Originally written and published by Charles Kelly in 1938, this copy of The Outlaw Trail is the 1996 reprint of Kelly’s expanded and revised edition (1959) of the book. As it proclaims on the cover, The Outlaw Trail is “A History of Butch Cassidy & His Wild Bunch,” focusing on the biography and criminal feats of Butch Cassidy and his fellow bandits. The popular interest in outlaws inspired by this book reached its peak in 1969 when it served as a template for William Goldman’s screenplay and George Hill’s directing of the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Although Kelly himself complained that Hollywood stole and abused of his material without his consent, viewers familiar with his writings feel that Paul Newman’s version of “Butch – affable, curious and nonviolent” – closely resembled the one presented in The Outlaw Trail.
In this work, Kelly focuses on specific robberies Butch Cassidy and his band of outlaws pulled off, with chapters sporting titles such as “The Telluride Bank Robbery.” His accounts include many primary source documents surrounding the events and a large number of first-hand interviews with surviving accomplices who worked with Butch Cassidy himself. Kelly also went out of his way to interview many of Butch’s friends, relatives and even enemies (e.g. Sheriff John T. Pope) so as to be able to paint a more personal picture of the famed outlaw outside of his criminal career.
Unsurprisingly, when the original edition of The Outlaw Trail was written, many “old-timers” were hesitant to talk Kelly about their relationship with Butch Cassidy. At the time, citizens of Utah felt that Kelly’s unabashed “history of the West [was] still too recent, and [that] delving into the lives of those on the wrong side of the law [could] be extremely touchy.” Yet after the book’s great success following its privately funded publication (though a man of simple means, Kelly himself was a printer by trade), Kelly received numerous letters from previously silent parties, which expanded on the events he had described and corrected errors in his work. The steady flow of information he received ultimately allowed him to release his greatly revised edition of the book over twenty years later.
Although Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is just one film on the long list of successful movies Paul Newman has starred in over his acting career, his time as Butch Cassidy has held a special place in his heart across many years. This fact became evident to the public upon his founding of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for Seriously Ill Children in the Summer of 1988. The link above takes you to the New York Times article written by Daniel Hatch reporting on the camp’s preparation for opening.
The first Hole in the Wall Gang Camp opened in Ashford Connecticut, but since them, several other camp locations have opened across the country. According to Jeffery Glick, the first executive director of the camp, the camp was founded to give ill children a chance to experience camp-life like other kids their age. Children accepted to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp are frequently kids who have “only left home to go to the hospital.” At the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, children will be able to get the medical attention they need from an “infirmary that is set back and unobtrusive” while being able to participate in activities like “swimming, boating and leatherwork.”
Though reluctant to take credit for coming up with the idea on his own, when Paul Newman decided to create this type of camp, it was his goal to create an environment in which “these children can enjoy life and make life worth fighting for.” The funding for the camp comes partly from private donations, but primarily from the profits of Newman’s Own line of food products also initiated by Paul Newman. As the primary financial supporter of the camp, Newman pushed the “Hole in the Wall Gang” as the name for his camp as well as its central theme. The results of this desire are apparent to anyone observing the “turn-of-the-century lumber camp” that has been carefully constructed for the children. For his campers, Newman wanted to “avoid a sense of institution” – a feeling they knew all to well – by making sure the entire campground felt organic and real. In this way, Newman succeeded in capturing the love of wilderness and freedom enjoyed by the members of the Hole in the Wall Gang depicted in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The opening of his camp turned out to be a huge success and has been growing ever since.
< To learn more about the nature of this camp or how you can help to keep it running, visit http://www.holeinthewallgang.org>