Bullets, Badges, and Bridles

This summer, KHC features daily posts about the speakers and topics in the Humanities catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “Kansas Anti-Horse Thief Societies” by John Burchill.

John Burchill

John Burchill

“Any good calf rope could be used in decorating a tree.”

So went the motto of Kansas’ early anti-horse thief society members. “Kansans viewed the horse thief as worse than a murderer,” says KHC Speakers Bureau scholar John Burchill. “The cattleman/rancher used horses daily. This meant that those who stole horses could expect no mercy, and in cases of organized horse thief gangs, frequent and spontaneous committees could be expected.”

The Civil War, popular sovereignty, frontier vigilantism, and the unique style and power of the Kansas press made Kansas the center of operations for many organized bands of horse thieves. In reaction, independent anti-horse thief societies were formed, with the national Anti-Horse Thief Association was especially strong. Burchill’s presentation explores how these groups were so effective that local law enforcement officials were often the first members to join. The Kansas Bank Commissioner even called for their assistance to help fight bank robberies that also plagued the state.

John Burchill is an author and criminal justice historian who teaches at Kansas Wesleyan University. He is the author of Bullets, Badges, and Bridles: Horse Thieves and the Societies that Pursued Them.

You can attend John Burchill’s “Kansas Anti-Horse Thief Societies” on November 10th in Junction City. You can also bring this or one of the other presentations in the Humanities catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at)kansashumanities.org for more information.