The Man Who Swallowed a Wagon Wheel

Bill Braxten, The Man Who Swallowed a Wagon Wheel

William Whitney Brazelton is well known for his stagecoach holdups and unorthodox choice of armaments. What many don’t know, is that “Brazen Bill” made a brief appearance in Prescott, Arizona as a confidence man.

In 1876, one year before the capitol would be moved back to Prescott from Tucson, Bill arrived in town. It wasn’t long before he made it known that for the price of a coach ticket, he would “swallow a wagon wheel” whole. Brazelton had passed through town before at the head of an “amazing” traveling show, so his claim wasn’t as incredible as it may sound. In addition, Bill was a bit over six feet tall and around two hundred pounds, a huge man for the time. If anyone could eat a wagon wheel, it was “Brazen” Bill.

On the day of the performance (if we can call it that) the house was filled to capacity. The public spectacle of a man who would eat a piece of a wagon was too good to pass up. Bill himself collected the money at the gate, assuring the crowds that his troupe (what the troupe was supposed to help with is unclear) had just arrived. As the impatience of the crowd grew, Bill announced that he would begin his “meal” shortly after some brief preparation back stage.

How long the audience sat in their seats, waiting to see something amazing, is unclear. What is known, is “Brazen” Bill was never seen in Prescott again. Even more amusing is that the crowd, instead of being angry at the loss of such a small amount of money, reportedly had a good laugh and dubbed “Brazen” Bill Brazelton “The Man Who Swallowed a Wagon Wheel”.

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