Bat Masterson

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For the television show, see Bat Masterson (TV series).
Bat Masterson
Bat Masterson 1879.jpg
Born (1853-11-26)November 26, 1853
Henriville, Montérégie, Quebec, Canada East
Died October 25, 1921(1921-10-25) (aged 67)
New York City, New York, USA
Resting place Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York
40°53′17″N 73°52′19″W / 40.88806°N 73.87194°W / 40.88806; -73.87194 (Grave of Bat Masterson)
  • Gambler
  • United States Army Scout
  • buffalo hunter
  • Lawman (Sheriff and U.S. Marshal)
  • Journalist
  • Gunfighter
Years active 1872 – 1900
  • Thomas M. Masterson
  • Catherine U. McGurk Masterson
Relatives James Patrick Masterson (brother)
Edward John Masterson (brother)
Bat Masterson signature.svg

William Barclay "Bat" Masterson (November 26, 1853 – October 25, 1921) was a figure of the American Old West known as a buffalo hunter, and Army scout, gambler, Dodge City lawman, and sports editor and columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph.

Born in Canada[edit]

Bat Masterson was born on November 26, 1853,[1] at Henryville, Canada East, in the Eastern Townships of what is Quebec today, and baptized as Bartholomew Masterson.[2] He later used the name "William Barclay Masterson".[citation needed]

His father Thomas Masterson (or Mastersan) was born in Canada of an Irish family; and his mother Catherine McGurk (or McGureth) was born in Ireland.[3] He was the second child in a family of five brothers and two sisters.[4] They were raised on farms in Quebec, New York, and Illinois, until they finally settled near Wichita, Kansas.

Hunting Buffalo[edit]

In his late teens, he and his brothers Edward John "Ed" Masterson and James Patrick "Jim" Masterson left their family's farm to become buffalo hunters. During July, 1872 Ed and Bat Masterson were hired by a subcontractor, named Raymond Ritter, to grade a five-mile section of track for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. Ritter skipped out without paying the Masterson brothers all of the wages they were entitled to. It took Bat nearly a year, but he finally collected his overdue wages from Ritter - at gunpoint. On April 15, 1873 Bat learned that Ritter was due to arrive in Dodge City, aboard a Santa Fe train, and that Ritter was carrying a large roll of cash. When Ritter's train pulled in, Bat entered the car alone and confronted him. Bat then marched Ritter out onto the rear platform of the train, where he forced him to hand over the $300 that was owed to him, his brother Ed, and a friend named Theodore Raymond. A loud cheer then went up from a large crowd who had witnessed the event.[citation needed]

Battle of Adobe Walls[edit]

Bat was once again engaged in buffalo hunting on June 27, 1874 when he became an involuntary participant in one of the Wild West's most celebrated Indian fights - the five-day siege at a collection of ramshackle buildings in Texas known as "Adobe Walls." The 200 Indians were led by famed Comanche Quanah Parker (1846-1911). The Indians suffered the most losses during the battle. The actual number of Indians killed is not known,and the number reported ranges from a low of 30 to a high of 70. The Adobe Walls defenders lost only three men - one of whom shot himself by accident.[5] After being fought to a standstill, Quanah Parker and his followers rode off.

Gunfighter and lawman[edit]

Deputies Bat Masterson (standing) and Wyatt Earp in Dodge City, 1876. The scroll on Earp's chest is a cloth pin-on badge

His first gunfight took place on January 24, 1876 in Sweetwater, Texas (later Mobeetie in Wheeler County, not to be confused with the current Sweetwater, the seat of Nolan County west of Abilene, Texas). He was attacked by soldier Corporal Melvin A. King (whose real name was Anthony Cook), allegedly because of a girl named Mollie Brennan. Molly was accidentally hit by one of King's bullets and was killed, and King died of his wounds. Masterson was shot in the pelvis but recovered.[6] There is no truth in the story that he needed to carry a cane for the rest of his life.[7]

Bat soon made a complete recovery and settled in Dodge City. On June 6, 1877, Bat tried to prevent the arrest of a certain Robert Gilmore - who was known to the locals as "Bobby Gill." In order to do this, Bat somehow managed to wrap his arms about the girth of 315 lb. City Marshal Lawrence Edward "Larry" Deger (1845-1924), thereby permitting "Bobby Gill" to escape. Bat was grabbed by friends of Deger, and pistol-whipped by the balloon-shaped lawman. The following day, Bat was fined $25 for disturbing the peace. "Bobby Gill," the cause of Bat's fine, was assesed only $5. During July 1877, Bat was hired to serve as "Under-Sheriff" to Sheriff Charles E. Bassett (1847-1896). Sheriff Bassett was prohibited by the Kansas State Constitution from seeking a third consecutive term. With the job up for grabs, Bat Masterson wasted no time throwing his derby in the ring. The sheriff's race became particularly interesting when Bat's opponent turned out to be none other than Larry Deger. On November 6, 1877, Bat was elected county sheriff of Ford County, Kansas by the narrow margin of only three votes.[8] Within a month of Bat's election, Ed Masterson replaced Larry Deger as city marshal of Dodge. Together, the brothers Masterson now controlled the city and county police forces.[citation needed]

