Tag Archives: Frank

John W. Mimms Jr. Daguerreotype – Now on the Market

Leonard Hall is the owner of a daguerreotype appearing to be that of John W. Mimms, Jr. Hall wants to put his image on the market and make it available for acquisition.

case and daguerreotype of John W. Mimms Jr.
Daguerreotype presumed to be of John W. Mimms Jr.

There’s a hitch, though. Mr. Hall’s preferred customer is a member of the Jesse James family or its related families. His backup choice is an historical institution that would make the image available to the public, or a collector of Jesse James-related or Western memorabilia.

Who is John W. Mimms Jr.?

John W. Mimms Jr. is the son of John Wilson Mimms Sr. and Mary James, making Junior a descendant of the James family, also. Mary James is the daughter of John M. James and Mary “Polly” Poor, grandparents of Frank and Jesse James, making Mary James and John Wilson Mimms Sr.  an aunt and uncle of the James brothers, and making John W. Mimms Jr. their first cousin.

John Wilson Mimms Jr daguerreotype
Daguerreotype of John W. Mimms Jr.

When John M. James and Mary “Polly” Poor died between 1826 and 1827 within months of one another, the couple left behind nine orphan children, ranging in age from a few months to Mary, who was the eldest at age seventeen. Among the orphan clan was Robert Sallee James, the father of Frank and Jesse James.

Mary’s uncle is Drury Woodson Poor from her Poor ancestry on her mother’s side. He became the executor of the estate of John M. James. Within weeks, D. W. Poor immediately became guardian to Mary and her siblings.

An immediate problem arose to confront Drury Woodson Poor. He had nine children of his own. Now, he was given charge of eight more. Besides,  he had just launched his career as a Kentucky legislator and state representative from Logan County. Poor had the confidence of his community. Known as the “Lion of Whippoorwill Creek,” Poor had served Logan County as its sheriff before his election. His judgement was respected. Poor’s resolution to his problem was to marry off Mary James, the eldest orphan, to John Wilson Mimms Sr.

case cover
Exterior of the daguerreotype case

For almost thirty years thereafter, John Wilson and Mary James Mimms operated a tobacco farm in Adairville in Logan County, Kentucky. After being ordained in the Missionary Baptist Church as a Methodist minister, Rev. Mimms removed his family from Kentucky in 1856 to join Mary’s brother Thomas Martin James in Missouri.

For the benefit of the orphan clan, D. W. Poor purchased the family Bible of John M. James and Mary “Polly” Poor and gave it to Mary James-Mimms. Before the Bible burned in a storage room fire, its’ genealogy entries were copied into the family Bible of Robert William Mimms. Ultimately this Bible was passed down to Ruth Ethyl Waers, a granddaughter of Robert William Mimms.  Ruth married Col. Harold Burton Gibson. The Bible is presumed to have stayed in the Gibson family.

History knows little about the life of John W. Mimms Jr. other than he was born in Logan County, Kentucky on July 14, 1831. He married Cornelia Dobbins on Dec. 22, 1859, in the company of his siblings Robert William and Lucy Frances Mimms. Then he died shortly after that in February of 1863.

The Mimms Daguerreotype Cannot be Authenticated

Since no photographic images exist of the closest family of John W. Mimms Jr., no forensic analysis can determine if the picture of him is scientifically authentic. The earliest known images of these James-Mimms descendants occurs among their grandchildren.

Also, since no authentic documents exist to show comparison evidence of the image or of the handwriting of John W. Mimms, Jr. to the signature in the daguerreotype case, the handwriting cannot be ascertained as authentic, either. Forensic analysis, however, should be able to verify the paper stock and ink as being in the period, or not.

Some evidence of ownership or subject identification of “John W. Mimms Jr.” can be found in the inscription “H_ _per, Kentucky.” These two identifiers appear written on the case interior underneath the daguerreotype. The written name and location must be taken at face value.

John W. Mimms Jr signature inside
Inscription – “John W. Mimms Jr. H __per, Kentucky”

What can be authenticated in this artifact, in fact, is the town in Kentucky that is inscribed in the case, despite the evident appearance of puncture damage to the town’s name. The town is Hesper, Kentucky. This fact is little known except to historians of the Jesse James family and the James Preservation Trust. The identification is found in a letter from Lutie Mimms to Joan Malley-Beamis. Lutie identifies J. W. Mimms Jr. as a “merchant in Hesper, Ky.” Lutie is the granddaughter of John Wilson Mimms Sr. and Mary James-Mimms. Joan Beamis is a great-granddaughter of Drury Woodson James, an uncle of Frank and Jesse James.. Beamis also is the author of Background of a Bandit, the first genealogy of the Jesse James family by the Kentucky Historical Society.

Provenance of the Daguerreotype

In his original query to Stray Leaves about his daguerreotype,  Leonard Hall attested to the following provenance.

