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The Toughest News in the West Image Credit: True West
The Toughest News in the West Image Credit: True West

The Toughest News in the West

The Tombstone Epitaph lives on…and on.

Mark Boardman

The Old West was filled with colorful names—none more so than The Tombstone Epitaph, the oldest continuous newspaper in Arizona. Former Apache agent John Clum, who was just 29, helped found the paper soon after arriving in the silver mining boomtown in early 1880. He’d already owned and operated a publication in Florence, so he was no novice to the business.

When he got to Tombstone, Clum enlisted a couple of partners to put the operation together (the ownership group changed several times over the next two years).

Clum claimed that he came up with the name himself, contrary to stories that others had suggested it. That first issue included a Clum-authored article that trumpeted, “No Tombstone is complete without its epitaph,” evidence of the publisher’s Eastern education and natural wit.

Clum, who headed the local vigilante group and became mayor in January 1881, was pro Republican, pro-business and pro-law ’n’ order, and so was his newspaper. He was friends with the Earp brothers and the Epitaph made no bones about its opposition to the Cowboy faction. The coverage of the famed 1881 street fight was decidedly one sided in favor of the Earps and Doc Holliday.

Clum pulled up stakes in 1882 and sold his interest in the newspaper. The owner over the next several years is hard to track, and the newspaper’s political stance bounced back and forth. Tombstone began to fade after the si

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