The American West is famous for its notorious outlaws — who robbed banks, trains, and stagecoaches — as well as bold lawmen who chased them down. But none were quite like Doc Holliday. He wasn’t as lawless as many others, but engaged in his fair share of gunslinging and gambling. His reputation endures thanks to the classic character in Tombstone, played by Val Kilmer. But in separating fact from fiction, historians found that there’s a side to this legend that no movie or book has managed to capture.

Doc Holliday was born John Henry Holliday in Griffin, Georgia, on August 14, 1851. He had a cleft palate, which required surgery and impacted his speech. His doting mother worked with him for countless hours on proper pronunciation, and eventually, they vanquished the impediment.

Doc had a wonderful childhood. His father was a pharmacist and his mother was a dedicated caregiver and teacher, bestowing the importance of manners on him. He was also an excellent student, especially in math and science. He was also a big reader.

Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Sadly, his mom died in 1866 from tuberculosis. Doc threw himself into his studies to cope with her death, and his good grades got him into dentistry school at the University of Pennsylvania. Doc graduated in 1872 and began working as a dentist. 

Via AdVance Dental

When Doc was 22, he moved his practice to Dallas, Texas. It was a rowdy place. His business was steady, but Doc quickly grew distracted by another passion: gambling. He loved the nightlife and frequented the many saloons.

Via New York Daily News

Doc was an excellent card player, which he often combined with drinking and fighting. This soon eclipsed his dental practice. He was arrested for these activities, as well as for getting into a gunfight with the saloon keeper.

Hollywood Pictures

Texas was also where he met Mary Katherine Horony, or Big Nose Kate. She was an independent woman who danced, bartended, engaged in sex work, and was incredibly intelligent. Kate and Doc got married at a dance hall, though their good times wouldn’t last forever.

Wikimedia Commons

The newlyweds faced major trouble when Doc was accused of murder. Historians aren’t sure if he was guilty, but fearing for his safety, he and Kate fled to Dodge City, Kansas — another town filled with outlaws. Though not all the company was bad.

Wikimedia Commons

In Dodge City, Doc met fellow gunslinger, Wyatt Earp. Wyatt was a temporary deputy who’d made enemies from rounding up lawbreakers. A few of them rode into Dodge one night and attacked the Long Branch Saloon, where Doc was playing cards.

Wikimedia Commons

Wyatt barged in when he heard the commotion. The gunmen aimed at him, but Wyatt surprised the attackers by backing up Doc with his own gun. After this incident, the two became great friends. Eventually, the pair moved to Tombstone, Arizona, together.

Wyatt’s brothers were the marshals in Tombstone, and Wyatt picked up a job as a bank security guard. These enforcers couldn’t keep to themselves for too long and ran afoul of some cowboys who were also part-time outlaws. The Earps decided to arrest the Clanton and McLaury gang.

Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Their feud came to a head on October 26, 1881 at the O.K. Corral. Nobody knows who fired first, but there was no doubt about the victims. Virgil Earp shot Billy Clanton, and then Doc shot Tom McLaury in the chest. Wyatt hit Frank McLaury.

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Everything happened quickly. Billy and the McLaury’s were dead within 30 seconds of shooting. And soon after, Wyatt and Doc were arrested for murdering their rivals. Public favor was firmly divided about the crime.

Via True West Magazine

Though the vigilantes were in hot water, Wyatt himself was glad to be arrested with his best friend. He said Doc was the “most skillful gambler and nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever knew.”  

Via The Rome News-Tribune

Some thought Doc and Wyatt were protecting themselves from a threat, and others heard the McLauries and Billy weren’t armed and were holding up their hands when they were shot.

During the trial, witnesses provided conflicting accounts, based on who the witness was supporting. Even reliable third parties couldn’t agree on who started the attack.

Justice of the Peace Wells Spicer presided over the trial. On November 30, 1881, the judge ruled that the accused couldn’t be convicted a crime because they were acting as lawmen and defending themselves.

