Who really was Black Bart? While he was a notorious nineteenth-century bandit known for robbing stagecoaches in gold rush California and Oregon, Black Bart’s true identity is still cloaked in mystery. After being jailed in 1883 as Charles Edward Boles, his picture appeared in all the papers—yet hundreds of miners and old neighbors and friends would keep a secret: that the man in the papers was actually Alvy Boles.
In History in Plain Sight: Joaquin Miller, Ambrose Bierce, and the Real Black Bart, author and historian Margaret Guilford-Kardell investigates the true identity of the man known as Black Bart, and she draws from Harry L. Wells’s History of Siskiyou County, California (1881) and other historical documents, newspaper articles, and letters to explore the fascinating connection between the real Black Bart and poet-novelist Joaquin Miller—two of the most colorful but misunderstood figures from California’s gold rush days.
“Call me what you will,” said a defiant Black Bart upon his arrest. Yet while he was called C. E. Boles or Charles Bolton by the authorities, a story of reputation, competing journalism, and family will show how the real Black Bart was none other than Alvy Boles.