Sheriff of Ford County, Kansas[edit]

Sheriff Masterson got his term off to a roaring start on February 1, 1878 by capturing Dave Rudabaugh and Ed West who were wanted for an attempted train robbery. The tandem law-enforcement effort by Bat and Ed Masterson came to an abrupt end when 25 year-old City Marshal Edward J. Masterson was shot and killed in the line of duty on April 9, 1878.[9] Ed was shot by a cowboy named Jack Wagner who was unaware that Bat was in the vicinity. As Ed stumbled away from the scene, Masterson responded from across the street with deadly force, firing on both Wagner and Wagner's boss Alf Walker. Wagner died the next day but Walker was taken back to Texas and recovered. The local newspapers were ambiguous about who shot Wagner and Walker, and this led some later historians to question whether Bat was involved. However, the recent locating of two court cases in which Bat testified under oath that he had shot both men adds credence to the idea that Bat avenged his brother.[10][11] More violence followed on October 4, 1878 when a variety actress named Dora Hand ( known professionally as "Fannie Keenan" was shot and killed by James Kenedy, the son of the wealthy Texas cattleman Miflin Kenedy (1818-1895). Sheriff Masterson's posse, which included Wyatt Earp and Bill Tilghman, captured James Kenedy the following day.[citation needed]

Royal Gorge Railroad War[edit]

Santa Fe Railroad officials had wired Sheriff Bat Masterson asking him to recruit a company of men to battle the forces of the Denver, Rio Grande and Western Railroad who were contesting the right-of-way through the Royal Gorge near Pueblo, Colorado. As a Kansas sheriff, Bat had absolutely no legal authority in Colorado, but this hardly prevented him from enlisting a large company of men. Among Masterson's recruits were such noted gunmen as Ben Thompson, "Mysterious Dave" Mather, John Joshua Webb and (possibly) Doc Holliday. The end of Bat's involvement came on June 12, 1879 when he surrendered a roundhouse his men were holding at Canon City, Colorado. The "war" between the railroads was finally settled out of court. Bat's Colorado activities didn't go over well with the voters of Ford County, Kansas. On November 4, 1879 a bartender named George T. Hinkel (1846-1922) defeated Bat in his re-election bid for sheriff by a vote of 404 to 268.[citation needed]

Billy Thompson and Buffalo Bill[edit]

If Bat failed to charm the voters, he hadn't lost any of his appeal from the opposite sex. When the 1880 Dodge City census was enumerated, it revealed that Bat was then living with one Annie Ladue, age nineteen who was described as his "concubine." City Marshal James Masterson, Bat's younger brother, was listed on the same census as living with Minnie Roberts, age sixteen, who was also quaintly described as a "concubine." Not longer after this census was taken, Bat received a telegram from Ben Thompson - asking Bat to save Ben's troublesome brother, Billy Thompson from almost certain lynching in Ogallala, Nebraska. Billy Thompson had shot the thumb off a man named Tucker, who - despite missing a digit - managed to fire back and seriously wound Billy. Bat managed to spirit Billy Thompson out of Ogallala via a midnight train bound for North Platte, Nebraska. In North Platte, Bat was provided with assistance by no less a personage than William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, who promptly offered his assistance. According to Bat both he and Billy Thompson "were given a royal welcome and were immediately taken in charge by Colonel Cody, who found a safe place for us to remain until he could outfit us for the trip across the country to Dodge City." [12] The finale of the Billy Thompson episode was reported in the Dodge City Times which noted that "W.B. Masterson arrived from a visit to Ogallala, this week. He says Nebraska is dry and many people are leaving the state. He came by wagon, and was accompanied by 'Texas Billy' Thompson. The latter has recovered from his wounds." [13]

Battle of the plaza[edit]

Bat spent the remainder of 1880 in Kansas City and Dodge. On February 8, 1881 he left Dodge and joined his friend Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, where he also met Luke Short for the first time. Earp, Short and Masterson worked as faro dealers, or "look outs," at Tombstone's Oriental Saloon. Bat had only been in Tombstone for two months when he received an urgent telegram that compelled him to return to Dodge City. His brohter Jim Masterson was in partnership with Alfred James "A. J." Peacock[14] in Dodge City's Lady Gay Saloon and Dance Hall. Albert "Al" Updegraff [15] was Peacock's brother-in-law and bartender. Jim thought that Updegraff was dishonest and a drunk, and demanded that Peacock fire him. Peacock refused. Their disagreement grew until threats were made, prompting the telegram. Bat arrived in Dodge City on April 16, 1881[10] and accosted Updegraff and Peacock. Recognizing Masterson, Updegraff and Peacock retreated behind the jail and exchanged gunfire with Masterson. Citizens ran for cover as bullets ripped through the Long Branch Saloon. Other individuals began firing in support of both sides until Updegraff was wounded. Mayor Ab Webster arrested Masterson. Afterward, Bat learned that his brother Jim was not in danger. Updegraff recovered. The shooter who hit Updegraff could not be identified, so Masterson was fined $8.00 and released.[10]:206