Wells also expressed his opinion that the men shouldn’t have been deputized at all. A few weeks later, a jury agreed to not convict the lawmen. Though they escaped formal punishment, socially their reputations took a major blow. 

The History Channel

Nationally, Doc Holliday earned a legendary reputation for being a gambling, gunslinging, dentist with manners and a well-kept mustache. People wanted to be like him — or maybe they had a crush.

Photo by John van Hasselt/Sygma via Getty Images

After the public trial, Doc decided to flee from Arizona. He spent his remaining years drifting across the Western front, continuing to gamble. At this point, he seemed to give up on the dentistry.

On November 8, 1887, Doc succumbed to tuberculosis in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, at 36. In his dying moments, he took a shot of whiskey and said, “This is funny.” It can be difficult for historians to pinpoint the truth about Western heroes like Doc Holliday, but a recent find has brought their stories to life.

Via True West Magazine

Keith and Brian Collins’ history obsession leads them to areas of the country where historic artifacts are prevalent. Hoping to get their hands on something meaningful, they charted a course for the famous Old Western town of Tombstone.

Daily Press

People from all over flock to Tombstone for a taste of life during the 1800s. Many of the buildings are old-fashioned replicas, which was right up Keith and Brian’s alley. A previous experience hinted the small town might be a hot spot for historic artifacts.

Robert Alexander / Getty Images

The 2011 trip to the Carriage House Antiques shop in Hesperia, California, garnered plenty of public attention. The men visited the shop in search of some historic finds, and they came away with quite the discovery.

Real Living Real Estate

They found an authentic photo album of the famous Wyatt Earp with several members of his family. The album was among a pile of other old photos, but none of them were nearly as special as this.

Daily Press

Wyatt Earp was an Old West lawman and gambler, as well as the deputy marshal of Tombstone. Now that the brothers were actually visiting Tombstone, they hit the thrift stores in hopes of finding more history.

True West Archives

In the first store they entered, they immediately asked if there were any old photos for sale — they were hoping to find something like the Wyatt Earp album. They eventually ended up purchasing this tintype of two men.

Daily Press

They bought the tintype, as well as two other old photographs, for a total of $13. They tossed the pictures in the glove compartment at first, but later that night, Keith examined the image of the two men.

He stared at the photo closely, then passed it to his brother. “I’m looking at it, and I’m thinking, ‘That can’t be who I think it is.’ So I passed it to Brian (who said,) ‘That’s Billy the Kid.’”

Daily Press

Could the brothers really have stumbled upon an actual photo of Billy the Kid, the infamous outlaw who was a major player in the Lincoln County Regulators gang? He’s perhaps the only Regulator anyone really even remembered.

Mirror UK

Even to this day, the name “Billy the Kid” is recognizable. Heck, abstract artwork of the outlaw hangs in a modern museum! This guy was a big name, and now Keith and Brian needed answers.

Robert Alexander / Getty Images

When they asked the man who sold them the photos where he’d gotten them, he told them, “Oh, we actually dug it up at a tent.” The tent was located in an area known for gambling, which excited the brothers.

According to Keith, Billy the Kid and the other man in the photo, his half-brother Joseph Antrim, were big gamblers, which added to the evidence the photo was legit. However, not everyone held this belief.

Bournemouth News

The executive editor of True West Magazine, Bob Boze Bell, had no doubt in his mind the photo was a fake. According to Bob, he sees people who have “authentic” Billy the Kid photos “almost every week.”

Julia Robb

He continued, “Short of a letter from someone who actually knew the Kid and who specifically mentions this photo, there is no way to prove anything.” He even doubted the 2010 Billy the Kid photo that sold for $5 million.

Kingman Daily Miner

In 2010, a man named Randy Guijarro purchased a photo of Billy the Kid playing croquet from a thrift store in Fresno, California. With the help of a National Geographic producer, he was able to prove its authenticity.

Randy Guijarro

Jeff Aiello, the producer who helped Randy for over a year to determine whether his photo was legit, was obviously just as interested in Keith and Brian’s find, so he volunteered to help them as well.

