1929 Wyatt Earp dies in Los Angeles Nearly 50 years after the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Wyatt Earp dies quietly in Los Angeles at the age of 80. The Earp brothers had long been competing with the Clanton-McClaury ranching families for political and economic control of Tombstone, Arizona, and the surrounding region. On October 26, 1881, the simmering tensions finally boiled over into violence, and Wyatt, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and his close friend, Doc Holliday, killed three men from the Clanton and McLaury clans in a 30-second shoot-out on a Tombstone street near the O.K. Corral. A subsequent hearing found that the Earps and Holliday had been acting in their capacity as law officers and deputies, and they were acquitted of any wrongdoing. However, not everyone was satisfied with the verdict, and the Earps found their popularity among the townspeople was on the wane. Worse, far from bringing an end the long-standing feud between the Earps and Clanton-McLaurys, the shoot-out sparked a series of vengeful attacks and counterattacks. In late December 1881, the Clantons and McLaurys launched their vendetta with a shotgun ambush of Virgil Earp; he survived, but lost the use of his left arm. Three months later, Wyatt and Morgan were playing billiards when two shots were fired from an unknown source. Morgan was fatally wounded. As a U.S. deputy marshal, Wyatt had a legal right and obligation to bring Morgan’s killers to justice, but he quickly proved to be more interested in avenging his brother’s death than in enforcing the law. Three days after Morgan’s murder, Frank Stillwell, one of the suspects in the murder, was found dead in a Tucson, Arizona, rail yard. Wyatt and his close friend Doc Holliday were accused—accurately, as later accounts revealed—of murdering Stillwell. Wyatt refused to submit to arrest, and instead fled Arizona with Holliday and several other allies, pausing long enough to stop and kill a Mexican named Florentino Cruz, who he believed also had been involved in Morgan’s death. In the years to come, Wyatt wandered throughout the West, speculating in gold mines in Idaho, running a saloon in San Francisco, and raising thoroughbred horses in San Diego. At the turn of the century, the footloose gunslinger joined the Alaskan gold rush, and he ran a saloon in Nome until 1901. After participating in the last of the great gold rushes in Nevada, Wyatt finally settled in Los Angeles, where he tried unsuccessfully to find someone to publicize his many western adventures. Wyatt’s famous role in the shootout at the O.K. Corral did attract the admiring attention of the city’s thriving new film industry. For several years, Wyatt became an unpaid technical consultant on Hollywood Westerns, drawing on his colorful past to tell flamboyant matinee idols like William Hart and Tom Mix how it had really been. When Wyatt died in 1929, Mix reportedly wept openly at his funeral. Ironically, the wider fame that eluded Wyatt in life came soon after he died. A young journalist named Stuart Lake published Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall, a wildly fanciful biography that portrayed the gunman as a brave and virtuous instrument of frontier justice. Dozens of similarly laudatory books and movies followed, ensuring Wyatt Earp an enduring place in the popular American mythology of the Wild West. 1864 Stephen Foster dies In the charity ward of New York’s Bellevue Hospital, Stephen Foster, America’s first professional songwriter, dies at the age of 37. Stephen Foster was born in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1826–the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He developed his talent for music early and while still young began to compose in the style of African-American minstrel music. His first hit as a professional songwriter was “Oh! Susanna,” which he sold to a publisher for $100 in 1848. In 1849, he was hired to write songs for the minstrel troupe of E.P. Christy; “The Old Folks at Home” (also known as “Swanee River”) was among the most popular from this period. Between 1850 and 1860, Foster wrote many of his most famous songs, including “Camptown Races” and “My Old KentuckyHome.” Despite his success, copyright laws were rarely enforced in music at the time, and he reaped few financial rewards from the widespread performance and publication of his songs. In 1857, economic difficulties led him to sell all rights to his future songs for just under $2,000. Near the end of his brief life, he lived alone in New York City and suffered from alcoholism. In 1864, he died in Bellevue Hospital. He had been taken to the hospital after suffering from a protracted fever which left him so weak that he collapsed and hit his head on a washbasin. Foster composed more than 200 songs in his lifetime, many of which are still popular today. 1939 Doc Barker is killed by prison guards as he attempts to escape Arthur “Doc” Barker is killed while trying to escape from Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay. Barker, of the notorious “Bloody Barkers” gang, was spotted on the rock-strewn shore of the island after climbing over the walls. Despite the fact that guards were ordering him to surrender, Barker continued tying pieces of wood together into a makeshift raft. As he waded into the water, the guards shot and killed him. Doc Barker, along with his brothers Herman, Lloyd, and Fred, and their mother, the infamous Ma Barker, formed one of the more formidable criminal gangs of the 1920s and 1930s. Carrying out a series of bank robberies and kidnappings throughout the Midwest, Ma shrewdly paid off officials in towns all over the region, allowing the gang to avoid the law for long stretches of time. In 1934, with their pictures in all of the newspapers, Doc and Fred Barker tried to change their appearance through plastic surgery. They enlisted Dr. Joseph Moran to conduct the operations, including removing their fingerprints. But the plan was a disaster, and each ended up with terrible scars, infected fingers, and recognizable faces anyway. Dr. Moran was adopted into the gang as a matter of necessity, but when he started to talk about their activities to a prostitute, the Barkers killed him. On January 8, 1935, FBI agents, led by Melvin Purvis, captured Doc Barker in Chicago, Illinois. As he searched Barker, Purvis reportedly asked, “Where’s your gun?” Barker replied, “Home—and ain’t that a place for it?” Eight days later, Fred and Ma Barker were pinned down at their hideout in Florida. A massive gun battle left both of them dead.