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Come to Light in Tasmania
of Doc Holliday and “Big Nose Kate”
Turn Up Down Under
pair of wedding photographs I bought at a trash and treasure market
two years ago. I asked the seller where they came from, and he said
from a farmhouse in Huonville, a small town in the south of Tasmania
but knew nothing more. At that time I did not realize that they were
if I had I would have gotten his name. I can not now find him. I have
placed pictured advertisements in the Huonville News offering a reward
for information about the photographs and a news article was published
in the Huonville News. Both yielded no replies, but somebody out there
knows where they came from.
photographs measure 20 inches by 14 inches and are in gilded brass
frames with bow-fronted glass. They are, I am sure, the wedding photos
of John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday and Mary Katherine Harony (
Big Nose Kate). The photos are albumen prints enhanced with aniline
retouching, and are marked on the reverse in pencil 169 and 170 -
making them a pair. They were printed by the I.D.C. which later became
the Ideal Photo Company managed by D. P.Morgan who operated in Cripple
Creek Colorado circa 1890.
Also on the back are the numbers 23-4 which I think indicates the
date when they were printed. Kate,
in her interview with Bork and Martin in Prescott in 1935 told them
she married Doc
on the 25th of May 1876. I wonder that after nearly 60 years her memory
slipped and it was the 23rd of April 1876. I know that in the USA
they print the month before the day, but some European photographers
in the USA still used the day before month. For example the photographs
of the hanging of Lincoln’s assassins taken by Alexander Gardner (a
I think that the photos were taken in St. Louis in 1876 as it is reputed
that they were both there at that time. I believe that they are wedding
photos as Doc
is in formal day wear and has a bouquet appearing to be a Gardenia
in his left lapel, the Gardenia is a springtime bloomer which would
be good for April.
I have tried for a long time to trace the I. D. Co to St Louis at
that time with no result, but I think that the numbers 169 and 170
would make them very early works by that company, and that they may
have moved elsewhere before being recorded.
The photographs went with Doc
when they arrived in Fort
Griffin Texas in the spring of 1878. It was there that Doc got
into trouble with the law and was held in his room at the hotel, where
rescued him from the law by lighting a fire at the back of the hotel.
While people were fighting the fire she held up Doc’s
custodians and they escaped. It would be unlikely that they took the
photographs with them, but is distinctly possible that they were taken
by the proprietors of the hotel either Jack and Estelle Swartz of
the Planters Hotel, or Hank and Elizabeth Smith of the Occidental
Hotel as compensation for unpaid rent. Where they went from there
is the big question!
I have found other photographs from Texas
in Tasmania recently. These were printed by Frank Rogers of 712 Elm
Street, Dallas. So someone in Tasmania must have collected Wild West
photos, but again I could not trace them as they came from a local
antique shop who had them for years and did not know their origin.
It would be good to find somebody in the USA that has photos by the
I. D. Co. I have some printed in the 1890s but not before. Perhaps
someone has clues on D. P. Morgan or the owner of the I.
D. Co. in the 1870s.
It would also be a find if anyone has information about Jack and
Estelle Swartz, who I believe moved their Hotel to Colorado City,
Texas circa 1890s. I have tried to trace Swartz’s in Tasmania with
no luck, but I believe they had a son William and maybe a daughter.
Where did they go? Any inroads to any of the Swartz’s who emigrated
to Australia would be good news.
- John Bullock
“Many thanks to Professor Maciej Henneberg whose professional expertise
helped to authenticate these photographs “ - JB
Subject: Doc & Kate photos
I much enjoyed the writeup on Kate
Elder. I noted with interest your evidence that the photos were
wedding photos and I just wanted to comment on your evidence that
the lapel flowers likely being gardenia that would be in bloom in
April. I don't think it is likely that he would have found Gardenia's
commonly grow in St. Louis. It is too cold for them there. Gardenia's
are perennial shrubs that can grow in hardiness zones to as low as
8b (10-15 degrees F). St Louis is hardiness zone 6a (-10 to -5 degrees
F) . Gardenia's would be killed by cold in the St Louis climate. Furthermore,
even in the warmer 8b zone Gardenia's don't normally flower as early
as April. They are late spring to early summer bloomers June-July
in my experience.
Old fashioned Camellias can grow in hardiness zone 7 and do bloom
in the early spring. So they may be a better possibility for the flowers.
However, it looks like there are two small flowers- much smaller than
either gardenias or camellias normally are.
I hope this information is helpful in your historical investigation.
- Ray, May 01, 2010
Contributing Editor Maggie
Van Ostrand’s article on “Big
Nose Kate” recently brought her a most interesting letter from
Tasmania. What follows is the email from Mr. John Bullock, who has
come into possession of the wedding photos of Doc Holliday and Kate.
The photos have been authenticated by Maciej Henneberg, Professor
of Anthropological and Comparative Anatomy at the University of Adelaide.
It’s hoped that someone might shed some light on how the photos made
their way so far from Texas. Any responses sent to email@example.com
will be forwarded to Mr. Bullock.