Tombstone History Archives

 Chronicles of Tombstone's TurbulEnt Years

Letters Between Wyatt Earp & William S. Hart


Transcribed by Eric Hewitt




Earp/Hart letters (part 1)


There has been some discussion below concerning the Hart letters and the Flood manuscript. The letters shed some light on Earp’s intent, state of mind, concerning the telling of his life story.


Dear Mr. Hart:


I want to tell you how much Mrs. Earp and I enjoyed our visit with you the other week. It was a long time sime either of us had seen you and the little chat we had did us a lot of good, and we came away happy with having seen you again.


I was interested in what you told me of your plans for the next few years and the films that you are to make. I really had something of this in mind when Mrs. Earp and I called but you were busy and it is something that could wait.


During the past few years, many wrong impressions of the early days of Tombstone and myself have been created by writers who are not informed correctly, and this has caused me a concern which I feel deeply.


You know, I realize that I am not going to live to the age of Methuselah, and any wrong impression, I want made right before I go away. The screen could do all this, I know, with yourself as the master mind. Not that I want to obligate you because of our friendship but I know that I can come to you with this and other things and not feel hurt at anything you may wish to say. Could the story be published in the Examiner? But this is something that I can’t write very well. I wonder whether I might come and talk the matter over with you?


Perhaps there are other events of the early days, in connection with your pictures, that have grown dim; old memories that need polishing Maybe I can help. I hope you will ask me and I am sure you will.


Mrs. Earp joins me in kind regards, and I shall be glad for you to write me.


Your friend,

/S/ Wyatt Earp


- Earp to Hart, July 7, 1923 - as reproduced in the Tombstone Tumbleweed, 4/30/98




Earp/Hart Part 2


Dear Mr. Hart:


A few weeks ago, Mrs. Earp and I returned to Los Angeles after a long visit up North. I always like to get back to the sunshine again although I shall have to say that my health was much improved up around the bay this summer. I am afraid I am inclined to be lazy down here but I like it nevertheless, and I have stayed pretty closely to my bed for the past week of (sic) so, trying to get rid of a cold.


I know you will be interested to hear about my visit with Mr. J. M. Scanland. You may recollect, he is the author of that tale which appeared in “The Los Angeles Times” several years ago, and about which you so vigorously protested.


After a search of more than two years, my friend finally located him, and together, we called at his place of residence on Berkeley Street. Mr. Scanland is an old man. He expressed regret over the incident and offered apologies and amends, and gave me a type-written retraction of the story which he very willingly signed.


It does beat the band how the truth will be warped and misstated over a period of years. Even the paragraphs about “Doc” Holliday shooting a man in Los Angeles was without foundation. Holliday, to my positive knowledge, never had been in Los Angeles nor as far west as the Pacific Coast, and this shooting affair, which Scanland mentioned, occured five years after the death of “Doc” Holliday in Colorado. Thus it goes when a man is not present to defend himself.


The story is almost finished, my friend assures me, so this ought to be ready to present to you before the holidays. I am becoming a little anxious for it myself but I guess his personal affairs have demanded all this time recently. However, I hope to have the MS. before you before a great while. In about ten days, my schedule is taking me out to camp; there is always assessment work and development to be done, and I hardly expect to be in Los Angeles again for several months.


Mrs. Earp wishes to be remembered; we trust you are well. Please give our regards to your sister and write us a line, or telephone if it is convenient; be sure to do this.


Your friend,

/S/ Wyatt Earp



1818 Fourth Avenue,

Los Angeles, California;

Telephone: Empire 1914.


P.S. I am inclosing several newspaper clippings of recent date. These were written by friends who knew me in the old days. It is a great satisfaction to have such expressions from those who knew me as I really was and am. I thought you would be interested.


When it is convenient, will you kindly mail them back to me.


- Earp to Hart, November 18, 1924




Earp/Hart letters part 3


Dear Mr. Hart:


Mrs. Earp and I are on our way to Oakland. We came in from camp several days ago and we just wanted to say “Hello!”


If my health were a little better, I might say what my plans would be. But I don’t feel good and it may mean an operation, either here or in Oakland; I don’t know.


My friend has the story completed and it is now going through the final processes on the typewriter. I shall send you the original, as I promised, just as soon as it is in my hands. Two of the original coaches, used on the old stage line between Tombstone and Benson, have been located; I thought you might be interested to know this.


You have made some changes, I observe, and I wonder whether you still would be inclined to film the production. If it goes on the screen at all, I would not want anyone but you to play the role and to put it there.


It often has amused me to read the different versions of the early days at Tombstone, published in recent years. All the fiction has been ruled out in the MS I shall send you. There will be some big surprises, and friends of those old days right here in Los Angeles, are ready to substantiate its genuineness.


It will please me to hear all about yourself and what you are doing. I trust your sister is well and completely recovered from her illness of last year. Please give her my regards; Mrs. Earp joins me in this.


Best wishes, and write me when you can.


Your friend,

/S/ Wyatt Earp


- Earp to Hart, April 11, 1925




Earp/Hart letters part 4


My dear Friend:


It is fine to hear from you again, and to know that you are well and with the prospects good. Getting in touch with you whenever I am passing through Los Angeles seems the natural thing to do.


I had no idea your sister had been so ill. It is hard to see those suffer who are dear to us. This, no doubt is the big turn for her that she shall be strong and well again, and I am glad with you for her promise of recovery.


