Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wyatt Earp's OK Corral Gun Was Not A Colt

Wyatt Earp, 1883
Dear Friends,

I just read where the news is reporting that another gun that Wyatt Earp supposedly used at the OK Corral sold for $225,000 at auction. Yep, on April 18, 2014, an Associated Press report out of Scottsdale, Arizona, said that a gun "thought to have been" used by Wyatt Earp during the famous OK Corral shootout in Tombstone Arizona back in 1881 has sold for $225,000.

The Colt sold at that auction, actually sold for quite a bit higher than its estimated value. That's right, it sold for more than it was worth -- but then again, people who buy such things usually have more money than they know what to do with.

The report said that a telephone bidder in New Mexico made the winning bid for the Colt Single Action revolver in .45 caliber. J. Levine Auction & Appraisal officials say an auction of numerous items related to Earp and his family in Scottsdale brought in more than $445,000.

The auction house initially valued the Colt between $100,000 and $150,000. The items belonged to the estate of Glenn Boyer, an author of several books on Earp. Boyer died in February 2013. Some have questioned the item's authenticity while others say Boyer was a credible researcher. For me, it just my opinion, but I believe Boyer proved himself a fraud later in life. 

A Chandler, Arizona, man spent $150,000 on a shotgun owned by Earp, a family archive and other items. Back in 2012 the guns used by Bonnie and Clyde were sold at auction for over half a million dollars. And yes, one of Annie Oakley’s guns sold for $143,400 -- which really does seem like a steal compared to Earp’s gun.

While the Colt was the highlight of the auction, Wyatt Earp’s Winchester shotgun and another Colt revolver owned by Wyatt’s brother Virgil were also sold at the auction. The former sold for less than its estimated value of $125,000, selling for only $50,000. But Virgil Earp’s gun sold for $37,500, higher than the estimated value of $30,000.

Unfortunately, there was a little bit of controversy surrounding the Wyatt Earp gun. Some historians claimed that Boyer fabricated portions of his books and the Colt pistol once had the barrel, grip, and cylinder replaced in addition to having its serial number rubbed off.

So why do I say "supposed" gun used at the OK Corral shootout?

It's because Wyatt Earp didn't use a Colt pistol at the OK Corral -- he used a Smith & Wesson!

In The History of Smith & Wesson Firearms by Dean K. Boorman, published by Globe Pequot Press, in 2002, he reported that Wyatt Earp used a Smith & Wesson Model 3 and not a Colt at the gunfight near the OK Corral.

In Age of The Gunfighter by Joseph G. Rosa, published by University of Oklahoma Press, in 1993, he states that Wyatt Earp preferred the Smith & Wesson Model 3 over a Colt at the gunfight near the OK Corral.

Yes, most Old West historians agree that Wyatt Earp did not use a Colt pistol at the gunfight near the OK Corral. In fact, according to Wyatt Earp himself through his biographer Stuart Lake, he was actually armed with a Smith & Wesson Model 3 during that shootout.

In Earp's case, as stated above, he was given the S&W Model 3 American by The Tombstone Epitaph owner and who was also Tombstone's Mayor, John Clum. We know this to be fact.

The U.S. Army adopted the .44 S&W American caliber Smith & Wesson Model 3 revolver in 1870, making the Model 3 revolver the first standard-issue cartridge-firing revolver in US service.

Most military pistols until that point were black powder cap and ball revolvers. The Smith & Wesson Model 3 was a single-action, cartridge-firing, top-break revolver produced by Smith & Wesson from circa 1870 to 1915. It was produced in several variations and sub-variations.
Smith & Wesson New Model 3
In 1877, Smith & Wesson discontinued production of its other Model 3 variation's such as the American, Russian, and Schofield -- in favor a new improved design. That new designed Model 3 came out in 1878 and was called the New Model 3.

Besides being the last single action pistol that Smith & Wesson ever came out with, the Smith & Wesson New Model 3 was considered their perfected single action. It was top break revolver, only slightly smaller and lighter than previous models. Because it was smaller and lighter, it was more concealable. They kept it in the .44 Russian cartridge.

