Here is a collection of books about some of Deadwood’s most colorful characters, with links to purchase them on Amazon. Thank you Richard Dunwiddie for recommending and sending me the book cover images.
“He was the meanest man in the meanest town Deadwood. Prone to violence, ruthless in romance, and cutthroat in business, Al Swearingen ran the Gem Theatre with a cunning and wicked self-interest and his fists.”
Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane get all the press, but Deadwood was as rich in remarkable and eccentric personalities as it was in ore. Authors Bryant and Fifer have mined the archives for obscure (and true!) tales of murderous women, artful con men, woebegone children, an African American orator, a determined temperance activist, and a lovesick assayer. Discover Deadwood as it really was!
Think about the most romantically notorious Wild West town you ever heard of, and most likely Deadwood would head the list. Deadwood has more than its share of legends, heroes, and brigands who traveled through or made their homes here: Wild Bill and Calamity Jane to be sure, but also Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Earp, Captain Jack Crawford (the “Poet Scout”), California Joe, Seth Bullock, Poker Alice, and many more. No other frontier town―not Dodge City, Tombstone, Abilene, or Cripple Creek―could claim them all. Deadwood is the champion, and was the happening place in the late 1870s. This legacy lives on today as casino gambling―perhaps ironically but fittingly―financed the preservation of historic downtown Deadwood begining in 1989, an area that is now designated a National Historic Landmark.
Myths surround these two Wild West legends synonymous with the town of Deadwood. Although Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane spent only a few weeks in Deadwood at the same time, their fame and fate have become intertwined and their relationship legendary.
Deadwood, South Dakota, has been a source of American legend for over one hundred years. European exploration, Indian wars, gold booms and busts, presidential visits, frontier shootouts, and the natural beauty of the surrounding Black Hills have all captured the imagination of Americans and foreigners. Deadwood: The Golden Years recreates the town that assimilated all that its geography, gold, natural disasters, and the extremes of human behavior could throw in its way. Deadwood was a microcosm of the American frontier and the gold rush town. This history of Deadwood emphasizes its most volatile period, 1875-1925, with careful scrutiny of before and after.
Eulogized and ostracized, James Butler Hickok was alternately labeled courageous, affable, and self confident; cowardly, cold-blooded, and drunken; a fine specimen of physical manhood; an overdressed dandy with perfumed hair; an unequaled marksman; a poor shot. Born in Illinois in 1837, he was shot dead in Deadwood only 39 years later. By then both famous and infamous, he was widely known as “Wild Bill.”
Forget Doris Day singing on the stagecoach. Forget Robin Weigert’s gritty portrayal on HBO’s Deadwood. The real Calamity Jane was someone the likes of whom you’ve never encountered. That is, until now.