John Behan signature auction

Appropriate for the upcoming (this weekend) Wyatt Earp Days in Tombstone, a signature of Wyatt’s nemesis John Harris Behan is being auctioned by Barnebys. Starting bid is $300 and the anticipate winning bid is north of $600.

Document bearing John H. Behan's signatureThis is appropriate for Wyatt Earp Days since Behan’s relationship with Wyatt was probably no small part of the animosity that led to the infamous gunfight.

For instance, Wyatt stole Johnny’s girl, Josephine Marcus, who was a performer at the Bird Cage Theatre. She should remain Wyatt’s lifelong partner. (I’m reading her biography and will report more on that when I make more progress.)

John H. Behan

John H. Behan

But more to the point, as the document being auctioned highlights, the sheriff (who was Johnny and not Wyatt) got a percentage of the taxes and license fees collected in the brand new county. This cost Wyatt lots and lots of money.

You can read about the dispute between the two men, over who would be sheriff and who would be deputy, in the Wikipedia article about Behan, which seems to be pretty accurate and unbiased. (As if anything about Tombstone history doesn’t have ardent partisans.)

If you want more details, I would suggest you check out Casey Tefertiller’s Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend, specifically the last part of chapter 2.

If you have any interest in the Wild West, this relationship story is one of the best, because of the various aspects and because of the impact.

Disclosure: The book link goes to Amazon.com, and if you buy, I get a commission.

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