Bonanza Wiki
Bonanza episode
“The Fear Merchants”
Season 1, Episode 20
#20 in Series
Air date January 30, 1960
Production code
Guest starring:
Written by Thomas Thompson

Frank Unger

Directed by Lewis Allen
Episode Guide
Previous Episode:
The Gunmen
Next Episode:
The Spanish Grant
External links
The Fear Merchants on IMDb


The Cartwrights come to the aid of a Chinese-American stable hand accused of murder. Opposing them is a manipulative mayoral candidate who wants all "foreigners" to leave Virginia City.


After Hop Sing, their cook, is beaten in Virginia City, the Cartwrights realize the prejudice against the Chinese in California has spread over the mountains.

The Cartwrights go into Virginia City, though it's not for retribution. They fear that any action they might take would cause more harm for the local Chinese. Ben and Adam run into Lee Chang as he leaves Hammond's store. His son Jimmy is having a birthday party and wants it to be a real American party. Adam tells him not to worry, just have a cake with candles. Lee says he didn't know it had to be candles and not flags. Ben realizes Lee was denied inside the store. Lee doesn't want to cause any trouble and moves on.

Ben and Adam go into the store and Ben asks for American flags. Hammond says he doesn't have any little flags. Ben hadn't specified little ones. Another customer, a sleazy man named Tibbs asks if Ben meant the little ones. Adam doesn't like Tibbs, he's a thief and a gunslinger, and tells Tibbs to mind his own business. Hammond pretends he just found the little flags and sells them to Ben.

Outside, Ben tells Adam not to let Tibbs bother him. Then they notice a sign advertising Andy Fulmer for Virginia City mayor. Ben puts two and two together. Fulmer is a bigot, Tibbs works for Fulmer.

Ben goes to see Fulmer and asks what Fulmer's campaign platform will be. Fulmer says he wants to give Virginia City back to the people who made it. Foreigners are taking all the jobs. Ben asks if "foreigners" means the Irish, Welsh, or Chinese. Fulmer says he's fighting for the rights of the Irish and Welsh. He doesn't want to hear one of Ben's high and mighty speeches on prejudice. This is Virginia City and Ben can't even vote, so it's not his fight. Ben says that if he finds out the Fulmer had anything to do with his cook being beaten, he'll drag Fulmer up and down the streets.

Hoss and Joe run into Jimmy Chang on his way to work. They're going to be at his birthday party and he's looking forward to it. Hoss is too, but he's concerned about the bird's nest soup that they'll be eating. Jimmy just laughs.

Sally Ridley dismounts in front of her father's livery when Billy Wheeler approaches and greets her inappropriately. She chastises him, taking apher horse into the stable, handing it off to Jimmy. Billy continues to goad her about who she's been spending time with. When he tries to force Sally to kiss him, Jimmy pulls him off. Billy hits Jimmy to the ground, warns him that that was a mistake Jimmy will regret, and leaves. Sally kneels beside Jimmy and starts to tend to his wounds. Her father, J.R. Ridley walks in and finds Jimmy in her lap. He accuses her of disgracing herself with a heathen and pulls a gun to threaten Jimmy. Sally tries to take the gun from him when it goes off and she falls to the ground dead. Jimmy crawls over to her. Ridley is in shock and drops the gun near Jimmy. Sally's older sister, Amanda comes in and sees the scene. Billy comes in and laughs, he warned Jimmy about his mistake.

Everyone at Jimmy's party is worried because Jimmy is late. He comes running in, beaten. He tells Hoss, Joe, and Lee what happened, but says the men think he killed Sally. Tibbs calls from outside that they came for Jimmy. He says they can send Jimmy out to be taken to jail, or they'll hang him. Hoss and Joe agree to take Jimmy to jail themselves and Jimmy goes willingly. He believes in America everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

At the jail, the Cartwrights and Sheriff Halstead believe Jimmy, but there will be an inquest. The sheriff warns that Fulmer has been waiting for something like this since he announced his candidacy.

Fulmer calls Ridley to his office. Ridley is still in shock. Fulmer goes on about how the town, his friends, are behind him during this tragedy. Ridley explains it was an accident and he shot Sally. But Fulmer convinces him that it wouldn't have happened if Sally was with a nice, American boy. Ridley comes to believe Jimmy caused Sally's death.