“I was in Martha’s Vineyard this summer (where the Presidents hang out for vacation) and Island off Cape Cod…..and I am an ex~photographer and picker….I was at a flea market that I normally visit and saw this at an Antique vendors table…I bought it as he seemed to realize it had some connection but said he had if for a few years and wanted to sell it as he dealt in high-end jewelry…..he said he got it in Miami where he summers…..that’s the origin as far as I’m concerned…”

Image Comparisons

In this circumstance, an authenticity rests in the eye of the beholder.

case back inside
Rear interior of case manufactured by Littlefield, Parsons, & Co.

Regarding the case, it is a widely and well-known fact that Littlefield, Parsons, & Co. made photographic casings of this type in a variety of sizes, covers, similar fabric and imprints. The company’s casings were available throughout the nation, both North and South. Similar cases are known to host photographic images of Civil War partisans from both sides.

While it is assumed the identification of the company, paper, ink, and other related materials are authentic, only a formal scientific forensic analysis can ascertain definitively. The costs of such analysis well could exceed the cost of acquiring the image.

What is left to assess is a comparison between the  daguerreotype and known Mimms family images. While the physical characteristics of the Mimms are not known to be catalogued, a catalogue of physical characteristics of the James does exist. After all, the subject  image of the daguerreotype and the following photographic images of related Mimms family members are all descendants of the James family, too. These Mimms display identifiable James family physical features.

Multiple images exist of Zerelda Amanda “Zee” Mimms a younger sister of John W. Mimms Jr. Zee Mimms also is the wife of Jesse Woodson James. Sarah Ann, or Sallie Mimms, was born after Zee. Drury Lilburn Mimms was born before Zee and Sallie and immediately following John W. Mimms Jr.

John W Mimms Jr-siblings Zerelda Amanada-Sarah Ann-John Robert Lilburn Mimms 600x
Siblings Zee Mimms-James, Sallie Mimms, Drury Lilbrun Mimms

From generations that follow the Mimms siblings, Maj. Gen. Harold B. Gibson Jr. is the son of Ruth Ethel Waers-Gibson who inherited the Mimms Bible. Lutie Mimms, whose full name is Lucille Ethel Mimms-Gray, is a daughter of the eldest and firstborn of the Mimms siblings, Robert William Mimms.

Harold B Gibson-Lutie Mimms-John W Mimms Jr
Mimms descendants Maj. Gen. Haorld B. Gibson Jr., Lucille Ehtyl “Lutie” Mimms, and the image subject John William Mimms, Jr.

Does the daguerreotype of John W. Mimms Jr. resemble images of the Mimms siblings and family?

Interested in Acquisition? 

Email me at ericjames@ericjames.org and express your family or social affiliation with the James family. I’ll be happy to refer you directly to Leonard Hall.

UPDATE: July 21, 2016

Daguerreotype of John W. Mimms Jr. SOLD

Cowans gets the kinship wrong. However, citing the research of Eric F. James of Stray Leaves, Cowans concludes a sale of a legitimate Jesse James family artifact.



AUCTION ALERT – Fake Frank & Jesse James Image

The claimed authenticity of an auction item today can fall under very critical, and perhaps more professional, analysis. Technology itself and the internet, now truly being worldwide, have brought a host of analytical skills to bear. A fake image is easier than ever to assess. No longer can a claim be made that an item is what it’s claimed to be. Of course, a claim can still be made, but people of serious intent want to know the underlying facts for the claim – particularly if you expect to reap a windfall of $40,000 to $60,000 for a simple photographic image.

fake image of Frank and Jesse James

To help a prospective purchaser believe in the claim of the auction house, auctioneer Josh Levine has posted the following two videos. The videos are vaguely reminiscent of the old familiar con game of a pea placed under three cups. The videos are intended, not to give any substantive information, but instead to trick the eye.

If the image is authentic as its owner and auction house claim and is, in fact, worth as much money as they expect someone to pay, it would seem the wise course of action would have been to spend $5,000 to subject the image to formal forensic analysis, and give the forensic report as evidence of authenticity. As it is, prospective bidders are expected to bring only lots of cash and lots of ignorance.

In my estimation, the auction image is not what it’s claimed to be.

I see nothing in this image, or in the countless images from the James family files, that resembles these two people, or that produces a physical similarity with Frank & Jesse James, or any other member of their family.

Jesse James in his youth
Jesse James at age 14

Without executing any mathematical analysis of the images, or going further into sub-strata flesh analysis, or anything more, a simple comparison test should have sufficed.

The auction house claims its image for auction was taken before Frank entered Confederate service, placing Jesse at about age 15. The image of Jesse that should have been employed for comparison should have been the image of Jesse at age 14. It doesn’t take an expert then to perceive the difference between the authentic image and the fake one. Instead, what the auction house has done is to compare one fake image of Jesse James to another fake image of Jesse James. That, if purposeful, would amount to fraud.