Your point of view on the story has boosted my hope a full point. My friend has done just that - made it a story. If it really becomes an actuality, it will be, in a way, a realization of many friends who have urged me to this. Some declare there is sufficient material to rival “The Spoilers.” I don’t know about that; I would have to so some to beat Rex Beach.


In any event, the typed MS will be ready for you upon your return from New York, and I shall value your appraisal most.


I must confess my disappointment in being unable to see you; my schedule is hurrying me North; we leave Saturday Morning.


But I have it: perhaps your trip East might route you by way of San Francisco; it would be fine for us if you would visit Mrs. Earp and myself at Oakland; our address is 2703 Telegraph Avenue. Mrs. Earp says she hopes you will do this, and drop us a line.


We send our regards to your sister, with a personal thought for her complete recovery.


Best wishes, and write us soon.


Your friend,

/S/ Wyatt Earp


- Earp to Hart, April 16, 1925




Earp/Hart letters part 5 (The Script)


My dear Mr. Hart:


I am enclosing two letters for your perusal. I thought you may be interested in reading the letter I received from Mr. Hays.


In reference to the letter from Mr. Hammond, you will notice that he says he will write to Scribner’s and tell them the article published was not correct. I am tired of seeing so many articles published concerning me which are untrue.


I have just received word that the script which I am having written will be ready in a short time. As soon as I receive the same, I will immediately forward it to you as I am very anxious to get your judgment on it. I know there is no one better qualified to pass upon it than yourself. I am in hopes that the material in the script will be available for your use.


I am sure that if the story were exploited on the screen by you, it would do much toward setting me right before a public, which has always been fed up on lies about me. It is just such articles as were published about me being in Dawson, when I have never been there, that have put me wrong before the public. I have been in Nome and several other places in Alaska, but never in Dawson.


I trust that you are in good health, and that I may have the pleasure of hearing from you soon, with my very kindest regards, I am,


Sincerely yours,

/S/ Wyatt Earp


- Earp to Hart, July 3, 1925




Part 6: two letters, one from Hart + Wyatt declining health


My dear Mr. Earp:


I just received your letter of July 3d enclosing one from Mr. Hammond. I am very glad to know that you took this matter up. It makes my hair want to stand straight up at times when I read things that I know are absolutely untrue - so I can readily imagine what it must mean to one like yourself who has ben thru it all to have false stories printed about yourself.


I do not for one moment believe that a man such as Mr. Hammond would make such mistatements unless he believed the information was authoratative. It is the doggone know-it-alls that are to blame. If they are asked any question about certain events and they do not know - - to be considered wise, they invent something.


I note what you say about sending me your story. I certainly will be mighty glad to read it. I know it will give me a great deal of pleasure


With all good wishes to yourself and Mrs. Earp, believe me to be,


Always sincerely yours,

William S. Hart


P.S. I am enclosing Mr. Hammond’s letter which will probably want to keep.


- Hart to Earp, July 7, 1925




Dear Mr. Hart:


At the time your letter was received last July, I was very ill at my home in Oakland. It was the first serious illness of my whole life, and I guess I was lucky to pull through.


Getting well again is a slow process; I came down to Los Angeles several weeks ago to recuperate and shall be here until Wednesday of the present week. However, I expect to return in about six week’s time, and hope I may see you when I do.


No doubt, you are wondering whether any progress is being made on the story. It begins to look as though it would be completed and all reay for you early in the coming month. It has been deferred far longer than I had any idea of, but my friend has been laid up with his eyes since early in the Spring, which has interfered with the work seriously.


The newspaper clippings, which are inclosed, came a few days ago. Fred Sutton, as you will observe, was one of the old timers at Dodge City. It occured to me that the information might be of some value to you in filming the pictures of the West. The article on Wild Bill Hickok, I thought you might wish to have also.


Drop me a line; I always enjoy hearing from you. Mrs. Earp sends her regards and we both wish to be remembered to your sister; I trust her health is quite the best now, and your own too.


Your friend,

/S/ Wyatt Earp


- Earp to Hart, October 19, 1925




Hart to Earp part 7


My dear Friend, Wyatt Earp:


I am mighty glad to hear from you. I am returning herewith Mr. Sutton’s letter which I presume you want to keep. Sutton has been a great admirer of my pictures for many years and I have many letters from him. His account of the opening of the Strip from the Oklahoma side is most interesting. The picture which I just finished, “Tumbleweeds” shows the action which took place on the other side - starting at Caldwell, Kansas. It will be released some time in December and I am glad to tell you that we have a real big picture. I know you will enjoy seeing it when the time comes.


Mr. Wilstach, the man who is writing the Hickok articles, wrote to me a couple of weeks ago for some information which, fortunately, I was able to give him. One of the things he wanted to know was the whereabouts of Bat Masterson and when Hickok was killed. I was able to tell him that Mr. Masterson told me personally he was in Denver at the time.


I am very sorry to know that you have been ill and am mighty glad to know that you are all O.K. If we have health, nothing else matters. My dear sister is still in bed and I feel confident she is going to get well. She is improving just a little bit right along.


I will be very glad to have the opportunity of looking over your story when it is finished. I know I will enjoy it as I have not enjoyed anything for years. Please be very, very careful into whose hands this story falls. I believe that you should get an excellent price for it and I believe it should be published in one of the biggest periodicals in the country, say, The Saturday Evening Post, then afterwards published in book form. Posterity needs such authentic documents.


