Black Bart, The PO8 Highwayman


A reading from America’s historic newspapers in the golden age of yellow journalism. 

A True Crime from the Wild West

Until recently, I presumed that Black Bart was a fictional character, like the Lone Ranger or Dudley Do-right, but I was recently set straight on that account and subsequently discovered a story that COULD pass for pretty outlandish romantic Wild West fiction.

Charley Bowles did get the monicker Black Bart from the villain in a dime novel, but I think he used it ironically because it didn’t really fit his gentlemanly style.

He only robbed coaches carrying treasure belonging to the Wells Fargo Company, apparently in revenge for a mining dispute in Nevada.

When he left his doggerel poetry at the scene of the crime, he would sign it “Black Bart PO8” spelling poet with a numeral, text messaging style before the internet, ahead of his time.

Musical direction by Dave Sams


1883 1114 San_Francisco_Chronicle_Wed__Nov_14__1883_ - Copy 1883 1116 San_Francisco_Chronicle_Fri__Nov_16__1883_ 1883 1118 San_Francisco_Chronicle_Sun__Nov_18__1883_ 1883 1120 San_Francisco_Chronicle_Tue__Nov_20__1883_ 1884 0106 San_Francisco_Chronicle_Sun__Jan_6__1884_ 1884 0405 Evening_Star_Sat__Apr_5__1884_ 1888 0122 San_Francisco_Chronicle_Sun__Jan_22__1888_ 1900 0624 The_Inter_Ocean_Sun__Jun_24__1900_ San_Francisco_Chronicle_Wed__Nov_28__1888_ St__Louis_Post_Dispatch_Sun__Dec_9__1888_