Dressed to Kill: The Guns Used by the Daltons at Coffeyville | HistoryNet MENU

Dressed to Kill: The Guns Used by the Daltons at Coffeyville

3/2/2007 • Wild West

The bungled double bank robbery attempt by the Dalton Gang in the brothers’ old hometown of Coffeyville, Kansas, on October 5, 1892, left eight men dead and four wounded. The saga of that holdup attempt would have been Keystone Kops laughable if it hadn’t turned out so deadly. A controversial legend persists about the Daltons having “duded” themselves up with new clothes, horses, saddles and fancy pistols so that they would look respectable when they robbed two banks at the same time.

I first stumbled on this story-within-a-story in 1991 when I bought Emmett Dalton’s estate, which had gone first to his writing partner Chuck Martin, then to Oceanside, Calif., chief of police Captain Harold Davis, and then to me from Davis’ daughter. Included in Dalton’s personal effects and photos was his U.S. deputy marshal’s badge. Davis had framed the badge and a 1935 photo of Emmett Dalton presenting Martin with the badge and his engraved .44-40-caliber Colt single-action revolver, Serial No. 83073. Also framed was a March 17, 1942, letter from Martin to Davis stating that Emmett’s old colt had been “used in all robberies by the Dalton gang until the day before the Coffeyville Robbery, when the give [five] outlaws used ten brand new .45 Colts.” And Captain Davis had added to Martin’s letter: “In 1888, BOB DALTON was made a deputy by a federal district court to protect the OSAGE INDIANS from outlaws. BOB swore into office as a deputy Marshall [sic] his brother EMMETT. Later they all turned outlaws and EMMETT was the last member of the outlaw gang. CHUCK got the story and the gun, but I got his [Emmett’s] last known deputy marshall’s [sic] Badge.” I was especially intrigued by the claim that the legend of the Dalton Gang’s having bought 10 brand-new .45 Colts for the Coffeyville double bank robbery was true.

A February 1956 True West article by Chuck Martin revealed that in 1950 he had donated Emmett Dalton’s Colt No. 830763 to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, along with a February 6, 1935, statement from Emmett that ended, “This gun was carried by me until the day before the Coffeyville Robbery on Oct. 5th, 1892.” I also learned that the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Los Angeles had an engraved Colt single-action .45-caliber revolver with pearl grips and blued finish, Serial No. 147305, that had belonged to Emmett Dalton. Furthermore, this six-shooter had been one of a pair of Colts that had been taken from the critically wounded Emmett at Coffeyville.

Since I had Emmett Dalton’s badge, another blued .45-caliber engraved Colt revolver that had recently gone through a gun auction was then brought to me for research because it was Serial No. 147306. Further research revealed that the Dalton Defender’s Museum in Coffeyville had the blued, pearl-gripped, engraved Colt Serial No. 147307—one of a pair of guns that had been taken from the body of Bob Dalton after the Coffeyville fight.

According to Colt factory shipping records, all three of these consecutively numbered fancy Colts had been part of a shipment of 15 single-action revolvers—10 of which were identically engraved, with pearl grips and 5 1/2-inch barrels—to an A.E. Williams, in care of Simmons Hardware in St. Louis on August 18, 1892, just a month and a half before the Dalton Gang struck Coffeyville. And there were five gang members—Grat, Bob and Emmett Dalton, Dick Broadwell and Bill Power—participating in that October double bank robbery attempt.

Was the legend true, then? Had gang leader Bob Dalton outfitted the five holdup men with brand-new horses, fancy Mexican saddles, new clothes, new Winchesters and a pair each of fancy engraved Colt .45s with pearl grips? Pairs of fancy, pearl-handled Colts were not exactly standard equipment for bank robbers in those days, if for no other reason than such weapons would have stood out like filet mignons at a fish fry. But, as bizarre as the story sounds, the existence of the three engraved Colts seemed to be pretty strong evidence that the story was true. In his 1963 book The Dalton Gang, Harold Preece’s description of Bob Dalton making a pre-holdup midnight visit to Coffeyville to get some illegal whiskey while “packing a pair of pearl-handled pistols” adds credence to the legend.

Decked out with their new gun rigs, at about 9:45 a.m., Grat, Power and Broadwell robbed the Condon Bank while Bob and Emmett robbed the First National Bank. Some of Coffeyville’s citizens recognized the Daltons before they had even entered the banks. And, like a bad Hollywood movie, some of those townsfolk grabbed weapons and started blasting away into the banks without warning. The ensuing gunfight outside the banks lasted about 12 minutes. Emmett was shot out of the saddle, after ignoring a chance to escape and riding back to get his mortally wounded brother Bob. Dick Broadwell made it out of town, only to drop dead from his wounds about a mile away. City Marshal Charles T. Connelly and citizens Lucius M. Baldwin, Charles Brown and George B. Cubine died in the streets, as did Bob and Grat Dalton and Bill Power. Citizens Thomas G. Ayres, T. Arthur Reynolds and Charles T. Gump were wounded.