When you return please let me know and I sure would be glad to see you and Mrs. Earp. Please give the lady my most sincere regards and accept a good grip of the first I am sending to you.


Always your friend,

William S. Hart


- Hart to Earp, October 21, 1925




Flood to Hart part 8


Dear Mr. Hart:


The uncompleted, uncorrected pages of a manuscript are not the most generous means of an introduction; it would have been easier to have said: “Here is the finished work.”


A few of the beginning pages may be readable, and others towards the end. The Kansas chapters of the story are but outlines, and must be rewritten, and also the others penciled in circles about the Roman numerals; I am sure Mrs. Earp will explain.


And I trust you will look kindly upon the first efforts of a novice, whose real purpose is to tell the story of Wyatt Earp, and who shall be pleased to be guided by anything you may have in mind to say.


Yours very truly,

John H. Flood, Jr.


- Flood to Hart, February 19, 1926




Hart to Lorimer part 9 (Hart goes to work)


Mr. George Horace Lorimer



Curtis Pub. Co.,

Philadelphia, Pa.


Dear Mr. Lorimer:


Wyatt Earp, the last of the great Gun Men Peace Officers of the American Frontier, is approaching four score years. He is, at the present time, living at his mine about fifty miles north of Needles and five miles East of the Colorado River. The nearest habitation being one house and a trading store some eight miles distant.


Mr. Earp has told many of the historical incidents of his life to his friend, Mr. Flood, who has set them down on paper in such a manner that I am thrilled in the reading.


If I were only a ‘Brutus’ instead of just Bill Hart, I too would be a Brutus that would ’cause the stones of Rome to cry out’ — not in mutiny, but in entreaty for you to please–please, in the interest and for the furtherance of true American history, publish this work.


William B (Bat) Masterson, crossed the big divide nearly four years ago. His story should have been told; it never was. Mr. Earp is the last of the great Gun Fighting Peace Officers. He is contemporary of the greatest single-handed fighters that the world has ever known. He knew them all and in his official capacity fought and subdued many who were against the law. Mr. Earp, in my opinion, is the only man alive today who knew such men as Bat Masterson, Bill Hickok, Luke Short, Shot Gun Collins, Chalk Beason, Ben Thompson, Doc Holliday–law and order men–and such desparadoes as Billy the Kid, Clay Allison, Curley Bill, Frank Stillwell, Billy Clanton, Phil Cole and many, many others–all bad citizens but great gun fighters.


Should this marvelous first-hand true history be lost? If I could put only part of my feelings into words, how strongly I would entreat you to publish this work. It is truth, not fiction, yet such is its power that it maintains a breathless interest throughout the reading.


I love the west. I was brought up in it until the age of fifteen years. Through my memory of those boyhood days, through the memory of my father and all the fine western men he knew, and through the fact that I have made in the neighborhood of one hundred western pictures, I have gained considerable knowledge of those frontier days, and I know that Mr. Earp is the last!


Mr. Lorimer–with my heart in my hand, I ask you to publish this story in THE SATURDAY EVENING POST, that through its world-wide circulation the rising generation may know the real from the unreal.


Very respectfully yours,

William S. Hart


- Hart to Lorimer, February 22, 1926




Flood to Hart part 10


Dear Mr. Hart:


If the story of Wyatt Earp can measure up to all the splendid things you have said of it to Mr. Lorimer, I do not know of anything finer that I might hope for and it urges on the spirit within me to the making of the finished work it ought to be.


And “Bill” Hart is to blame for it all — what a word of appreciation!


But I wouldn’t know how else to say it for it is the only sesame that has opened up to the world, the story of Wyatt Earp, and Mrs. Earp and I have tried, hopelessly, over a long period of years. Yes, such is the esteem and affection of your friend, Wyatt Earp.


Mrs. Earp left for Vidal last Saturday; won’t they both be overwhelmed when they hear of your approval and commendation.


I believe it is going to inspire, mightily, Mr. Earp’s health.


My purpose is to retire from the office and seclude myself, together with the manuscript, during the month of March. I shall have to do this Mr. Hart, as I would hesitate greatly, to let it go forth in its present rough hewn condition. After that, I shall want to bring it to you for a final word before going East.


During the interval, 161 East Thirty-Sixth Place, Los Angeles, Telephone: Humbolt 5732M shall be my place of communication.


Your message has quite turned the world around, and this has been a wonderful day.


Sincerely yours,

John H. Flood, Jr.


- Flood to Hart, February 24, 1926




Earp to Hart part 11


My dear friend:


Here we are, back in Los Angeles again. The weather was beginning to warm up out on the desert and the coast is a comfortable change. I like the climate here but Mrs. Earp is not so enthusiastic about it so we, probably, will go North before long.


I thought, perhaps, you might want to review the story. It is completed now, with the changes and corrections that Mr. Flood had in mind to make.


You can help me very much, I know; in the matter of publication particularly. There are the questions of the copyright and the royalty and the separation of the story rights from the picture, if you think it would be something worth while now, to have filmed.


You see, this experience is all new to me and I feel that I want to turn to you for advice. Would I fit in with your program some day early next week? It was in my mind to say “Hello!” to you anyhow and this affords me a good excuse.