At the inquest, Billy lies and says he found Jimmy and Sally carrying on so told Mr. Ridley. Amanda testifies that Jimmy killed Sally. The judge wants only the facts. Amanda says everyone knows what kind of girl Sally was carrying on with all the boys. She says she heard the shot and found Jimmy kneeling next to Sally's body with his gun at his side. Adam and Ben can't believe Amanda's attitude. Adam is shocked to realize she's jealous of her own sister. Finally, Ridley takes the stand but only says that Jimmy caused Sally's death. Billy is thrilled. He's sure they'll hang Jimmy now. Fulmer says it's hard to tell with a jury. Tibbs suggests it never get as far as a jury. Fulmer likes that idea.

Fulmer continues to spread the poison. At a meeting in Hammond's he says that allowing a Chinese boy to get away with murder is like saying they don't care about their own wives and daughters. He thinks they should do something about it.

The Cartwrights are in the jail and worried about a lynch mob. They all agree to be deputies. Adam decides to talk to Amanda. He leaves and the crowd gathering outside let him go.

Amanda lets Adam in and he comments on the parties she held. She says they haven't entertained in seven years since her mother died and she had to take over running the household. Adam sympathizes. Amanda complains that Sally made it difficult and the way she behaved was shameful. Adam tells her life hasn't passed her by and to stop feeling sorry for herself. She tells him to mind his own business. Adam argues that when a young boy's life is at stake, it's everyone's business. She asks if she's just supposed to march up there and say it was all a mistake. Adam says, yes, if it was a mistake. He's always admired her courage to stand up for herself. She falls into his arms crying. He looks into her face and says, "Tell the truth."

Just then, Ridley comes in and tells Adam to leave them alone. Jimmy's a murderer and he'll get a fair trial. Adam insists Jimmy won't get a fair trial unless Fulmer says so. He accuses Ridley of being afraid to stand up to Fulmer. Ridley says he's not afraid of anyone. Amanda says they should go tell Fulmer they want to tell the truth and she'll go with him.

Adam, Ridley, and Amanda go to see Fulmer, but Adam has to wait outside. When Ridley says he wants to tell the truth, Fulmer brainwashes him again. Amanda sits there stunned. When they leave, Adam asks what happened. Amanda says she'll convince her father to tell the truth. Adam says Jimmy's life depends on it.

Adam returns to the jail and tells everyone there what happened. If Amanda can't convince her father, they'll have a lynch mob on their hands.

Amanda tells her father that Jimmy will die. Ridley says Sally died. Suddenly Amanda realizes that Ridley isn't trying to punish Jimmy, he's trying to punish Sally for disgracing their name. She wonders if he pulled the trigger on purpose. He swears it was an accident. She tells him that if they let Jimmy die, they'll be the ones who are guilty.

Fulmer has the crowd ready for a lynching. As they march toward the jail, the Cartwrights shoot over their heads, scattering them. Ridley runs up and tells Fulmer that he's going to tell the sheriff the truth. He turns towards the jail. Fulmer tells Tibbs to "get him." Tibbs shoots Fulmer in the back. Now Fulmer accuses Tibbs of murder. Tibbs is stunned and confused, but the mob has now turned on him. Adam calls to him to drop his gun. Tibbs turns and fires. Adam fires back killing Tibbs. Amanda rushes up and tells the sheriff that they lied on the stand, Jimmy didn't kill Sally.

Ben asks Fulmer if he's happy now that three people are dead. Fulmer won't take the blame for these killings. The crowd, however, turns its back on Fulmer. He chases after them desperately trying to win back their votes.

Cast and Characters[]

The Cartwrights



  • Alexander Campbell: Judge
  • Arthur Space: Cyrus Hammond
  • Bill Clark: Townsman
  • Bob Miles: Townsman at Inquest
  • Christopher Dark: Jesse Tibbs
  • Frank Ferguson: J. R. Ridley
  • Gene Evans: Andrew Fulmer
  • Gregg Barton: Sheriff Halstead
  • Guy Lee: Jimmy Chang
  • Helen Westcott: Amanda Ridley
  • Patricia Michon: Sally Ridley
  • Peter Chong: Guest Star
  • Philip Ahn: Mr. Chang
  • Ray Stricklyn: Billy Wheeler





See The Fear Merchants/videos

See also[]