Yes, I have heard the New Model 3 referred to as the "New Model 3 American." Why would someone call it such? Well, that has to do with the fact that the New Model 3 design returned to the original Smith & Wesson American barrel latch system. Most agree that that change was because Smith & Wesson wanted to stop paying royalties to George W. Schofield for the "Schofield" latch design. The New Model 3 was the most popular revolver of the later frontier era.

In fact, according to records, more Smith & Wesson New Model 3's were made than Colt Single Action Army pistols during the 19th century -- though the majority went to foreign military contracts.

Among Lawmen and Outlaws

The standard barrel length was 6.5". But as the desire for shorter barrels were in demand by lawmen around the country, many Schofields were purchased as surplus by distributors and they had the barrels shortened to 5" and refinished in nickel. Nice concealability and faster to get it into play when needed.

If you're wondering where the Buntline Special myth started, it was Wyatt Earp's book written by Stuart Lake. That's where the whole Buntline Special myth comes from. From what all of the evidence shows. a Smith & Wesson Model 3 revolver was famously used by Wyatt Earp during the OK Corral gunfight.

The Smith & Wesson New Model 3 in .44 S&W Russian was given to Wyatt Earp by John Clum just days before the OK Corral shootout. Clum was mayor of Tombstone and owner/editor of the Tombstone Epitath. I believe we can only go with what Clum and eyewitnesses said as for what pistol he used at the OK Corral. 

The idea that Earp carried a mythical Buntline Special given to him by Ned Buntline is all fictional. That was something that Wyatt Earp supposedly told Stuart Lake for Earp's biography. I don't believe the Buntline Special ever existed. And if it did, I'd love to know how Ned Buntline was able to present those long barreled Colt commemorative pistols to a few lawmen who were not yet even lawmen at the time Ned Buntline was alive? Great trick, but it can't be done.  

The reason that people accept the idea that Wyatt Earp carried the Buntline Special at the OK Corral was because of Earp's book which has been disproved as work of fiction, and of course Hollywood.

And by the way, historian Lee Silva did not believe that Waytt Earp would carry a Smith & Wesson Model 3 American to the shootout near the OK Corral. Among the things that Silva is reported to have said is, "By 1881 the [Smith & Wesson] American Model and its ammunition were obsolete, and it is doubtful Wyatt Earp would have trusted his life to such a gun." 

Of course Wyatt Earp had a smaller caliber Smith & Wesson taken off of him in Alaska and it today sits behind the bar at the Red Dog Saloon there in Alaska. So frankly, he must have trusted his life to it even though it was a smaller caliber.

But more so, as for Silva believing that the S&W Model 3 was obsolete because of the round it used, Theodore Roosevelt for one did not feel that way at all. In fact Teddy Roosevelt specifically ordered a Smith & Wesson New Model 3 as his sidearm of choice to accompany him to Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

The rest of the story regarding Teddy Roosevelt's choice of handgun is one that some may find interesting. It's said that Roosevelt ordered a New Model 3, but actually carried a double-action Colt that had supposedly been retrieved from the battleship USS Maine. While it's true that Roosevelt went with a double-action Colt, I don't know if it was really a pistol retrieved from the USS Maine. Also, while some say he used a Colt Model 1889, which was adopted by the Navy as it was the first double-action revolver with a swing-out cylinder released by a sliding latch, it wasn't chambered in the .45 Colt cartridge. That maybe why there are some who say that Roosevelt armed himself with a Colt M1878 in a .45 Colt.

As for Wyatt Earp, Silva felt that he would never have armed himself with such a weapon. Regardless of how Silva felt, one has to admit that the list of lawmen and outlaws who used Smith & Wesson Model 3 revolvers and not Colts is very long indeed.

For example, the Smith & Wesson Model 3 was popular with lawmen and outlaws in the Old West. Among those who favored the Smith & Wesson Model 3 in it's different design changes with its faster reloading capability were outlaws John Wesley Hardin, Billy the Kid, Frank and Jesse James, showman Buffalo Bill Cody, trick shooter Annie Oakley, and lawmen Virgil and Wyatt Earp, Dallas Stoudenmire, and Pat Garrett among others.

