L.A.Times Has a Problem with U.S. History

The story in the L. A. Times was supposed to be a story of lighter fare, a less hectic sort of human interest story that is supposed to be interesting, but not earth shacking. It’s all about the trials and tribulations of the folks that re-create the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the dusty streets of Tombstone, Arizona.

Apparently a brash new sheriff is in town (really, I do mean the real local lawman) who has decided that the actors and reenactors that portray the original gunfight participants have gotten out of hand and need to be regulated out of existence, or at least scaled back.

The L.A. Times tale is supposed to be about the back and forth between the new laws written to quash their performances and the actors and reenactors involved. It should be a pretty simple set up, present a few paragraphs to set up the history involved and move into today’s conflagration.

And right off the bat, the L.A. Times can’t get history right.

In fact, right in the first paragraph, the Times gets a simple detail wrong. (My bold)

Reporting from Tombstone, Ariz. — Marshal Larry Talvy’s phone rang. There was trouble in town. A bunch of men in black dusters with guns were walking down Allen Street. Again.

Dusters were not black. They were white or natural muslin in color. They were not black. Sometimes cowboys wore what they called a “fish,” a yellow rainslicker made of either a rubberized sort of material or made of a muslin duster that was treated heavily with linseed oil to make it waterproof — a process that often made the overcoat look yellow.

But, so what? A minor mistake, right? Only someone with a passing knowledge of the material culture of the late 1800s and early 1900s would know that and it doesn’t really do much to change the story any. Granted. Me, I know this because I am a student of that era. But, heck, even movies get the white duster thing right even as they usually get everything else wrong!

The Times, though, follows that with another mistake, this one a tad more glaring. (again my bold)

It’s been 127 years since Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp fought the Clantons and McLouries at the O.K. Corral here, and Tombstone is still trying to get a handle on its gunslinger problem. Only the desperadoes are no longer brawling over cards or horses. They’re fighting for tourist dollars.

Even a casual check of Google proves that the name was spelled McLaury, not McLourie.

Like I said, these aren’t the sort of errors that makes the story invalid. It certainly isn’t the end of the world or anything. It’s just a simple matter of a lack of professionalism, a lackadaisical attitude toward simple facts that could possibly call everything written into question. But it is also an example of the casual treatment that American history always gets in the press. All too often they don’t even care to make sure names of historical figures are spelled correctly.

If the Times can’t get simple historical facts straight, what can it get straight?

It certainly makes you wonder.