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Pawn Shops on The Frontier

by | Wed, May 15, 2024

Pawn shops on the frontier during Arizona’s territorial era have left behind a legacy of tall tales and legends that continue to captivate the imagination. Weaving fact and fiction are stories about pawn shops as hubs of commerce where desperate colorful characters traded their possessions for survival or indulgence.

For more than 150 years pawn shops in Arizona have been silent witnesses to the ebb and flow of history. fortunes. Much like early trading posts, they were the cultural crossroads in many rough and tumble towns and mining camps. Down on their luck miners and cowboys, outlaws and ranchers in need of cash all made use of pawn shops. The items bought, sold and pawned were illustrations for stories of hardship, adventure, and discovery.

Tall Tales

Woven into the colorful history of the American western frontier are tales of rugged individuals who have become the stuff of legend. Larger than life personalities such as Jefferson Davis Milton, subject of an interview with historian Rod Stewart on Coffee With JIm, the podcast from Jim Hinckley’s Amrerica, stand out for the adventurous lives they lived.

Explicit details about the use of pawn shops by character’s such as Milton, Wyatt Earp, or Buffalo Bill Cody are obscured. The passing of time, and building of myth and legend, have blurred lines of fact and fiction.

But the story of a pawned watch and gambling debts figure prominently in the Will Bill Hickock story. This story came to a bloody end when Hickock and Davis Tutt faced off on the dustry streets of Springfield, Missouri.

Pawn Shops On The Frontier

On the western frontier in Arizona, banks could be hard to find. So, for people living on the edge of society, or that straddled the line between legal and illegal, pawnbrokers were often one of the few sources of quick cash. And quick cash could often be the difference between life or death. Or it could be the difference between profiting from an opportunity, or having it pass a person by.

Life in territorial Arizona was a time of rapid expansion and dramatic transition. Pawn shops were just one very important cog in the wheel of an evolving American society on the frontier.

Tall Tales

Tall tales are an integral part of western frontier romanticism. From 19th century dime novels to books by Zane Grey and countless cinematic epics, legends of the wild west and stories have been a wellspring for generations of adventurers.

Perhaps it was based on the story of Wild Bill Hickock’s pawned watch. But in Tombstone, Arizona there is an urban legend about a gambler who fell on hard times and pawned his prized possession. As the story goes, he was never able to recover the watch given to him Doc Holliday. What became of the watch is anyones guess.

Macabre anecdotes and legends mirror the hardships of life in territorial Arizona. And so it is no suprise to hear the tale of dentures made from teeth taken from deceased outlaws pawned as a grubsake to develop a gold mine. These stories and legends, whether they be of a pawned three-legged bobcat named Lucky or violin played at the Clanton’s funeral after the shootout at the OK Corral, remind us that behind every item is a human story.

They reflect the resilience and resourcefulness of the people who called the Arizona frontier home. And they are a link to life lived in Arizona during the 21st century. Pawned items, each with their own history, paint a vivid picture of Arizona evolution.

A New Era

Pawn World, with two stores in Kingman, Arizona is a modern-day pawn shop that carries on the rich traditions of frontier Arizona. Providing service to the community for decades has made us a repository of both the everyday and the extraordinary that reflects the diverse history of the Grand Canyon State.

As we look back on these tales from the territorial era, we can’t help but marvel at the rich tapestry of human experience that has unfolded in these pawn shops. Pawn World is more than just a business. We are the keepers of stories, the custodians of history, and the silent witness to the ever-changing human condition.

So next time you stop at Pawn World, remember that it’s not just a place of business. It’s a place where stories of the past linger, waiting to be rediscovered and retold, a place where the spirit of the Wild West lives on. Who knows what stories will walk through the door next?

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