KALOMA: The Josie Earp Mystery Photo
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.