The Tombstone Epitaph ® Story Documenting History

On May 1, 1880, John Clum founded one of the most successful news franchises in American history.

For over 135 years, The Tombstone Epitaph has documented the events that captured the imagination of filmmakers, historians, and novelists – masking the complex backdrop behind the deadly tensions that exploded on October 26, 1881. After the Civil War, America’s industrial growth spurred rapid Westward expansion. Boomtowns like Tombstone provided fertile ground for continuing the war’s sectional strife. Northern businessmen and Texas cowboys brought their economic, political, and social conflicts with them into the Arizona Territory.

Three years after claims were first staked in this isolated corner of southeastern Arizona deep in Apache territory, silver production reached nearly $11 million. Republican entrepreneurs jockeyed with Democratic ranchers for control of Tombstone’s enormous wealth and power.

Almost overnight, Tombstone’s Allen Street sprouted a streetscape of fine Victorian hotels and theaters, interspersed with saloons, gambling halls, brothels, and livery stables like the O.K. Corral crucial to the town’s financial success. Town facades, dominated by single-story, thick-walled adobe buildings, were soon punctuated with fashionable multi-story American Renaissance structures like the Cochise County Court House and City Hall.

Tombstone's prosperity, however, was short-lived. By the 1890s, as water filled the silver mines and fires ravaged the town, many residents left for more promising horizons. Yet a core of families and businesses – including the O.K. Corral – remained to rebuild their town after the boom turned to bust.

Tombstone – and with it The Tombstone Epitaph – survived, responding to Americans continuing fascination with the Old West frontier. Traveling through authentic heritage landscapes like Tombstone reaffirms our connection with the past. Whether walking side by side with Wyatt Earp along Allen Street's covered wooden sidewalks, watching the old printing presses at work, or touring historical museums or haunted mines, Tombstone – a National Historic Landmark – offers unique opportunities to brush shoulders with the legends of the Wild West and experience "The town too tough to die."