Mrs. Earp and I are feeling fine. We have wondered many times about your sister and if her condition improves. We are holding the thought that it does and wish that we may be especially remembered to her.


We also trust things are right with you; you are very much in our minds. When you can spare a moment, telephone us or drop us a line.


I am


Your friend,

/S/ Wyatt Earp


- Earp to Hart, June 3, 1926




Earp/Hart letters part 12 (Enter Mr. Burns)


Dear Mr. Hart:


Perhaps I am looking through the wrong glass, but from this distance, if the Dempsey-Tunney fight is…and…, it doesn’t look to me as if the present champion will have to change his address very soon.


I envy you the trip that, I observe, you are about to take. It starts my blood to flowing again and makes me want to be at the ringside too. From the press reports, the indications now point to a record crowd.


All of this puts an idea in my head; something which, I hope, may not conflict with your plans. Would it be convenient for you to visit Mr. Lorimer of the Saturday Evening Post, regarding the publication of the story, or are you all dated up?


Now please do not feel obligated to do this for me, Mr. Hart, as few of us ever know of the other fellow’s burdens and personal demands. If you could spare a few moments while touring Philadelphia, it would be mighty fine, otherwise I would feel guilty to interfere with your plans.


If convenient, I believe the manuscript could be forwarded to you at an eastern address, via the American Express. Mr. Flood is about to complete the last few pages. During the summer, he has had considerable trouble with his eyes, which has caused him both delay and embarrassment. It may be, however, that the corrections and the rewritten copy are worth the additional time; there seems to be a much smoother tone all through.


Four weeks ago, I was surprised by a visit from the author of “The Saga of Billy the Kid,” Walter Noble Burns. It seems that he picked up my trail at San Francisco after a trip half way across the continent.


Poor fellow, he burst in upon Mrs. Earp and myself just a few hours after our arrival at our new address, all smiles; he thought he had reached the end of his rainbow. It made me feel badly to have to explode his dream; he had made the trip west from Chicago especially to get my story, and then I had to break him the news.


But he was mighty fine about it, and determined too. Instead of going back empty handed, he caught the train to Tombstone, and has been gathering together material for a story of Doc Holliday. He is deserving, and I know it will be good.


Mrs. Earp sends her regards. We both wish to be remembered to your sister. With all these fine summer days, there is everything in them, we hope, to help her health to improve. I know you will have a fine trip East, and whatever you do, be sure to bet on the right man.


Your friend,

/S/ Wyatt Earp


- Earp to Hart, September 6, 1926




Hart to Earp pt 13 (More on Burns)


My dear friend - Wyatt Earp:


Your letter just received. Yes the big scrap should be immense and I agree with you thoroughly on the outcome. I cannot see it any other way than what it is - a first-class man against a second-class man. But it will be a fight, you bet!


I am hustling like thunder to be able to get away and from present indications I do not see how I can leave before the 19th, which will put me in New York on the morning of the 23d and then I will hop over to Philadelphia at night for the scrap, and return afterwards.


The request in your letter would not deter me from remaining over anyhow until the next day in trying to see Mr. Lorimer. - if I thought it would be of any benefit, but frankly, my friend, I think it would have just the opposite effect. I do not know Mr. Lorimer personally and it has been my experience that those fellows resent what they consider outside interference, and especially in this case from a motion picture man, they would at once think he had an ulterior motive. Writing the letter as I did concerning your story, will I believe help, as it is simply an opinion expressed and I believe that anything further would have a tendency to spill the beans. I have not the slightest doubt that they will not only accept your story but grab it.


I note what you say about the visit of Mr. Burns. I enjoyed his “Saga of Billy the Kid” immensely. It was beautifully written. But my dear friend, Wyatt Earp, it was copped bodily - many instances word for word where they were mispronounced and mis-used right from a story published many years ago by Charlie Siringo, called “The Life of Billy the Kid”. If Charlie Siringo ever sees fit to make a holler he sure has a big kick coming. In some instances the weather is even described in the exact language used by Siringo, word for word.


I really regret to say this just as I really regretted to discover it as I did enjoy Burns’ story tremendously.


I hope everything is going fine with Mrs. Earp and yourself and that you are feeling in good shape physically. My dear sister is under the weather just now with a bad cold but she is unquestionably getting stronger right along. The great trouble is her condition has been so weakened by the long illness that anything that hits her is doubly and trebly hard to shake off.


With all good wishes, my friend, believe me to be,


Always sincerely yours,

William S. Hart


- Hart to Earp, September 9, 1926




Letters part 14 (Victorian Politeness)


The Saturday Evening Post

The Curtis Publishing Company

George Horace Lorimer Editor



Dear Mr. Hart:


We appreciate the interest you have shown in the matter of Wyatt Earp’s story. For reasons of expediency we have not been able to make a place for it in the Post. The fact that we have published a number of articles dealing with the picturesque figures of the West had a great deal of influence in our decision.


We have, regretfully, returned the manuscript to Mr. Earp.


Sincerely yours,

(Signature illegible)


- Post to Hart,October 22, 1926




Letters part 15 - Rejection


Thomas Y. Crowell Company




393 Fourth Avenue, New York


Dear Mr. Hart:


Many thanks for calling our attention to the book by Mr. Wyatt Earp. We are just in receipt of the manuscript in question, and will give it our very careful consideration.


