Bat Masterson

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Bat Masterson
Bat Masterson 1879.jpg
Bat Masterson in 1879, age 26
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

Bartholemew William Barclay "Bat" Masterson (November 26, 1853 – October 25, 1921) spent the first half of his life in what is remembered as the " Wild West". During that period, he distinguished himself as a buffalo hunter, Indian fighter during the celebrated Second Battle of Adobe Walls, civilian scout for the U.S. Army, and gunfighter and lawman in Dodge City, Kansas and elsewhere. The "Wild West" phase of Masterson's life was essentially over by the mid-1880s when he was still in his early 30s. Masterson moved to Denver and established himself as a leading "sporting man", or gambler. He took an interest in prizefighting and became a leading authority on the sport. He attended almost every important match and title fight in the United States from the 1880s until his death in 1921. He knew, and was known by, all of the heavyweight champions from John L. Sullivan and James J. "Gentleman Jim" Corbett to Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey. He moved to New York City in 1902 and spent the rest of his life there as a reporter and columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph. Masterson's column not only covered boxing and other sports, but also gave his frequent opinions on crime, war, politics, and other topics. He became a close friend of President Theodore Roosevelt and became one of the "White House Gunfighters" [1] (along with Pat Garrett and Ben Daniels), who received federal appointments from Roosevelt. He was known throughout the country as a leading sports writer and celebrity at the time of his death in 1921.

Birth and early years

Masterson was born on November 26, 1853, [2] at Henryville, Quebec, in the Eastern Townships of what was then known as Canada East, and baptized Bartholomew Masterson. [3]

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. [4] He was the second child in a family of five brothers and two sisters. [5] They were raised on farms in Quebec, New York, Illinois, and Missouri until they finally settled near Wichita, Kansas. [6]

Hunting buffalo

In his late teens, brothers Edward John "Ed" Masterson and James Patrick "Jim" Masterson and he 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 to which they were entitled. It took Masterson nearly a year, but he finally collected his overdue wages from Ritter – at gunpoint. On April 15, 1873, Masterson 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, Masterson entered the car alone and confronted him and marched him out onto the rear platform of the train, where he forced him to hand over the $300 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. [7]

Battle of Adobe Walls

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 four men – one of whom shot himself by accident. [8] After being fought to a standstill, Quanah Parker and his followers rode off.

In August 1874, Bat signed on as an army scout with Colonel Nelson Miles, who was leading a force from Fort Dodge to pursue Comanche and Apache war parties across the Cherokee Strip and into Texas. The force was eventually engaged to recover four sisters ranging in age from 9 to 15 who had been captured by a group of Cheyenne Dog Soldiers. The sisters were part of a family that had been attacked outside of Ellis, Kansas, on September 11, 1874, while migrating to Colorado. Their parents, brother, and two older sisters were killed and scalped. All four sisters were recovered alive by Miles's force over a period of almost six months. [6]

Gunfighter and lawman

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

The killing of Melvin A. King

His first gunfight took place on January 24, 1876, in Sweetwater, Texas (later Mobeetie in Wheeler County). He was attacked by a soldier, Corporal Melvin A. King, allegedly because of a girl named Mollie Brennan who was accidentally hit by one of King's bullets and was killed. King died of his wounds. Masterson was shot in the pelvis but recovered. [9]

Dodge City troublemaker and lawman

Masterson soon made a complete recovery and settled in Dodge City. On June 6, 1877, Masterson tried to prevent the arrest of a certain Robert Gilmore – who was known to the locals as Bobby Gill. 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 Gill to escape. Masterson was grabbed by friends of Deger and pistol-whipped by the balloon-shaped lawman. The following day, Masterson was fined $25 for disturbing the peace. Bobby Gill, the cause of Masterson's fine, was assessed only $5. During July 1877, Masterson 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, Masterson wasted no time throwing his derby into the ring. The sheriff's race became particularly interesting when Masterson's opponent turned out to be Larry Deger. On November 6, 1877, Masterson was elected county sheriff of Ford County, Kansas, by the narrow margin of three votes. [10] Within a month of Masterson's election, on December 6, 1877, Ed Masterson replaced Larry Deger as city marshal of Dodge. Together, the Masterson brothers then controlled the city and county police forces. [11]

