"No rumor. That's Josie."
For a slightly different take on the matter, see the Old West blog.
The author has this to say: "Most people will tell you that the picture shown here is that of Wyatt Earp's wife Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp. Why is it that we believe this? Well it all started with a lie and has grown to the point that the movies Tombstone and Wyatt Earp virtually made it a fact."
Maine Antique Digest reports on a recent sale by Classique Erotique Auctions, Phoenix, Arizona: "A great deal of interest was shown in a 20th-century American school 1914 vintage hand-tinted silver print titled Kaloma, sometimes believed to depict Wyatt Earp's wife. The 12" x 5" print, blind-stamped in the lower margin "Copyright 1914 - P.N. CO. Pastime Novelty Co.," sold for $3300, (est. $2500/ 3500).
'There always has been a lot of hype surrounding this image," gallery director Amanda Collins said, "but it pretty much has been proven that she is not Wyatt Earp's wife. Nonetheless, there was great interest in it.'"
As this is written an eBay auction of the same print has 15 bids for the same print, with the high bid at $115.
Writers who deal with historical figures fall into two general camps. The first and most common are those who enjoy a good story about their subject, especially a racy one, and don’t hesitate to embellish here and there. (These are the “If it didn’t happen that way, it should have” school.)
Then there are those who use a scientific approach, who only draw conclusions from hard evidence and provable facts. W.J. Elvin is solidly in the latter group. A career journalist on the Washington political beat, Mr. Elvin has a well-developed instinct for spotting con men and their agendas.
He has written a double purpose book here. He tells the story of a semi-famous photo of a young woman in what was called the “vamp” style, made popular in the early years of the last century, and claimed by some to be Josephine Marcus Earp, third and last wife of Wyatt Earp. Then he takes us down the twisted trail of the picture’s history, introducing us to a number of fascinating characters, including two who deserve books of their own - - Earp “experts” and collectors John D. Gilchriese and Glenn Boyer. Meeting Mr. Boyer alone is worth the price of this book.
Kaloma (the title refers to the original “name” of the picture) leaves no doubt where Mr. Elvin stands on the questionable authenticity of the photo, but he also provides a valuable guide through the murky swamp that is Western memorabilia. Anyone interested in collecting historical material, and Western documents in particular should not only read but memorize Mr. Elvin’s advice.
By Casey Tefertiller
I just received the Kaloma book that has been mentioned on this site, and I expect everyone here will want it on their bookshelves. There are a few things worth mentioning.
This is quite an interesting work. I heard a senator say that because no one seems to like the new immigration bill, that is probably an indication that it is fair and good for all sides. If that is a standard of success, this book succeeds in the same way.
The book is about the picture: attempting to reach a conclusion as to whether the picture is really Josephine Earp or not. The key evidence presented comes from interviews with Jeremy Rowe, another photo expert named Alex Novak and Glenn Boyer. In my opinion, Jeremy Rowe's article in True West a few years ago was pretty close to definitive on this subject, but the additional information from Novak is quite interesting.
Elvin takes Boyer's explanations and skewers the illogic of them, usually gently but clearly. He does so first with the photo, then second in another section where Elvin discusses “I Married Wyatt Earp.” Elvin takes pains to demonstrate that the book may not be what is advertised, but he assures that it is not a “fraud.” He makes the case that because Boyer believes what he says, the book is not fraudulent, even though the material is phony. OK – you have to read it, since I am not going to get it straight. Even while doing this, he demonstrates some of Boyer's faulty logic. Elvin also says that the book contains clues that should have made researchers aware it was not really Josephine Earp's autobiography. He does NOT deal with the question of why numerous writers accepted it as factual – an obvious question that needed addressing to make this case.
There are some interesting points in all this. Elvin deals with Boyer's explanations as if they were in a vacuum – that what he says now is what he has always said. Just about all of us here have been around long enough to know that is not the case, and that Boyer has consistently evolved his explanations as time has passed. Some of us even recall when he appeared on these boards assuring that these were the words of Josephine Earp, then changed his story just weeks later to “creative nonfiction.”
Elvin does not deal with any evolution, just Boyer as is now. Much of the background information is available in the archives attached to this board. As such, he is not kind to those who questioned Boyer and takes several slight jabs, such as referring to the criticism as “shrill.” It should be noted that he did not contact Jeff, Gary, me or (to my knowledge) anyone who could provide any insight onto the subject. He does quote from previous comments, some without providing the source.
At one point, he recreates the gunfight. His source: Wikipedia !?!
Here is the opening line of the book: “October 26, 1881 ... There are many tellers of the tale, and it is told in many different ways. But all agree that Josephine Marcus, known to us as Josie Earp, rushed to Wyatt's side on that cold and bloody afternoon in Tombstone, Arizona Territory.”
Altogether, he is kind to Boyer while showing that what he says makes little sense. He shows that Boyer presented both a false picture and a false book, but defends it for not being fraudulent. Although he is very aware the picture and IMWE are not as billed, he seems to accept Boyer's word for various other things, without contacting anyone who could provide contrary evidence. The simple question would be, if he is aware that Boyer presented false information, why would he believe what he says?
I will be very eager to hear what others have to say.
(Note: I responded briefly to some of Casey's remarks in a follup note: "I appreciate the time Mr. Tefertiller or anyone else takes to study and comment on the book. And I'd have to agree he nailed me on the purplish prose of that opening paragraph; I overdosed on Saturday matinee cowboy movies I guess. As for Wikipedia's research, well, the whole point of the effort is to alert folks who might spend outrageous sums of money on a highly questionnable photo...the rest of it, whether Wiki or Wacky, is intended to be supportive of that effort. I mean, if you want to read about the gunfight there are plenty of books about that; my focus is on the "yes or no" of the alleged Josie photo. Anyway, it's kind of nice to be able to reply promptly to a review, generally a lot of time would pass and nobody would remember what the heck it was all about.") WJE III