Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 50: James B. Hume's El Dorado County Under Sheriff & Sheriff Badges

Auction Date: September 10, 2021

Fabulous Pair of Historic and Beautifully Fashioned, Solid Gold and Enameled Sheriff and Under Sheriff Badges of James B. Hume, California Sheriff, Marshal and Head Detective of Wells Fargo and Company

Estimated Price: $45,000 - $75,000

Fabulous Pair of Historic and Beautifully Fashioned, Solid Gold and Enameled Sheriff and Under Sheriff Badges of James B. Hume, California Sheriff, Marshal and Head Detective of Wells Fargo and Company

Manufacturer: Unknown
Model: NONE
Type: Other
Item Views: 1736
Item Interest: Active
Catalog Page: 52
Class: Other

These badges along with Hume's Henry rifle from the previous lot are shown on El Dorado County's website. In 1850, James Bunyon Hume (1827-1904) came to California with his brother John in search of gold. He started his career as a peace officer when he became a deputy tax collector in El Dorado County in 1860. In 1864, he was appointed the City Marshal of Placerville, California, and also hired as under sheriff of El Dorado County. He fought and killed members of the Confederate Bushwhackers known as the Ingram’s Rangers after they committed the Bullion Bend Robbery on June 30, 1864, and had also killed El Dorado County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Staples in a shootout at the Somerset House. In 1868, Hume was elected as El Dorado County sheriff. He was hired as a private detective by Wells, Fargo & Company in 1871, and worked for the company for the rest of his life with the exception of 11 months leave to serve as the deputy warden of the Nevada State Prison in Carson City after the warden was wounded when 29 inmates escaped. In 1873, Hume was promoted to Chief Special Officer and head detective of Wells, Fargo & Company and tasked with protecting their stages. Stage robberies were all too common despite the company's security measures. He employed state of the art techniques, including keeping an album of photos and detailed descriptions of robbers. The company offered $250 for the arrest and conviction of a robber in addition to 1/4 of the value of any valuables recovered. He became known as “the Sherlock Holmes of the Wild West” and continued to work for Wells Fargo until his death in 1904. By far Hume’s most famous case was his long pursuit of the famous stagecoach bandit Black Bart. During one of his robberies in 1880, Bart asked the stage driver to give James Hume his compliments. In 1882, he completed his 22nd holdup. During his 23rd, he was grazed by a shot fired by George Hackett, the man riding "shotgun." He kept on holding up stages nonetheless. On November 3, 1883, he held up the same stage, on the same route, at the same spot he had first robbed back in 1875. He watched Jimmy Rolleri exit the stage with a Henry rifle and then approached, demanded that stage driver Reason McConnell dismount and unhook the horses and take them over the hill. McConnell circled back and shot twice at Black Bart with Rolleri’s Henry, and Rolleri then took the rifle and hit Black Bart in the hand. Bart nonetheless escaped but left behind his derby hat, opera glasses, a belt, a razor, a bloodstained handkerchief filled with buckshot, three shirt cuffs, and two of the empty flour sacks he had been using to haul away the loot from his holdups. After a complete investigation, Hume noticed the handkerchief had a laundry mark. After over a week of visiting over 100 launderer’s in the area, the handkerchief led Hume and his special detective Harry Morse to Ferguson & Bigg's California Laundry. Launderer Thomas C. Ware identified the mark as for Charles E. Bolton. Ware took Detective Morse to meet Bolton who he had identified as a "semi-wealthy mining man." Ware was led to believe Morse was also a miner and wanted to talk business. Morse brought Bolton back to Hume's office at Wells Fargo for questioning. He had a tell-tale wounded hand but claimed he hurt it in an accident. Hume then brought Captain Appleton Stone of the San Francisco Police Department, and they searched Bolton's rooms. They found clothes that matched the robbery suspect, another handkerchief with the same laundry mark and scent, a letter in the same hand as Black Bart's taunting notes, and a Bible inscribed to Charles E. Boles. The recovered derby hat fit him perfectly. Bolton, now known to be Boles, jokingly offered to buy the hat. He later confessed to the earlier robberies but denied the more recent ones. He was sentenced to 6 years for his final robbery. He admitted to 29 robberies and being Black Bart once in prison at San Quentin. He had been wounded twice but had never fired a shot himself. He said he had never even loaded his shotgun because he didn't want to hurt anyone. He was released on January 21, 1888, and shortly thereafter, "Black Bart disappeared, but he remained a legend”; a Robin Hood of the West. The under sheriff badge is formed as an encircled star and is marked "JAMES B. HUME" at the top of the circle, "Under/Sheriff" on the star, and "El Dorado Co." on the bottom of the circle. It is border engraved and with light branch engraving at the star points. Has a large gold horizontal back-pin. The markings are highlighted by black enamel. The second or “sheriff badge” is of a convex shield shape and has "James B. Hume/SHERIFF/EL DORADO/COUNTY/CAL." on its face. “Sheriff” is engraved and highlighted with black enamel, and the other words are highlighted with blue enamel with additional border engraving and a large vertical back-pin of gold. RIA is very excited to offer these rare and elegant gold sheriffs badges. Identified western lawman badges of this quality are seldom offered for sale and are highly collectible. With their enameled embellishment over solid gold, these are virtually in a class by themselves, and only a few others of such quality and condition exist, with Pat Garret’s gold badge selling for 6 figures several years ago and others that have approached and even exceeded that figure in private sales known within this specialty area of western artifact collecting. Provenance: Greg Martin, Michael Simens, Private Collection

Rating Definition:

Both of the badges are in excellent, untouched condition with very minor wear such as some light scratches. Identified badges of iconic western lawmen rarely come available. These are sure to be excellent to any western collection.

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