With personal regards,


Sincerely yours,




- Crowell Company to Hart, Nobember 5, 1926




Dear Mr. and Mrs. Earp:


Enclosed please find the answer from the Crowell Company and also copy of the letter I mailed to Houghton Mifflin, today.


Please do not be in the least discouraged about the story coming back. It is just a matter of keeping it going until the right one gets hold of it.


With all good wishes,


Sincerely yours,


William S. Hart


- Hart to Earp, December 6, 1926




Earp/Hart letters part 16 (1881 portrait?)


Dear Mr. Hart:


I told Mr. Flood what the Thomas Y. Crowell Company said about his manuscript, and showed him their letter. That tickled him a lot, and he wanted to know how they would tell it. He did suggest, however, that the manuscript might have proven acceptable had it been written more in the style of a historical narrative, which may, of course, be correct. But, irrespective of opinion or criticism, the story, as it is told, is true in fact, even to every detail.


Whatever may be the outcome, I shall not be discouraged; I rather have in mind your great kindness in furthering these plans for me, and my feeling of appreciation. I do not know what I might say to thank you; surely you are mighty fine.


I was wondering if the Crowell Company returned the photographs with the manuscript but I assume that they did. There were two portraits and a half dozen scenes of Tombstone; one of the portraits being an original of 1881, and which cannot be duplicated; the others are not of great consequence.


The letter which the Crowell Company addressed to you, I am inclosing herewith, and I want to thank you for the privilege of reading it.


Would the Houghton Mifflin Company appreciate a distinction between the copyright for a book and the copyright for a motion picture? This question occured to me at the moment I read the copy of your letter addressed to them. That, however, is something, I suppose, that is arranged for later.


Please remember Mrs. Earp and myself to your sister; we always have a thought for her continued improvement in health. We both send you the kind regards, and I am always


Sincerely your friend,


/S/ Wyatt Earp


- Earp to Hart, December 14, 1926




Earp/Hart letters part 17


Dear Mr. Hart:


If the New Year is as full of cheer and good will as your Holiday Greeting, I shall get off to a fine start. Both Mrs. Earp and I wish to thank you for your kind telegram. What a grand old world this is!


I had wondered about you and wanted to say hello! I haven’t heard from you for a long while. But I guess I shouldn’t expect too much; this is a season for taking inventories, and of income tax reports, etc., and other nightmares; all of which does not burden me to a great extent.


I am getting ready to leave for the desert in a few days. After Monday, my address will be 2703 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland; for a week at least. Then I shall be in Los Angeles again for several days before starting for the mine.


Should you receive any information regarding the story, that you might think worth while to communicate, you might get in touch with Mr. Flood, at his residence address: 4303 Halldale Avenue, Los Angeles; Telephone: University 1977. I have arranged with him to attend to my affairs during my absence. I would like to hear from you. You know, you can’t scare me with bad news about the MS; what is a little think (sic) like that between us.


Both Mrs. Earp and I wish, more and more, that your sister’s health will improve; that will be the Happiest New Year we could wish for you both. Please remember us to her with this thought, and we send the kind regards.


Your friend,

/S/Wyatt Earp


- Earp to Hart, January 21, 1927




Earp/Hart letters part 18


Dear Mr. Earp:


Many thanks for your fine letter just received. I am so glad to know that everything is going splendidly with Mrs. Earp and yourself.


I have not heard a word from the Houghton Mifflin Company regarding your story except to receive a card a long time ago that they had received it O.K. The fact that they are holding it so long shows conclusively that they are giving it every consideration.


There is not nor has there ever been the slightest doubt in my mind but what the story will be just a case of whether that class of story fits in with their outlined program for the coming year.


I note what you say about communicating with Mr. Flood in your absence as soon as I hear anything. I will be glad to do this. And I certainly hope that Mrs. Earp and yourself have a wonderful trip to the mine.


I appreciate deeply what you both say regarding my sister’s health. As you say - if she can get stronger it will be the happiest New year that I can have.


With all good wishes to you, my friend, and my very best regards to Mrs. Earp.


Always sincerely yours,

William S. Hart


- Hart to Earp, January 25, 1927




Earp/Hart letters part 19 “literary defect”


Dear Wyatt Earp:


The enclosed letter just came this morning. As soon as the manuscript arrives I will send it out again to some first-class publishing house. I think it would be a good idea for me to hold here at the office the personal photographs that you have put in the book. I can tell them that we have these if the story is accepted. I am afraid in sending them around they might get lost.


I cannot figure what the devil is the matter with them. It may be some literary defect that they can see which is beyond our vision. However I am for hammering at them until the hot place freezes over.


Always yours,

William S. Hart


- Hart to Earp, January 31, 1927




Letters part 20 (Josie/Hart)


Dear Mr. Hart:


Mr. Earp and I were very glad to receive your nice letter of a week ago and we appreciate, very much, your interest and efforts in bringing the story to the attention of the worth while publishers.


Not many efforts meet prompt response; to do a thing right requires time. We look upon the matter from the same view-point as you look upon it: if it isn’t done right, and by the right persons, we wouldn’t want it done at all. So if nothing ever comes of the story, we shall not be disappointed; we would not even say Ouch!


