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Were There ever any Old western Bounty Hunters in the Old West that have ever had any of the same persona that Clint Eastwood portrayed in the "Man with No Name" Trilogy spegetti Westerns that were directed by italian film director sergio leoni?...What was Clint's Or Sergio Leoni's Outtake on the Old Western Bounty Hunter?...

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Comment by Buck Grizzly on September 7, 2011 at 4:39am

Bounty hunters are mostly an invention of Hollywood. There were individuals who went after bail jumpers and there were official circulars that went out to different law enforcement agencies, but the "wanted poster", and just any slug off the street picking up a gun and going after wanted criminals is not historically accurate.



If my info is correct most of the individuals who were given this responsibility were already involved in one aspect or another of actual law enforcement already, and most states required as such. Pinkerton’s, US Marshals, and local magistrates/town sheriffs/marshals were normally assigned such duties, and yes they were allowed to cross state lines and/or enter the premises of anyone who was aiding any such criminal on the run, legally, without the need for a warrant etc...

Comment by Unkle Sherman on September 7, 2011 at 6:21am

Bounty Hunters in America have been around since Revolutionary War era catching scofflaws.

They really came into favor before the Civil War as runaway slave chasers..

During the war of Northern Aggression, Slave catchers added, deserted soldiers

from both North and South to to their repertoire..Mostly older fellows unable to enlist

or medical discharged veterans that were part of a "Homeguard" militia. 

After the war some continued chasing miscreants and outlaws..

The History channel did a 2 hour special on "Bounty Hunters", I think they have it for sale.

Comment by Buck Grizzly on September 7, 2011 at 8:18am

Actually the ‘legal’ duties of a bounty hunter goes back to medieval days of England, and their practice of circuit judges (also used in the USA). If someone committed a crime or was suspected of committing a crime, a “surety” could offer their word or a reasonable sum of money for the release of the accused with the agreement that they would show for trial when the judge came through. If the accused didn’t show the “surety” could/would in most cases take the place of the accused and be held for trial and even convicted of the crimes the runner committed.


Unfortunately these runners had a good incentive to escape justice, especially if they were guilty of the charges, but an innocent might be just as inclined to go on the run as well especially if the evidence/facts (not always the truth) made them look guilty. So it was always a big chance to be a private “surety”, which is how public sureties or bail bondmen became a business of legitimacy, and forfeiture of money, the bond posted, became the default rather than holding another person responsible for the crime of another.


Legal bail bondsmen could hire an agent to retrieve a runner within a certain period of time after jumping bail, and get their money back from the courts. The person running would lose any and all money’s given to the bondmen, which in most cases is about 10% of whatever the court determines in necessary. That is a bounty hunter.


Deserters, runaway slaves, etc… were not on bond to appear in court, and were not the objective of the legislation that made bounty hunting legal in medieval England or early America. Private citizens or even the military might offer rewards for information leading to the arrest of criminals or in the slaves case, for the recovery of their owners private property, but that is not the legal definition of what actually created the bounty hunter. Hired guns could and were hired for personal justice, or revenge but had little to nothing to do with the legal system, except possibly on the receiving end.




Wanted posters are a form of Public Notice. We tend to think of public notices as “lost cat” posters these days, but originally they were much more formal documents. Think of the town crier gathering the citizens of the village and reading the proclamation from the King before nailing it to a post for all to read—that’s a public notice. A Public Notice was the law. Wanted Notices are legal contracts, and were almost always issued by a Sheriff or other duly-appointed lawman, whose name and location were printed at the bottom. If you produced the wanted person, the sheriff was legally obliged to give you the reward offered, no questions asked.


BUT, and that’s a big but, wanted posters were mostly intended as circulars, sent to other law enforcement officers in surrounding communities, and were “NOT” often tacked up all over town, as shown in most movies. Rewards were a source of extra income for deputies, marshals etc...



Some wanted posters might be posted prominently at strategic locations, the post office, general store, etc.—in the hopes that a citizen could provide important information about a fugitive, not that they were supposed to actually take the law in their own hands and apprehend a dangerous criminal. Although in some cases there were posters declaring the wanted dead or alive slogan, this wasn’t the norm. It could be considered an open invitation for murder and most law abiding communities, frowned on private citizens taking the law into their own hands, much like they do today.


Then there is the posse. Like in the movies, armed citizens or vigilance committees would apprehend a criminal with the best intensions, but in most cases just a few drinks shy of a lynch mob. Although historically accurate in the old west, it was not the rule in most cases. This is something

Comment by Buck Grizzly on September 7, 2011 at 8:21am



This is something that also came from medieval England and it was called the “hue and cry”, a form of common law. Instead of a reward the town constable or “shereef” would sound a general alarm and any able bodied individual who didn’t come to the call could be fined, and/or jailed themselves. In some cases if the criminal wasn’t captured the the individuals who failed to do their duty or the community itself could be punished by the king. With that bit of an incentive things got a little more than hairy at times, especially with the us VS them scenario at work. This law was made illegal in the early 1800’s in England because of it’s characteristic nature of getting out of hand at times.


A posse of sorts is still used in the USA, mostly for search parties, or search and rescue, situations, but private citizens are not coaxed into confronting or apprehending armed criminals like you see in most movies of the old west.


Although many things that we see in movies are based on actual things/circumstances that did happen, Hollywood does take some creative justice and gloss over some of the factual information they use and delve into a larger than life scenario that borders on fantasy not actual historical correctness or anything that could/would be considered the norm.




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