Men of No Reputation by Kimberly Harper

University of Arkansas Press

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Men of No Reputation: Robert Boatright, the Buckfoot Gang, and the Fleecing of Middle America by Kimberly Harper

Men of No Reputation is the first account to explore the life of Robert Boatright, one of Middle America’s most gifted, but forgotten, confidence men. Boatright’s story provides a rare window into the secret world of Missouri’s criminal past, which influenced the methods of confidence men across the country.

Boatright took the preexisting big-store confidence scheme and perfected it. With the assistance of a talented coterie of confederates known as the Buckfoot Gang, this “dean of modern confidence men” fleeced the gentry of the Midwest on fixed athletic contests in the turn-of-the-century Ozarks. Working in concert with a local bank and an influential Democratic boss, Boatright seemed untouchable. A series of missteps, however, led to a string of court cases across the country that brought his criminal enterprise to an end. And yet, the con continued. Boatright’s successor, John C. Mabray, and his cronies, many of whom had been in the Buckfoot Gang, preyed upon victims across North America in one of the largest Midwestern criminal syndicates in history before they were brought to heel. Like the works of Sinclair Lewis, Boatright’s story exposes a rift in the wholesome Midwestern stereotype and furthers our understanding of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American society.

About the Author

Kimberly Harper earned a master’s degree in history from the University of Arkansas. She received the Missouri Humanities Council’s Distinguished Achievement in Literature (Non-Fiction) Award for her book White Man’s Heaven: The Lynching and Expulsion of Blacks in the Southern Ozarks, 1894–1909.

Product Specifications

Published by University of Arkansas Press, 2024. Hardback, 304 pages.