Mr. Earp went on to the mine several days ago and he asked me to write you before I left the city; I shall follow him tomorrow. For the next two months, our address will be: Vidal, San Bernardino County, California, and we shall be glad for a word from you occasionally. The mail service is not always the best out there and I would like to suggest that your mail contain a return address. It is not always so prompt in the city either. A Christmas Greeting from one of our friends was not delivered to us here in Los Angeles, and I have wondered if the little remembrances to you and your sister, from Mrs. Lehnardt and ourselves, had miscarried; I would want to send a tracer.


We will be quite a family on the desert this year; I am taking my niece with me from San Francisco, who is just recuperating from a serious illness. I believe the sunshine will work wonders. Would it be possible that your sister’s health would be benefited by such a trip; that would be wonderful! We both send her the kindest regards and we trust this will be, for you, the most successful year.


Very cordially yours,

/S/ Mrs. Wyatt Earp


- Josie to Hart, February 1, 1927




Earp/Hart letters part 21 (Hart/Josie)


My dear Mrs. Earp:


Many thanks for your letter of Feb. 1st. I wrote you a few days ago to your Oakland address enclosing a letter received from the Houghton Mifflin Company when they sent back the manuscript.


I am forwarding the manuscript today to the Bobbs Merrill Company of Indianapolis, Indians(sic), and am enclosing a copy of the letter I am sending with the manuscript.


I appreciate very much, my dear Mrs. Earp, what you say regarding the sunshine and my sister’s health. Unfortunately she would not be able to make such a trip as you suggest to the desert, but I am having a new home built on the ranch where she will be right on top of a mountain so she will be able to get out and enjoy the sunshine.


I do hope that Mr. Earp continues to improve out at the mines and comes back a regular physical culture director.


I owe you a most abject apology for not acknowledging the beautiful Christmas greeting that you sent to my sister. I feel positively ashamed that I did not do so as she appreciated them so highly and showed them to me with eyes that glowed with appreciation. I can only say please forgive me. How in thunder it ever escaped my mind I am unable to say.


With all good wishes for you both, believe me to be,


Always sincerely yours,


William S. Hart


- Hart to Josie, February 3, 1927




Letters part 22 (Ouch!)


Established 1838






Dear Mr. Hart:


I read the Wyatt Earp manuscript with interest-at least I began it with interest, for I am very keen about the history of the old West, but I must confess to you that I was deeply disappointed. The material itself does not strike me as so fascinating as the stories of Wild Bill and Billy the Kid and some of the rest, but it would show to far better advantage in a more skilfully done setting. The writing is stilted and florid and diffuse. It would be far more effective if it were simple, direct, straight-forward. A lot of the stuff ought to be cut out altogether and the rest boiled down. Then there might (ed. note: “might” is underlined in the letter) be a story. How one forgets what it’s all about in impatience at the clutter of unimportant detail that impedes its pace, and the pompous manner of its telling.


I tell you all this simply because you are apparently interested in the story and might be able to persuade the writer to do his job over as it should be done, and because I have said, I am interested myself in stories of the West–and I’d like to see more good ones.


Sincerely yours,


Anne Johnston


- Publisher to Hart, February 21, 1927




Letters part 23 (Back to Mr. Burns)


My dear friend - Wyatt Earp:


Ordinarily I would not accept the verdicts that have been thrown at us by The Post, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, Houghton Mifflin Company and now the Bobbs Merrill Company, but there seems to be such a ring of sincerity in their letters of refusal - after their eagerness to read the story when it is first received and their disappointment seems to be so honest that I believe we should sort of hold a council of war before sending the manuscript out any more.


Will you please write to Mr. Flood and put the matter up to him for his opinion? Perhaps it would be a good idea to turn over the work to Mr. Burns who wanted to do the story of your life. Perhaps Mr. Burns would be willing to act as co-author with Mr. Flood?


I am merely presenting this as an idea. I know and feel that the publishers who are turning the work down are anxious for a story on your life. There is no question about that. So we must try and get it to them in the form they want it. I am suggesting Mr. Burns or Mr. Noble or whatever his name is - only because he looked you up and wanted the story.


Mr. Flood may have some other author he would like to work with. But these rejections convince me there is something wrong that we do not savy! And we must find out what it is.


The manuscript has not arrived from Bobbs Merrill as yet. When it comes I’ll put it in the safe and await the decision of Mr. Flood and yourself.


I have been under the weather with a horrible cold and my dear sister is not so well as she has has been either. I do hope all is going fine with Mrs. Earp and yourself.


Always your friend,


William S. Hart


P.S. I am enclosing the answer of the Bobbs Merrill Company


- Hart to Earp, February 26, 1927




Letters part 24: Flood/Hart


Dear Mr Hart:


Upon my return home this evening, there was a letter awaiting me from Mr. and Mrs. Earp, and inclosed, the letter addressed to yourself from the Bobbs-Merrill Company, under date of February 21st, also your letter, under date of February 26th.


In order to avoid further delay, they have requested that I write you for them regarding the manuscript and its disposal. I believe we all - yourself, Mr. and Mrs Earp and I - are unanimous in the opinion that a conference of some sort should beheld(sic) before the MS is sent to any other publisher.


If I might be permitted to express a personal opinion at this time, I would like to suggest that Mr. Burns be chosen to re-write, or rather, to write the story of Mr. Earp’s life. I read his “The Saga of Billy the Kid,” and it is written beautifully. How much more delightful a story, he could write of Mr. Earp, with his style of telling things.