It was unclear who fired first. The citizens were outraged and warrants were issued, but Bat and Jim were permitted to leave Dodge.[10]:210

City marshal of Trinidad, Colorado[edit]

Bat was appointed city marshal of Trinidad, Colorado on April 17, 1882. He had hardly settled into his $75 a month marshal's job, when he received yet another urgent summons for help. This time it was from Wyatt Earp who needed Bat's help to prevent the extradition of John Henry "Doc" Holliday from Colorado to Arizona, where Holliday was under indictment for murder. Bat took his case directly to Colorado Governor Frederick W. Pitkin, who listened to Bat's appeal, and finally refused to grant Holliday's extradition. Bat's rescue of Doc Holliday, and his nightly "moonlighting" as a faro dealer spelled doom for his career as city marshal of Trinidad, Colorado. On March 28, 1883 a local paper noted that: "There are now two 'bankers' running for city offices - Mr. Taylor of the Las Animas County Bank, and Mr. Masterson of the bank of 'Fair O.' Both have a large number of depositors - one of time depositors and the other receives his deposits for keeps." [16] The voters of Trinidad got the message. On April 3, 1883 Bat was defeated by a lopsided vote of 637 to 248.[citation needed]

Dodge City War[edit]

Main article: Dodge City War
The "Dodge City Peace Commission" June 10, 1883. From left to right, standing: William H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, William F. Petillon. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Michael Francis "Frank" McLean and Cornelius "Neil" Brown.

Bat's term as city marshal of Trinidad expired just in time for him to come to the aid of his friend Luke Short, who had been run out of Dodge City by the mayor - who turned out to be Bat's long-time enemy Lawrence E. "Larry" Deger. Within weeks, a group of gunfighters, recruited by Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, descended upon Dodge City. The result of this gathering reinstated Luke Short in Dodge. Before disbanding on June 10, 1883 Luke Short, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and five others posed for the historic group photo that was immediately dubbed "The Dodge City Peace Commission."[citation needed]

First attempt at journalism[edit]

Bat was back in Dodge City on November 1, 1884, where he issued a small newspaper called Vox Populi, which was devoted to local political issues. Three days after its appearance, Bat received a flattering - and prophetic - review of his journalistic effort from another Dodge City paper, which observed: "We are in receipt of the first number of Vox Populi, W.B. Masterson, editor, which in appearance is very neat and tidy. The news and statements it contains seem to be of a somewhat personal nature.The editor is very promising; if he survives the first week of his literary venture there is no telling what he may accomplish in the journalistic field." [17] Editor Bat Masterson did not survive his first week. Vox Populi folded after printing just one issue. It would take almost another 20 years before Bat made journalism a full-time profession.[citation needed]

Denver, Colorado[edit]

Bat finally called it quits with Dodge City and made Denver his center of interest. Masterson wasn't in Denver long, when he became involved in a messy divorce scandal. The trouble began in a Denver theater on September 18, 1886, when a comedian named Lou Spencer, who was performing on stage, spotted his wife, Nellie, seated in the audience on Bat Masterson's knee. Spencer cut short his routine and confronted Masterson. Bat displayed his concern by hitting Spencer across the face with his pistol. Nellie Spencer watched from the wings while the two men slugged it out. Finally they were arrested, fined and released a short time later. Three days later, Nellie filed for divorce and the Denver papers were quick to report that Nellie had "eloped" with Bat. There is no record of Bat and Nellie getting married, and she soon disappeared from Bat's life.[citation needed]

In Denver, Masterson dealt faro for "Big Ed" Chase at the Arcade gambling house.[18] In 1888, he managed and then purchased the Palace Variety Theater.[19] It was probably there that Bat first met an Indian club swinger and singer called Emma Moulton, born as Emma Walter near Philadelphia in 1857. The pair subsequently lived together, and it has been widely reported that they married in Denver on 21 November 1891, although no record of the marriage has come to light thus far and Emma was not divorced from her first husband until 9 November 1893. The partnership survived until Bat's death.[20]

The sports-minded Masterson was at ringside during the John L. Sullivan-Jake Kilrain Heavyweight Championship fight, at Richburg, Mississippi on July 8, 1889. Bat was not there merely to observe the action. He was the designated timekeeper for Kilrain, and came under fire from some sources for how he handled his role. Reportedly, Bat saw to it that Luke Short, Johnny Murphy, and "twelve other good men were scattered around the ring where they would do the most good in case of an emergency." [21] Despite his wide acclaim as a boxing authority, Bat had a consistent habit of backing the loser in nearly every championship fight he attended between 1889 and 1921. Jake Kilrain was no exception, and was defeated by Sullivan in the championship fight.[citation needed]