A number of Coffeyville citizens immediately began grabbing souvenirs off the dead bodies, so some of the robbers’ guns disappeared. It was later discovered that none of the fancy new Colts that were recovered had been fired, the gang members having used their Winchester rifles instead while trying to escape.

Emmett Dalton beat the odds and survived his wounds. He was sentenced to life in prison but was pardoned on November 4, 1907, so that doctors could save his bullet-damaged right arm. He then moved to Los Angeles and teamed up with Chuck Martin to write his memoirs. Emmett died in L.A. at age 65 on July 13, 1937.

The Emmett Dalton and Bob Dalton Coffeyville Colts were both involved in subsequent legal transactions that left a paper trail of their history. Number 147305 and its mate were taken from the gravely wounded Emmett Dalton by Coffeyville Journal newspaper editor David Stewart Elliott. The editor gave them to older brother Bill Dalton (1866-1894), who had elected not to participate in the Coffeyville raid. Emmett subsequently gave those Colts to his court-appointed attorney, J.R. Fritch. In 1912 Fritch gave or sold No. 147305 to client Michael Sweetman. In 1978 Sweetman’s family sold the guns to gunfighter historian John Bianchi, and the gun went from Bianchi into the Autry Museum collection. There is no record of what happened to Emmett’s other Colt.

Number 147307 was auctioned off in Coffeyville with other Dalton possessions on January 14, 1893, and it sold to a W.H. Clark for $31. Clark sold or gave it to H.W. Read, owner of Read’s Clothing Store and president of the First National Bank. In 1960 the Read family left the Colt on display at the Dalton Defender’s Museum in Coffeyville until 1992, when a Read family member removed it after I apprised him of its historical value. The record of what happened to Bob Dalton’s other Colt (No. 147299) appears in “Sold” on P. 74 of the April 2007 issue of Wild West Magazine.

When Colt collector Bill Gerber bought Colt No. 147306, I turned my research over to him. Gerber discovered that a “property renouncement” signed by Dalton family members on October 15, 1892, for release of the possessions of both Bob and Grat Dalton listed “1 Pr. Six Shooters (Colts)” for each man, with an identical value of $26 for each pair. Thus, these records prove that both Bob and Grat Dalton were wearing a pair of Colts on October 5, 1892. And since Grat’s Colts were appraised at the same value as Bob’s pearl-gripped engraved Colts, it can be assumed that Grat’s Colts were as fancy as Bob’s. There is no record of what happened to either of Grat’s Colts.

Gerber also turned up a 1930 Coffeyville Journal newspaper article that quoted the memoirs of a girl named Ida Gibbs Jones, who said that when Dick Broadwell’s body was brought back to town after the 1892 bank robberies, she was shown “one of the large revolvers taken off Broadwell, all blue steel and engraved with a pearl of ivory handle.” Gerber also found that Broadwell’s death certificate verified that “2 Coals” (Colts) were part of the property found on his body. So Broadwell, too, was carrying a pair of Bob Dalton’s fancy Colts!

We can put eight of the 10 engraved pearl-gripped Colts in the hands of Grat, Bob and Emmett Dalton and Dick Broadwell on the day of the Coffeyville bank robberies. The death certificate of the fifth robber, Bill Power, didn’t list any guns in his personal possessions, so his Colts were probably looted immediately after the shootout.

Who the A.E. Williams mentioned in Colt factory shipping records was is still a mystery. But there is now no doubt that Bob Dalton and his four associates showed up in Coffeyville “dressed to kill.”

California author and collector Lee A. Silva is the author of Wyatt Earp: A Biography of the Legend, Volume 1: The Cowtown Years. This article originally appeared in the October 2001 issue of Wild West magazine. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Wild West magazine today!

26 Responses to Dressed to Kill: The Guns Used by the Daltons at Coffeyville

  1. Bob says:

    I own a pearl handle Colt 45 that was pat. on Sept. 19 1871. How can I find any historical information about the gun. Thanks

  2. Scott Smith says:

    I own a Colt SAA 45 that was sent to Simmons Hardware Co. in St. Louis on May 16, 1896. My Sr # 164888. How can I find historical info about this gun??

  3. Stash says:

    i have one with 4154 on the cylinder and no other visible numbers, except for the pat sept 19 1871. help please!

  4. yomom says:

    this was absolutly no help to me at all what so ever BITCH.

