Ditch the Derby

Photo Courtesy True West Archives

One of the problems Bat Masterson has in terms of his Old West legend is he is typecast as a city slicker, always wearing a derby. But the real Bat was a scout and buffalo hunter before he donned his derby. The problem lies with the fact that there are no known photos of him with a broad-brimmed hat, which he must surely have worn on the Staked Plains of Texas in the early ’70s. You know, like this.

 

Bat Masterson The Buffalo Hunter & Scout Illustration by Bob Boze Bell

 

He may not have been wearing buckskins at the Battle of Adobe Walls, but I think it’s safe to say he had on a broad-brimmed hat. Instead, we are left with a whole bunch of photographs of him wearing derbies. 

So Bat was very dapper in his town dress, and his ubiquitous derby pigeonholes him in the “Dandy Zone,” rather than as a gunfighter, lawman and scout, all of which he actually was. Once again, the irony is that Bat had a more stellar career as a scout and buffalo hunter than Wyatt Earp, who was working in a cathouse in Peoria when Bat was at the second Battle of Adobe Walls. It’s also interesting to me that another brother, Jim Masterson (a Logan County deputy sheriff), played a prominent role in the Ingalls, Oklahoma, gunfight, when deputy U.S. marshals went up against the Doolin-Dalton Gang. Those Masterson Boys were in the thick of things, to say the least.

Bat has been trapped in a derby long enough!

The moral is: Be careful what you wear in your photos because it just might pigeonhole you for the rest of your life.

Trapped In A Derby for Eternity? Masterson wears a wider brim in his later years, especially in New York, but the image persists of Bat as a derby wearer because in virtually all his photos from the early period of his life, he is wearing one. Bantam Book cover courtesy Paul Andrew Hutton Collection

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