Taking the Law in their own Hands

Anti-Horse Thief Association Upholding Law True West Magazine
Anti-Horse Thief Association badge.

The Anti-Horse Thief Association (AHTA) helped combat crime in many U.S. states and territories, mostly in the 19th Century.  They were not a vigilance committee—at least in terms of hanging criminals.  But they apprehended an untold number of bad guys, not all of them mere horse thieves.

By 1906, the national organization had about 30,000 members, most of them in the Midwest and Plains.  It gained support from banks, manufacturers and other business entities that were interested in maintaining law and order.  Some vestiges of the AHTA still exist today as a social/fraternal organization.

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