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HISTORY TRADING CARDS: G-Men & Heroes of the Law, Wild West Picture Cards, Frontier Days

G-Men & Heroes of the Law, 1935-37 (R60a and R60c)

In the afternoon of Sunday, July 22, 1934 at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, 39-year-old Babe Ruth hit the 702nd home run of his career off Ted Lyons as the Yankees beat the White Sox 8-2 in the first game of a doubleheader. The real action in Chicago that day came hours later outside the Biograph Theater where patrons watched Clark Gable play the role of ruthless gangster Blake Gallagher in Manhattan Melodrama. At 10:30 that night, real-life gangster John Dillinger (1903-1939) walked out of the theater with two women for the final moments of his life.

Dillinger and his gang had terrorized the Midwest over a span of 10 months, killing 10, wounding seven others, robbing banks and police weapons arsenals, and pulling off three jail breaks, according to the FBI. Aided by an informant named Anna Sage, whose orange skirt identified her as being with Dillinger, Chicago special agent Melvin Purvis lit a cigar as a signal for his men to close in. Dillinger responded by pulling a pistol and fled toward a nearby alley. Three agents fired five shots, three of which hit Dillinger who was pronounced dead 20 minutes later at Alexian Brothers Hospital. He was 31.

G-Men & Heroes of the Law, 1935-37 (R60a and R60c)

Arthur R. “Doc” Barker (1899-1939) was part of the Bloody Barkers family whose matriarch was the infamous Ma Barker. As a member of the Barker-Karpis gang, he committed robberies, kidnappings, and murder throughout the Midwest during the Depression. Arrested for the first time at age 19 for stealing a car, Barker escaped from prison in 1920 after less than two years. A year later, during a robbery at a hospital construction site, he killed a night watchman and was sentenced to life in prison.

Paroled after 10 years in 1932, Barker rejoined the Barker-Karpis gang which killed three people while robbing a bank in Minneapolis, before Barker killed a policeman during another bank heist. The gang progressed to kidnapping and nabbed a pair of wealthy businessmen, extracting a combined $300,000 in ransom. The criminals were pictured in newspapers so often that Barker and brother Fred hired a doctor to perform plastic surgery. The new look didn’t prevent Barker from being captured in 1935, after which FBI agent Melvin Purvis said: “Only his eyes told the story of an innate savagery.” Barker was given a life sentence at Alcatraz, but his stay lasted just four years before he was killed while trying to escape.

Wild West Picture Cards, 1949 (R701-19)

Almost everything about Jim Bowie (1796-1836) is open to debate, including the origin of his famous Bowie knife. One of several stories suggests he was given a butcher-like hunting knife with which he killed an assailant after being shot twice and stabbed repeatedly. That, folks, is how a legend is born. Bowie was a lot of things in his life, and not all of them were bad. He is described as friendly and generous. He also owned and traded slaves and by most accounts was a drunk. He was a land speculator who briefly became a Mexican citizen, seemingly to buy land.

His final scene came at the Alamo in 1836, along with Davy Crockett and 186 others. General Sam Houston asked the Texans to hold off Mexican General Santa Anna and his 4,000 soldiers to buy his troops time to ready themselves. The invading force overwhelmed the Alamo. A glamorous version has Bowie dying after falling from a platform while trying to position a cannon. In fact, he was deathly ill, confined to his room, possibly with tuberculosis but more likely either yellow fever or alcohol pneumonia. He was found lying on a cot, shot in the head several times.

Wild Man Picture Cards, 1950 (R701-18)

When he was born in 1728, the son of a Scottish farm laborer, there was nothing that suggested all that Captain James Cook would achieve as a British seaman and explorer. He sailed the coast of Canada and led three scientific expeditions that took him to the Antarctic ice fields, the Bering Strait, and New Zealand. “Cook had set new standards of thoroughness in discovery and seamanship, in navigation, cartography, and the care of men at sea, in relations with indigenous peoples both friendly and hostile, and in the application of science at sea,” according to “And he had peacefully changed the map of the world more than any other single man in history.”

The maps he created were so accurate that nearly two centuries later Sir David Attenborough sailed the Great Barrier Reef using a chart that Cook prepared. NASA honored him by naming their final shuttle Endeavour after the ship he commanded on his first circumnavigation of the globe. Cook died at age 50 at Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii after a group of Polynesians stole a small cutter vessel. Cook responded by taking Chief Kalani’ōpu’u-a-Kaiamamao hostage, but the locals beat him with stones and stabbed him, leaving the famed explorer dead.

Frontier Days, 1953 (R701-5)

Leader of the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce tribe, Chief Joseph (1840-1904) refused to give up ancestral land in the Wallowa Valley of northeast Oregon when the U.S. government in 1877 sought to relocate them to Idaho. This led to the Nez Perce War of 1877 in which the U.S. Army chased the band for more than 1,170 miles with several battles along the way. In freezing weather and without food or blankets, Chief Joseph finally surrendered with a famous speech attributed to him ending with, “I will fight no more forever.”

The defeated band was held as prisoners for eight months and then stuck in an Oklahoma reservation for seven years before moving to a reservation in Washington State. However, favorable press coverage of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce made them popularly admired. Twice Chief Joseph met with a U.S. president to unsuccessfully petition for a return of his people to the Wallowa Valley. In 1897, as Buffalo Bill’s guest, Chief Joseph attended the dedication of President Grant’s tomb in New York City and rode with Buffalo Bill in the parade.


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Story text above written by Jeff Faraudo, with the exception of the story on Chief Jospeh, which was written by Jeff Jaech.