The Business Journal

The biggest factor in determining photo authenticity, as Jeff learned with Randy, was facial recognition technology. Unfortunately, when the brothers’ find was put to the test, it didn’t land nearly enough percent points to justify a match.

Iowa State University

Jeff admitted, “In my opinion, neither one of those guys is close to Billy. I laid out facial recognition data over them. The facial geometry doesn’t match. It’s a cool image though.” The brothers, however, weren’t disheartened.

Daily Press

Keith said, “Brian and I are trying to preserve history before it’s gone.” These guys simply want the importance of the era appreciated by others. Still, they’re on the lookout for all Old West photos — including rare pictures of the most iconic outlaw duo.

Daily Press

Not many people believe in fate, but forces were definitely at play when Bonnie Parker met Clyde Barrow way back in 1930. A mutual friend had broken his arm, and by chance the two just happened to be visiting him on the exact same day.

Their chemistry was instant, though this was no fairytale meeting. Clyde was already heavily involved in criminal activity by this point, and Bonnie (left) was actually married to another man at the time.

PBS

To make matters worse, Clyde was arrested just three months later for a series of robberies he’d committed. He spent two years in the slammer and was released in 1932.

As soon as he stepped from the prison, Bonnie was there waiting for him. The 22-year-old Texas girl had no prior criminal history, though it was clear she was willing to go to hell and back for her lawbreaker love.

The couple’s gang — dubbed the “Barrow Gang” — started off small at first, their criminal activities centered on the small towns of north-central Texas. Together, Bonnie & Clyde robbed gas stations, stole guns, and even tried to bust their fellow gang members out of prison.

Just weeks into their crime spree, Bonnie was arrested while trying to rob guns from a hardware store. She only spent a few months in prison, however, and the criminal couple picked up right where they left off as soon as she got out.

The gang soon grew increasingly bold in their crimes, even going as far as murdering sheriffs and officers of the law. Bonnie hadn’t been a criminal to start, but by this point, she’d definitely acquired a taste for life on the lam.

Along with their criminal activities, the gang’s area of operation expanded as well. They pushed beyond Texas, stirring up trouble in places like Missouri, Louisiana, and even as far north as Minnesota.

The gang soon grew so successful that even family members wanted in on the action. Clyde’s brother, Buck, and his wife Blanche joined the ranks, turning their robberies into one heck of a dangerous double date.

PBS

But their string of good fortune hit a snag when a police tip forced the gang to flee their Joplin, Missouri hideout in 1933, their possessions left scattered about the house — including two rolls of film.

The photos soon began making the rounds in papers across the country, serving to add fuel to the already raging fire surrounding the gang and their crimes. Yet not every image painted Bonnie and Clyde as ruthless, bloodthirsty outlaws.

In some, the gang’s youth and playfulness shone through, surprising many with how utterly normal they appeared to be. Bonnie and Clyde, of course, generated the most attention — who could resist a good-looking couple whose love for one another had carried over into their life of crime?

Bonnie was especially romanticized by the media, the recovered photos depicting her as a rough-and-tough southern gal who wasn’t afraid to run with the bad boys. This photo of her chomping a cigar remains one of her most iconic.

But as the tale of Bonnie and Clyde climbed its way up the headlines, so too did the Barrow Gang up the “Most Wanted” list. With all eyes peeled for the celebrity criminals’ next move, the gang soon discovered that fame comes at a high price.

Wikipedia

While laying low south of Platte City, Missouri, the Barrow Gang was ambushed by Highway Patrol officers in an armored car. Though Bonnie and Clyde managed to escape the assault, Buck was killed and Blanche (below) was captured.

PBS

Public opinion toward the outlaw couple also began to shift after one of the gang members murdered two patrolmen near Grapevine, Texas. It was falsely reported that Bonnie had maliciously carried out the “Grapevine killings,” leaving many demanding the gang’s execution.

Law enforcement officials managed to chart the gang’s regular movements around county lines, leading them to a rendezvous point that happened to be the home of one of the gang member’s family. Hidden along Louisiana State Highway 154, the posse of lawmen waited for Bonnie and Clyde to arrive.

