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Did You Know: This Doc Holliday Photo Is Often Misidentified

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, May 8, 2015 - 2:05pm
Updated: Monday, April 27, 2020 - 1:14pm
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Marshall Trimble, Arizona State Historian
This is one of two Doc Holliday photos historian have confirmed as of the Tombstone gunfighter. Historians believe it was taken after Holliday graduated from dental school.
Marshall Trimble, Arizona State Historian
This grainy photo is one of two pictures historians have confirmed it's Doc Holliday. Historians believe it was taken in Prescott.

He’s been depicted in Hollywood films by well-known actors and has been part of Arizona folklore. Despite his famous past, we have for decades misidentified him.  

Many film critics and historians agree the portrayal of Doc Holliday in the 1994 film "Wyatt Earp" is one of the most realistic interpretations of him. He was tall Georgia man with a southern drawl and was very ill.

Did you know the Doc Holliday image we’ve come to know through items and souvenirs is really not him?

“If you go on the internet and google Doc Holliday you’ll find eight or nine pictures saying that’s Doc Holliday…and only two are correct,” said Marshall Trimble, the Arizona State Historian. He says one of those pictures is when Holliday graduated dental school.

“He doesn’t look like a gunfighter at all. And then the one that was 1879 when he would have been in his early 30s and it’s so grainy you can’t even tell who it is.”

Doc Holliday’s real name was John Henry Holliday. He came to Arizona in the late 1870s. Trimble says Doc Holliday was known to pack a knife and pistol, mostly because he was so sick with tuberculosis he could barely hold up his fists to fight. His passion was gambling.

Holliday came to Arizona to help the Earp brothers keep the peace in Cochise County during a time when ranchers and cattle rustlers were often at odds. But Holliday only stayed in Arizona for three years. Yep, you guessed it — he left right after the gunfight near the OK Corral.  

“This is funny that as famous as he was, at the time, there aren’t more photographs," Trimble said.

But this hasn’t stopped some people from claiming there are. Trimble said the other photographs on the web are of another Arizona man named John Escapule.

“It is a very popular picture that’s out there on the sales racks and curio stores and old west stores. The thing is we know who John Escapule was. He was in Tombstone. So he’s gotta be well known, but somebody just said later on, years later, 'that’s Doc Holliday,'” Trimble said.

Trimble says even worse than misidentifying Doc Holliday is not knowing where’s he buried. After the Tombstone gunfight, Holliday settled in Glenwood Springs, Colo. and died there in 1887. Some say his burial site was lost. Others say his family in Georgia claimed his body and buried him back home.   

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