October 26th, 1881 – Gunfight at the O.K. Corral


October 26th, 1881 witnessed perhaps the most famous shootout in history, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral!

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

The gunfight was 30-seconds long, between outlaw Cowboys and lawmen and is generally regarded as the most famous shootout in the history of the American Wild West. It took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26th, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory after a long-simmering feud between Cowboys Billy Claiborne, Ike and Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, and opposing lawmen: town Marshal Virgil Earp, Assistant Town Marshal Morgan Earp, and temporary deputy marshals Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

Billy Clanton and both McLaury brothers were killed. Ike Clanton, who had repeatedly threatened to kill the Earps, claimed he was unarmed and ran from the fight along with Billy Claiborne. Virgil, Morgan, and Doc Holliday were wounded, but Wyatt Earp was unharmed. The fight has come to represent a period in American Old West when the frontier was virtually an open range for outlaws, largely unopposed by law enforcement who were spread thin over vast territories, leaving some areas unprotected.

gunfight-at-the-corral-doing-the-walk1 680

The O.K. Corral walk from the 1957 film “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.”

The gunfight was not well known to the American public until 1931, when author Stuart Lake published an initially well-received biography, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, two years after Earp’s death. Published during the Great Depression, the book captured American imaginations. It was also the basis for the 1946 film, My Darling Clementine, by director John Ford. After the film Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was released in 1957, the shootout became known by that name. Since then, the conflict has been portrayed with varying degrees of accuracy in numerous Western films and books.

Despite its name, the historic gunfight did not take place within or next door to the O.K. Corral which fronted on Allen Street and had a rear entrance on Fremont Street. The shootout actually took place in a narrow lot on the side of C. S. Fly’s Photographic Studio on Fremont Street, six doors west of the O.K. Corral’s rear entrance. Some members of the two opposing parties were initially only about 6 feet apart. About thirty shots were fired in thirty seconds. Ike Clanton, whose brother Billy had been killed, filed murder charges against the Earps and Doc Holliday. The lawmen were eventually exonerated by a local Justice of the Peace after a 30-day preliminary hearing, and then by a local grand jury.


From the 1993 film “Tombstone,” the famous O.K. Corral walk.

The gunfight was not the end of the conflict, and on December 28th, 1881, Virgil Earp was ambushed and maimed in a murder attempt by the outlaw Cowboys. On March 18th, 1882, Cowboys fired from a dark alley through the glass door of a saloon and shot Morgan Earp, killing him. The suspects in both incidents furnished alibis supplied by fellow Cowboys and were not indicted. Wyatt Earp, newly appointed as Deputy U.S. Marshal in the territory, took matters into his own hands in a personal vendetta.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


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