UPDATE: July 31, 2014
Gay Mathis reports this image sold at auction for $12,000.

The Lost Cause: The Trials of Frank and Jesse James

BOOK REVIEW: Muehlberger, James P. The Lost Cause: The Trials of Frank and Jesse James (Westholme Publishing, LLC, 2013) 255 pp. index, timeline, bibliography, end notes, some photos, illustrations, and maps, hardcover $18.96.

By Nancy B. Samuelson

The author begins the book with a Prolog where he expounds on the “myth of The Lost Cause.” He seems to believe that the only cause of the Civil War was slavery. There were a number of other causes and many of them had to do with economics.

The Lost Cause, the Trials of Frank and Jesse James

One of the main themes of the book is the Gallatin, Missouri bank robbery. He makes a fair case that this may have been a planned assassination and not a bank robbery at all. Jesse James and maybe Jim Anderson set out to kill Major Samuel Cox who killed Bloody Bill Anderson during the war. However, Captain John Sheets, who looked much like Cox, was killed instead. The author does not believe Frank was involved in this event at all.

The author makes much of the suit that was filed against the James boys after the Gallatin affair. The attorney who filed the suit was Henry Clay McDougal. He represented Daniel Smoote, whose horse had been taken by the fleeing gunmen. Smoote won the suit and as settlement was awarded the horse that had been left behind the by the supposed Frank and Jesse James. The author relies on McDougal’s book, Recollections: 1844-1909, for much of what he says about the suit and the aftermath. Throughout the book McDougal is on a real ego trip and much of what he says is open to question. McDougal says he was working with Samuel Hardwicke, a Clay County attorney, and the Pinkerton Detective Agency as early as 1869. However, all the evidence that this reviewer has been able to locate shows that the Pinkertons did not become involved in trying to catch the James boys until after the Corydon, Iowa bank robbery in 1871. Further, Samuel Hardwicke did not begin to work with the Pinkertons until the spring of 1874. McDougal claimed that Jesse James tried to kill him twice because of his involvement in the law suit. This claim is not supported by any other evidence that this reviewer has been able to find. We have only McDougal’s word for this.

James P. Muehlberger

There are any number of inaccuracies in the book. Several names are incorrect. Union General James Blunt is identified as Jones Blunt. Sheriff James Timberlake is identified as Henry Timberlake. One of Frank James’ key attorneys during his trial at Gallatin in 1883 is first identified as John F. Philips then suddenly he becomes Thomas Philips. The author says Susan James and Allen Parmer married in Kentucky instead of in Clay County, Missouri. Archie Samuel’s age is given as thirteen when the Pinkertons bombed the James-Samuel home in 1875. He was actually not yet nine years old when he was killed. Zerelda Samuel’s age is given as fifty-five at the time of Frank’s trial when she was really fifty-eight. The date of Frank James’ surrender to Missouri Governor Crittenden is stated as October 5th 1881 instead of 1882.

There are also a number of omissions that seem odd. For example, the hanging of Dr. Samuel by Union troops is discussed but the severe beating the same troops gave Jesse James is not mentioned. One of the key attorneys in Frank James’ trial in Alabama is never mentioned either. He was Robert W. Walker, a graduate of Princeton and Columbia University Law School and a former member of the Alabama Supreme Court.

In summary, this book adds little to the knowledge of the James-Younger gang and it contains a lot of misinformation.

What is your favorite story about the James family?

A reader of my book has asked, “What is your favorite story about the James family?” I answered as follows:

Lillith Snyder & Daniel Lewis James

I have countless favorite stories, including many more that don’t appear in this first volume of Jesse James Soul Liberty, and others yet to appear in the future volumes.

From this first volume, however, I think my favorite would be the story of Daniel Lewis James Jr. It’s my favorite because Dan’s story synthesizes both the fundamental character and personality shared among the James family . Dan typifies the James family’s bent for social integration, progress, equality, and personal liberty, combined with pro-active championing that is intent on bringing about social change. Dan’s story also demonstrates that no matter how good the intentions of a James family member may be, social persecution will follow.

Based on Dan’s chapter in my book, a play by an award-winning Hispanic playwright, Carlos Murillo, was commissioned By Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater, and a production now waits. Also, a book now is being written about him by one of Dan’s former Hispanic protégé. I’ve even had calls from a Hollywood production company about doing a television series about Dan’s life.

My next volume will show how this shared character among the James family showed itself in Frank & Jesse’s grandfather, John M. James, in the period between the American Revolution and leading up to the establishment of the U.S. banking system. The anti-bank sentiment of Frank & Jesse James did not just magically appear to national effect. It was born in the genes of the outlaw brothers.