Monday, May 15, 2017

Wyatt Earp’s 1911 Faro Con Game -- The New York Times

Wyatt Earp
Dear Friends,

I keep getting email from people saying that he was a famous gunfighter before his involvement in the fixing of the 1896 Fitzsimmons vs Sharkey Heavyweight Championship Boxing Scandal. But frankly, from what I can see, that's not true. And while some Old West historians, those who are obviously fans of Wyatt Earp, say he was widely known as a gunman as a result of what took place near the OK Corral, that's really wishful thinking on their part.

Like it or not, Wyatt Earp was never famous for being a lawman while he was alive. Fact is, while there were many who wanted to achieve the status of say Wild Bill Hickok while they were alive, to be legends in their own time, very few made it. Wyatt Earp was not one of them.

Wyatt Earp became widely known on a national scale, infamous, when he was the referee who carried out the fixed Heavyweight Champion Fight in San Francisco in 1896. 

With his connection to that fixed fight, his participation in other criminal enterprises such as his gold brink scam and his claim jumping in Idaho, as well as his associations with well-known criminals were uncovered. With these revelations, he became very well known as being part of the criminal types who were only allowed to walk the streets because they hadn't done enough to get sent to prison and be kept there.

After posting facts about Wyatt Earp's nefarious past, readers have written to ask where I get some of this information from? Well, below is a copy of an article from The New York Times pertaining to his arrest as part of a con game to bilk some sucker out of a great deal of money, especially for the times.

On July 22nd, 1911, The New York Times wrote:

Earp’s Faro Plan Fails

Marshal who disqualified Fitzsimmons arrested in raid.

Los Angeles, California, July 22nd, 1911 -- Wyatt Earp, Arizona Marshal of early days, who in 1896, as a prize fight referee disqualified Bob Fitzsimmons for a doubtful foul and awarded a decision to Tom Sharkey, was remanded to prison to-day for failure to produce $500 bond for his arraignment on a ‘get-rich-quick’ charge.

Earp and his two companions, Walter Scott and E. Dunne, who are also in jail, will plead next Tuesday. J.Y. Peterson, a realty broker, told detectives that Earp had unfolded to him a scheme to break a faro bank which Earp was operating as an employee.

According to Peterson, he was to appear in the gambling room with $2,500, and by means of marked cards was to be permitted to win $4,000, to be shared with Earp, Scott and Dunne. Peterson pretended to acquiesce in the arrangement, but when the big winning was to have taken place detectives whom he had previously informed raided the place. The faro outfit was confiscated.”

-- end of The New York Times article.

This took place after Wyatt Earp returned from Alaska. Because of his being exposed in the Fitzsimmons fight in 1896, Earp's reputation was one as someone notorious. Because he was caught refereeing a fixed heavyweight boxing championship fight, which ended up with Earp in court at the center of the 19th century's biggest controversy in sports gambling, he was considered someone to be watched, someone who needed to be put him on the radar of local law enforcement agencies up and down the West Coast.  

While there are "Wyatt Earp fans" who try to play down his shady reputation among law enforcement, even to the point of making up stories of his being an undercover officer for departments in Southern California. The hard truth is that he was on police "Watch Lists," no different than other criminal types in the day. 

We can see first hand what The New York Times wrote about his arrest in 1911. The Los Angeles Police Department Bunco Squad spoke to The Los Angeles Times concerning Earp's complicity in an attempt to cheat a man out of a quarter of a million dollars. You can read their statement below.

So really, if you don't believe The New York Times, here's a report on the same crime from July 25th, 1911, when The Los Angeles Times wrote:

"The charge of vagrancy against Wyatt Earp, Walter Scott, and Harry Dean whom J. Y. Peterson, a real estate man, complained had attempted to fleece him out of a large amount of money in a game of Faro Friday night, will be charged in Police court today to one of having conspired to conduct a gambling game.

The fact that detectives broke into the Auditorium Hotel, 507 West 5th. where the game had been set up, and arrested the trio before operations had begun, prevents the placing of the more serious charge, conspiracy to defraud, against them. The charge of conspiracy as applied in the case against the three men is a misdemeanor and is to be disposed of in Police court.

All the paraphernalia which was found in the room when the police broke in is in the hands of the police. It consists of a Faro layout, dealing box, a deck of cards which has in the center of each a small hole so the dealer can see at a glance if the second card down is odd or even, one hundred chips such as are used in the regulation faro game."

-- end of The Los Angeles Times article.

So why wasn't he tried? From everything that I've read on this, the only reason that he wasn't charged with a felony it the case of the Faro Con Game was because of poor evidence handling on the part of the police at the time. If that hadn't been the case, Wyatt Earp would have been taken to trial instead of having the charges dropped.

As for those who say this was just one arrest, fact is Wyatt Earp was arrested a total of 11 times in his life. And yes, I agree with those who say that that fact in itself qualifies him to be considered a life-long habitual criminal. It certainly would classify him as such in today's world.

All of this supports the reasons why law enforcement during the time saw Wyatt Earp for what he was, just a con-artist and criminal who was fortunate to evade the law most of his life.

Tom Correa


  1. Interesting article as always.

    I did note in the picture how much he looks like Val Kilmer's portrayal of Doc Holiday in "Tombstone."

  2. New York Times. FAKE NEWS πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜‚

  3. Partly true, this article, partly not. Some of the Earp arrests were actually other people with slightly similar names. W. Errup and so on. Assumptions have been made. Earp may have been involved in card cheats and maybe not--the thing was not proved, apparently. Earp was, at times, a policemen, of some efficiency, and noted for it in newspapers in Wichita and Dodge. He did not have a national reputation but he had a local one. He spent more time in his life as a gambler and prospector.

    1. If you believe that. Good. I just print what I have found to be factual. You cannot erase arrest records or say that it was someone else, when in fact it was Wyatt Earp. Not Wyatt Burp, or Wyatt Slurp, or as you say "W. Errup." Like it or not, it was Wyatt Earp. That's just a fact.


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