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This Tombstone note is to die for

T. R. Brandt, whose vanity signature as cashier graces this wonderful Arizona territorial note, was not the type of man to hand over the bank’s till to a two-bit gun-toting robber in 1917.

T. R. Brandt, whose vanity signature as cashier graces this wonderful Arizona territorial note, was not the type of man to hand over the bank’s till to a two-bit gun-toting robber in 1917.

By Peter Huntoon

The Tombstone, Arizona Territory, note illustrated here has absolutely everything going for it.

The town name itself is a knockout. Not only is the town name evocative, it conjures up the mythical Wild West immortalized in the shoot out at the OK Corral in 1881 between outlaw cowboys Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury and opposing lawmen Virgil Earp and his brothers Wyatt and Morgan Earp, aided by Doc Holliday. The territory label on the note lofts it to the stratosphere because it certifies that the note originated on the frontier. Only 19 Arizona banks operated during the territorial era.

The First National Bank of Tombstone had a circulation of $6,500, just $250 above the minimum allowed by law, when this note was issued in 1912. The bank had been chartered in 1902, with M.D. Schribner, as president, and T.R. Brandt, cashier. C.L. Cummings had assumed the presidency in 1906.

Notice that both Cummings and Brandt penned signed this note. Brandt was the operating officer and was assisted by his son Bradford. The bank was situated on the east side of Fifth Street between Allan and Fremont streets. The streets were dirt.

Observe Brandt’s flamboyant signature. Obviously here was a confident self-possessed individual, the epitome of the stereotypical rugged western man we project to have populated such a dusty, sun-drenched berg at the nether reaches of civilization.

The Tombstone silver boom already was history, so although the local economy was still partially rooted in silver production, ranching fleshed it out. Business at the bank had to be slow. The town was in decline.

Brandt’s son Bradford left for the post office to get the mail, so Brandt was alone tending the bank during the noon hour of Nov. 2, 1917, a Friday. Fred H. Koch, seeing his opportunity, strode into the bank, pulled an automatic 30-40 revolver and demanded the cash. Brandt quickly reached for the bank’s shotgun instead of the till. The startled Koch shot him below the heart and fled.

People in the post office upon hearing the shot rushed out in time to see the bandit, gun in hand, run north up Fifth Street toward the road to Gleeson, which was 13 miles to the east. Several men took up the chase. They met chief deputy Guy C. Welch, who was in the company of immigration inspector Jeff Milton and pointed the way toward Koch, who was now out of sight over a hill.

Welch and Milton jumped into Milton’s Ford and raced after Koch. They overtook him on the Gleeson road about two miles from town, whereupon Koch cut from the road into the open but cactus shrouded hills. Several shots enticed him to surrender.

Cashier Brandt succumbed Dec. 10.

Yes, a note to die for.


Tombstone Daily Prospector, Nov. 2, 1917, Daring attempt to rob bank: p. 1.

Tombstone Daily Prospector, Dec. 11, 1917, T. R. Brandt passes away at El Paso after a brave fight for life against assassin’s bullet: p. 1.


This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter.
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