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  • John 12:15 pm on August 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: death, old west, outlaws   

    The Public Display of Dead Outlaws in the Old West 

    Bill Brazelton. That mask is just creepy.

    I have not lived a very sheltered life, but it is strange to me thankfully, that I was 18 the first time I saw a dead body (sadly, my grandfather died). Needless to say, that it must have been pretty normal in the Old West for a young person to see a dead body. Black and white photos of outlaws and such, cut from rough bark and hard living, just seem to make this topic that more bizarre and strange. Such is that world, seen from today’s point of view.

    In the lawless days of the American West (and even after sheriffs and judges began to impose more order), it was not uncommon for the bodies of criminals and other evildoers to be displayed publicly after death. Horse thieves, bandits, and murderers were among those who suffered this morbid fate with their executions sometimes public as well. One of the West’s most memorable displays of this kind involved the corpse of stagecoach bandit William “Brazen Bill” Brazelton (left) who — after being ambushed and shot — was returned to town, roped to a chair, and left  exposed to the hot Tucson sun for a day.

    As depicted in countless movie and TV westerns, the desire to humiliate a person who had wronged the community was a major factor behind such acts. The public display was also regarded as a deterrence, a belief dating back to ancient times: “The most crowded roads are chosen,” explained one Roman writer about his society’s crucifixion practices, “where most people can see and be moved by this fear.” That philosophy prevailed in the Wild West, too.

    Ned Christie, unfairly framed for the murder of Deputy Marshal David Maples in 1887.

    One other purpose the practice served was to confirm that the outlaw was dead. As Bill Brazelton sat decomposing in Tucson, several photographers captured his image for posterity — virtual proof of the outlaw’s demise. Not so with Jesse James: after the notorious robber and gunfighter was killed at home in Missouri, a crowd quickly formed to view his body. A photographer snapped a now-famous photo, but despite this evidence Jesse received credit for robberies committed after his death.

    John Wesley Hardin. So mean, that he once shot a man just for snorin’.


    Hell on Wheels Handbook blog. http://blogs.amctv.com/hell-on-wheels/2012/08/season-2-episode-3-handbook.php

    Historic Photos of Outlaws of the Old West. Turner Publishing.

    Biblioklept Blog. http://biblioklept.org/tag/jesse-james/

    • francisco Maduro 5:51 pm on December 19, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Esa morbosidad por la muerte publica reduce al ser humano a niveles mas profundo que el de los animales la muerte no natural es una verdad sin razon, de la incivilización es el producto de la barbarie es la parte mas asquerosa de los seres humanos… asi como las guerras y todo el que se afana en su asco de disfrutar de los escenarios de muerte debe tener algun desequilibrio tan igual al de los militares grupos para la muerte donde los actos de heroismo son los de las victimas y los honores son para los generales lejos del campo de batalla en una guerra que luego la pierden todos


    • calvin thomas 4:27 pm on June 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Just ran across this blog and decided to say that the public acceptance of dead and death lead to a much healthier society in my opinion. Everyone today doesn’t really believe in death cause they see people “Die” on screen then 10 minutes later see them alive again. This leads to lack of real fear of real death and people getting guns and shooting lots of people for the hell of it. Not to say it’s nice to see death but it makes people “grow up” and “mature”.. Some of the worst cases of “lack of judgement” when it comes to health, danger, and heroism can be linked directly to everyone not truly believing that they will die.
      I can speak on this issue some cause at 23, I was stabbed in the heart by my room-mate and had open heart surgery to save my life. Since then, I have spent 45 years watching the world, and watching people and coming to the above conclusions. Everyone is crazy about death in one form or another. Whether its not believing they will die until they are dieing, or killing a bunch of people for fun or carelessness, or procrastinating about the future.. I have seen so many cases of all of these issues and more that I can see, cause I was killed, then brought back to life with the help of a doctor. It’s not fun, it’s not nice it’s not anything that most people unconsciously think.. it’s just everything stops and you don’t think anything. It can happen to anyone, anywhere and we should all celebrate that we are alive and strengthen our resolve to help others, and make ourselves better, stronger, healthier and happier to make the world a better place for everyone… cause these outlaws did that for the people that saw their bodies. That’s the real “good” they did despite the desire to humiliate them in death. If one person decided to live a better life, they at least accomplished that …. after they died.

