The amazing true story of the most astonishing crime in American history: how a streetcar conductor from St. Louis devised a fraud that frightened millions, duped the smartest lawyers and—until the bubble burst—maintained him and his “baroness” in truly royal luxury and pomp while laying claim to nearly four and a half million acres of southwestern U.S. land.
Beginning in 1881 and continuing for fifteen years, a man named James Reavis menaced the prosperity of a vast region of the U.S. commencing at a point in New Mexico and extending westward 225 miles, and seventy-five miles from north to south—a tract approximately half the size of the state of Indiana. It included the Arizona counties of Maricopa, Pinal, Graham, Gila and Apache, and embraced the whole of the city of Phoenix and the towns of Florence, Tempe, Globe, Silver King, Pinal and Casa Grande. It included the right of way of the Southern Pacific Railway. It asserted ownership of the fabulous Silver King mine. It included millions of dollars’ worth of unmined ores—copper, gold and silver.
It was all claimed boldly by Reavis, asserting he owned it as a Barony on a land grant from the King of Spain. He contended that the King had given the land to the Peralta family, supposedly the ancestors of his wife—a grant which even the U.S. government admitted it had to recognize. Furthermore, Reavis said, additional proof of the legitimacy of his claim could be found in the most ancient archives and monasteries of Spain, if anyone cared to look. They did—and he was right, the documents were there.
How James Reavis obtained millions of dollars in cash, goods and ores from the frightened businesses and citizens of Arizona, how he pulled off his swindle, and how it all unraveled, are told in this jaw-dropping account which first appeared in the pages of the legendary Saturday Evening Post magazine. It is lavishly illustrated, with reproductions of the original documents, personalities, and locations featured in this enthralling story.
As a bonus for the ebook edition, the publisher includes a rare 1951 comic book adaptation of the story of James Reavis; and a filmography of the 1949 movie The Baron of Arizona, starring Vincent Price as James Reavis—plus a gallery of posters and stills from the film.