In actuality, if one looks at sales alone, a great number of people favored the Smith & Wesson Model 3 American and Schofield. The faster loading Smith & Wesson Model 3 was enormously popular, and that's including with the U.S. Army Cavalry who found it easier to load while on horseback because it ejected it's spent shells using only one hand. 

Fact is Smith & Wesson Model 3 American and Schofield pistols rivaled the popular Colt SAA revolver. And if you have ever tried loading and reloading a Colt Single Action Army vs a Smith & Wesson Model 3 American and Schofield, you know that it's hands down faster to load than the Colt SAA. In fact. it was because of it's ability to eject spent shells and reload faster that Wells Fargo became one of the largest purchasers and users of the Smith & Wesson Model 3. Besides the double barrel shotgun, it was their issue sidearm for their Detectives and Security personnel. 

As for Wyatt Earp using a Smith & Wesson Model 3 at the OK Corral, there is another point that we should look at when asking ourselves if he used a supposed Colt that was known as a Buntline Special with a 10 to 12 inch barrel or if he had used an Smith & Wesson Model 3 which was sold with a standard 6.5 inch barrel.

In the Court transcript, Wyatt Earp testified about his actions on the way to the lot near the OK Corral. In the Court transcript, Wyatt Earp says the following, "I took my pistol, which I had in my hand, under my coat, and put it in my overcoat pocket." 

Now folks, unless he had an overcoat with pockets that stretched down to his knees or lower, there is no way that he could have tried concealing a supposed Colt Buntline Special with a 10 to 12 inch barrel in an overcoat pocket. And yes, if you recall, he placed his pistol in his pocket to get it out of his hand and conceal it. Something that he could have done that very easily with a shorter Smith & Wesson Model 3.

I was told that I did not "know" for certain that Wyatt Earp used a Smith & Wesson Model 3, and that this was all just my opinion. I agree that this is just my opinion since like all of us reading this, we weren't there during that time period or at that particular shootout. In the information that I provide here, I believe I provide evidence to backup my opinion that Wyatt Earp used a Smith & Wesson Model 3.

Actually many at the time, both lawmen and outlaw, preferred the Smith & Wesson Model 3 over a Colt mainly because of the ability to load it faster than a Colt. Wyatt was known to prefer a Smith & Wesson over a Colt for personal carry. In fact, he was carrying a Smith & Wesson in Alaska when he was disarmed there. That Earp pistol is in the Red Dog Saloon right now.

Though that's fact, that does not prove that he used a Smith & Wesson Model 3 at the shootout in the lot near the OK Corral. I believe it was a Smith & Wesson Model 3 in the same way that I know anything about the Old West, I believe evidence through reading and researching a number of independent sources all point to it being a Smith & Wesson Model 3.

For example, In "The History of Smith & Wesson Firearms" by Dean K. Boorman, published by Globe Pequot Press, in 2002, he reported that Wyatt Earp used a Smith & Wesson Model 3 and not a Colt at the gunfight near the OK Corral. In "Age of The Gunfighter" by Joseph G. Rosa, published by University of Oklahoma Press, in 1993, he states that Wyatt Earp preferred the Smith & Wesson Model 3 over a Colt at the gunfight near the OK Corral. In the Kansas Historical Society archives are articles talking about that very thing.

And please, let's remember that besides Wyatt Earp's own admission at his and Doc Holliday's subsequent court appearance where he stated that he carried his revolver in an overcoat pocket, Wyatt told at least one person that he used the Smith & Wesson Model 3 that John Clum had given to Wyatt as a gift. It was a Smith & Wesson Model 3 in .44 caliber with an 8 inch barrel.

That person was John Henry Flood. John Henry Flood Jr. was actually a Mining Engineer by profession. But he worked as Wyatt Earp's unpaid personal secretary late in Wyatt Earp's life. Flood finished an unpublished biography of Wyatt Earp with Earp's help. Flood was told by Wyatt Earp that he had used the S&W Model 3 that he got from Mayor John Clum in the shootout with the Clantons and McLaurys on that day in 1881.

