Outtakes: Glenn Boyer, Wyatt Earp expert, on Josie Earp, wife of the frontiersman

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
"This image, entitled `Kaloma', was taken around 1880. I first saw it in 1956, on a photograph given to me by a woman called Carmelita Mayhew, a lifelong friend of Josie Earp, wife of Wyatt Earp. She told me it was of Josie. And, in 1967, Ernest Cason, widower of Mabel Earp Cason, one of Josie's biographers, sent me a locket photo which he'd found among papers left by his wife. The face in the oval was, in my opinion, identical to that on Carmelita's full photo.

Josie - Josephine Sarah Marcus - probably met Wyatt Earp in late 1880, as an associate of Sheriff John Behan, whom she came to Tombstone, Arizona, to marry. But they never did marry - Behan was a notorious womaniser - and she ended up leaving him for Wyatt Earp in 1888. I don't think Josie and Wyatt were ceremonially married, but she lived with him as his third `wife' for the rest of his life.

Later publications of a similar photo on posters and wallet-size photos, with different identities given to them, have caused some to doubt that the photo is of Josie. `Kaloma' - copyrighted in 1914 by the Pastime Novelty Company - was the first of these to surface. But `Kaloma' sounds to me like a name picked out of the air by someone aiming to peddle a picture of a sexy woman; they wouldn't have known that it was Josie Earp. So I have concluded that the original may have escaped from Johnny Behan's effects on his death in 1912, and been exploited commercially. It was carried all over the world, probably because it had been sold to soldiers in World War I. I have received copies from as far away as Australia.

I'm still of the opinion that it's Josie, though I have often wondered if it is a composite photograph, with her head grafted on to another body. I met Josie in 1943, shortly before her death, and she looked practically ageless, with an almost wrinkleless face - but she was a little dumpy thing, and she didn't have the long neck that she appears to have in the photograph."

`Kaloma' (photographer unknown) will be auctioned at Sotheby's, New York, Wednesday 8 October, est $2,000- $3,000