The magnificent gordons
and their swift kin

by Dennis E. Power


The varied career of the original James West/Artemus Gordon team is too lengthy to go into detail in this essay but a Mark Ellis and Win Eckert have provided a great chronology of his adventures exists here.  I agree with the chronology of the adventures but I respectfully differ from them when it comes to the genealogies of the characters.

James West, and the man with the cover identity of Artemus Gordon fought villains armed with anachronistic technologies supplied by Eridanean, Capellean and perhaps other Alien sources for two years when it became apparent that they villains were not only stepping up their attacks but that they had become aware of the investigation duo of West and Gordon.

To confuse their enemies they created another investigative team with the cover identities of West and Gordon. For this team they chose an African-American soldier and an experienced agent, one who was not only a master of disguise but also a gifted inventor.

In 1870, while the first James West and Artemus Gordon were occupied with dozens of special threats, the second team of West and Gordon was created to firstly deal the returned threat of Arliss Lovelace, a crippled Mad genius who had lent his talents and heart to the Confederacy.

While the first team of West and Gordon worked together for several years, the second team probably did not, for one simple basic reason; they simply did not get along with one another.

There was however a third James West, albeit only temporarily and not officially. The incident took place during the time early in their careers when the original team of West/Gordon worked separately.

As was revealed in the Reid genealogy, Dan Reid after being shot and left for dead was a total amnesiac. He traveled the county using the names Lazarus and Shenandoah. Given false information that his true name was James West, Dan Reid traveled to Washington D.C. where he became involved with an incident that involved a stolen national historical document from the Library of Congress. There was also an actor involved named Artemus Gordon. Together they recovered the document.

Gordon had become aware of someone with a close resemblance to Jim West using that name. When his paths had crossed with this "James West" during the stolen Emancipation Proclamation Incident he decided to help "West" investigate his past. They checked the archives but found scant records of this "James West"s true identity. The files had been ordered destroyed by Lafayette Baker, former head of the Secret Service.

They could find no one that would talk to them in Washington, so they decided to pay a call on Lafayette Baker, who was staying in Philadelphia. Baker was corrupt as they come, A Treasury Department official wrote of Baker's tenure as head of the Secret Service: "Baker became a law unto himself. He instituted a veritable Reign of Terror. He always lived in the first hotels [and] had an abundance of money."

 Gordon and "West" tracked Baker down to a hotel room. He regarded West with fear and shock. Instead of revealing "West"s true identity. Baker gave him teasers of information, telling West that he had indeed worked for the government during the War first as a Scout, then as a Intelligence Agent for the Army and finally as a member of the Secret Service. He had used the name Jim West more often than any other cover but he had used several. He told Lazarus that Grant knew him as West and by the way, some groups objected to the good General running for President and had quite a reception planned for him.

Artemus demanded to know what Baker was talking about, resorting to persuasive tactics to make him talk. Baker launched into a detailed description of an assassination plot against Grant when he suddenly slumped forwards and died.

Examination found a small dart protruding from his neck. Gordon plucked it out with a pair of tweezers and tossed it into the fire.

Gordon and "West" succeeded in foiling the plot against Grant, which involved killing two Secret Service Agents guarding Grant.The guards were agents of the Knights of the Golden Circle.  Gordon and "West" were nearly killed by soldiers also attached to guard Grant.

Gordon revealed himself to be an agent of the Secret Service on detached duty. He had the unfortunate duty of telling Lazarus that everything that Baker had told him was a lie. While there was a James West that worked for the Secret Service as Baker had detailed, Lazarus was not him. Grant's requested that Lazarus join Secret Service. If he did he would be trained by and work with Gordon and the real James West in neutralizing special threats to the United States. Grant promised Lazarus that as a special agent of the government he could use its resources to discover his true identity. Despite being tempted by the offer Lazarus declined, not really trusting for the government to divulge the actual truth. As it turns out the conspirators had destroyed all the evidence concerning Reid's identity as they destroyed all the evidence surrounding the Lincoln assassination that did not support the idea of a impulsive plot by a crank actor and his cronies.

Artemus Gordon was a cover identity, for a man whose actual last name was Gordon. Artemus was his code name. But the last name was also a code name but one used for several generations. The Gordons were Eridaneans almost from the beginning. Artemus Gordon's father had married Francesca Cooke, a descendent of Henry Burlingame and Esther Cooke. Burlingame was as is shown in John Barth's The Sotweed Factor, a master of disguise. His parents were Pearl Prynne and John Burlingame. Francesca Cooke was a distant cousin of the Gordon family.

Pearl Prynne and John Burlingame's daughter was Hester Burlingame born 1666. Hester married in 1687 to Francis Blake, a formerly dissolute member of the Blakeney family. Having been disowned by his father for continued gambling and drinking, he found himself in serious debt. He opted for transportation to the New World and served out a bondage of five years. Francis Blake moved to the Boston area and became a fairly wealthy lumberman. Hester Burlingame and Francis Blake had four children, Alan 1688, Dorothy 1690, Samuel 1693 and Priscilla 1700

Dorothy married Orion Gordon, a printer and an intelligence operative for the crown. He was also an Eridanean agent. Among their descendants are the two Artemus Gordon's

Artemus Gordon worked with James West off and on until the mid 1890's. While embarking on a career as an actor based in Chicago, he married briefly but his wife was killed by an old enemy, leaving Gordon with a two boys named Walter and Clifford

To keep the children out of danger Artemus gave them over to his brother Clifford to raise and lead the killer to New York. Artemus apparently killed the son of Miguelito Loveless but the body was never found so he did not consider it safe to return to his family. He adopted the identity of Craig Kennedy, a professor of Chemistry at Columbia University. He became known as the American Sherlock Holmes. Due to the Eridanean serum, he of course aged hardly at all.

