Trees used in lynchings photographed





The initial research for my book Lynching in the West: 1850-1935 grew out of an interdisciplinary approach in which I sought to pair historical case records with the analysis of photographic and historic images. In addition to tracking down historic photographs, drawings, and prints, I began looking for any kind of official documentation that I could find: an announcement in a newspaper, published leaflets, or first-person narratives which could be confirmed in multiple sources.

In California, there is only one historical marker. It is located in Placerville, or "Hangtown," as it has long been known. The sign marks a spot that is just yards from where one of California's most infamous hang trees stood. The marker is in front of Hangman's Tree Bar, and inside, next to the jukebox, a small papier-mâché tree branch spouts from the wall and is said to mark the site of the original tree. As recently as 2005, a mannequin was tethered to the building with a hangman's noose and dangled above the bar's entrance. According to the bartender, this Western-clad creation must be relynched each year due to the bleaching effects of the sun. ...

The historical record clearly indicates that while telephone poles, bridges, corral gates, and, in at least one case, a wagon could be used to hang a person, the method of choice for lynch mobs and vigilantes usually involved throwing a piece of rope over a low-hanging branch of one of California's many native oak species....


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