Controversial Western Historian Dies

It shoulda been you, Josie.

Glenn Boyer died on February 14 at 89. He was a towering figure among those who mined the vein of Wyatt Earp history. For years, he was considered a groundbreaking researcher. Then cracks emerged in his work, a purported memoir of Wyatt’s wife Josephine and “Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone Vendetta.”

By the turn of the 21st Century, it was clear that Boyer filled in the gaps in his research the old-fashioned way: He made shit up. Or, “took liberties,” if you prefer.

And he was truculent and unrepentant about it. He claimed that his “Illustrated Life of Doc Holliday” was a hoax designed to trap gullible historians. Queried as to how that might affect the credibility of his other work he responded:

“I don’t give a damn about the credibility about the more serious work, let’s put it that way. Therefore, I have no idea how detracted the credibility…. Anybody that can’t tell, if they have read much of my serious work, that it’s bona fide is a candidate for mental examination. I’ve told the truth as I’ve seen it.”

(Boyer vs. Tefertiller: Penslingers Face off over Wyatt Earp By Sierra Adare, Wild West Magazine)

He sometimes claimed he was a literary artist, not a historian — an odd claim for someone purporting to write history. But Boyer’s stories changed a lot.

In 2000, Boyer and some supporters engaged in a tense confrontation with journalist, Earp buff and Boyer critic Allen Barra in Tombstone.

Boyer is responsible for one of the most widely reproduced misidentifications of photos in history. He put a beautiful, shawled woman with a singularly lush figure on the cover of “I Married Wyatt Earp.” Claimed it was a photo of Josie Earp taken in Tombstone. In reality, it was a photogravure titled “Kaloma,” from 1914. Sigh. It shoulda been Josie. It wasn’t Josie.

Boyer started out as a debunker of the results of the “print the legend” school of Western history, and ended up creating his own fictions — and his own legend.

It was all bizarre, colorful and larger than life. And kinda sad.




  1. John Cornelius says

    I think that MSU is becoming so widespread (literature, resumes, “documentaries”) that some colleges and universities are offering courses in it. I made that up, so you don’t have to check it out. Thanks for the morning titillation, though.

    John C.

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