• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Post 79: Mythbuster -- Tom Threepersons' Treasury Badge

Updated: Aug 13

Early on in my research about Tom Threepersons, I contacted The Autry Museum about his revolver that had been in JB's collection when the collection was sold to Gene Autry some years before Gene's death. The curator there confirmed the revolver, provided the serial number, I did my thing with that number and one can only say it's plausible that it was Tom's (although it was not shipped to Texas and instead to a distributor in Illinois that would have been a stockist for Sears and its mail order trade) and I set that aside.

The badge that the Museum holds with the revolver, also plausibly could have belonged to Tom -- it has his name on it, after all -- but it is not Tom's Treasury badge. It's a silversmith's interpretation of a Treasury badge and likely from a rough memory of what they looked like.

One article about Tom states that the badge is made from an 1879 silver dollar, which is one of the Morgan dollars, and for that information I have to expect that the backside of the 'badge' looks like this for the author to have that date:

It was not uncommon to make badges from coins although typically for LEOs in the Southwest, a Mexican coin (pretty sure it is and was illegal to deface a US coin). And El Paso being at the border with Mexico, it also helps to know that Mexico has many competent silversmiths; I've purchased silver items in Mexico myself and very reasonably. Silver is relatively cheap and the labor there is cheaper still.

We know this is not Tom's Treasury badge for many reasons. First, as mentioned, it is not a Treasury badge but rather an homage to one. Second, a genuine Treasury badge not only is only similar, but calls out the officer as a Prohibition Agent while the homage badge calls him a Prohibition Officer. Someone's memory was weak. Anyway, this one is Frank Hamer's 1920 Treasury badge of the same era, accompanied by what was called his 'pocket credential':

Then we also have the record of Tom returning both his badge, and his pocket credential, when he left Treasury after 6 months serving alongside the almost-equally famous Doc White of the Texas Rangers. This time period is significant because it is said that Tom and a Texas Ranger joined forces to convince saddler Sam Myres to create the Brill; which is itself incorrect because the Brill holster predated both men's service in Treasury in late 1922:

Back to the badge. Many of us are familiar with the badge from its appearance in a Colt book along with the revolver itself, and a Myres holster that was thought to be Tom's but not even the book it appears it calls it Tom's.

And it isn't: the Museum tells me it is held there as Lone Wolf Gonzaullas' holster and this fits the timeline; Lone Wolf was a Ranger after the 1930 appearance of the holster range from Myres, and Tom was retired from law enforcement since the very last day of 1927; at which point he had even left Texas altogether. He was a man on the run because the real winner of the Calgary Stampede in 1912, who himself was the real Tom Three Persons, had found out about 'our' Tom impersonating him in early 1928.

A better image of the badge appears in an article that appeared much later and confuses the two men. Even the revolver pictured in the article as being Tom's, isn't! That is, it's is very, very, very similar to a second one of his revolvers but it is not the same revolver. How does this happen? A careless author I would say.

While his actual 1909 revolver in .45 LC is this one (the revolver referred to above, with 'custom square front sight post' is the revolver at the Autry; but is a Frontier Six Shooter and in .44-40 not 45):

The homage badge has a hole in it. And into that hole has been (silver soldered?) the head of a woman. Logically the hole was made for the head. Or -- was the hole cut for another reason and the head simply used to fill it? Certainly it does not replicate any feature of the genuine Treasury badges of Tom's era. Well . . . what is known as a holey dollar was used in both Canada and in Australia of all places; with that center called a 'dump' being used to create a second coin from the one. Neither country used an American silver dollar in the process but the existence of these coins, suggests that the removed center had value. Used to pay the silversmith? Fill a tooth? I'm speculating.

So we are entitled to expect that Tom owned the badge, simply because the Museum surely has provenance (except that likely came from JB, who received it from Bob McNellis; and both men were tellers-of-tall-tales) and it does have Tom's name on it. But it is not a genuine Treasury badge.

Other collectors have his 'tin' badge with his name on it for the El Paso Sheriff's Department -- never mind that the officer's names were not ever marked on the badges -- and another has his Customs badge (which I've not ever seen myself). This image is only an example of the badge that was worn on the cap not the shirt:

And his EPSO badge:

And what his EPPD badge would have looked like but with the number 42:


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