Pennsylvania town auctions off Wild West oddities

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The city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is bankrupt and is holding a fundraising auction of some neat items from its cabinet of curiosities. Oddly, the items are in the "Wild West" vein even though the city, well, isn't in the west. Apparently, the former mayor Stephen Reed collected the artifacts for an unfinished Wild West museum meant to attract tourists. Of course, Pennsylvania is not a western state, but but still… terrific items! From the BBC News:

From creaking stage coaches to the ghostly skeletons of cacti, there's a bit of everything.

The possessions and photograph of a prostitute from Tombstone, Arizona (above right) are among those up for sale Gloves that may or may not have belonged to Buffalo Bill. A wanted "dead or alive" poster for Jesse James. A horse's hoof, complete with shoe, from the battle of the Little Big Horn. Gorgeous French dueling pistols. A bag full of undertaker's equipment.

And perhaps most bizarre of all: a vampire-killing kit, complete with pistol, stake, mirrors, crosses and a jar of garlic...

The city hopes to recoup some of the public money - estimated at between $8m and $15m - that Mr Reed spent putting it together. But it will barely make a dent in the city's colossal debts.

"Bankrupt Harrisburg holds Wild West auction"


  1. Here in Delaware, we like to say “Thank God for Pennsylvania!”.

    Because by comparison, our politicians are not incompetent, brutal or corrupt.

    Only by comparison, mind you.  We have staggering levels of incompetence and corruption, that only look acceptable when you compare us to the three states on our borders.

    In Pennsylvania, drugged-up supreme court justices and state senators try to run over each other with cars in broad daylight.  It’s hard to beat that.

  2. The article should have provided a link to the auction or an online version of the auction catalog. 

    I live in a town that actually was a bit of Wild West type town and there might have been some of our own history that made it’s way into that collection that someone here might want to buy back for one of our own museums or collections. 

  3. Try taking the train to Harrisburg, if you can. From PHL or Pttsbgh (from Philadelphia you can enjoy the unnecessary roughness of their train employees–so unexpected and surplus to requirements it makes you laugh. There’s also a beautiful water gap. From Pittsburgh, the wonderful Horseshoe Curve!!) As you pull in to Harrisburg you see the cooling towers from Three Mile Island. The biggest surprise of all is H’burg’s train station. Huge, beautiful, gold-plated steam punk. As my mom said, “Nothing is too good for our legislators!” I hope they never sell off that train station.

  4. Back in the 1970s I visited the Pennsylvania state surplus warehouse in Harrisburg where volunteer fire departments, cops and such, could pick up gear for practically nothing. Most of it was military surplus from places like Olmsted Air Force Base (now the Harrisburg Airport) which had shut down. Tons of radios and radar sets, web gear, clothing and the like, but the neatest were these big round, swimming-pool size steel containers that held brand new B-29 engines packed in Cosmoline.

  5. Um, actually PA was the outfitter for many  “Wild West” frontier journeys. Conestoga wagons were built in what is now a Philly suburb and Stetson hats were made in the the city itself.

    Untrue, however, is the rumor that the state motto was once “Gateway to Ohio”.

  6. As a resident of the Capital area I can say that this auction is the least of Harrisburg’s worries.  Between the mess at Penn State, a broken legislature, an even more incompetent and incoherent mayor than His Honor Reed, and the city itself going bankrupt and being taken over by the Commonwealth, this auction seems like the first reasonable and smart thing happening in a while.

    But yeah, the train station is gorgeous, and it is correct that PA was the conduit for people heading West.  It’s not uncommon in other cities and towns throughout Southern PA to see “Western-themed” places because of the history of the Conestoga Wagons going through, etc.  Plus, let’s not forget that PA was the first big oil state.  So suck it Texas.

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