Unlike Stuart Lake who came up with the Colt Buntline Special, Wyatt Earp supposedly never mentioned a Colt "Buntline Special" to anyone. That is one reason why I believe the Buntline Special myth was a creation of Stuart Lake. As for the S&W Model 3 that he is believed to have used at the OK Corral, it is in the John D. Gilchriese collection.

Yes, this and more leads me to believe it was a Smith & Wesson Model 3 that Wyatt Earp used at the OK Corral shootout.

As far as why we examine this? To me, it's about one of the many curious questions regarding what took place in history. It's no different than taking a look at why General Custer carried British Webley self-cocking Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) revolvers at the Little Bighorn, or why Annie Oakley preferred a Marlin rifle over a Winchester, or why Wild Bill preferred .36-caliber 1851 Navy Colts when more modern cartridge firing pistols were available?

Looking at Old West history, whether it's verifying what we think we know or ferreting out details that surprise us, brings us closer to what took place while bringing us closer to our heritage as Americans.

UPDATE: July 13, 2017

It appears my summary of Wyatt Earp's life has upset a great number of people who cannot separate the Hollywood legend from the real man. Because of that fact, I'm removing that summary so that the gist of the story is no longer clouded by those who feel they have to defend Wyatt Earp to me.

The reason that I had put the summary in this article was to point out how the property of a notorious figure in history can garner more money at an auction if that property is proven to be authentic. I did not put that summary here to overshadow the point of this story which is to point out that the pistol that Wyatt Earp used at the shootout near the OK Corral was actually a Smith & Wesson Model 3 and not the mythical Colt Buntline Special that Hollywood and fiction writers would like us to believe he used.

The response to this article has taught me that there are a great number of people who love being lied to by Hollywood and the media. If you are a little curious about the other side of the Wyatt Earp legend, more on his character, please read Wyatt Earp -- From Unknown To Notorious Desperado.

As for books that I use as some of my sources, I take a look at which Earp books that I've found very good, very objection, in my critique of Earp books in my three part series, Wyatt Earp's Biography By Stuart Lake -- Part 1. You may find that information interesting.

As for why I don't believe the Buntline Special ever existed, please read my article The Buntline Special vs Colt's Sheriff's Model where I explain my reasons for believing that the Buntline Special was all a myth.

Tom Correa


  1. I attended (and participated in) that 2014 auction in Scottsdale and have a nice file of pre- and post-sale news clippings, pictures, and catalogue notes. It was quite an event. Boyer's files got quite a bit of attention---of personal interest was a display which showed several prominent figures of "the day", including Holliday, Masterson, and my g-grandfather, but NOT Wyatt. Kinda interesting. The copious back-up notes on the W.E. Colt are an interesting memento. Bob Paul

  2. There's a lot of talk in this article about Wyatt Earp being a con-man, a swindler and in trouble with the law on occasion. Where's the proof of this? I am not disputing anyone, but what book(s), local records or where does this opinion come from?

    It's hard to make a living and I have worked as a bartender, bouncer, cowboy, outfitter/packer, gold prospector, miner and earned my money on horseback chasing cows and sheep for many years. I have been in trouble with the law disturbing the peace, punched the Sheriff, etc. In addition, I have served my country, paid my taxes, raised a family and have been a contributing member of the community.

    That's why I have a hard time viewing Wyatt Earp as a confidence man, swindler or being notorious when we all make a living and get through life the best we can. Anyway, I would be interested in reading any "documented" info that proves Mr. Earp's dark side. Can you please point me in the right direction for info or books on this fascinating subject? Thanks... Charlie

    1. Both of the more recent Hollywood movies ("Wyatt Earp" and "Tombstone") have covered his horse-stealing, relationships with "soiled doves", work in gambling parlors, refereeing prize fights, etc., so you aren't exactly breaking new ground with this stuff. For someone who USUALLY "fact checks everything", you've got precious little on display here in the way of documented sources to back up your more odious assertions about Wyatt Earp. In fact, the only primary sources you mention here deal only with what type of pistol Wyatt used at the OK Corral, and bring nothing to bear on the man's general character.

      Actually, this whole blog post reads like the opinions of someone who is a descendant of either the Clanton or McLowry family, trying to smear a legend.

