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Guys of the Golden West

During the first half of the second-to-last decade of the 19th century, three young gentlemen traveled from their native region of the northeastern United States to the trans-Mississippi West, still a few years short in those days of the official closing of the American frontier.  Though alike in being Ivy Leaguers, well-born, well-bred, and well-heeled, the three were otherwise dissimilar in background and training, as well as in character and temperament.  The eldest (though only by a year), born at Oyster Bay, New York, and educated at Harvard College, having published an ornithological work and a history of the War of 1812, had already made up his mind on a political career when he entrained for the Dakota Territory in 1883 for health reasons—and in hope of shooting a buffalo “while there were still buffalo left to shoot.”

The second in age was a Philadelphia patrician, descended on his mother’s side from Pierce Butler of South Carolina and Fanny Kemble, the renowned Shakespearean actress, whose aspirations to a career as an operatic composer had resulted in his meeting Richard Wagner at Bayreuth and, in Wagner’s house, Franz Liszt (who, after listening to an original composition by the young man had complimented him on a “talent prononcé”) before his return to Philadelphia to take a job with the Union Safe Deposit Vaults.  A graduate of Harvard (and later...

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