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The Great Cheyenne Chicken Heist of 1887

Bruno Vincent, Getty Images
Bruno Vincent, Getty Images

Edwin Booth was one of the most famous and beloved actors in American history, even after his younger brother John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

On April 18, 1887, while traveling to San Francisco on the Transcontinental Railroad, Booth stopped in Wyoming to star in a production of “Hamlet” at the Cheyenne Opera House. 

At the time, the Cheyenne Opera House was one of the most prestigious venues in the west and Booth’s appearance was front page news across the region. Special trains from Denver and Laramie shuttled fans to Cheyenne for the big event. Meanwhile, hundreds of spectators gathered outside the sold-out Opera House and the Interocean Hotel, where Booth was staying.

For a group of local thieves, Booth’s visit to the Capital City presented the perfect distraction. With the public’s attention fixated downtown, they raided chicken coups across the city.

Several citizens reported that their entire flocks had been stolen, including Charles Klindt, who operated a chicken farm in the northwest section of town.

Along with glowing reviews of Booth’s performance, local newspapers recounted the caper, noting that “there seems to be no way of obtaining a clue to the marauders.”

No arrests were ever made in the case. 130 years later, the great chicken heist still serves as a footnote to one of the most exciting events in Cheyenne history.



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