It Happened This Week in L.A. History: The Death of Wyatt Earp


January 13, 1929

At the age of 80, the Western icon dies peacefully in Los Angeles, California almost fifty years after his involvement in the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

The bloody encounter in Tombstone Arizona established Earp as America’s prototypical cowboy of the Wild West. His legacy, however, took off after his death once the entertainment industry caught wind of the fearless Westerner, known for his few words and deadly aim. Hollywood portrayals romanticized the shootouts and Earp’s frontier adventures, cementing the gunman’s mark in Western pop culture. 

Earp’s legacy, however, has been met with controversy. Biographers in recent decades have attempted to separate fact from film fiction, exposing the American legend as a reckless, gambling outlaw—a far cry from the virtuous folk hero in Hollywood portrayals. Despite the biographical discrepancies, Earp remains both a cultural icon and historical figure who influenced notable Westerns and helped shape the American West.

In the decades following the famous shootout, Earp moved to California with his long-time companion Josephine Marcus. There he delved into mining, real-estate, and other business ventures before eventually settling in Los Angeles for the last years of his life.

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