PBS

On the morning of May 23, 1934, officers open fired on Clyde’s stolen Ford V8. After completely emptying their weapons on the fugitives, Bonnie and Clyde’s blood-spattered crime spree had finally come to an end.

Daily Mail

In the years that followed, the story of Bonnie and Clyde gradually faded into obscurity, becoming just another chapter of American outlaw history. But in 1967, the criminal couple burst back into the public consciousness — and it was all thanks to Hollywood.

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s portrayal in Bonnie & Clyde cemented the dastardly duo as the romantic icons they are today. Still, they wouldn’t have reached spectacular — and terrible — heights without those who set the stage before them.

Martha Jane Cannary, as her parents named her, published her own tell-all memoir, The Autobiography of Calamity Jane, in 1896, though, according to historians, the truth to her claims leans closer to tall tales than they do to real life events.

Cowgirl Magazine

She pinpointed her birthdate to 1852, but even that small fact was inaccurate, as she was actually born in 1856. Her parents, Robert and Charlotte, started a family in Missouri, ignoring the mutterings of their neighbors. And they certainly had reason to mutter…

Flickr

It was said that Robert, a gambler and erstwhile former, found his wife in a brothel. Charlotte was a sex worker at the time, but Robert intended to end that chapter of her life and turn her into a traditional bride. Needless to say, they left for greener pastures.

Daily Mail

Gold was the answer to all their worries, so the Cannary family — Martha Jane, her two younger brothers, and three younger sisters — crammed into the back of a covered wagon with their parents and headed for Montana.

Flickr

Not everyone survived the quest for fortune. Charlotte succumbed to pneumonia once they reached Montana, so Robert was left scrambling to redraw a plan for their survival. He took his children onward to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tumblr

Less than a year after they arrived, Robert died, leaving his six children orphaned. The oldest of the lot, 14-year-old Martha Jane, sucked up her grief and assumed the role of head of household.

Living History Farms

Martha Jane followed her parent’s pattern, packing her siblings into a wagon and moving them to Wyoming. That’s where she boasted her wild stage officially fired off. “I was considered the most reckless and daring rider and one of the best shots in the western country,” she wrote.

Giphy

Beneath the hyperbole, the truth wasn’t so glamorous, but it paid the bills. Martha Jane did whatever job she could to support her brothers and sisters: washing dishes, doing laundry, and even two-stepping with lonely soldiers at a local boarding house.

Pinterest

As Martha Jane told it, General Custer himself recruited her as a scout based in Fort Russell. It was with the US Army that she claimed to have run missions stretching as far as Arizona, but there are zero records to prove it. Also, Custer never stepped foot in Arizona.

History.com

Other narratives swirled that Martha Jane spent much of this chapter in the infamous hub of debauchery — Fort Laramie Three-Mile Hog Ranch. When times were tight, Martha Jane joined the ranks of the other ladies of the night. But she refused to let others write her story for her…

Pinterest

By day, Martha Jane was busy fashioning a brand new name. Her accounts of the early 1870s depict a woman flouting gender standards and mastering all aspects of the rough and tumble western lifestyle.

Flickr

By her own account, Jane earned her moniker in the noblest of ways. In 1872, while ambushing Native Americans in Goose Creek, Wyoming, the leader of the brigade, Captain Egan, took a bullet.

Flickr

Racing in to save him from tumbling off his horse, Martha Jane braved gunfire to pull Captian Egan safely onto her saddle. In awe of her nerve, the Captain croaked, “I name you Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains.”

The Paris Review

Hard to beat an origin story that heroic, and that’s exactly why it’s taken with a grain of salt. Jane’s integrity wasn’t as well known as her ferocity. The other fitting explanation was a phrase that followed her: “to offend her was to court calamity.”

C.E. Finn

In 1876, Calamity took a break from her scouting duties in Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and met a wagon train headed for Deadwood, South Dakota. Jane hitched a ride in the wagon of the sharply dressed wild western figure Charlie Utter.

