What can you tell me about Tombstone photographer C.S. Fly?

Jon Sims

Surprise, Arizona

Camillus S. “Buck” Fly was one of the great photojournalists of his time. His photos are legendary and highly prized. His work captured Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers in their caskets, after the famed O.K. Corral gunfight. He took a well-known studio shot of Ike Clanton. He also took a series of photos of the Army and Geronimo’s Apache warriors. Fires, both in Bisbee and at Fly’s studio in Tombstone, destroyed his original glass plate negatives.

Born in California in 1850, Fly moved to Tombstone, Arizona, in 1879. The next year, he and his wife Mollie opened a boarding house and studio called the Fly Gallery. Doc Holliday lived there for awhile. The gunfight occurred in the empty lot next to the gallery.

He left in 1887 to tour Arizona with his photographs; then he opened a studio in Phoenix. A year later, he returned to Cochise County where he would be elected sheriff in 1895. He left office two years later and ranched in the Chiricahua Mountains until his death in Bisbee on October 12, 1901. He is buried in the old Tombstone Cemetery (not Boothill).

No books have been written about him, but Photography in Arizona 1850-1920, by Jeremy Rowe, does discuss him. Arizona Highways Magazine, February 1970, published a story on Fly by James Serven.

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