No, I wouldn’t feel hurt at all in turning the entire matter over to some one who would make a real story of it. It would be a pity to have Mr. Earp’s story lost to the world just for the lack of the telling of it. There are several impressions which are not correct and should be cleared up and Mr. Earp justified while he is yet alive. Now is the time, there should be no furtehr delay. Mr. Burns is the man, and I am for him if he could be interested in the project.


Perhaps I might offer, in a personal interview, explanations that would hasten matters materially or lend to a short cut. If you could find a spare moment during the coming week, or later. I should be pleased to run over to Hollywood, if your schedule would not be interfered with. You will know best of course. What I want to do is to help if I may.


As Mr. Earp requested, I am returning the letter of The Bobbs-Merrill Company, herewith. For an amateur writer, I surely got off to a poor start. Phew! didn’t the publishers pan me to the queen’s taste though! I was lucky to have those things fired at me in printers ink rather than hard, cold steel.


But that is neither here nor there; let’s wipe the slate clean. If the story can be made new and put over for Mr. Earp, that is the thing. I trust you are quite yourself again; colds are miserable things and spoil the universe while they last. I am sure Mr. and Mrs. Earp would join me in kind regards. If you find time, I shall appreciate a word.


Sincerely yours,


John H. Flood, Jr.


- Flood to Hart, March 24, 1927




Letters part 25: Hart/Flood


Dear Mr. Flood:


You are a sport thru and thru. I can not tell you how much I admire your corking letter.


No matter who is wrong or who is right (it is beyond my knowledge to know) you are one hundred per cent.


Now, Mr. Flood, I firmly believe that a good way to get at the thing and get at it right and have it all cleaned up would be for you to write a letter to Mr. Burns. I never met him nor do I know his address, but as the Examiner is running his story and a letter in their care would be forwarded to him at once, I would like to see you get Mr. Burns a rough idea of what has been done so far on the manuscript. Mr. Earp told me that Burns had called on him and was anxious to get the story so I am firmly convinced that he is the man to tackle.


I would most cheerfully write a letter to Mr. Burns himself but I am afraid it might create the wrong impression. Mr. Burns does not know me and the very first idea that enters anyone’s mind that is not connected with the motion picture industry is that all motion picture people are seeking publicity, so I am afraid my writing him might do a great deal of harm and I feel sure that your writing would do a great deal of good.


I would like very much to see you write to Mr. Burns immediately care of the Los Angeles Examiner and I will bet it bears fruit and will prove to be a fine thing for our good friend Wyatt Earp.


With all good wishes,

Always sincerely yours,


William S. Hart


P.S. I have the manuscript and photographs in my safe and will hold them subject to your orders.


- Hart to Flood, March 26, 1927




Letters part 26 (Flood to Burns)


Dear Mr. Burns:


Last summer (July, 1926, if I remember correctly), you made a proposition to the writer of this letter for the taking over of a manuscript on the life of Wyatt Earp, which you probably recollect, regretfully, was declined.


You appearance in Los Angeles at that time was entirely unexpected, and your proposal took me very much by surprise. Under the circumstances, and in fairness to Mr. and Mrs. Earp, I could hardly make you any other reply than the one I did. Nevertheless, immediately after your departure from the city, I discussed this matter quite at length with them both, pointing out the advantage of your talent and experience, and the happy consummation of the plan. This, they readily recognized but were loath to deny me the reward of some weeks of time and effort, as, of course, might naturally be expected of them.


However, to make a long story short, a compact was entered into between us whereby, if within a certain period, results hoped for were not achieved, we all then were to be free for other action. That time has arrived, and while Mr. and Mrs. Earp are absent from the city, they have written me expressing a willingness to be guided by whatever suggestions I might have to offer.


As an answer to what they might have in mind, I am writing you this letter. It is all, of course, with the idea that you might still be interested in writing the story of the life of Wyatt Earp. Personally, I hope you may still feel so disposed. Mr. Earp has been approached by some few authors for his story but I have felt that the preference should be yours. “The Saga of Billy the Kid” is beautifully written - how much more fascinating/story you could write of Wyatt Earp!


If this message should prove of sufficient interest to you, I can only suggest that you get in communication with Mr. Earp. His address at present (and will be for six weeks longer) is: Vidal, San Bernardino County, California. He has no knowledge, whatever, that I am writing you this letter but you need have no apprehensions but whatever my actions, they will meet with his approval, and also that of Mrs. Earp. I shall send them, immediately, a copy of this letter.


As to the business and other arrangements in the matter, I could not advise you at the moment. These, however, I am quite sure, could be worked out to the satisfaction of yourself, and Mr. and Mrs. Earp, and all concerned. This, no doubt, would require a trip West for yourself. And, while I regret to bring you on such a long journey again, it would seem, at this time, to be the thing.


After all, the suggestion may not interest you in any wise, I do not know, I trust it shall. I am sure the enterprise would prove a great success.


Please give my regards to Mrs. Burns; I trust you are both well, and with all good wishes, I am


Yours very truly,


John H. Flood, Jr.


