Josephine Sarah Marcus

Since today is Wyatt Earp’s birthday, I thought I would repost this blog article about his third wife.

This happens sometimes. I get off on a research project and then get stuck in a time period and end up spending months somewhere some time reading little esoteric lines of enquiry. There is a joke about the restaurant that advertised they sold breakfast anytime and a patron requested french toast during the renaissance. Well that’s me. Somewhere around age 10 I got stuck in the mid 1800s in Massachusetts. I’ve been locked into Caesar’s Rome, Catherine’s Russia, and Elizabeth’s England with Shakespeare for company.

Yesterday the Doolin-Dalton gang got my attention and I vaguely mentioned that the “wild, wild west” didn’t last very long. In checking out some of the info, I started to think about the women. We’ve heard about Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley, but what about the Marshalls and desperados? Did they have wives? Who were they? What happened to them?

Most of these women were in their own way as rough and tough as the men. They were actresses, dancers, and “companionable comfort” for the even rougher men. Most, whatever their youthful indiscretions and presuming they survived their law and outlaw men, usually ended up respectable and generous elders living well into the 20th century. They had really exciting lives and you hear nothing because we are almost always taught “his” story not “her” story and because records for the time period can be somewhat limited when it comes to women who rarely had careers or activities considered important.

One of the best documented is Wyatt Earp’s third wife, Josephine Sarah Marcus (Josie) (1861 – 1944). His first wife Urilla Sutherland had died of typhus only a few months after their marriage in 1870. He took up with his second companion Anne “Mattie” Blaylock in 1973 , but left her behind with a house in Tombstone, AZ in 1882 after meeting Josie in San Francisco. Read the full Wikipedia biographies for the scandal involving Mattie and Josie as they are better than anything you are likely to see splashed all over the tabloids today, and why should I have all the fun.

There is a mystery associated with Josie that extends all the way into the psychadelic rock era, and that is the image sometimes referred to as Kaloma that was used on one of the most popular posters of the time.

You can find the whole story, background and discussion as to whether or not the image on the left that was used on the cover of a biography of Wyatt Earp and then used again in the poster is Josie Earp on this web site as it is rather long and involved but very interesting. The image at the top of the page is definitely the elderly Josie taken in Los Angeles. Wyatt passed away in 1928 while Josie lived until the first years of World War II with many friends in the film industry.

Now you all just stay busy for a while. I have to go find out what happened to the wives of Emmett Dalton, Bat Masterson, and Jesse James. (Now you can see what getting stuck can do to you.)


About Jamie

Retired Writer Editor - Loves Books, Musical Theater, politics for a good argument, genealogy, Scotland and owls
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5 Responses to Kaloma

  1. Jamie says:

    Actual birthday for Earp is March 19 … missed by a bit.


  2. Travis says:

    This is very cool. Of the modern movies, I enjoyed Tombstone for its colorful and stylized representation of the era. I enjoyed Wyatt Earp for what I thought was an attempt to more thoroughly tell the history. I think they both got the details of the shoot out pretty close.

    But I’ve always been curious as to whether either film got the stories of Earp’s relationships correct.


    • Jamie says:

      So many people think of the wild, wild west as ancient history until you see stories such as this one with this historical figures living well into the 20th century.


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