Sheriff of Ford County, Kansas

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. Two more of the train robbers were caught by Bat and brother Ed on March 15, but the tandem law-enforcement effort 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. [12] Ed was shot by a cowboy named Jack Wagner, who was unaware that Ed Masterson's brother Bat was in the vicinity. As mortally wounded Ed stumbled away from the scene, Bat Masterson responded from across the street with deadly force, firing on both Wagner and Wagner's boss Alf Walker, who was holding a gun. 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 Masterson was involved. However, the rediscovery of two court cases in which Bat Masterson testified under oath that he had shot both men adds credence to the idea that Bat avenged his brother. [13] [14] [15] 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, son of the wealthy Texas cattleman Miflin Kenedy (1818–1895). Sheriff Masterson's posse, which included Wyatt Earp and Bill Tilghman, captured Kenedy the following day after Bat used his rifle to shoot him in the left arm, and other posse members killed his horse. [16]

Royal Gorge Railroad War

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 Western Railroad, which were contesting the right-of-way through the Royal Gorge near Pueblo, Colorado. As a Kansas sheriff, Bat had no authority in Colorado, but this did not prevent 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 Masterson'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. Masterson's Colorado activities did not 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. [17]

Billy Thompson and Buffalo Bill Cody

Photograph of the interior of the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas, taken between 1870 and 1885.

The 1880 Dodge City census revealed that Masterson was then living with one Annie Ladue, age 19, 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 16, also quaintly described as a concubine. Not long after this census was taken, Bat Masterson 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. Masterson took Billy Thompson out of Ogallala by a midnight train bound for North Platte, Nebraska. In North Platte, Masterson was provided with assistance by no less a personage than William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, who promptly offered to help. According to Masterson, both Billy Thompson and he "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." [18] 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." [19]

Battle of the plaza

Bat Masterson, 1879

Masterson 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. Masterson had only been in Tombstone for two months when he received an urgent telegram that compelled him to return to Dodge City. His brother Jim Masterson was in partnership with Alfred James "A. J." Peacock [20] in Dodge City's Lady Gay Saloon and Dance Hall. Albert "Al" Updegraff [21] 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. Masterson arrived in Dodge City on April 16, 1881, [13] 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 A.B. Webster arrested Masterson. Afterward, Masterson 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. [13]:206

Who fired first was not clear. Citizens were outraged and warrants were issued, but Bat and Jim Masterson were permitted to leave Dodge. [13]:210


Bat Masterson became more widely known as a gunfighter as a result of a practical joke played on a gullible newspaper reporter in August 1881. Seeking copy in Gunnison, Colorado, the reporter asked Dr. W.S. Cockrell about mankillers. Dr. Cockrell pointed to a young man nearby and said it was Bat and that he had killed 26 men. Cockrell then regaled the reporter with several lurid tales about Bat's exploits, and the reporter wrote them up for the New York Sun. The story was then widely reprinted in papers all over the country. Cockrell subsequently apologized to Bat, who insisted he was not even in Gunnison at the time. [14]

City marshal of Trinidad, Colorado

Masterson was appointed city marshal of Trinidad, Colorado, on April 17, 1882. He had hardly settled into his $75-a-month marshal's job when Wyatt Earp requested Masterson's help to prevent the extradition of John Henry "Doc" Holliday from Colorado to Arizona. Masterson took his case directly to Colorado Governor Frederick W. Pitkin, who listened to Masterson's appeal and finally refused to grant Holliday's extradition. Masterson's rescue of Doc Holliday, and his nightly "moonlighting" as a faro dealer spelled doom for his career as city marshal of Trinidad. On March 28, 1883, a local paper noted: "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." [22] The voters of Trinidad got the message. On April 3, 1883, Masterson was defeated by a lopsided vote of 637 to 248. [23]

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

Masterson'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 – Masterson's long-time enemy, 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, Short, Masterson, Earp, and five others posed for the historic group photo that was immediately dubbed "The Dodge City Peace Commission". [24]

First attempt at journalism

Masterson 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." [25] Editor Bat Masterson did not survive his first week. Vox Populi folded after printing just one issue and almost another 20 years would pass before Bat made journalism a full-time profession in New York City.

