Historically interesting pubs

1876: Dead man’s hand – Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon, Deadwood

Wild-Bill-HickokThe town of Deadwood in Dakota Territory was about as dead-on an archetype for a Wild West town as one could wish for.

Its founding was the basis for a particularly excellent HBO series some years back, cruelly cut short in its prime – which was somewhat appropriate given some of the things that went on there.

A gold rush town, the early days of Deadwood are dominated by competing saloon and brothel keepers, prospectors, shootouts, the threat of Indian attack and lack of any visible law enforcement presence.

It was also the place where one of the west’s great legends got shot.

An incorrigible gambler and quick shooter, Wild Bill Hickok (pictured) arrived in Deadwood in July 1876 and despite a vague idea to do some gold prospecting in the surrounding hills, quickly took to playing poker at Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon.

On 1 August he beat a player called Jack McCall but returned some of the money and advised him to buy something to eat with it.

McCall, apparently drunk, may have taken this as an insult and the next day returned to the saloon where Hickok was now a regular and, at point blank range, shot Hickok through the back of the head.

Famously, Hickok had his back to the door which was unusual. He always liked to sit with his back to a wall to prevent any potential enemies from sneaking up behind him, which, ultimately, proved to be the case. The four cards he was holding, black aces and eights, has become known as the “dead man’s hand”.

McCall was originally acquitted of the murder but went around bragging about it including in places such as neighbouring Wyoming where the rule of law had greater reach. Authorities there ruled that as Deadwood had no constitutional courts it had no right to acquit McCall. he was tried again and hanged in March 1877.

The old bar building still exists on Deadwood’s Lower Main Street and has served as both a bar and clothing store over the years and is now an antiques and souvenir shop.

2 Responses to “Historically interesting pubs”

  1. Philip Johnson says:

    Nell Gwynn cumly? How very revealing, Dictionary or decent sub-editor required.

  2. jenna says:

    It was the other way around. Rosalind Franklin first showed the X-ray experiment. Then Watson and Crick get “inspired” to postulate the double helix. #womeninscience…

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