- Flood to Burns, March 28, 1927




Letters part 27 (Flood to Hart)


Dear Mr. Hart:


You are mighty fine to write me the splendid letter of March 26th, and I want to thank you, but I am sure I do not measure up to the kind things you have said. Rather, I feel that I took the easiest way out. At least, I feel quite heartened to know that some one else, especially yourself, has the same view-point as I have had for so long. Mr. and Mrs. Earp have been desireous for me to have the award of writing the story; just their fine spritedness; of course, I understand. But it is just like a town lot ball player trying to break into the major leagues. When Mr. Burns appeared in the city last summer, he was their opportunity and I urged it. It seems that he was here but one day and gone the next; had he remained, I might have prevailed.


However, it is all working out fine now. Fortunately, I was in possession of Mr. Burns’s residence address, and this morning, I mailed him, by special delivery, air mail, a letter, as you suggested, and I am inclosing you, herewith, a copy of the letter, so that you may better understand the situation. I discussed the manuscript with mr. Burns, personally, upon his visit here last summer so that he has a general idea of what was written.


If the manuscript is not going to occupy valuable space and clutter up your safe, I would wish, if you will, for you to retain it, for the present at least. I am writing Mr. and Mrs. Earp this evening, and I have no apprehensions but what my actions will meet with their approval. I believe everything is going to work out grandly now, Mr. Hart. I shall be pleased to keep you informed as to developments, and, likewise, I shall appreciate a word from you if I may be of assistance. The first thing is to put it over big for Mr. Earp; after that, I am going in training for a year and then make a tour of the country and “lick” all the publishers for saying such terrible things about my first efforts, or better still, I might try all over again and write something of real merit and make them all feel sorry. Anyhow, that is something to look forward to; our present interest is the problem just solved and I believe it is going to be a winner.


If the mail service operates on schedule, an answer from Mr. Burns should be due here about Monday at the latest. I shall advise you immediately.


With the best of wishes, I am


Most sincerely yours,


John H. Flood, Jr.


- Flood to Hart, March 29, 1927




Letters part 28 (Hart/Flood)


Dear Mr. Flood:


Again I want to thank you for such a beautiful letter. It is mighty fine of you to take the attitude that you do. It shows conclusively that we are all working for a common object, that being to get the life of Wyatt Earp properly placed before the American public.


Regarding your ability as a writer, my dear Mr. Flood,for the love of Mike never get discouraged about anything being turned down. In the first place I am not a good writer and in the second place I have been kicked all over the map by every publishing house in the country and still I have some stories on the market that the people seem to like and pay money for. It is just a question of stick-toitiveness and I know you are made of the stuff that will do that. I will hold the manuscript here in my safe until you give me further instructions.


I think your letter to Mr. Burns is very fine indeed and I am convinced that he will take hold immediately.


Please remember me most kindly to my good friends Mr. and Mrs. Earp.


With best wishes,


Very sincerely yours,


William S. Hart


- Hart to Flood, March 31, 1927




Letters part 29 (Burns revealed)


Dear Mr. Hart:


Yesterday, I called on Mr. and Mrs. Earp, and discussed with them, generally, the situation concerning Mr. Burns and the publishers. They (Mr. and Mrs. Earp) returned to Los Angeles, Monday; their address: 40001/2 West Seventeenth Street; telephone: Empire 6520.


They suggested that the present manuscript be offered to the Hearst chain of newspapers (Los Angeles Examiner, etc.), for publication immediately, obtaining thereby, protection of the story by copyright, and thus forestall the proposed publication of Mr. Burns. It might be published, or printed, in booklet form, similar to “The History of Billy the Kid,” by Charles Siringo. Mr. Earp requested that I ask your advice about this.


A copy of the letters which were mailed, respectively, to Mr. Burns and the publishers, yesterday, are inclosed, herewith, for your files. Nothing more in this direction can be done, I suppose, until the replies are received.


It is very evident that Mr. Siringo’s story of Billy the Kid was lifted bodily from his copyright and re-published, with a few embellishments, as “The Saga of Billy the Kid.” We both read the book which you so kindly loaned us, and we readily concur in our opinions. I am returning the book to you by separate mail, and we both wish to thank you for the privilege of reading the story.


Mr. and Mrs. Earp wish to be remembered. They send regards to your sister; they are inquiring particularly regarding her health. Please let me add my own good wishes; I trust your sessions with the dentist are past and that you are feeling quite fit again. I am


Sincerely yours,


John H. Flood, Jr.


- Flood to Hart, May 25, 1927




Letters part 30 (Earp to Burns)


Dear Mr. Burns:


Your letter of April 30th was received while I was at Vidal, and should have been answered sooner, but my health not being particularly good, I have deferred writing until the present, after having returned to Los Angeles.


The matter of your story, I am taking up with the publishers, under date of May 24th, a carbon copy of which letter, I am inclosing herewith. I believe this letter to Doubleday, Page & Company will explain the situation as I see it. I do not know of anything that I might add that would make things any clearer.


I believe, Mr. Burns, if you had communicated the idea of your story to me, after your second visit to Tombstone, last Fall, the present situation might have been avoided. Surely, I have only regret to express over the entire matter. Under the circumstances, however, there is no other position possible for me to assume. My own interests, certainly, must be the first consideration, but you may be assured that anything that might come after, would have my earnest attention; that, I believe, is as fair as can be.


Both the publishers and yourself have my whole-hearted good will; I am hoping the situation my be made clear to us all. Write me again; I shall be pleased to hear from you.


Yours very truly,

/S/ Wyatt S. Earp




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