Denver, Colorado

Nellie (McMahon) Spencer

Masterson finally called it quits with Dodge City and made Denver his center of interest. Masterson was not in Denver long when he became involved in a 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, who 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. In its account of the incident, the Rocky Mountain News described Bat as one "who pleases the ladies," and Nellie McMahon Spencer as "a beautiful woman, with a fine wardrobe and a sweet voice." [26] Three days later, Nellie filed for divorce and the Denver papers were quick to report that Nellie had "eloped" with Masterson. No record has been found of Bat and Nellie getting married, and she soon disappeared from Bat's life. [27]

Emma Walter

In Denver, Masterson dealt faro for "Big Ed" Chase at the Arcade gambling house. [28] In 1888, he managed and then purchased the Palace Variety Theater. [29] There, Masterson probably first met an Indian club swinger and singer called Emma Moulton, born as Emma Matilda Walter near Philadelphia on July 10, 1857. [30] The pair subsequently lived together and they were widely reported to have married in Denver on November 21, 1891, although no record of the marriage has come to light thus far. The only known source for that date was given by Bat Masterson's brother, Thomas Masterson, years after Bat died. [31] Emma was not divorced from her first husband, Edwin Winford Moulton (1847–1922), until November 9, 1893. [32] When they were later enumerated in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Bat and Emma claimed that they had been married for 17 years, suggesting a marriage date of 1893. Masterson's biographer has raised the possibility that Bat and Emma were actually married on November 21, 1893, two weeks after Emma's divorce from Edwin Moulton. Bat and Emma were traveling through various eastern states at that time, and they were possibly married on November 21, 1893, in one of those eastern states. So far, an actual marriage record has not been found. [33]

Sullivan–Kilrain heavyweight championship fight (1889)

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." [34]

Sullivan–Corbett Heavyweight Championship Fight (1892)

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, Masterson bet on the winner, while noting, "Charlie Bassett and Luke Short were among the notables in attendance. Bassett bet his money on Sullivan." [35] This was probably the last time that the three friends got together. Both Short and Bassett would be dead in less than four years. [36] 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. "Gentleman Jim" Corbett. As usual, Bat was backing the wrong man. Mitchell was knocked cold in three rounds. [37]

Bodyguard for a millionaire

Masterson briefly moved to New York City in 1895 to serve as a bodyguard for a millionaire named George Gould. [38] 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." [39]

Final years in Denver

Masterson 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. [40]

On April 9, 1899, Masterson became a partner in a boxing club called the Colorado Athletic Association. Within only a few days, Masterson 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 Masterson was employed as sports editor. [41]

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. [42] During September 1900, Bat sold his interest in the Olympic Athletic Club and made another visit to New York City. Masterson had decided to settle in New York City, but had a sudden change of heart and returned to Denver – with humiliating results. [43]

Two conflicting versions are given for what caused Bat Masterson's final departure from Denver. Masterson'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 Masterson trying to cast his ballot at a local election. An alternate version states that Masterson had become a dangerous drunk who was run out of Denver for being a public nuisance. [44] Whatever actually happened, Masterson left Denver and never returned.