While in Denver, he met and began a long-term friendship with the infamous confidence man Soapy Smith and members of the Soap Gang.[22] In 1889, the two friends were involved in the famous Denver registration and election fraud scandal.[23] In 1892, he moved to the silver boom town of Creede, Colorado where he managed the Denver Exchange Club until the town was destroyed by fire. On September 7, 1892 Bat Masterson, Luke Short and Charles E. Bassett attended the John L. Sullivan-James J. Corbett championship fight in New Orleans. According to a Dodge City paper, Bat bet on the winner, while noting that "Charlie Bassett and Luke Short were among the notables in attendance. Bassett bet his money on Sullivan." [24] This was probably the last time that the three friends got together. Both Short and Bassett would be dead in less than four years.[25] Masterson was in Jacksonville, Florida on January 25, 1894 acting as a second for Charlie Mitchell during Mitchell's heavyweight title shot at the champion - James J. "Gentlman Jim" Corbett. As usual, Bat was backing the wrong man. Mitchell was knocked cold in three.[citation needed]

Duty as a bodyguard[edit]

Bat briefly moved to New York City in 1895 to serve as a bodyguard for a millionaire named George Gould. Bat wrote his Denver pals glowing accounts of fishing trips "with the Goulds on their yacht," and announced his intention to remain in New York City indefinitely. On June 6, 1895 a Denver paper quoted a friend of Masterson's who observed that "Bat has at last fallen into a dead easy game." [26] But it didn't last. By March 17, 1897 Bat was back in the West at Carson City, Nevada, where he was placed in charge of a squad of ringside police at the Fitzsimmons-Corbett title fight. Bat backed Corbett, and personally assured "Gentleman Jim" that he would beat Fitzsimmons "easily." As always, Bat put his money where his mouth was. As always, Bat's fighter lost.[citation needed]

Final years in Denver[edit]

Bat was back in Denver on April 6, 1897, serving as a deputy sheriff of Arapahoe County, when he got into an election day dispute with a man named Tim Connors. Masterson drew his pistol and Connors attempted to seize it. During the scuffle, the gun went off and a man named C.C. Louderbaugh was shot in the left wrist.[citation needed]

On April 9, 1899 Bat became a partner in a boxing club called the "Colorado Athletic Association." Within only a few days, Bat was frozen out of the organization by his partners. Masterson retaliated, on April 18, by founding a rival boxing club - the "Olympic" - with himself as President. Masterson received favorable media coverage from a Denver newspaper called George's Weekly, where Bat was employed as sports editor.[citation needed]

On the 1900 Federal Census record for Arapahoe County in Denver, he listed his name as William Masterson, with his birthplace as Missouri in 1854. His wife is listed as Emma Masterson, married for 10 years, and he listed his occupation as Athletic Club Keeper.[27] During September, 1900 Bat sold his interest in the Olympic Athletic Club and made another visit to New York City. Bat had decided to settle in New York City, but had a sudden change of heart and returned to Denver - with humiliating results.[citation needed]

There are two versions given for what caused Bat Masterson's final departure from Denver. Bat's story was that an irate woman belted him with an umbrella on May 2, 1902, when she took exception to an "undesirable" like Bat trying to cast his ballot at a local election. This story is somewhat move believable than the more popular yarn that Bat had become a dangerous drunk who was run out of Denver for being a public nuisance.[28] Whatever really happened, Bat left Denver and never returned.

On Broadway[edit]

By June 6, 1902 Bat was in New York City, where he and two other men were arrested on a bunco charge. Bat and his companions were accused of fleecing George H. Snow, a Mormon elder, out of $17,000. Two days after his arrest, Bat complained to a reporter that "this fellow Gargan who arrested me is a warm baby - in his mind. He thinks all people are suckers. That's the trouble with these mush-headed coppers. Give them a political job to keep from starving and they think they own the earth." [29] No sooner had these charges against Masterson been dropped when, on June 15, 1902, he was arrested again for carrying a concealed weapon. Fortunately for Bat, the single most important person in his life, Alfred Henry Lewis (1858-1914), turned up at this point. No man ever had, or ever would, do as much for Bat Masterson as Alfred Henry Lewis.It was Lewis who got his brother, William Eugene Lewis (1861-1924), to provide Bat with employment as a columnist on William's newspaper, the New York Morning Telegraph''. Bat's column, "Masterson's Views on Timely Topics," concerned sports in general and Boxing in particular. The column appeared three times a week from 1903 until Bat's death in 1921. Alfred Henry Lewis also authored The Sunset Trail, a fictionalized biography of Bat in 1905.[citation needed]

Presidential appointment[edit]

It was Alfred Henry Lewis who introduced Bat to President Theodore Roosevelt. The president and the gunfighter formed a lasting friendship that resulted in Bat being a frequent White House guest, and also included regular correspondence. President Roosevelt also arranged for Bat's appointment as Deputy U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of New York. On February 2, 1905 President Roosevelt wrote Bat a letter which concluded with the lines: "You must be careful not to gamble or do anything while you are a public officer which might afford opportunity to your enemies and my critics to say that your appointment was improper. I wish you to show this letter to Alfred Henry Lewis and go over the matter with him." [30] Bat "served" in his $2,000 per year job from March 28, 1905 until August 1, 1909. The job was a blatant sinecure, which didn't disrupt Bat's regular employment at the New York Morning Telegraph. Apparently the only time Bat turned up at the U.S. Marshal's office was on payday, when he only stayed long enough to pick up his check.[31]

