Robert Dalton 18691892

J. F. Standiford (lifedates unknown)
Albumen silver print, c. 1889

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Following his older brothers into law enforcement, Robert Dalton became a deputy U.S. marshal in the so-called Indian Territory in 1889, the year this portrait is thought to have been taken. However, after a dispute with his superiors, Dalton left this job and entered into a brief yet memorable career as a bank and train robber. He teamed with several brothers, first striking targets in California before returning to the southern plains.

The “Dalton Gang” made national headlines for their audacious, often violent crimes and were frequently compared to the earlier band of outlaws led by Jesse and Frank James. Dalton’s life as a desperado did not last long. In 1892, he and three other gang members were gunned down by citizens of Coffeyville, Kansas, during a daring double bank robbery. Dalton was twenty-three years old.