  5. jaeden tatro says:

    put on some pics of the stuff you have storys. thanks for the info

  6. john briggs says:

    i am a direct desendent of both the President Harrison”s. My grandmother was a Harrison. my mothers side was marrie into the Dalton side (emmet Dalton.)
    anyone with info. on a Dalton pistol please respond.

  7. john briggs says:

    any of you guys want to sell anny of your Dalton stuff, i am a desendent of Emmet daltonand would like to recover things that are mine buy rihgt of inheritance.

  8. susan mcgarity says:

    I would like to see a picture of the colt with pearl handles. The colt that we have has pearl handles but it is gold. My madian name is Dalton. Now what desendent it is of I don’t know. But I would like to find out. I also would like to find out what this gun is worth. please forward any info.

  9. sooooooooly says:

    thanks but it didn’t help me at alllllll!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Dan Cron says:

    My grandfather, David Otis Cron was a small child in Coffeeville and caught a bullet in his leg. When I was growing up he used to show me the bullet holes on either side of his leg from where the bullet went through and through. I wonder if there are any record of collateral damage to innocent townspeople shot in the crossfire but not in the fight. I would like to know if David Otis Cron, age 5, was mentioned as being shot during the raid.

  11. Jim says:

    (Johnny Briggs) Pertaining to Emmitt Dalton’s memorabilia. I have something that may be of interest to you. Call me 918-697-2411.

  12. S. Thompson says:

    A close friend of mine has a Winchester Model 1876 lever action rifle that has been handed down to him from his great grandfather, who worked for the coroner at site of the bank robbery. Since he was a small boy, his grandfather and father and uncles told him of his great grandfather getting this rifle at the crime scene and it belonged to one of the robbers. He’s not sure which of the gang members had it. My friend doesn’t have a computer and knows very little about the internet so I am helping him gather information on his great grandfather and also on the attempted robbery and the coroner’s work. We live100 miles or so from Coffeeville and plan on going to the museum this week. He has made mention of perhaps selling the rifle as he has been laid off from his job. I don’t know that he will sell it but it would surely be a rare piece if he does and he can substantiate the rifles history. His father and uncles were honest, hardworking people, not prone to exaggeration and were all completely convinced, as is my friend, of the rifle’s history. If he never sells it, I am certainly enjoying the search and the attempt to verify the original owner. If anyone has information they would be willing to share, it would be appreciated. I can be contacted at sthomp44@hotmail.com

  13. Albert gonzales says:

    Well,i did not know that a gun can go a long ways,good info.,and its good reading ,i enjoy it,and any thing that have to do with old west,i have a some info. bout Emmett,no sorry, its not a gun,when Emmett came to L.A. he made a movie of his life Dalton Rides again,and like W.Earp,he show them how to make Western movies,movie star like Tom Hart and other cowboys stars that were making a name for them selfs in Western movies,Emmett did good when he got out of prison and went to Hollywood and he live a good life there,you can say he was a Hollywood outlaw star,i mean,just think bout it,he attempt in robbery two Banks at one time in his home town to top that off,he was sentenced to life,but got pardoned and hook up was Chuck Martin to write his memoirs and make a movie bout him self and to pass away at 65 some 70 some thing yrs a go,what gunman do you know? besides the Sun dance kid that pass away in 1955 in prison,and he died in prison,Emmet Dalton live a good life and to live to tell about it,well a gun does go a long ways after all.Albert from Dallas,Texas

    • cindyhamilton says:

      hello albert, I would love to talk to you, I am emmetts great granddaughter, on my dads side, my gramma was his daughter, she also came to Canada to settle down, I need to know more about him I have so many questions, he has been kept a family secret because they came to Canada to escape the shame, and I am just finding out, my gramma passed away years ago, please contact me, ty

      • Carol says:

        My family is also descendent from the Dalton brothers. My Great grandmother’s maiden name was Dalton. She was according to my mom, a cousin. However, my uncle says she was actually a sister. She kept house for them until my Great grandfather rode off with her while they were away on a raid. My great grandfather was an itinerate preacher. He was half Cherokee with the last name of Rogers. They had 10 children. My grandmother said that he would come home long enough to get ggm pregnant then be off again. We have a picture of GGrandmother Elsa Dalton Rogers sitting on the front lawn smoking an indian pipe. She named some of the boys after the Dalton Brothers. One was Emmett. I am interested to find out if she was a sister or in fact a cousin. Does anyone know if they had any sisters?

  14. margaret stinson says:

    I have a solid brass belt buckle that has the dalton gang engraved into the brass. it has a mint # and a patent# does anyone have any information on this item?

