HARRISBURG -- Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Earp, Annie Oakley, Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickok, Stephen Reed.
Stephen Reed was the mayor of Harrisburg from 1982 to early 2010, but what's he doing in a list of famous names from the Old West?
During his long tenure, Mr. Reed had a wide-ranging vision to perk up this capital city of 50,000 people, which in the mid-1980s had fallen on hard economic times. Some of his plans to rejuvenate the town turned out well, such as cleaning up City Island in the middle of the Susquehanna River, building a baseball stadium and attracting a minor league team that is now the Double-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
Then he built the National Civil War Museum atop a hill overlooking downtown to try to capitalize on Harrisburg's proximity to Gettysburg. The slumbering downtown along Second Street, just a block from the Capitol, was revived with new hotels, restaurants, taverns and shops.
But then in 2006 Mr. Reed came up with an idea that stunned many locals. He decided to collect thousands of expensive historic artifacts from the Old West and display them in a new museum he planned to build.
Mr. Reed began traveling through western states, spending $8 million in city redevelopment funds to amass up 10,000 artifacts from cowboys, gunfighters, farmers and American Indians. But in the end he failed to create his Wild West museum, which he'd hoped would be an additional high-profile attraction for tourists.
Beginning Monday, the cash-strapped city will begin auctioning off his collection in hopes of recouping some of that money. Items on the block include:
• A poker table owned by Tombstone, Ariz., Marshal Wyatt Earp, who fought in the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
• A dentist's chair owned by notorious gunfighter and gambler John "Doc'' Holliday, who was a dentist and also fought at the O.K. Corral.
• Tomahawks, knives and other items from tribes such as the Sioux, Cheyenne, Apache, Blackfoot and Navaho.
• Items from the Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana, where Gen. George Custer and his men were crushed by Lakota and Arapaho Indians.
• Vintage firearms made by well-known companies such as Springfield, Winchester, Smith & Wesson, Remington and Colt.
• Full-size horse-drawn wagons and Western furniture.
• Early games of chance and gambling devices.
• Valuable documents such as handwritten letters, early maps and photographs.
About 2,000 of Mr. Reed's Western items were sold off a few years ago, netting the city about $2 million. But city officials are optimistic the remaining items will bring in more, at least $6 million.
Public previews of the auction items began Thursday. Several people browsing the items described themselves as collectors who had driven from Virginia and Florida. Most, though, were from central Pennsylvania and were mainly there out of curiosity.
"I just thought I'd see this stuff before it all sold and dispersed," said Jim McCarthy, who lives in the nearby suburb of Penbrook.
"It was just a curiosity, just to see what Mayor Reed bought," said Dennis Druck, who said he was especially fascinated by the Native American masks he saw and by antique documents supposedly signed by historic figures like Wyatt Earp. "You could spend hours in here."
"It's like a museum," added his wife, Janet.
"I want to see Annie Oakley's gun," joked Margo Stein, standing next to a shelf of antique bottles and glassware.
The entire collection can be previewed from noon to 9 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at the D&D building, 1670 S. 19th St., within Harrisburg's public works complex off Cameron Street (17104). There also will be previews from 9 a.m. to noon each auction day.
Mayor Linda Thompson, who defeated Mr. Reed in a May 2009 Democratic primary, has been trying for three years to put a stake in the heart of the Wild West museum plan by selling the rest of the artifacts. The city desperately needs money to pay off a $4 million deficit in its budget and reduce the $370 million debt it faces on bonds sold to fix the city's trash incinerator. But the efforts to auction the western items were delayed by legal battles.
Some critics of the auction have objected to the cost. Guernsey's Auction House of New York City is charging the city an average 15 percent fee on items sold, with the fee as high as 18 percent on some items. A local firm, Gap Auctions, said it would charge less but Ms. Thompson went with Guernsey's.
Arlan Ettinger, a Guersney's auctioneer who is now compiling the Reed artifacts, said his firm has conducted hundreds of auctions, and its fee is justified.
"We have a reputation of dealing with complicated auctions, and this certainly is one of them,'' he said. "This is probably the biggest auction in history in terms of items from the Old West."
He has spent days finding, identifying and logging in the thousands of items, which were spread out inside four city warehouses. "They were not well organized. It was chaotic, with things just lying around. There was no rhyme or reason for what some boxes contained -- rare documents together with antique stirrups," he said.
Now -- finally -- the time has come for the auction. A week of bidding starts on Monday and goes until July 21. The daily auctions will be held at the Carousel Pavilion on City Island in Harrisburg (17101), near the ballpark, starting at 10 a.m. Interest seems to be high, with more than 600 bidders already signed up.
To find out what's up for sale on any given day, bidders can visit www.guernseys.com. Bidders who aren't able to be physically present can go to one of two "real time'' bidding sites -- liveauctioneers.com or proxibid.com. The last day of the auction, July 21, will feature items offered only to those attending in person. There will be no Internet bidding that day. Mr. Ettinger said Guernsey's wanted "more of an old-fashioned auction'' for the final day.
Tom Barnes: email@example.com. Post-Gazette writer Kate Giammarise contributed to this article.