Reddit

Charlie’s claim to fame was as right-hand man to Wild Bill Hickok. A trigger happy, professional gambler who could put away several drinks, Wild Bill immediately found a friend in Calamity Jane as their caravan trekked across the plains.

Pinterest

Where they just friends? Calamity couldn’t keep her story straight. In her biography, she labeled Bill a “friend,” however, in 1902, she verbally referred to him as her “affianced husband.” Something seems fishy about the change in tone after Hickok’s fame skyrocketed.

Pinterest

Given that Wild Bill played his final hand of cards, the dead man’s hand of double aces and eights, just six weeks after he met Calamity, their romance was more than likely hot air.

Flickr

Nuttal & Mann Salon No. 1o was the setting of Wild Bill’s death by poker. After an embarrassing loss the day before, Jack McCall barged into the saloon and executed Wild Bill while he sat at the game table.

Historical Deadwood / Facebook

Calamity Jane, true to her name, didn’t take the murder lightly. She wrote that she chased Jack McCall with a meat cleaver since she left her guns at home. Ultimately, the justice system saw him hanged.

Pinterest

Our heroine spent the remainder of her short life — she died at 51 — maintaining her foolhardy lifestyle. Drinking and roughhousing aside, Calamity was also remembered for her big tender heart.

Deadwood’s newspaper, the Black Hills Daily Times, printed, “It didn’t matter to her whether a person was rich, poor, white, or black, or what their circumstances were, Calamity Jane was just the same to all.”

Her stern exterior and sharp shooting prowess set Calamity apart. But her willingness to help others is how friends remembered her. It’s fitting that Doris Day depicted her onscreen because she, too, was a woman more complex than how she was perceived.

MulitGlom

Cookie cutter wouldn’t even begin to describe Doris Day’s reputation. The All American girl, a blonde haired, blue eyed non-threatening beauty, was born April 3, 1992, to a choirmaster father and a homemaker mother. But she had bigger dreams for herself.

Twitter

Her dream was to make it as a dancer. In her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, little Doris made a name for herself as part of a dance duo with her partner Jerry Doherty. But before she could break out of her home town, an accident halted her plans.

Financial Times

Her dreams were dashed before she ever had the chance to sashay across the stage. While cruising with friends, their car was struck twice by a train. Somehow escaping with her life, Doris suffered a lasting leg injury that snuffed out any dancing hopes.

American Rails

While in the hospital, Doris filled the dreary days confined to a bed singing along to the radio while waiting for her leg to mend. Turning what should’ve been a sad time into a period of beauty, she realized her pipes weren’t too shabby.

The Times

So, a 15-year-old Doris trudged onto the next thing: she joined the ranks of Barney Rapp’s band. While crooning in Cincinnati, Doris met a man that tried his utmost to win her heart.

Yahoo News

Several years later, in 1941, Doris tied the knot to a fellow musician, trombonist Al Jorden. Their marriage wasn’t as harmonious as the music they made. Two days after marrying, Jorden began physically abusing his wife, even during her pregnancy.

Twitter

Doris explained in her biography, “What had represented to me as love emerged as jealousy — pathologic jealousy.” The marriage ended after two years, and Doris, now a mother to her only child Terry, emerged post-divorce ready to break into the entertainment business.

Following her divorce, Doris started singing with a new band, helmed by Les Brown. Soon after, she scored the first massive hit that launched her into the spotlight. The song that captured the hearts of homesick soldiers was her first hit, “Sentimental Journey” 1945.

Twitter

From then on, her star continued to rise. While serenading a party full of well-connected Hollywood types, Doris’s hypnotizing rendition of “Embraceable You” made songwriter Jule Styne take notice. He invited Doris in for a screen test for a new film, Romance on the High Seas. Doris snagged the role.

The Blonde at the Film

But acting had never been on Doris’ radar. She confessed to the film’s director, Michael Curtiz, her total lack of experience. He appreciated her honesty. Still, Doris proved a capable actress, and her voice lent the film a smash hit with the song “It’s Magic.”

