TYPE: Letter
DIMENSIONS: 8 1/2" x 11"
COMPONENTS: 2 letters
NOTES: From the Robert Palazzo Collection
Robert P. Palazzo is a historian, scholar, attorney, and author who has written on such diverse topics as medieval pilgrimage, relics, outlaws, Shakespeare, and historic weapons. However, the American West remains his true passion. He is a lifetime member of the Death Valley Natural History Association and the New Coso Heritage Society, as well as a board member of the Museum of Western Film History.
ITEM ID: 4855
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Two Letters Signed by Josephine Earp

Year: 1941
Decade: 1940s
Century: 20th (1901-2000)

Two letters signed by Josephine Earp.

The first letter, dated September 16, 1941 (Los Angeles, CA). Josie writes to an author of “Westerns” Walt Coburn to inquire whether he would be interested in ghost-writing the book. She advises that she already has a tentative publication deal with Houghton Mifflin, and suggests as the titled “My life with Wyatt Earp”.

The second letter, also to Coburn, dated October 27, 1941, regarding apologizing for not getting back to him.

Josephine Sarah “Sadie” Earp (née Marcus; 1861 – December 19, 1944) was the common-law wife of Wyatt Earp, a famed Old West lawman and gambler. She met Wyatt in 1881 in the frontier boom town of Tombstone, Arizona Territory, when she was living with Johnny Behan, sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona.

Josephine was born in New York to a Prussian Jewish family; her father was a baker. They moved to San Francisco, where Josephine attended dance school as a girl. When her father had difficulty finding work, the family moved in with her older sister and brother-in-law in a working-class tenement. Josephine ran away, possibly as early as age 14, and traveled to Arizona, where she said she went looking for “adventure”. Much of her life from about 1874 to 1882 when she lived in the Arizona Territory is uncertain; she worked hard to keep this period of her life private, even threatening legal action against writers and movie producers. She may have arrived in Prescott, Arizona as early as 1874. In a book supposedly about her life, I Married Wyatt Earp (1967), she describes events in Arizona that she witnessed that occurred before 1879, the year she previously claimed to have first arrived in Tombstone (but see article on Wyatt Earp: this book is not a genuine memoir). There is some evidence that she lived in Prescott and Tip Top, Arizona Territory under the assumed name of Sadie Mansfield, and worked as a prostitute from 1874 to 1876, before becoming ill and returning to San Francisco. The name Sadie Mansfield was also recorded in Tombstone. Researchers have found that the two names share extremely similar characteristics and circumstances.

Later in life Josephine described her first years in Arizona as “a bad dream”. What is known for certain is that she traveled to Tombstone using the name Josephine Marcus in October 1880. She wrote that she met Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan when she was 17 and he was 33. He promised to marry her and she joined him in Tombstone. He reneged but persuaded her to stay. Behan was sympathetic to ranchers and certain outlaw Cowboys, who were at odds with Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp and his brothers, Wyatt and Morgan. Josephine left Behan in 1881, before the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, during which Wyatt and his brothers killed three Cochise County Cowboys. She went to San Francisco in March 1882 and was joined that fall by Wyatt, with whom she remained in a common-law marriage for 46 years until his death.

Josephine and Wyatt moved throughout their life, from one boomtown to another, until they finally bought a cottage in the Sonoran Desert town of Vidal, California on the Colorado River, where they spent the cooler seasons. In the summer they retreated to Los Angeles, where Wyatt struck up relationships with some of the early cowboy actors, including William S. Hart and Tom Mix. Josephine Earp and her relationship to Wyatt became known after amateur historian Glenn Boyer published his book, I Married Wyatt Earp, based on a manuscript allegedly written in part by her. Boyer’s book was considered a factual memoir, and cited by scholars, studied in classrooms, and used as a source by filmmakers for 32 years. In 1998, reporters and scholars found that Boyer could not document many of the facts he wrote about the time period in Tombstone. Some critics described the book as a fraud and a hoax, and the University of Arizona withdrew the book from its catalog.

Walt Coburn (1889–1971) was an American writer of Westerns. Coburn was born in White Sulphur Springs, Montana Territory, the son of Robert Coburn Senior, the founder of the noted Circle C Ranch.

Coburn served in the military in the First World War. He later spent time as a cowboy and a surveyor, before becoming a full-time writer in the 1920s.

Coburn began his career with Western stories in general fiction pulp magazines such as Adventure and Argosy. Later Coburn moved on to pulps specializing in Westerns, including Western Story Magazine, Lariat Story Magazine, Ace-High Western and Frontier Stories. He often wrote for the Fiction House pulp magazines, which promoted Coburn as “the Cowboy Author”.

Coburn was enormously prolific; Flanagan states Coburn wrote almost two million words of fiction over a thirty year period. Coburn at his most prolific, averaged over 600,000 published words per year. He was so popular that eventually, two pulp magazines – Walt Coburn’s Western Magazine and Walt Coburn’s Action Novels were issued, consisting mainly of reprints of Coburn’s work. After the pulps ended in the 1950s, Coburn switched his focus to writing paperback originals.

Coburn was a devout Christian. Coburn claimed, in his posthumously published autobiography Western Word Wrangler (1973) that God had chosen him to spread the Christian message through his fiction. Coburn committed suicide at age 82 in Prescott, Arizona.