Exceedingly rare and very early handwritten endorsement, signed “W. S. Earp, Const,” on the reverse of a subpoena from the state of Missouri. The subpoena, dated February 28, 1870 reads, in part: “To Thomas G. Harvey, You are hereby commanded that, all excuses and delays being set aside, you personally be and appear before the undersigned, in the Township of Lamar…to testify on the trial of a case wherein the state of Missouri plaintiff, and Thomas Brown is defendant, on the part of the defendant and of this you are not to fail at your peril.” On the reverse, Earp writes: “I have served the within summons upon the within named Thomas G. Harvey by Reading the same to him this Feb. 28, 1870 - W. S. Earp, Const.” Double cloth matted and framed with a color copy of the front of the document, two images of Earp, one a portrait, the other with Bat Masterson and the Dodge City Peace Commission and two plaques, to an overall size of 25.75 x 17.5. A small tear to left edge, three unobtrusive filing holes along top edge, a central horizontal fold, and a small spot of soiling slightly affecting end of Earp’s signature, otherwise fine condition.
In 1869, 21-year-old Wyatt Earp joined his family in Lamar, Missouri, where his father Nicholas was the local constable. When Nicholas stepped down, Wyatt ran against his elder half-brother Newton for the position, winning by 137 votes and claiming his first position in public office. As constable he learned the service of process—summonses and subpoenas for people to appear in court—which became an integral part of his work later in life. This subpoena is believed to be the earliest known signed Earp document still in existence. An outstanding piece from the very beginning of what would become a legendary lawman’s career.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.