American Experience: Jesse James
Airs Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV
Originally published March 14, 2013 at 11:55 a.m., updated May 2, 2013 at 4:04 p.m.
The Life and Death of Jesse James
View a timeline of events in Jesse James' life (1847 - 1882).
Learn about a few of the men Jesse James associated with, and where their bloody adventures ultimately led them in this photo gallery.
The story of Jesse James is one of America's most familiar myths -- and one of its fictitious. James, so the legend goes, was a Western outlaw, but in reality, he never went west.
He has been called America's own Robin Hood, yet he robbed both rich and poor, and was never seen to share his ill-gotten gains. He was known as a gunfighter -- but his victims were almost always unarmed.
Less heroic than brutal, James was a member of a vicious band of Missouri guerrillas during the Civil War, and sought vengeance for the Confederate defeat afterwards. In a life steeped in prolific violence and bloodshed, he met what was perhaps the most fitting end.
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents "Jesse James," the true story of an outlaw who has captured the imagination of generations of Americans.
"There's something about this legend that Americans have a hard time letting go of," says film producer Mark Zwonitzer. "Perhaps it's the much-needed idea of a hero or the allure of an outlaw. Either way, I hope this film will set the record straight."