Artemus Gordon's son Walter married one of the Blythes of Prince Edward Island, and had a son, James W. Gordon  James was born on Jan. 5, 1900.  When he was a small child, his father and uncle Clifford made an unsuccessful attempt to start a business together.  They failed miserably and lost everything they had.  Walter found good work in New York and moved his family there.

    Young James Gordon made it into law school, but while there something happened which caused him to decide to pass up a career as an attorney and, upon his graduation in 1924, he became a police officer instead.  He married maverick socialite, Barbara Lane in 1927. Barbara Lane was the daughter of Drury Lane, the greatest Shakespearean actor of his age. He was also an amateur sleuth whose exploits were recorded by Ellery Queen. Although it is not widely known, Drury Lane is the adopted son of Hondo Lane whose early career was recorded by Louis L'Amour.

Hondo's family history can be seen in the excellent essay The Amazing Lanes .

James Gordon's  marriage to Barbara Lane was short-lived due to the disapproval of Barbara's mother but did result in one child, Barbara Gordon. Alas, Barbara Lane did not have a happy life and her choice of friends lead to an early death, after which James Gordon was presented with a ten year old daughter he barely knew.

James Gordon's rise in the force was meteoric.  It is possible that the character of Joe Cardona from the Shadow books was based in part on James Gordon. In 1934, James W. Gordon became the youngest police commissioner in New York history.  However, he often found his attempts at crimebusting stymied by bureaucratic redtape and, in 1935, inspired by the legendary heroes of times past, such as Zorro and the Lone Ranger, as well as by rumors of newer nemeses of the underworld such as the Shadow, Commissioner Gordon created a masked crime-fighting identity of his own, the Whisperer.

 In 1936, Gordon married his sweetheart of some years, Tiny Traeger.  In 1938, the legendary Batman appeared on the scene.  For some years, Gordon seemed to regard the Batman as a menace, but in 1941 or '42, he apparently decided that the Batman was doing a better job as a masked adventurer than the Whisperer. Gordon retired his alter ego, and began to accept and even work closely with the Batman.

  For more about James Gordon's background and further Gordon family history please visit another excellent article, The Magnificent Gordons .

The second Artemus Gordon was also named a Gordon but only on his mother's side of the family. His real name was Barton Swift and he was related to the first Artemus Gordon as a distant cousin. As cited above second Artemus Gordon was a member of the Wold Newton family, a descendent of Percy Blakeney and Henry Burlingame.Yet his family tree can be traced back to another branch of the Gordon family.

He was was descended from Lemuel Gulliver, through Gulliver's daughter, which makes him a member in good standing of the Wold Newton family. Lemuel Gulliver was a great uncle to George Gordon, Lord Byron. Richard Byron before he was second Lord Byron, had an affair with a serving girl that resulted in a pregnancy. She was married off to an older man of means, Samuel Gulliver who raised the child, Richard Gulliver as his own. Richard Gulliver was Lemuel Gulliver's father. On Sarah's side he was descended from Will Stutley, one of Robin Hood's men. Lemuel Gulliver is a shielded immortal who had the ability to travel to parallel dimensions. This ability apparently manifested whenever his life was in danger. After his wife died, he went traveling again and was apparently lost at sea. It is thought that he returned to the land of Hoyhoynims. His daughter married a Donald Swift, a cousin of Jonathan Swift who became Lemuel Gulliver's chronicler.

    Among Lemuel Gulliver's other descendants are David Innes, First Emperor of Pellucidar, Barton Swift, Gulliver Jones, Professor Wickwire, Harold Shea, Reed Chalmers, Frank Reade, jr. Hamilton Quest and his sonThomas Benton Quest and their stalwart companions Gulliver. Another possible candidate is  J. Adrian Phillimore.

    All of these gentemen either possessed superior scientific and inventive skills or had the ability to travel to other dimensions and realities.

    Barton Swift, Professor Wickwire of the Adventures of Brisco County television series and Frank Reade jr. of pulp history all possess the first of these traits and to a lesser degree perhaps the second. As does Hamilton Quest and his son Thomas Benton Quest.

    Harold Shea and Reed Chalmers while brilliiant psychologists and logicians also possessed the ability to travel to other dimensions, although they believed that they were using a magic spell to enable them to do so.

    Gulliver Jones traveled to a planet he believed was Mars using what he thought was a magic carpet.

    J. Adrian Phillimore traveled various dimensions using what he believed was a magic umbrella.

    In reality these devices acted as keys to unlock their unbelievable dimensional traveling powers. Phillimore even traveled to a dimension where he could rationalize his gift by accrediting the Umbrella as having been created by a Sorcerer, J. Wellington Wells.

After the second Artemus Gordon "retired" from "Secret Service" he pursued a solo career of adventure and scientific experimentation, he reassumed his true name of Barton Swift married and had a son, Thomas, b.1890  Later writers would record Barton Swift's adventures with his son Tom Swift.

It is possible that once his son was grown Gordon II embarked on another career, but I have yet to follow that line of research.



© 2000 Dennis Power