    2. The research I've done indicated that Wyatt used a model 3. I agree with you.

    3. Hello Charlie Swearingen, I've had to delete a lot of my responses because of the need for space. As for pointing you in the right direction for info or books on the Earps? I'm coming out with an article talking about Stuart Lake's Earp book and how it led me to others. Which ones were found to be bullshit and which ones are more credible. Thanks for visiting my sit. Respectfully, Tom

    4. Hello Offonroad, Thanks. My research indicates the same thing. Again, much thanks. Thanks for visiting my sit. Respectfully, Tom

    5. Hello Anonymous from October 31, 2016. I've had to delete a lot of my responses because of the need for space. But I will say this, please read the other articles that I have written on Wyatt Earp. In those articles, I call him a pimp, a horse thief, a con artist, a murderer, and so on. In those articles, I explain why those labels appropriately apply to him. You may find it interesting reading. Thanks for visiting my sit. Respectfully, Tom

  3. I dont agree and although the legend is never all that they make it out to be , Wyatt had been a law man all of his life and was indeed well known because of it , in the day , that got around fast , which being a lawman was why he was able to be involved the the OK corral stuff in the first place. Im not sure where you got your information but its far from correct, There is documented proof to the contrare

  4. Gotta agree with Tom, I have seen a photo copy of the writ for “horse theft,” actually I think there were 2 horses. Likewise the “pimp,” bartender and brothel owner/manager days of Wyatt’s life are all well documented. Additionally, at least two of the women Wyatt lived with or married were “soiled doves” as they were known in those days. As far as his days as a lawman they were sporadic throughout his life and never seemed to last long. I don’t know if the “three years” that Tom mentioned in his article is correct or not but I don’t think it’s far off. Most “police” jobs in those days were temporary at best with nothing like civil service protection. Except for the various states that had elected County Sheriff’s (with specific terms of office) virtually all law enforcement officers served “at will” to a fickled city or town council, Mayor and even the US Marshal (who hired and fired at will.) So Wyatt’s law-dog days were probably very short lived and sporadic and further effected by his nomadic ways. I remember reading Lakes biography of Wyatt as a kid and I’ve watched “Tombstone” several times but I don’t think there’s a whole lot of FACT in either one, sad to say! It’s a fact that everyone has peaks and valleys in their lives. I also don’t think those peaks should be discounted just because of the valleys. They just need to be balanced with the realities of the time and a man’s moment in history.

  5. I'd just like to comment on what I've read on this site. I remember reading quite a well researched, recent biography on Wyatt Earp, he did get into trouble in his early years with stealing a horse; however, it wasn't as cut and dried as you make out, he was never convicted of horse theft. Wyatt appears to have lost his way for a number of years, especially after the death of his young wife. I don't understand exactly what you're trying to make him out to be. Was the man a saint, certainly not, was he human, definitely yes. He wasn't a cold blooded murderer or a bank robber. He was like a lot of men on the frontier at that time, trying to make a living. Truth be told he didn't have a particularly distinguished law career before Tombestone, and he went there to make it rich. He ended up involving himself in a complex situation that spiralled out of control, one brother was murdered another was crippled for life. He responded the only way he thought he could. I don't necessarily agree with everything he did, or how he's been portrayed over the years; but he was a man of his times, can you or I imagine ourselves in his position and what we'd do, I think not.

    1. I've had to delete a lot of my responses because of the need for space. But please read the other articles that I have written on Wyatt Earp. In those articles, I call him a pimp, a horse thief, a con artist, a murderer, and so on. In those articles, I explain why those labels appropriately apply to him. I'm just looking at a historical figure and examining the facts. Thanks for visiting my sit.

  6. Hollywood has tainted the history of the west. From what the American Indian to Wyatt Earp. Sadly a lot of what really went on in the old weast has been lost and retold through Hollywood and Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West show.

