Wild Bill Hickok: San Francisco Pistol Auction Misfires

He was outgunned. Still is.
There's just no dodging it: In San Francisco, it's damn near impossible to buy a gun.

That's the case even if the gun in question is a pedigreed antique, suitable only for serious collectors or people with a desire to wave a pistol about in an extremely expensive version of the crazy prospector dance.

A firearm once owned -- and fired -- by famed Wild West lawman "Wild" Bill Hickok failed to sell at a San Francisco auction yesterday. The gun Hickok never got to draw when he was gunned down in Deadwood in 1876 didn't move; bidders offered up to $220,000, but that wasn't nearly high enough to scrape the minimum "reserve price" for a piece valued at up to half a million dollars.

Hickok was partaking in a game of poker at the Nuttal & Mann's Saloon in Deadwood, S.D., when he was plugged from behind by Jack "Crooked Nose" McCall. McCall purportedly bellowed "Damn you! Take that!" as he squeezed the trigger.

"Damn you! Take that!" is something auctioneers yesterday did not deign to bellow. And the bidders did not take that.

The weapon has been in possession of the Zymetzke family for more than 40 years. They may put it up for auction once more, call the whole thing off, or accept the stunted offers.

Whatever the case, this pistol is hardly the most controversial Wild West paraphernalia to be displayed in San Francisco. For years, now-deceased bar impresario Henry Africa exhibited the teeth of "Custer's squaw" at Eddie Rickenbacker's. After pressure from Indian groups and even the city's Human Rights Commission, Africa tossed the teeth in the garbage in a fit of pique.

"Now they're buried in San Francisco city dump, and the Indians will be happier, and they can pray over the debris in the city dump out there right now," he told SF Weekly at the time.

This is a fate Hickok's pistol will, all but certainly, not suffer. You can bet your teeth on it.

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Alexander Lucius Prime
Alexander Lucius Prime

I would have bought it if had that much capital for artistic investments at the time but I'm all tied up

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