Sins of Omission

Fastest Jewish Gun in the West

Frank Gallop’s 1966 spoof recording, “The Ballad of Irving,” left most people laughing heartily.  (“He came from the old Bar Mitzvah spread, / With a 10-gallon yarmulke on his head. / He always followed his mother’s wishes. / Even on the range he used two sets of dishes.”)  What nearly no one knew then and few know now is that there was a real Jewish gunfighter in the Old West, and he ranked considerably higher than the “142nd fastest.”  In researching the Old West over many years I often came upon Jewish merchants, which was no surprise.  There was the shopkeeper and tailor Jacob Davis of Virginia City, who fashioned the blue-denim work pants with copper rivets that Levi Strauss of San Francisco marketed; the tobacconist Adolph Sutro, who built a stamp mill and then dug a tunnel through Mt. Davidson to haul ore from the mines of Virginia City; the peddler Michael Goldwasser, who arrived in Arizona with next to nothing and laid the foundation for what would become the Goldwater chain of department stores; and many others of similar business acumen.  There was also Jim Levy, who traded only in bullets.

Levy began life not in a ghetto in Eastern Europe but in Dublin, Ireland.  In 1850, at the age of eight, he immigrated with his parents to the United States.  He would spend the next ten years in New York before heading west to the mining camps of California.  Levy was not a good...

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