In 1906, an old friend named Ben Daniels was appointed Marshal of Arizona Territory by President Theodore Roosevelt over "ferocious local opposition." On April 18, 1905, while the debate was still going on, Bat wrote Daniels a three-page letter of encouragement in which he wrote: "Isn't President Roosevelt about the best ever? ... There is no red tape about that man. He thinks well of you and there is no mistake but you will get what you want if he can give it to you." [32] After a delay of five months, Daniels finally won confirmation on April 25, 1906, with the help of Speaker of the House Joseph Gurney Cannon and testimony by Masterson and Senator Frederick Dodge.[33][34]

Writes for Human Life magazine[edit]

Masterson about 1911 in New York City

Alfred Henry Lewis encouraged Bat to write a series of sketches about his adventures which were published by Lewis in Human Life magazine.[35] Bat provided five biographical studies in 1907 on Ben Thompson,[36] Wyatt Earp,[37] Luke Short,[38] Doc Holliday [39] and Bill Tilghman.[40] Masterson also explained to his audience what he felt were the best properties of a gunfighter. There were supposed to be other articles in Bat's Human Life series, which had appeared under the title of "Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier." The next three issues of Human Life came and went without a Masterson article. Finally, in the November, 1907 issue of Human Life, editor Alfred Henry Lewis tried to assure his readership that Bat would indeed resume the series by explaining that Masterson's reasons for "breaking off the output" were "wholly of an idle, indolent, midsummer sort, which the managers of this magazine hope to overthrow so soon as a cooler temperature comes to the assistance of their arguments." Lewis offered this apology as part of his own Human Life article called "The King of the Gun-Players: William Barclay Masterson." [41] Lewis met with only limited success. Bat did provide one more article, on Buffalo Bill Cody,[42] but that would be his final Human Life article.

Final years[edit]

Bat continued to get together with President Theodore Roosevelt, and the New York Times of April 27, 1908 gave this report of one such visit:


WASHINGTON, April 26 - "Bat" Masterson, gunfighter and United States Deputy Marshal of New York was here today, and visited the White House. The President welcomed him, and the two indulged in Western yarns and delved into politics. Masterson could not see where any one had a chance for election next fall except his host. He bluntly said so, and insisted that he was right. In short, he displayed the fact that he was suffering from an attack of "third termitis" in its most virulent form. The talk with "Bat" has not seemed to perturb Mr. Roosevelt to any great extent.[citation needed]

Theodore Roosevelt did not seek a third term in 1908. His successor, William Howard Taft, did not share Roosevelt's enthusiasm for Bat Masterson. President Taft had his Attorney General conduct an investigation of Masterson's employment as a Deputy U.S. Marshal, which resulted in Bat being terminated on August 1, 1909. For the remaining twelve years of his life, Bat Masterson roamed all over the United States covering the major Boxing events of that era for the New York Morning Telegraph. On at least one occasion a sports-writing assignment actually took him out of the country.[citation needed]

On April 5, 1915 the 61-year-old Bat Masterson was in Havana, Cuba attending the heavyweight championship fight between Jack Johnson and Jess Willard. As he arrived, he posed for a newsreel cameraman. He was now quite portly. The mustache of his younger days was long gone, along with most of the hair on top of his head. In the brief film clip he removes his hat, smiles for the camera and replaces the hat on his head. Twenty-eight stills from this film can be viewed in a 1984 book on Masterson.[43] Later that day, in the official film made of the fight, Bat can be seen as one of the seconds for Jess Willard, climbing through the ropes, just prior to the start of the fight.[citation needed]

On July 2, 1921 Bat attended his last Heavyweight Championship fight. It was the so-called "Million Dollar Gate," promoted by Tex Rickard, in which Jack Dempsey defended (and retained) his title of Heavyweight Champion of the World. Three months later, on October 7, 1921, silent screen cowboy star William S. Hart (1864-1946) visited with Bat. They were photographed standing together on the roof of the New York Morning Telegraph building, and went back to Bat's office, where he asked Hart to sit in his chair and pose for a second photo with him. According to Hart: "I did so, and he stood beside me. Mr. Masterson was sitting in that same chair eighteen days later when he heard the last call." [44]


The grave of Bat Masterson

Bat Masterson died at age 67 on October 25, 1921, at his desk from a massive heart attack after writing what became his final column for the New York Morning Telegraph. Five hundred persons attended Bat Masterson's funeral service at Frank E. Campbell's Funeral Church at Broadway and Sixty-sixth Street. Bat's honorary pall bearers included Damon Runyon (1884-1946), Tex Rickard and William E. Lewis. Runyon was a close friend of Bat's and offered this memorable eulogy: "He was a 100 percent, 22-karat real man. Bat was a good hater and a wonderful friend. He was always stretching out his hand to some down-and-outer. He had a great sense of humor and a marvelous fund of reminiscence, and was one of the most entertaining companions we have ever known. There are only too few men in the world like Bat Masterson and his death is a genuine loss." [45] Masterson was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York. His full name, William Barclay Masterson, appears above his epitaph on the large granite grave marker in Woodlawn. His epitaph states that he was "Loved by Everyone".[46][47]