  7. "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." --The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I'm grateful for Mr. Correa's extensive, painstaking research to uncover the legend of Wyatt Earp and to expose the truth about the man. A real man--a real cowboy lives by a code: always tell the truth, regardless. If man's word is not his bond, then he has nothing. And good reputation is more valuable than gold. Mr. Correa lives by that code. Perhaps, sir, you will write an in-depth book on the so-called myths, legends, and lies about the men and women of the old west that Hollywood has seen fit to perpetuate for decades. --J.D. Lone Bear McGowan

    1. Thank you. You cannot know how much I appreciate that all of my research is appreciated. And yes, I am working on a book. Thanks again J.D.

  8. "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." --The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I'm grateful for Mr. Correa's extensive, painstaking research to uncover the legend of Wyatt Earp and to expose the truth about the man. A real man--a real cowboy lives by a code: always tell the truth, regardless. If man's word is not his bond, then he has nothing. And good reputation is more valuable than gold. Mr. Correa lives by that code. Perhaps, sir, you will write an in-depth book on the so-called myths, legends, and lies about the men and women of the old west that Hollywood has seen fit to perpetuate for decades. J.D. Lone Bear McGowan

    1. J.D., I cannot thank you enough for the kind words. And yes, I'm working on a book right now.

  9. If somebody had killed one of my brothers, and crippled the other one, I don't know if I could do what he did to hunt them down and kill them, risking his own life. I take my hat off to him and the vengeance ride posse for that. Did he create peace in Tombstone and the county, well after the McClaurys, most of the Clantons, Curly Bill Brocious, Johnny Ringo. Frank Stillwell, the Indian Cruz, and others were gone, yes, there was finally peace from the cowboys in Tombstone. Hey Tom, what great work for mankind have you risked your life for and done in your lifetime?

  10. Pimping and bookers were legal in most places in the West especially in the boomtowns. Wyatt. Wasn't breaking the law running whore houses. Look as most of the,other law men of the old west. Most were gamblers and killers. They used their badges to collect bounties on some very nasty evil people. I was in law enforcement for 17 years and I wish we could have just shot some bad guys, instead of waitting til they shot first. Times were very different back then. Very few laws or trained law men. I think Wyatt did what needed to be done at the time. Bat Masterson has very high regards for Wyatt. And I don't think Bat would have felt that way if Wyatt was as bad as you think he was. No body is perfect aspecailly in the Old West. Imho

  11. Seriously, I can't believe some of the comments here that question,totally misunderstand, contradict or spin what looks like to me Mr.Correa's thoughtful,reasoned,researched statements. It feels like some people, perhaps 1/3 of Americans now? will believe any fantasy, any distortion, exaggeration or downright lie that appeals to them about anything, not just history but current events? Why, because "their side" believes it or it's more "exciting",or "romantic", or gets one "stirred up?" What a sad state of affairs for this great nation. Factual history and current events are so much more complex and interesting than imaginary scenarios anyway.
    But Years ago, the Franklin Mint company sold "exact reproductions" of a/the "Earp pistol", a full scale, rather well made, soft metal non-firing close copy of the No. 3 2ND Model S&W American. In fact though, I see here that the Joseph Rosa book states that Earp had the "New" Model No. 3, which is very, very different from the older Model 3. Much easier to handle, carry for one thing. Now that is interesting, and I feel fairly safe believing that, given the context of this blog. So thanks for that.

    1. Thank you for your support. I truly appreciate it.

  12. Your site is truly cool and this is an awesome rousing article. Much obliged to you to such an extent. Combat Handgun Training

    1. Thank you. I really do appreciate you saying that.

  13. Mr. Correa,

    You omitted a particular episode of Wyatt Earp's life. The County of San Bernardino, California, made Wyatt Earp an Honorary Deputy Sheriff. A number of years ago, I listened to a historian at Cal State San Bernardino give a presentation on him.

    An elderly Wyatt Earp (in his 60s) was prospecting in the California desert when he was approached by a young, inexperienced peace officer. The young peace officer asked Earp for help. An armed robber was holding up the local general store. Earp told the young peace officer to cover the back of the store. Earp (unarmed) then walked to the front entrance of the general store, announced "I'm Wyatt Earp" to the stunned robber, approached him, disarmed him, grabbed him by the collar, and threw him out the front door. This story is consistent with other accounts of how Earp exhibited fearlessness and cool courage when the need arose.

