Doc Holliday’s Beloved Derringer Returns to Colorado

The derringer was one of Doc Holliday’s last possessions. (Photo: PostIndependent)

Doc Holliday’s derringer has gone home thanks to the efforts of a Colorado town’s historical society and a graceful seller. Glenwood Springs hopes that the return of Holliday’s hold-out pistol will help cement the town’s Old West history for all to see.

The derringer was a gift to Holliday from his wife, Mary Katherine “Big Nose Kate” Horony-Cummings, a Hungarian-born prostitute. The engraved frame reads “To Doc from Kate.” It is one of the few personal objects believed to be with him on his deathbed in Glenwood Springs.

Legendary gunslinger, gambling dentist Doc Holliday died on Nov. 8, 1887, aged 36, of tuberculosis. He was visiting Glenwood’s hot springs to tend to his illness. Holliday died under the watchful eyes of nurses, not with his boots on as he always swore. Looking at his bare feet, his dying words were, “This is funny.”

“To Doc from Kate.” (Photo: PostIndependent)

The Glenwood Springs Historical Society, financed by the town’s Society Board, purchased the derringer from Jason Brierley of Vancouver, British Columbia. The pistol will be put on display as soon as they can install the right arrangements.

“It was so important to let the public know all along what we’re doing because this is for Glenwood Springs,” said society Executive Director Bill Kight, reports the Glenwood-Rifle PostIndependent. “I really appreciate the fact that the city of Glenwood Springs has gotten behind us on this.”

“Doc Holiday is a very important character in the history of Glenwood Springs, and we are extremely excited that this piece of history will return to the city where he spent his final days,” said Glenwood Springs Mayor Mike Gamba. “Along with visiting the cemetery where he is buried, we have no doubt that this will be yet one more attraction that will draw visitors to Glenwood Springs.”

“This is great news,” said Marianne Virgili, president and CEO of the Glenwood Chamber Resort Association. “Our visitors are certainly intrigued by history, and Doc Holliday is our most well-known frontier resident, so this precious piece of memorabilia will go a long way in positioning us as a historic Western town.”

The derringer was sold to pay for Holliday’s funeral. (Photo: PostIndependent)

Historian R.W. “Doc” Boyle confirmed the authenticity of the derringer. “The gun is real. There’s no doubt the gun is real.” Included with the derringer are an original affidavit of sale and other papers documenting provenance.

The historical society first learned about the derringer when Brierley paid a visit to Glenwood Springs last August. “This gun’s a magnet for Doc Holliday’s stuff,” said Brierley, who wanted to help the springs stand out.

See Also: Doc Holliday: Great Movie Scenes Involving Guns

Brierley bought the gun a month earlier. It was originally traded away to pay for Holliday’s funeral to William G. Wells. It stayed in the Wells family until 1968 when they sold it to Utah gun dealer E. Dixon Larson. He wrote about it in 1972 for Guns Magazine and sold it to the last owner before Brierly picked it up.

Brierley agreed to sell the derringer to the historical society for $84,000. Other Doc Holliday memorabilia has sold for a lot more in recent years, and the gun could have sold at auction for far more. Brierley said that the gun belongs in Glenwood Springs.

Just the same the purchase is a significant expense for the once-frontier town. The Glenwood Springs Historical Society is asking for help repaying their debt through ColoradoGives.

About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. His ambition is to follow Thomas Paine, as a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • steve Long March 18, 2017, 4:39 pm

    as I am reading about doc holiday,i am watching val kilmer playing doc holiday on the cmt channel,,well its good the guns are coming home,,

  • Wapitihunter March 18, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Are those still legal in Colorado? I thought colorado didn’t”t like guns anymore by the way they treated normal capacity magazines. I guess it’s just like Oregon, the few city liberals ruining it for the rest of the state. I wanted to retire to Colorado until they starting taking GOD given rights away from free people. Imagine what Doc Holiday would have said about that. He damn sure would not have wanted his gun going back to that state. And Yes, put some damn gloves on you Idiot! Those people handling that gun like that just tells me they are interested in the tourism it will bring in.

  • Todd March 17, 2017, 2:33 pm

    With a gun with such significant provenance and great value why are people handling it without gloves on to protect its finish? Museum quality firearms should not be handled by bare hands?

    • Penrod March 18, 2017, 10:20 am

      I agree. I have seen some very well meaning people do very destructive important artifacts through simple ignorance. Whoever is responsible for the care of this pistol has a responsibility to learn how to handle museum artifacts, and insist that all people follow those rules.

      Years ago I saw an important 17th century letter in the collection of a house museum framed behind UV filtering glass. Fine as far as that went but the framer had dry mounted the letter to the backing, which is an incredibly destructive act. They also had the original letter displayed year round, exposed to sunlight, so that even with UV filters it would fade. That wasn’t from lack of care: they didn’t know how to care for artifacts.

      Another case was the famous 16th century gold and emerald Tucker Cross found in a shipwreck off Bermuda in the 1950s. The museum which owned it kept it on exhibit in an antique floor safe with a sheet of plexi over the front, closing the door at night. During the 1970s someone took advantage of the empty room, unscrewed the screws securing the plexi, replaced the original cross with a copy, replaced the plexi, and departed. That cross has probably been melted down for the gold and stones.

      I hope this group takes seriously their responsibility to both care for and secure this important piece from deterioration and theft. The photo should worry everyone. Good intentions are not enough: they need someone with conservator credentials and another with security expertise to instruct them, and then they need to follow those recommendations ALL the time. Proper security won’t be cheap: this pistol is a target for amateurs and pros alike, and if the owners don’t take that seriously, it will disappear, possibly replaced with a ringer so the theft won’t be noticed for weeks, if not years.

  • Tripwire March 17, 2017, 11:17 am

    Val Kilmer deserved an academy award but of course the liberal hollyweird crowd couldn’t do that.


  • Andy March 17, 2017, 8:29 am

    I agree with Steve. What about the maker, age, caliber, condition, etc It’s swell to read about the greedy townfolk counting tourist dollars, however, it is my understanding that GunsAmerica writes articles about…ah…guns. A bit of Doc Holiday gun lore seems of more value than comments by political hacks and local “leaders”. While the Big Nose Kate stuff was interesting, overall a very poorly written article.

    • DanGoodShot March 17, 2017, 12:38 pm

      I second that

  • Terry Landenberger March 17, 2017, 8:16 am

    Pretty sure this is a Remington over/under .41 cal type 1 late production pocket derringer. Looks to have pearl handles. type 1
    were made from 1860’s to 1888.

  • Infidel7.62 March 17, 2017, 7:41 am

    I’m sure the Canadians are happy to get another gun out of Canada.

    • Bob March 18, 2017, 11:06 am

      Canada has a liberal anti gun government at present, just like the US had for the previous 8 years. Governments change and the US may get another anti-gun government next time and Canada may get a pro-gun government next time, so whats your point?

  • Steve March 17, 2017, 7:05 am

    The story would have been better with some details about the gun. When made, caliber, etc…….

    • RetNavet March 17, 2017, 8:13 am

      1880 Remington over/under (.41 caliber, silver- and gold-plated double derringer with pearl grips)

      • Lee Ratliff March 17, 2017, 8:39 am

        Thank you so much for putting the details out about the Derringer. I am most happy when I am watching Western shows especially about Doc Holliday Wyatt Earp and his brothers. Even some of the westerns made back in the 30s are pretty darn good.

      • ejharb March 23, 2017, 8:39 pm

        The .41 round it fired was under 500fps.this was fast enough to penitrate but not pass through the body.the grease on the bullet would carry infectious organisms and the person shot would often die of infection.

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