The Heritage Icons line of firearms is inspired by the timelessness of the west we all aspire to. The legends that came to be through acts of heroism, courage, and moral upstanding are poured into the quality engineering and precision shooting of each Heritage gun. But there are some stories born of this time who carved out a place in history as a cautionary tale for all. There’s no denying that we Americans have an astute interest in the outlaws of the wild west, and there are few who carry a name more widespread and memorable than that of Jesse James. He was an ex-confederate criminal, bank robber and notorious gunslinger who garnered a reward for his capture worth a staggering $10,000 in 1881. But his legend is one constructed – often by Jesse himself – of a southern Robin Hood character who was hellbent on helping the people. What is certain, however, is this timeless icon has a story unlike any other.
Born to Fight
Born in 1847 to a hemp farming family in Missouri, Jesse James was seemingly destined to fight his entire life. His older brother Frank was first to join the Civil War for the Confederate army and while Jesse wasn’t old enough, the fight would soon come to him. By 1864 he had taken up his role as a guerilla fighter in the war and it would be these tactics that gave birth to the banditry that he would be known for. By the 1870’s, Jesse James and his gang had began robbing everything from banks to stagecoaches and everything in between. This bolstered his confidence that had taken a hit in the Civil War and spurred him to such extraordinarily violent measures. He even once described himself by saying "we are bold robbers. I am proud of the name, for Alexander the Great was a bold robber, and Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte."
It’s a story that is far from aspirational, and the long-remembered name of Jesse James has been condemned through historical analysis for quite some time due to his actions, but that hasn’t stopped his name from living on in infamy for generations to come. His dastardly deeds and a continued inability to put his life of crime behind him led Jesse James down a road that would eventually earn him a bullet to the back of the head by a member of his own gang named Robert Ford. As a timeless icon, Jesse James can be considered a timeless icon, but there is something more that has helped his legacy live on. An undying appeal to his actions that put the “wild” in the wild west.
A Story for the Ages
Often considered to be one of the best quick draws in the west, Jesse James’ brother Frank was widely considered to be a better shot and there are even preserved targets signed by Frank himself that display his firearm accuracy. Jesse’s gang were notorious hands who could get by on their skills with a six shooter and it helped them to steal over $200,000 in their heyday. But there aren’t many who had the storytelling prowess displayed by Jesse James. It was him who spun the tale of his reputation being akin to Robin Hood despite evidence on the contrary, and it was him who regarded himself alongside the greats of history. This grandiose behavior only gave credence to his exploits in the west, turning him into a figure that was larger than life and destined to be remembered for both good… and bad.
The name of Jesse James has become synonymous in our current culture with the life of an outlaw and someone who is unafraid to break the rules. His place as a timeless icon has found a home across the country as one that we just can’t help but gravitate towards. His recklessness and penchant for flair made him a character who could easily become part of the mythos of the west alongside Wild Bill and a list of others who knew how to handle a six shooter. This legend has carried on through the years, making its way into the American pop culture in films from 1921 silent film Jesse James Under the Black Flag featuring his son Jesse James Jr. in the titular role all the way to the 2007 hit film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford staring Brad Pitt as Jesse James. From dime novels of an era long past to the music and television of today, the legend of Jesse James doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It’s a name that will always live on.
The Timeless Icon
Jesse James is believed to be a wild west Robin Hood with a chip on his shoulder. Though history gives us a more complex picture of this gunslinging outlaw, his place in the coming-of-age story of America is rooted in independence and freedom that only the west could provide. This is the mettle that the Heritage Icons line of firearms is made of. And as far as timeless icons go, Jesse James is as rough and tough as they come, but he could also weave an epic with the best of storytellers. Heritage Manufacturing’s revolvers bring these stories to life like never before, standing the test of time just like the outlaw himself.