Cast of Characters

Season one of Death in the West brings together a menagerie of larger-than-life characters who collided as the Old West met the Industrial Age. In Butte, Montana, during the summer of 1917, low-down thugs cross paths with robber barons, and revolutionaries plead their cause to frontier rogues. Some of the people you’ll meet this season:

Frank Little: From hardscrabble beginnings in frontier Oklahoma, an itinerant miner becomes one of America’s most inspiring—and notorious—radicals.

Dashiell Hammett: The enigmatic crime fiction pioneer, once a private detective himself, claims murder plotters offered him cash to kill Little. Butte’s labor wars later inspire Hammett’s landmark first novel, Red Harvest.

Roy Alley: Silky, mustachioed, and omnipresent, Alley served the mighty Anaconda Copper Mining Company as its chief lawyer in Butte. But did he also direct an army of thugs?

Jeanette Rankin: The first woman ever elected to the US Congress tried to intervene in the chaos engulfing Butte in 1917.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn: Renowned in song as “The Rebel Girl,” Flynn instigated free-speech protests across the West with Little’s help.

Bill Dunne: The two-fisted editor of Butte’s left-wing newspaper, Dunne wrote stories with a gun in his lap. (Eventually, Stalin tapped him to lead the US Communist Party.) Did he reveal the true identities of Frank Little’s killers?

“Big” Bill Haywood: The leader of the Industrial Workers of the World was known for both radical politics and incendiary rhetoric. Did Little’s rise within the union challenge his power?

The Copper Kings: Isolated Butte became an unlikely stage for America’s most ambitious capitalists. You can’t understand Little’s story without understanding the power wielded by the city’s industrial elite. 

Marcus Daly: The genial Irish mining genius was the first to grasp Butte’s potential.
William Clark: His ambition (and copper fortune) fueled some of America’s most egregious political scandals.
F. Augustus Heinze: This brilliant engineer took on Butte’s most powerful interests—ultimately sparking a national economic crisis.

The Copper Kings’ machinations set the stage for the rise of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company: for a time, one of the world’s biggest and most powerful corporations. It was headed by John D. Ryan, a brilliant, determined and often ruthless president. 

The Cops: Butte’s police department was infamously corrupt. Meet the city’s “finest”:
Ed Morrissey: What was the role of Butte’s brutal, boozy top detective?
Phillip Prlja: Did this prominent motorcycle cop go rogue?
Jere “The Wise” Murphy: They said Butte’s police chief knew what everyone in town ate for breakfast. What did he see, hear, and do on August 1, 1917?

Billy Oates: Some say this hook-handed Company enforcer literally left his mark at the crime scene.

Burton K. Wheeler: An idealistic young US attorney (and future Senator), Wheeler refused the Company’s demands to arrest Little. Later, he proposed his own startling theory of the crime.

Frank Little
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn
"Big" Bill Haywood
John D. Ryan