Popular media[edit]

Novels and comic books[edit]

  • Bat Masterson, along with many other historical figures of the time, is a character in the novel The Buntline Special (2010) by Mike Resnick.
  • Dell Comics also published a short-lived comic book based on the series. The first issue was published as Four Color Comics #1013, followed by Bat Masterson #2–9 (1960–62). All the issues had photographic covers. The stories were scripted by Gaylord DuBois
  • The 1986 novel The Ham Reporter, by Robert J. Randisi, features Bat Masterson as an investigating newspaperman.
  • The 1985 novel The Old Colts by Glendon Swarthout, tells a fictional tale involving the elderly Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp.
  • The 1999 novel Masterson, by Richard S. Wheeler, describes a fictional trip from New York to California, wherein Bat meets film actor William S. Hart and visits Wyatt Earp. The trip takes place in late 1919, just before the imposition of national prohibition of alcohol. Among other amusing observations he makes is the statement that Las Vegas is just an unimportant whistle stop town--"always was, always will be."
  • The comic series The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa portrayed him alongside Wyatt Earp, Soapy Smith, and hanging Judge Roy Bean.
  • The 2011 novel "The Gunsmith" #351 (The Trial of Bat Masterson) by Robert J. Randisi, describes a time in which fictional character Clint Adams comes to the aid of his friend, Bat Masterson, who has been wrongly accused of murder and is being pursued by the "victim's" brother. There are MANY references to Masterson as one of Adam's closest friends throughout the series.
  • The 2015 novel "And The Wind Whispered" by Dan Jorgensen, features Bat Masterson as one of the key characters in a book set in 1894 Hot Springs, SD. In there he joins forces with famed reporter Nellie Bly and Deadwood Sheriff Seth Bullock to help thwart an outlaw gang's incursion on the city and attempts to rob visiting (and vacationing) dignitaries in the southern Black Hills community.


  • Albert Dekker (1905-1968) portrayed "Bat Masterson" in the 1943 film, The Woman of the Town.
  • Randolph Scott (1898-1987) portrayed " Bat Masterson" in the 1947 film Trail Street.
  • Frank Ferguson (1906-1978) portrayed "Bat Masterson" in the 1951 film Santa Fe.
  • George Montgomery (1916-2000) portrayed "Bat Masterson" in the 1954 film Masterson of Kansas.
  • Keith Larsen (1924-2006) portrayed " Bat Masterson" in the 1955 film Wichita.
  • Kenneth Tobey (1917-2002) portrayed "Bat Masterson" in "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral", a 1957 film.
  • Joel McCrea (1905-1990) portrayed "Bat Masterson" in the 1959 film The Gunfight at Dodge City.
  • Tom Sizemore (1961- ) portrayed "Bat Masterson" in the 1994 movie Wyatt Earp.
  • Matt Dallas (1982- ) portrayed "Bat Masterson" in the 2012 film Wyatt Earp's Revenge.


  • Mason Alan Dinehart (1936- ), played "Bat Masterson" from 1955 to 1959 in thirty-four episodes of the ABC western series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O'Brian in the title role.
  • Bat Masterson was a U.S. television series loosely based on the historical character. Masterson was portrayed by Gene Barry (1919-2009). Bat Masterson aired on NBC in 108 episodes from October 8, 1958 to June 1, 1961 and featured Masterson as a superbly dressed gambler, generally outfitted in a black suit and derby hat, who was more inclined to "bat" crooks over the head with his gold-knobbed cane than shoot them. Hundreds of thousands of plastic derby hats and canes were sold as children's toys during the show's run.
  • Animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera satirized Masterson in a 1964 Punkin' Puss and Mushmouse cartoon, "Bat Mouseterson", in which Mushmouse's city-dwelling, cane-wielding cousin comes to hill country for a visit and teaches Mushmouse the gentleman's way of warding off Punkin' Puss.
  • A character called "Bat Masterson" appears in the 1980s Western series Bordertown in the episode "Nebraska Lightning", where he helps the fictional characters "U.S. Marshal Jack Craddock" and "Canadian Northwest Mountie Corporal Clive Bennett" take on the "Nebraska Lightning Gang."
  • In one episode of Beakman's World, Beakman portrayed himself in a short film as "Bat Masterson" when teaching about how actors do not injure themselves when doing things that are meant to cause injury.
  • A man claiming to be "Bat Masterson," portrayed by Philip Bosco and credited as Mike Killabrew, appears in the series Early Edition in a 1997 episode titled "Bat Masterson".[48]
  • A character called "Bat Masterson" appears in the 2014 Murdoch Mysteries episode "Glory Days", going to Toronto in pursuit of famous outlaws and clashing with the local constabulary's style of investigation.
  • A character called "Bat Masterson" is played by Matthew Le Nevez in the 2015 Lifetime TV-series, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, a counter-history to the legend of Lizzie Borden.


