Banditti of the Plains

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Title page of 1st edition

Banditti of the Plains is a book written by Asa Shinn Mercer about the Johnson County War in Wyoming, United States.

Publication history[edit]

The title of the book was taken from a now-forgotten Western titled The Banditti of the Range.[citation needed]

It is written from the perspective of Mercer, who had come to Wyoming to edit the North West Live Stock Journal, the official publication of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), which represented the monied interests intent on controlling the cattle industry. As the events of the range wars unfolded, Mercer came to sympathize with the homesteaders and turned against the WSGA. The book reflects his pro-settler view, and is an important document of the events.[citation needed]

The first edition of the book is one of the rarities of western Americana. Immediately after it was printed, the Wyoming cattlemen objected and sued. The court ordered it destroyed. While the books were in the court's custody, a number were stolen and smuggled to Denver and later bound. For many years, the Wyoming Stockgrowers' Association, their sympathizers, and their descendants destroyed every copy they came across. Surviving copies are generally valued at over $USD 5000. The second edition simply disappeared somewhere between Denver, Colorado and Cheyenne, Wyoming and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association was rumored to have hijacked and destroyed the second printing as it was being shipped.[citation needed]

Mercer saw his printing press in Cheyenne burned down; he was harassed, arrested, jailed and had the plates of his book destroyed. His writings were seized in the mails as obscenity; his business was ruined.[citation needed]

Mercer's main views of the Johnson County War were ultimately proved true, and never again did the cattle barons attempt to invade Wyoming.[citation needed]

Thanks to republication in 1954 by the University of Oklahoma Press, with a foreword by William H. Kittrell, the first edition text is now readily available, having appeared in paperback in 1976.[citation needed]

In media[edit]

In "Stick to Your Guns", a November 12, 2012 episode of the reality television series Pawn Stars, a visitor to the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas brought in an 1884 .45 Colt revolver that belonged to Sheriff Fred Coates, which was accompanied by a copy of Banditti of the Plains. The seller pointed out that Page 140 of the book mentions that Coates was one of three men involved in an assault during the Wyoming Range Wars.[1]


  1. ^ "Stick to Your Guns". Pawn Stars. Season 6. November 12, 2012. History.