    You also left out the story of how Wyatt Earp, while serving as a Kansas peace officer, found a drunken man lying unconscious in the street; took him to the jail; and did not steal the $300 that was in his pocket. Because of this, the local newspaper praised Earp as an honest peace officer. This was cited in a recent Earp biography.

    You also left out the story of Wyatt Earp (age 73) attending a group luncheon in Los Angeles in 1923. Apparently two young men of the Jazz Age were sitting across from him at the table, and taking disrespectfully about women. Wyatt Earp responded by standing up at the table, glowering at them, and saying "You don't talk about a woman like that." I believe that in an earlier age, they called this chivalry.

    The frontier was not a black-and-white place. There was no guaranteed employment or government safety net. People were living meal-to-meal. The money was either in the saloons or in prospecting (which very few people were successful at). Earp went where the money was - in the saloons which were town social centers for men at the time (the YMCA wasn't available).

    Women were also in short supply on the frontier, particularly in a violent mining town like Tombstone, in the middle of Apache country, within 30 miles of the lawless Mexican border. That's why a local rancher would occasionally marry a "soiled dove." These ladies appreciated a good man, having seen the worst of men. Common-law marriages were also legal and recognized at the time. So, it's not surprising that Earp had two or three soiled doves as common-law wives.

    As an earlier respondent indicated, Wyatt Earp lost his way for a time after his first wife died. In later life, he lived in poverty. Unlike many of our contemporaries, Wyatt didn't try to lift himself out of poverty by selling drugs or committing violent crimes against innocent people.
    There was also a frontier tradition of cleaning out a "greenhorn" in his first card game in order to teach him a lesson on being careful with whom he played cards.

    Mr. Correa, you seem to dwell excessively on Wyatt Earp's shortcomings as seen from a modern perspective. People should be judged by the standards of their own time -- not by those of another age. Earp was not a saint, but then I've never met a "saint" in my 60 years. Just as Perry Mason inspired many people to study the law, Wyatt Earp inspired many people to become peace officers.

    In closing, Mr. Correa, I believe that this biblical verse applies to you. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

    1. I have never said that I'm without sin. But really, what does that have to do with examining people and/or events in our history? Since none of us are without sin, does that mean that none of us should examine the lives of people and/or events in our history? That's ludicrous. I examine everyone with the same gauge, the same measuring stick, in the same way. Yes, simply by looking at facts.

      Thank you for visiting my site.

  14. He was a Law Man in Kansas, as I am too. I'm sure he wasn't perfect, and made mistakes in his life as I have mine. I am proud to wear a badge and gun, and up hold the laws of Kansas as once the great legend, Wyatt Earp.
    T. Dietz

    1. Officer Dietz, Thank you for your service. I have always been pro-Law Enforcement. It is just my opinion, but Earp was not a lawmen very long at all because he wasn't a very good lawmen. Just my opinion. I'm sure you're a thousand times better the lawmen than Earp ever was. And yes, you have my respect for that. Best Regards, Please Stay Safe, Tom Correa

  15. Tom, while I agree that Hollyweird more than likely inflated history for profits, I find that you are a petty person that wouldn't have lasted a day in the times of Wyatt Earp. Not a single person knows the exact truth of his life, yet you seem so sure of yourself. You sound like a bitter, and petty man

  16. I very much enjoy your articles on Wyatt Earp and I enjoy even more the responses people write. I've been in law enforcement over thirty years and I'm sure no one will write books or make movies about my life. If as you say Wyatt was in law enforcement three years what an impression he made. One person wrote it wasn't against the law to run whore houses and he is correct. I live in a small town in Colorado and can remember in the 60's the county sheriff having one outside of town. Anyway great stories and great comments.