  15. daniel sanders says:

    yes i have info on the brass buckle

  16. jerry steinke says:

    hello, several years ago, when i was a kid, my father came across a colt revolver with the name engraved on the back strap of the gun. it was Robert P.Dalton. i do remember that dad called the serial numbers to colt, and found out that it was one of a pair of colts given to bob dalton when he became a marshal in kansas. about six months later a man from i think the kansas museum offered my father a good price for the gun, and told him that the mate to the gun was allready in the museum. my father kept the gun and didn’t sell. after several years, i kind of forgot about the gun, that my father said he would never sell. about ten years ago, my father died and no on ever really found the gun, im not sure if he sold it thru the years, or someone stole it from h im, or maybe he left it somewhere in a sasfe deposite box. does anyone have any info on where this second gun may have ended up. thanks in advance for your help
    \jerry steinke in tennessee

  17. sunger says:

    I enjoyed reading the story, but I’m having some difficulty believing that a bunch of guys who were trying to get into town to rob the bank would be so flashy. Guns then were like cell phones now, everyone had them, and everyone noticed what someone else was carrying. Why would they want to draw attention to themselves like that? I understand confidence, but I don’t understand dumb. They knew the chanches of a successful robbery depended on getting in and out quietly, quickly, and un-noticed.
    I doubt they took flashy guns to rob that bank. They were not dumb.

  18. Dalton Hadwen says:

    As unbelievable as this may be, I may know where to find one of these colts. Perhaps belonging to Grat.

    My great-great Grandmother’s name was Hannah Dalton, and despite what records you might find online, Hannah Dalton didn’t die in Oklahoma in 1879 – in fact, Bill Dalton was quoted to have claimed that all 10 brothers and 5 sisters, minus Frank, had been alive “before yesterday” (as this was taken during an interview the day after the raid in 1892) Hannah was one of the five sisters, proving her to be alive after her supposed “death-date”.

    She rarely ever spoke of her family, but her daughter-in-law and her son, my great grandmother, and grandfather, respectively, passed on the legend of her being sister to the infamous Dalton Brothers.

    My grandfather and his brothers all recall seeing a pearl-handled blued colt and another revolver with a busted handle being put in the wall of their childhood home to keep them out of reach of the children and sight of visitors.

    That house still stands, in Brighton, Ontario, though no longer is property to my family. The guns have not been recovered yet, though I have taken up the cause of attempting to recover them, as I believe they belong to the family.

    Hannah Dalton came to settle in Canada after the events in Kansas. She came North with her aunt to avoid the scorn and reputation her family had made for themselves.

  19. SAUL says:


    Approximate translation from Yahoo Babelfish:

  20. […] 318 times I find it bizarre that Simmons Hardware ordered ten IDENTICAL Colts like the one sold here. But apparently that's what happened and Bob Dalton bought them all and all but one guy died wearing them. I know they were a huge distributor but ten with no variation seems strange. Here's another article, Primer, about there being ten of these. Dressed to Kill: The Guns Used by the Daltons at Coffeyville […]

  21. Loren Johnston Jr says:

    My father Loren Edward Johnston Sr. always told us stories about a gun from the Dalton Gang being in the family possession in a vault in Texas. He was born in Independence , Kansas in 1922. He said a family member picked up the pistol from the street after a bank robbery. Before his death he had his sister or another relative send it to him in El Centro, Ca. He died. My mother kept it. she died and then my step sister Rosa kept it. I just found out many years later that when she died my sister Rosa recieved a visit from another of my father’s family member from Texas stating he wanted the gun to donate it to a museum. I was never informed and I would never have given up possession of that gun. I believe it was rightfully mine. How do I go about tracking it down and reclaiming it? Thank you.
    Loren Edward Johnston Jr.

  22. […] Colt Single Actions were carried by the Dalton Gang members but never fired at Coffeeville: Dressed to Kill: The Guns Used by the Daltons at Coffeyville Some of you have read this, but this article was news to […]

  23. cindyhamilton says:

    hello john briggs I hope to hear from you soon, I too, am related to Emmett Dalton, he is my great grandfather, his daughter, my gramma, was born to a woman not mentioned anywhere that I can find, and gave birth to my gramma when she was 15, she also had another daughter named eva, probably after his sister as they were close in age. he apparently took this family to Canada, where my gramma settled down. she had a son, my dad, who is the spitting image of Emmett, looks like the same guy, I want to know more about this part of my family and meet others who are related to Emmett, a lot was kept secret for many years and I am, just getting info now, I didn’t even know that Emmett was my grammas dad, I just found out that my gramma was a saloon girl for one of her uncles.please call me at 250 378 0842 I live in merritt, bc, Canada, or please leave my your number and I will call you, thank you, cindy

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