The Blonde At The FIlm

Now with a number of chart-topping hits, Doris received tons of film and musical offers. In a span of 5 years, she appeared in 13 films, carried several Oscar-nominated songs, and collectively won the hearts of Americans across the country.

Meanwhile, while her star rose, Doris gave love a chance once more, marrying film producer Martin Melcher. The two jointly formed Arwin Productions in 1952, which pumped out Doris Day films.

It wasn’t until 1953 that Doris put on her famed fringe jacket in her most well-known film. Playing, the western heroine Calamity Jane, Doris sealed her future as a Hollywood legend. Even her co-stars thought the world of her.

Belfast Film Festival

For instance, her costar for her first dramatic role in the film Love Me Or Leave Me, James Cagney characterized Doris as “the epitome of guilelessness.” Something about her was just likable, easy, and ultimately innocent. Other stars noticed this, too.

Facebook

Sparring opposite the most well regarded leading men in the Golden Age of Hollywood — Cary Grant, James Garner, Clarke Gable — Doris Day beamed as spirited, captivating star. Of all her onscreen beaus, her favorite was always Rock Hudson, who described their undeniable chemistry.

Reddit

“The two people have to truly like each other, as Doris and I did,” Rock said,” for that shines through, the sparkle, the twinkle in the eye as the two people look at each other.” Together the lifelong friends made 3 films and remained close until Rock’s life was sadly cut short.

Beguiling Hollywood

By the late ’60s, Doris’ particular brand of naivete had started to ebb into old fashion. Films were exploring grittier female characters, and Doris Day’s movies remained firmly in the PG territory. Worse, in 1968, a personal tragedy added to her already growing troubles.

Her husband, movie producer Martin Melcher suddenly died. As practicing Christian Scientists, the couple didn’t visit medical professionals, and Martin succumbed to an enlarged heart. The nightmare didn’t end there, though.

CNN

Soon after his death, Doris was gutted to learn Martin and their lawyer Jerome Rosenthal had taken serious liberties with her finances. Unbeknownst to the actress, most of her earnings from film successes had been blown, leaving her buried in debt.

Footwear News

Worse yet, her late husband had done something Doris had always fiercely resisted; he’d signed her on to make a TV sitcom. No finagling could get her out of the deal, so, in the most Doris Day way, she made lemonade out of lemons.

Michael’s TV Tray

For 5 years, The Doris Day Show ran on CBS. As a trade-off for committing to a sitcom, Doris ensured full creative control of the program bearing her name — and this led to interesting opportunities.

Nostalgia Central

Each episode opened with Doris singing the optimistic tune “Que Sera, Sera,” which set the tone for the “throw away the handbook” mentality seen in the dramatic changes in cast and plot from season to season.

After the show ended, Doris retreated from the spotlight. The exception was her shortlived talk show, Doris Day’s Best Friends. One episode featured her dear friend Rock Hudson in one of his final onscreen appearances before succumbing to AIDS in October of 1985.

Flix

In the same year, right as she grieved the loss one of her longest beloved friends, Doris’ talk show collapsed. Naturally, rather than dwell on her misfortunes, Doris examined her life and made a formative change.

Action News Jax

It was curtains on showbiz. Drawing on her past, when she founded the organization Actors and Others for Animals back in 1971, she refocused on animals. Her new life’s work became her two official nonprofits: the Doris Day Animal Foundation, and the citizen lobbying organization the Doris Day Animal League.

Ricky Gervais / Twitter

Doris’ chin-up spirit in response to unforeseen and often out of her control circumstances wasn’t limited to her film persona. When one thing went wrong, she dusted herself off and moved onto the next hurdle, a quality she prided herself on.

BBC

“I always said I was like those round-bottomed circus dolls,” she said. “You know, those dolls you could push down and they’d come back up? I’ve always been like that. I’ve always said, ‘No matter what happens, if I get pushed down, I’m going to come right back up.”

ABC News