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, one lightly-lined 7.75 x 9.5 page, dated April 20, 1870, written and signed by his father, Nicholas Porter Earp, signed “N. P. Earp, JP,” reads, in part: “To Dr. J. M. Endicott, W. W. Ross, J. N. Dunnaway, J. H. Richardson, William Broadhurst, Francis Reese, You are hereby commanded to be and appear before the undersigned Justice of the Peace within and for the Township of Lamar…to testify on the trial of a cause wherein the state of Missouri is plaintiff, and William G. Smith is defendant, on the part of the defendant and of this you will fail not at your peril. Given under my hand this 20th April 1870.” On the reverse, Earp writes: “I have served the within Suppena [sic] upon the written names herein mentioned by reading the same to them this April 29, 1870.” Reverse is also docketed in an unknown hand. Document is removably encapsulated in a Mylar sleeve. In very good to fine condition, with a light vertical fold through center of endorsement, two diagonal cuts, lightly affecting subpoena, but not touching endorsement at all, scattered light toning and soiling, and some mild paper loss along top edge of front. Accompanied by a 1995 certificate from Charles Hamilton stating, “I certify that I have examined the document dated April 20, 1870, signed W. S. Earp Const, and find that the five lines…are entirely in the handwriting of the famous frontier sheriff Wyatt Earp and bear his authentic, original signature.”
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 job, 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 one of the earliest signed Earp documents we have seen: an outstanding piece from the very beginning of what would become a legendary lawman’s career. Oversized. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.