      Please send me 2 cents please


    • controversialchristian1 3:00 am on March 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Grim!!! In Victorian England, people used to take photos of their children who’d died, sitting on couches fully dressed. In my opinion, they are much creepier than the dead outlaw photos !!!


    • Steve 3:12 am on March 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Sources on the claim that Jesse James was blamed for robberies after his alleged death would be nice.


  • John 10:49 am on August 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: death, photography, post-mordem   

    Post-Mordem Photography, Memento Mori 

    These photographs served less as a reminder of mortality than as a keepsake to remember the deceased. This was especially common with infants and young children; Victorian era childhood mortality rates were extremely high, and a post-mortem photograph might have been the only image of the child the family ever had. The later invention of the carte de visite, which allowed multiple prints to be made from a single negative, meant that copies of the image could be mailed to relatives.

    The practice eventually peaked in popularity around the end of the 19th century and died out as “snapshot” photography became more commonplace, although a few examples of formal memorial portraits were still being produced well into the 20th century.

    The earliest post-mortem photographs are usually close-ups of the face or shots of the full body and rarely include the coffin. The subject is usually depicted so as to seem in a deep sleep, or else arranged to appear more lifelike. Children were often shown in repose on a couch or in a crib, sometimes posed with a favorite toy or other plaything. It was not uncommon to photograph very young children with a family member, most frequently the mother. Adults were more commonly posed in chairs. Flowers were also a common prop in post-mortem photography of all types.

    For most people, they may not have had the chance to get a picture of their loved one while alive. This was their last chance. That is why many images show them looking…well…. alive or in a normal pose:

    She can’t be any more freaked out

    The effect of life was sometimes enhanced by either propping the subject’s eyes open or painting pupils onto the photographic print, and many early images (especially tintypes and ambrotypes) have a rosy tint added to the cheeks of the corpse.

    Later examples show less effort at a lifelike appearance, and often show the subject in a coffin. Some very late examples show the deceased in a coffin with a large group of funeral attendees; this type of photograph was especially popular in Europe and less common in the United States.

    Post-mortem photography is still practiced in some areas of the world, such as Eastern Europe. Photographs, especially depicting persons who were considered to be very holy lying in their coffins are still circulated among faithful Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians.

    A variation of the memorial portrait involves photographing the family with a shrine (usually including a living portrait) dedicated to the deceased.

    How do you do, Ladies?

    As the common practice of post-mortem photography in North America and Western Europe has largely ceased, the portrayal of such images has become increasingly seen as vulgar, sensationalistic and taboo. This is in marked contrast to the beauty and sensitivity perceived in the older tradition, indicating a cultural shift that may reflect wider social discomfort with death. Notably, however, the photographs of a number of contemporary artists imply a dialogue that helps illuminate the intent of the early works.

    Andres Serrano‘s controversial “corpse” series presents morgue photographs of the victims of violent death in the manner of beautified portraits.

    Somewhat similarly, the Mexican tabloid photographer Enrique Metinides—known for his stark and often grisly depictions of life in Mexico City—documents crime scene victims using an unexpected compositionally rich aesthetic that has seen his work exhibited to positive critical response in galleries worldwide. Joel-Peter Witkin does similar work.

    Accident in Mexico. Photo credit: Enrique Metinides

    Irish photographer Maeve Berry finds an aesthetic compromise by capturing the burning embers of bodies within the funeral crematorium.

    Recently Lyn Hagan has produced a series of hand embroidered portraits of the children in Paul Freckers collection. These reflect a fascination in how people react to impermanence and how such photos were “a means of capturing the image of the person in one last futile gesture that denies their loss whilst at the same time admitting it totally”.


    The Seventh Sense blog. http://ken_ashford.typepad.com/blog/2009/08/more-post-mortem-photography.html


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