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 was written and signed by his father, Nicholas Porter Earp, on one lightly-lined 7.75 x 9.5 page, dated April 20, 1870. Wyatt Earp's endorsement on the reverse reads, in full: "I have served the within Suppena [sic] upon the written names herein mentioned by reading the same to them this April 29, 1870.” The text of the main document [now concealed by framing], 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.” Reverse is also docketed in an unknown hand. 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.
Also includes a Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver, serial no. 5349, caliber .36. The frame and brass gripstraps have matching numbers, although the backstrap number is only partially legible. The barrel is numbered 207052, the loading lever is 7803, and the wedge is not numbered. The cylinder has no trace of the scene or a number. The 7.5″ octagonal barrel has the “NEW-YORK US America” address and has a good bore. The frame and cylinder have a dark patina with many small dings on the cylinder and excellent patent markings on the frame. The barrel is a light gray with areas of light pinprick pitting. The one piece walnut grip rates very good as refinished. The mechanism functions well. Built on a frame made in 1851. This is an antique revolver and transfers with no federal restrictions.
The document and revolver are handsomely archivally double-cloth-matted and framed together with a photo of Earp and an engraved plaque to an overall size of 22.5 x 27. 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.” Also accompanied by a photocopy of the front of the document.
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.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.