Masterson is mentioned in various games utilizing the names of "authentic" historic characters.

  • Red Dead Revolver character Jack Swift is based on Bat Masterson
  • Sidewinder:Wild West Adventures narrator, both original quotations and fictional quotations attributed to Bat Masterson are used throughout the rulebook
  • Bat Masterson is used as a Non-Player Character in Pirate101

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Other dates are cited in some Colin sources, but his baptism is recorded in the Quebec Archives in a record dated 27 November 1853, making it clear that he was born the previous day. (See DeArment, Robert K., Bat Masterson, The Man and the Legend, University of Oklahoma Press, 1979, pp.9–10.)
  2. ^ Bartholomaeus Masterson in the 1870 US Census in St. Clair County, Illinois
  3. ^ Bat later claimed on U.S. census that he was born in Illinois or Missouri, but that was probably because he had never bothered to become naturalized and had voted and held public office.
  4. ^ The six other Masterson children were Edward John (1852-1878), James Patrick (1855-1895), Nellie E. (1857-1925), Thomas (1858-1941), George Henry (1860-1889), and Emma Anna "Minnie" (1862-1884).
  5. ^ William Olds blew his own head off, by accident as he was descending a ladder. Two brothers, Isaac and Jacob Scheidler were sleeping in their wagon when the Indians attacked and were killed by them.
  6. ^ For an account of this gunfight, see For the ultimate burial site of King, who somewhere along the line had his initial 'M' transcribed as 'W', see
  7. ^ A vote was taken during Independence Day festivities at Dodge City on July 4, 1885 to determine who was "the most popular man in Dodge." Bat Masterson won with 170 of 300 votes cast. Bat was awarded a gold-headed cane valued at $20. Canes of this type were a popular fashion accessory that would have been presented to whoever won the contest.
  8. ^ Masterson defeated his opponent, Lawrence Edward "Larry" Deger, by a vote of 166 to 163.
  9. ^ "City Marshal: Edward J. Masterson". Officer Down Memorial Page. Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c d DeArment, Robert K. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 442. ISBN 978-0-8061-2221-2. 
  11. ^ DeArment, Robert K. (2005) Broadway Bat: Gunfighter in Gotham (Talei Publishers)
  12. ^ Masterson, W.B. "Bat." "Colonel Cody - Hunter, Scout, Indian Fighter." Human Life Vol. 6, No.6, March 1908.
  13. ^ Dodge City Times, July 17, 1880.
  14. ^ Alfred James "A.J. Peacock was born in Watford, Hertfordshire, England on March 4, 1838. He died in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 15, 1891.
  15. ^ Albert "Al" Updegraff was born in 1847 in Shelbyville, Indiana. He died in Dodge City, from smallpox on February 2, 1883.
  16. ^ Trinidad Daily Advertiser, March 28, 1883.
  17. ^ Globe Live Stock Journal, November 4, 1884.
  18. ^ DeArment, Robert K. (1982) "Knights of the Green Cloth: The Saga of the Frontier Gamblers" Norman: U OK Press. p. 173.
  19. ^ Secrest, Clark. (2002) "Hell’s Belles: Prostitution, Vice, and Crime In Early Denver" Boulder: UP CO. pp. 143–145.
  20. ^ Penn. Chris. (2011) "Bat Masterson's Emma." Wild West Historical Association Journal, volume IV number 2.
  21. ^ Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 13, 1889.
  22. ^ Smith, Jeff (2009). Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, Klondike Research. p. 84. ISBN 0-9819743-0-9
  23. ^ Rocky Mountain News 03/20/1890 & 03/15/1890, p. 6.
  24. ^ Dodge City Globe-Republican, September 9, 1892.
  25. ^ Luke Short died on September 8, 1893, just a year and a day after the fight. Charles E. Bassett died on January 5, 1896.
  26. ^ Rocky Mountain News, June 6, 1895.
  27. ^ 1900 United States Federal Census Record, Arapahoe, Denver, Precinct #3
  28. ^ Raine, William McLeod. Guns of the Frontier, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1940 ( pp. 167-69).
  29. ^ New York World, June 8, 1902.
  30. ^ Roosevelt to Masterson, February 2, 1905. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Widener Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  31. ^ At the time Bat was being paid $2,000 for what amounted to a "no show" job, The average American worker of that period earned an annual figure of $523. In order to make that average figure of $523, workers had to put in a twelve hour day - six days a week.
  32. ^ The original April 18, 1905 letter from Bat to Ben Daniels is in the collections of the Arizona Historical Society. The full text of the letter, along with a reproduction of Bat's handwritten three page letter can by found in DeMattos, Jack " Between Pals: A Missive Between Presidential Gunfighters," Quarterly of the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History, Vol. XVII, No. 3, July–September, 1993.
  33. ^ "Ben Daniels: Felon, Rough Rider and Arizona Marshal" (PDF). Jay W. Eby. Retrieved 2014-04-02. 
  34. ^ "Pvt Benjamin Franklin Daniels (1852-1923) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2014-04-02. 
  35. ^ The full title of the magazine was Human Life: The Magazine About People Edited by Alfred Henry Lewis.
  36. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 4, No. 4 ) January, 1907.
  37. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 4, No. 5 ) February, 1907
  38. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 5, No. 1 ) April, 1907
  39. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 5, No. 2 ) May, 1907
  40. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 5, No. 4 ) July, 1907
  41. ^ Human Life ( Vol. 6, No. 2 ) November, 1907
  42. ^ Human Life (Vol. 6, No. 6 ) March, 1908
  43. ^ DeMattos, Jack. Masterson and Roosevelt. College Station, TX: Creative Publishing Company, 1984 ISBN 0-932702-31-7.
  44. ^ Hart, William S. My Life East and West, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1929 - p. 307.
  45. ^ Damon Runyon would never forget Bat Masterson. Eleven years after Bat's death, a collection of Runyon's shot stories was published under the title of Guys and Dolls. These stories later formed the basis for the classic 1950 musical-comedy of the same name. The central character in Runyon's Guys and Dolls was a high-rolling gambler from Colorado who Runyon barely disguised under the name of Sky Masterson.
  46. ^ "Bat Masterson Dies at Editor's Desk. Sporting Writer and Last of Oldtime Western Gun Fighters Was 67. Beat in Long Siege. Deputy U.S. Marshal for Southern District of New York Under His Friend, Colonel Roosevelt.". New York Times. October 26, 1921. William Barclay Masterson, better known as Bat Masterson, sporting writer, friend of Theodore Roosevelt and former sheriff of Dodge City, Kansas, died suddenly yesterday while writing an article at his desk in the office of The Morning Telegraph. 
  47. ^ "Bat Masterson". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-02-14. 
  48. ^ Bat Masterson at the Internet Movie Database

