The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (more correctly, the gunfight several doors down from the O.K. Corral) took place 135 years ago on this date in Tombstone, Arizona Territory.
The local marshal, Virgil Earp, and his two brothers, Morgan and Wyatt Earp—who were both a part of the police force—along with a temporary officer, Doc Holliday, faced a gang that had become the bane of the Earp family’s existence in Tombstone. The members of the gang called their group the Cowboys. The Cowboys involved in the shootout were Tom and Frank McLaury, Billy and Ike Clanton, and Billy Claiborne.
After a thirty-second shootout, Morgan and Virgil Earp had been injured, but the two McLaurys and Billy Clanton were dead. The three bodies were put on display in glass coffins in the local funeral parlor to establish that Tombstone had an effective law force.
The story did not attract much attention outside Tombstone until after Earp’s death in 1929. By then, he was a renowned figure from what was already known as the “Old West” and the “Wild West,” so this story seemed to reinforce in one thirty-second burst of gunfire every image—both positive and negative—associated with the old, wild west. Books, movies, and a daily re-enactment for tourists in Tombstone have followed.
* * * *
The Erie Canal, which connects Buffalo, New York, to Albany, New York, and thus the Great Lakes and the Midwest to the Atlantic Ocean and the rest of the world via the Hudson River, opened on this date in 1825. The canal covers 524 miles via 36 locks. Construction started in 1817.
* * * *
The 1951 United Kingdom general election was held on this date that year. The Labour Party received more votes overall, but the Conservattives, led by former prime minister Winston Churchill, won more seats in Parliament. Churchill returned to 10 Downing Street after six years’ absence.
* * * *
The last naturally occurring case of smallpox was diagnosed in Somalia on this date in 1977. By 1979, the World Health Assembly certified that the infectious disease, which claimed 300–500 million individual lives in the twentieth century alone, was eradicated. A global program of vaccination, lasting for years and maintained continuously, succeeded.
The disease exists only in well-guarded samples in labs. Every once in a while, debates about the ethics of destroying the last samples are held.
So far, only one other infectious disease, rinderpest, which decimated cattle herds, has been declared eradicated. Others are soon to follow: guinea worm disease is almost eradicated, and rubella has been regionally eradicated.
* * * *
President François Mitterrand was born 100 years ago today. The late Pat Conroy was born 71 years ago today. (He died on March 4.)
Jaclyn Smith is 70. Ivan Reitman is 70. Pat Sajak is 70. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is 69 today. William “Bootsy” Collins is 65. Sir Andrew Motion is 64. Lauren Tewes is 63. Rita Wilson is 60. Dylan McDermott is 55. Cary Elwes is 54. Natalie Merchant is 53 today. Jeanne Zelasko is 50. Seth MacFarlane is 43. Jon Heder is 39.
Follow The Gad About Town on Facebook! Subscribe today for daily facts (well, trivia) about literature and history, plus links to other writers on Facebook.
Follow The Gad About Town on Instagram!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.