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The Ray County Museum is proud to announce the arrival of a special collection of Jesse James tintypes and photos to be on display for the next several months.
Museum volunteer Rod Fields contacted Greg Ellison of Rogersville, Mo., after viewing the many pictures and tintypes on his Web site at www.theellisoncollection.com
Ellison has been studying photographs for 20 years and has many in his own collection. He purchased the Jesse James’ photographs and tintypes from a man in Macon, Mo. The photos and letters in the purchase dated from 1880-1915.
“One of the tintypes had ‘the James Gang’ on the back of it,” said Ellison. “I bought the single tintype and was also sent more photos and some letters to consider. Seeing that many of the letters had the name ‘Poor’ in them, I contacted him to purchase the remaining photographs, tintypes and letters.”
Ellison said Jesse’s great-grandfather was Abraham Poor from Andover, Mass.
After much study, he then sent them to Phillip Steele for further verification. Steele served over 40 years at the Jesse James Farm and provided many insights concerning verification of letters, documents, photographs and tintypes.
“I emailed the photographs and tintypes to Steele and he studied them for three to four months, then he contacted me to bring the real ones down,” Ellison said. “I did, and it took two days of examining them.” Ellison received an authentication letter from Steele in July 2007.
“I believe that the Phillip W. Steele collection combined with the Ellison collection represents the most complete known James collection,” wrote Steele in the verification letter.
The photographs and tintypes currently on display at the museum are just a part of the large collection. Ellison said he had around 50 James’ family photos, as well as some of the gang and one of General Joseph Shelby of Ray County.
Photo: Greg Ellison and his wife Michele install a wood case that will hold family pictures of Jesse James and his gang. (Photo by Brenda Jensen/The Daily News)