Further reading[edit]

  • DeArment, Robert K. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "Bat Masterson's Rescue of Bully Bill," True West, October 1979.
  • DeArment, Robert K. Knights of the Green Cloth: The Saga of the Frontier Gamblers. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "That Masterson-McDonald Standoff." True West, January 1998.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "Bat Masterson and the Boxing Club War of Denver." Colorado Heritage, Autumn 2000.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "Bat Masterson in New York City." Wild West, June 2001.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "Bat Masterson's Femmes Fatales." True West, October 2001.
  • DeArment, Robert K. "Bat Masterson Myths." Wild West, June 2004.
  • DeArment, Robert K. Broadway Bat: Gunfighter in Gotham. The New York City Years of Bat Masterson, Honolulu, Hawaii: Talei Publishers, Inc., 2005. ISBN 0-9770525-0-8
  • DeArment, Robert K. Gunfighter in Gotham: Bat Masterson's New York City Years. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-8061-4263-0
  • DeMattos, Jack. "The President and the Gunfighter," True West, February 1976.
  • DeMattos, Jack. "Those Guns of Bat Masterson," Frontier Times, March 1977.
  • DeMattos, Jack. Masterson and Roosevelt. College Station, TX: Creative Publishing Company, 1984. ISBN 0-932702-31-7
  • DeMattos, Jack. "Gunfighters of the Real West: Bat Masterson," Real West, February 1985.
  • DeMattos, Jack. "Between Pals: A Missive Between Presidential Gunfighters." Quarterly of the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History, July–September 1993.
  • Earp, Wyatt. "Wyatt Earp's Tribute to Bat Masterson, the Hero of 'Dobe Walls," San Francisco Examiner, Sunday, August 16, 1896.
  • Lewis, Alfred Henry. The Sunset Trail, New York, NY: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1905
  • Lewis, Alfred Henry' "The King of the Gun-Players, William Barclay Masterson," Human Life Vol. 6, No. 2, November 1907.
  • Lewis, Alfred Henry. "William Barclay Masterson: An Adventure Story with a Live Hero." Texas Magazine, March 1913.
  • Masterson, W.B. (Bat). "Alfred Henry Lewis Lived in Action He Penned." New York Morning Telegraph, November 11, 1917.
  • Masterson, W.B. (Bat). Famous Gun Fighters of the Western Frontier. ( The 75th Anniversary Edition Annotated and Illustrated by Jack DeMattos ). Monroe, WA: Weatherford Press, 1982. ISBN 0-9604078-1-2
  • Miller, Nyle H. and Snell, Joseph W. Why the West Was Wild, Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1963.
  • O'Connor, Richard. Bat Masterson: The Biography of one of the West's Most Famous Gunfighters and Marshals. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1957.
  • Palmquist, Bob "Who Killed Jack Wagner?" True West, October 1993.
  • Penn, Chris. "A Note on Bartholomew Masterson," English Westerners Brand Book, Vol. IX, No. 3, April 1967.
  • Penn, Chris. "Bat Masterson's Emma." Wild West History Association Journal, April 2011.
  • Roberts, Gary L. "Bat Masterson and the Sweetwater Shootout." Wild West, October 2000.
  • Thompson, George C. Bat Masterson: The Dodge City Years, Topeka: Kansas State Printing Plant, 1943.
  • Wiltsey, Norman B. "A Man Called Bat," True West, December 1956.

External links[edit]