jul 10, 2013 5:17PM
And which party runs Harrisburg?  Which party runs pretty much all bankrupt cities?  Anybody see a connection here?
Jul 10, 2013 4:00PM

Maybe Obummer will send some bacon like he did to Detroit............

Jul 10, 2013 4:28PM

The liberals have every county, city & state in a financial crisis.


We need to get back to being a conservative people.

Jul 10, 2013 4:09PM

Debt adds interest, NO ENTITY in its right mind operates with a loss like that as part of a normal operations. When they do , they are stealing from the maqny( taxpayers )to give that interest money to a select group or orginazation.  Why would we allow that to go on? that adds the compound interest costs to every single thing done and every single day also.


Jul 10, 2013 4:33PM



Can't fix a sinkhole, I bet them property values are in the sinkhole to.

Leave it to politicians, rather than the Cities agenda's they partake in their own Agenda's and the voters suffer the consequences, 28 years are moronic BS, some blind and dumb voters.

Jul 10, 2013 4:53PM
arizona,nevada or new mexico should buy it all and put it in a museum......
Jul 10, 2013 3:46PM
are we sure our esteemed governor was not involved in this mess. maybe he can come up with atax to bail out the city.
Jul 10, 2013 5:42PM
Want to bet that they'll just use this money to hire some MORE dumb, fat-assed bureaucrats?
Jul 10, 2013 4:35PM


There's a old wild west saying, Get Out'a Dodge, ooops guess that's Harrisburg, just doesn't sound right.

Jul 10, 2013 5:23PM
Only a moron would vote for a democrat.
Jul 10, 2013 5:45PM
The sad thing is the mindset of some people, they find enjoyment of blaming one party for the mess nation is in and choose to ignore the failure of their party.  You can tell by their comments that they would vote a bad politician in countless of times....regardless, of whether he/she is helping the nation to prove that they was RIGHT.   And they will always be RIGHT because these types of individuals are never WRONG.  This is why this nation is in SHAMBLES............we have become a nation full of WHINNING BLAMING BLABBLING IDIOTS.
Jul 10, 2013 5:24PM
At least Harrisburg has something to sell. Wonder what Detroit is going to sell?  All the car Mfgs have moved on, and the "Mo Town" tag is old hat. 
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