Famous Old West gunfighter Doc Holliday’s custom derringer is being returned to the place where he lost the only fight he couldn’t win, the one against tuberculosis.
The Glenwood Springs Historical Society pulled the trigger Thursday on a move the group hopes will shape its future and promises to boost the town’s reputation as an Old West tourist stop.
The society board authorized the $84,000 purchase of Doc Holliday’s derringer, one of few items believed to have been in the Hotel Glenwood room where he died Nov. 8, 1887.
Members of the society Wednesday night met with the seller, Jason Brierley of Vancouver, British Columbia. The society had already secured a lender for the sale price, and after review of the gun’s provenance, Wednesday’s group discussed the purchase with the rest of the board Thursday afternoon.
The board voted to buy the derringer, given to Holliday by his common-law wife, Mary Katherine “Big Nose Kate” Horony-Cummings, a Hungarian-born prostitute. The handle is engraved, “To Doc from Kate.”
The gun is now in a safe-deposit box. The society will plan its exhibition and invite the public to view it as soon as possible.
Holliday, a dentist and gambler, was one of the Old West’s most famous gunfighters. Just 36 years old and suffering from tuberculosis, he came to Glenwood Springs in 1887 in hopes that the vapor caves would help his ailment. It was in vain, and he died in a bed at the Hotel Glenwood, at what is now the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Grand Avenue.
The .41-caliber rimfire 1866 Remington double derringer was produced for nearly 70 years, in which roughly 150,000 were produced in several versions. The .41 rimfire (also known as the .41 Short) was designed as a “get off me” caliber for very small defensive pistols, and the bullets only a achieved an anemic velocity of about 425 feet-per-second and about 52 foot-pounds (71 joules) of energy.
The same collector is also selling two other objects that belongs to Holliday, but you better have a lot of spare money laying around if you want them. The asking price for Doc’s flask is $130,000, and his shotgun is $220,000.