For 70 years, True West’s editors have been publishing stories about the legendary Missouri outlaws.

In the summer of 1953, True West’s founding editor and publisher Joe A. Small published issue #1, volume 1 of True West. In that first issue, Jesse and Frank James made their first appearance in the magazine. Eugene Pawley’s feature “He Outrobbed Jesse James” compared the career of Jesse and Frank James to little-known outlaw Bill Miner, who supposedly robbed his first stage with a cap and ball pistol in 1859 and robbed his last train 52 years later…with automatic pistols. We just might have to look back at the life and times of Bill Miner again! 

In April 1955, True West published the first Jesse James cover (above) asking readers “IS This, Or Isn’t It, from left to right, Cole and Bob Younger, Frank and Jesse James? See page 5” It’s obviously not them, but no doubt the interest in rare and undiscovered photos of Old West characters is still a hot business. 

Seventy years later, Jesse James is still one an iconic legendary figure in Old West history and a favorite of our editors and readers. So much so, that the editors of
True West believe he is a worthy cover subject in our anniversary year because of Michelle Pollard’s new and revelatory research on the newspaper reports of Dick Liddle’s surrender (p. 11, p. 29) which upends over a century of writing and research on Jesse James’s state of mind on April 3, 1882. We are fortunate to have the most preeminent Jesse James scholar, Mark Lee Gardner, interpreting this new research (p.22). 

Here is a look back at the best of the best Jesse James covers from True West Archives:

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