New York City

New York newspaper columnist

By June 6, 1902, Masterson was in New York City, where two other men and he were arrested on a bunco charge. Masterson and his companions were accused of fleecing George H. Snow, a Mormon elder, out of $17,000. Two days after his arrest, Masterson complained to a reporter, "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." [45] No sooner had these charges against Masterson been dropped than on June 15, 1902, he was arrested again for carrying a concealed weapon. Fortunately for him, an invaluable friend, Alfred Henry Lewis (1855–1914), turned up at this point. Lewis got his brother, William Eugene Lewis (1861–1924), to provide Masterson with employment as a columnist on William's newspaper, the New York Morning Telegraph. His 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 his death in 1921. In 1905, Alfred Henry Lewis published The Sunset Trail, a fictionalized biography of Masterson. [46]

Presidential appointment

Alfred Henry Lewis introduced Masterson to President Theodore Roosevelt and the two formed a friendship that resulted in Masterson being a frequent White House guest and also included regular correspondence. President Roosevelt also arranged for Masterson's appointment as deputy U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of New York. On February 2, 1905, President Roosevelt wrote Masterson 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." [47] Bat served in his $2,000 per year job until August 1, 1909.

Writes for Human Life magazine

Bat Masterson circa 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. [48] Masterson provided five biographical studies in 1907 on Ben Thompson, [49] Wyatt Earp, [50] Luke Short, [51] Doc Holliday [52] and Bill Tilghman. [53] Masterson also explained to his audience what he felt were the best properties of a gunfighter. Other articles were supposed to be in Masterson'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, editor Alfred Henry Lewis tried to assure his readership that Masterson 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 article called "The King of the Gun-Players: William Barclay Masterson." [54] Lewis met with only limited success. Bat did provide one more article, on Buffalo Bill Cody, [55] but that was his final Human Life contribution.

President Taft has Bat fired

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 Masterson being terminated on August 1, 1909. For the remaining 12 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.

Johnson–Willard heavyweight championship fight (1915)

On at least one occasion, a sports-writing assignment actually took Masterson out of the country to Cuba. 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. [56] 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. [57]

Joking with Roosevelt

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany. One week later, Theodore Roosevelt asked President Wilson for permission to lead a "Rough Rider"-type regiment against the Germans in France. While Roosevelt was waiting for Wilson's answer, he got some kidding from his friend Masterson, who wrote Roosevelt on May 14, 1917: "I wish you would arrange for an appointment with Tex Rickard and myself to meet you at your office when convenient. We want to tell you how to organize your European expedition and how to win your battles when you get there." [58]

Final days

On July 2, 1921, Masterson attended his last heavyweight championship fight, 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, silent-screen cowboy star William S. Hart (1864-1946) visited Masterson. They were photographed standing together on the roof of the New York Morning Telegraph building and went back to Masterson'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." [59] Hart subsequently cast a Masterson lookalike as Masterson in his biographical film Wild Bill Hickok, which was released in 1923.

Death and burial

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. About 500 people attended Bat Masterson's funeral service at Frank E. Campbell's Funeral Church at Broadway and 66th Street. Masterson's honorary pall bearers included Damon Runyon (1880–1946), George "Tex" Rickard (1870–1929), and William Eugene Lewis (1861–1924). Runyon was a close friend of Masterson'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." [60] Masterson was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx. His full name, William Barclay Masterson, appears above his epitaph on the large granite grave marker in Woodlawn. Masterson's epitaph states that he was "Loved by Everyone". [61] [62]

Popular media

Novels and comic books

  • 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 television 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. Many references are made 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 it, 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.



  • Mason Alan Dinehart (1936– ), played Masterson from 1955 to 1959 in 34 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 Masterson when teaching about how actors do not injure themselves when doing things that are meant to cause injury.
  • Gene Barry reprised his role as Masterson in the episode "A Gathering of Guns" (1987) on the television series Guns of Paradise (Hugh O'Brian also reprised his role as Wyatt Earp).
  • 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". [63]
  • A character called Bat Masterson, portrayed by Steven Ogg, 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 using 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.


  • Bat Masterson's Creede by Tony Clark

Masterson plays an important role in the play Bat Masterson's Creede, a play written about Masterson and the important role he played in the silver boomtown of Creede, Colorado.


Bat ... Masterson ...



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