    1. Before anything else, I want to thank you for your service. Being in law enforcement has always been a thankless job, but it seems these days that's even more the case. As for the idea that running a whorehouse was not against the law? Yes, just as today, in some jurisdictions it's not against the law. For example, even today, Nevada state law makes brothels legal. Right across the state line in California, brothels are illegal. The same took place in the 1800s. That's why Earp was arrested on 3 different occasions in Illinois for being a pimp. As for Wyatt Earp being a lawman for a little over three years? I think it was closer to 4 years if we count the time he was a constable. As for his making an impression as a lawman? He really didn't leave a very good impression at the time. He was considered "notorious" and "infamous". He stayed out of Arizona because he was wanted for the murder of Frank Stilwell. His personal history was re-written because of Hollywood. Just as the Dime Novels and Harper's made Wild Bill famous, Hollywood made Wyatt Earp famous. Many of who we see as Old West "legends" really did not work as lawmen for very long. Dime Novelist and Hollywood has made them who they are today. If memory serves me right, I think Bat Masterson had been a lawmen all toll for about 5 years in 3 different places, and I think Wild Bill was a lawman for about 2 years in 2 different places. There were real career lawmen in the Old West who we sadly don't hear about. Some of them were Harry C. Wheeler, Frank Dalton, Harry Nicholson Morse, John Hicks Adams, and Tom Threepersons. These were real tough as nails lawmen who spent their entire lives standing tall for the law, hunting criminals, bringing in bad guys, and doing what was needed. Sadly, few have heard their names. Many were really famous in their day. I really believe that they didn't get the press simply because Hollywood didn't make them famous like it did with Wyatt Earp and a few others. So sadly, their names are more or less forgotten today. Thanks for visiting my blog. I truly appreciate it.

  17. I live in Juneau, and have studied as much as I can about Wyatt Earp. I am of the opinion that the gun left in the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau is not Mr. Earp's gun. Since his gun was an extension of his body, to not pick up his gun when he left Juneau would be like leaving his hand behind. If you have more information on this I would like to hear it...thanks! You may find this amazing, but in the course of my research I found the Lake book in the secured Archive section of the State library. Was wondering why it would be there, a common book...opened the cover and there was a full page letter to Mr. Lake from and signed by Mr. Earp and dated, ooooh to have a camera back then. The library was closed and the books given away...I found out too late, and have been searching the local used book stores since lol.

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  20. I am a subscriber to the Tombstone Epitaph newspaper. I think I will look over my issues, which contain factual historical accounts, and see if there is any mention of his wrong doings. I know that, according to the Epitaph, Josie was a spoiled dove.

    1. Good luck with that! The folks at the Epitaph have always been fans of Wyatt Earp. Not very unbiased, not very objective reporting at all. They have a few folks there who are very defensive when one is questioning the actions and motives of Wyatt Earp. So if you're using the Epitaph as a source for your investigation/research, good luck with that. Seriously.

  21. This is a fascinating site with great conversation and debate! Thank you all. I for one have a soft spot in my Heart for Wyatt,,and the comment to "Judge a man by his times" is one I will always remember. :)

  22. Stuart N Lakes' 'fiction' on Wyatt Earp was read by me back in the 50's. I was to be truthful completely taken in by it and only after reading other documents/books did I realize that it was a fictional story which had been bolstered by Hollywood and Western Enthusiasts. Sadly extracting fact from fiction is almost impossible when one has to deal with the lack of unbiased documentation and people's biased views one way or another. Never mind it does make for good story material and movie experience!

  23. A lot of the confusion is SW nomenclature. Clum said he presented Earp with a New Model Number Three American? Ain't no such thang. Number Three American's dated from about 1870-1874, were not called 'New Models,' and almost all had 8" barrels. New Model Number Three's came out in 1878, were produced into the 1900's, most had 6 1/2" barrels, and were far more compatible with an overcoat pocket. And why would Clum do a "Presentation" of a revolver about ten years old (and not in production for at least seven years)??? Last item: for the same reasons, Teddy Roosevelt ordered a (new) New Model Number Three for Cuba, not an 'obsolete' Number Three American- but he carried a different revolver entirely.

    1. While I understand where you're coming from, I have heard the New Model 3 referred to as the "New Model 3 American." Why would someone call it such? Well, that has to do with the fact that the New Model 3 design returned to the original Smith & Wesson Model 3 American barrel latch system. Thanks for the catch. I edited that section of my article to give it more clarity. Teddy Roosevelt actually carried a double-action Colt. Some say that Colt was retrieved from the battleship USS Maine.

      Thanks again. Tom Correa

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