The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Charles A. Siringo. By Orlan Sawey. (Boston: Twayne Publishers,
1981. Pp. 161. Preface, chronology, notes and references, bibli-
ography, index. $13.50.)
He was born on Matagorda Peninsula five years before the out-
break of the Civil War. In his nearly seventy-four years of life he was
first and always a cowboy; for twenty-two years he was a detective for
the Pinkerton National Detective Agency; and he was a writer. The
man was Charles A. Siringo, and few other individuals who lived
action-filled lives were as possessed by the autobiographical urge. His
desire to relate his life's experiences in print was fully manifested in
four books and partially in two others.
Although Charles A. Siringo is not the first biographical essay to
appear, it is by far the most extensive and complete study that has
been done. Sawey has told Siringo's life story, based on the cowboy
detective's own writings as well as the published accounts of others.
In addition, he has utilized a certain amount of archival material,
including the important Houghton Mifflin records at Harvard Uni-
versity. Siringo's early life and development as a cowboy is put in
perspective by the author's use of collateral material relating to the
open range. He traces his years with the Pinkerton Agency, analyzing
along the way Siringo's attitude and commentary on the social and
political institutions linked with his work. What emerges is the por-
trait of a man who was simplistic and yet shrewd in his perception
of human nature. Although Siringo did not like the unethical prac-
tices he found within the agency, and was appalled by the moral cor-
ruption it sanctioned, his own commitment to the orthodoxy of the
times enabled him to ignore these inequities while pursuing his career
as a detective. Throughout the narrative, Siringo remains a fascinating
and yet somehow lonely figure, a nineteenth-century man carried along
in time through the first quarter of the twentieth century.
Unfortunately, the book only touches on the Santa Fe and Holly-
wood years that culminated in his death. Living in Los Angeles on
the threshold of poverty, remembered and befriended by only a few
with windows still open to the past, Siringo had become an anach-
ronism within his own lifetime. The discussion of his final battle
with the Pinkertons and the inclusion of excerpts from the reviews
given Riata and Spurs, along with the author's own critical evaluation,
are extremely interesting and valuable. Notes and references for each
chapter are included at the end of the text, and these are reinforced
by a selected bibliography. Orlan Sawey's Charles A. Siringo is an

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/. Accessed December 20, 2014.