Little Bits of History

Pearl’s Perils

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 30, 2014
Pearl Hart

Pearl Hart

May 30, 1899: Pearl Hart robs a stagecoach. Pearl Taylor was born around 1871 in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were affluent and provided their daughter with the best education possible. At age 16 Pearl was enrolled at a boarding school where she met Hart (whose first name has been given as Brett, Frank, or William) and who has been described as either a rake, drunkard, or gambler. The couple eloped but Pearl soon learned her new husband was abusive and she left him only to return later. They split and reconciled many times and during their time together produced two children. Pearl shipped them off to her mother who was by then living in Ohio to raise.

In 1893, the Harts attended The Chicago World’s Fair where her husband worked the fair as a midway barker. Pearl became fascinated with the cowboy life while watching Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. After the fair closed, Pearl again left her husband, possibly for a piano player named Dan Bandman, and headed for Trinidad, Colorado. She described her life at this time in very sketchy terms only to say she was drifting around and eventually arrived in Phoenix. She worked as a cook and singer and may have also taken up prostitution to support herself. She was said to have also taken up cigars, liquor, and morphine during this time. She may or may not have run into her husband in Phoenix who may have convinced her to move to Tucson and when her money was gone, returned to his abusive ways.

By early 1898, Pearl was in Mammoth, Arizona and working as a cook and perhaps as a prostitute near a local mine. She received word that her mother was seriously ill and Pearl wanted to return to Ohio but lacked the funds. She and an acquaintance, Joe Boot (probably an alias), tried finding gold in Boot’s mine claim but were not successful. So, they opted instead to rob the Globe to Florence stagecoach while it was about 30 miles outside Globe. Pearl had cut her hair short and scandalously dressed in men’s clothing for the event. She and Boot robbed the passengers in one of the last recorded stagecoach robberies. They took all their money and weapons, but Pearl returned $1 to each passenger before leaving.

They were eventually captured and put on trial where Pearl gave an impassioned speech concerning her ill mother and a burning need to return home. They were found innocent by an overwhelmed jury. They were immediately arrested again on charges of tampering with the US Mail. They were found guilty and Pearl was sentenced to five years. No jails at the time were set up to handle women and she was given special treatment. She was able to receive reporters who were dazzled by the novelty of a woman criminal and received a pardon after two years, possibly due to an embarrassing pregnancy. She had become a celebrity and maintained that status for several years before retiring into obscurity. She died some time after 1932, but no one knows for sure when or where.

The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief. – William Shakespeare

The fear of burglars is not only the fear of being robbed, but also the fear of a sudden and unexpected clutch out of the darkness. – Elias Canetti

As many of the riders before me had been held up and robbed of their packages, mail and money that they carried, for that was the only means of getting mail and money between these points. – Calamity Jane

Now nobody get nervous, you ain’t got nothing to fear. You’re being robbed by the John Dillinger Gang, that’s the best there is! – John Dillinger

Also on this day: Start Your Engines – In 1911 the first Indianapolis 500 is held.
Chinese Democracy – In 1989, the Goddess of Democracy was unveiled
Fan Club – In 1933, Sally Rand danced in Chicago.
Duel – In 1806, Charles Dickenson was killed in a duel.

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