Born on May 7, 1840, William F. “Doc” Carver was a 19th-century world champion shooter and creator of the diving horse act. His early life is hard to pin down due to the contradictory tales he spun.
By the early 1870s, he had moved to the frontier and was practicing dentistry at various Nebraska forts. Ena Raymonde, whose brother, William, had a trapper’s camp known as Wolf’s Rest, is credited with teaching Carver how to shoot. Carver honed his shooting skills so well that, during the early 1880s, he beat the recognized world champion trap shooter, A.H. Bogardus, in several matches.
He toured Europe from 1879 to 1882, and his shooting prowess won him $80,000. He invested $27,000 with Buffalo Bill Cody to launch a Wild West show, which debuted in Omaha, Nebraska, on May 17, 1883. But the partnership of these two strong-willed performers only lasted a year before a split. The show continued as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.
The following year, Carver started his own show, also called Wild West, causing a legal feud with Cody over a number of issues, including the name. The two remained bitter enemies from that time on.
After successful tours in Europe and Australia, Carver’s show disbanded in 1893; the Pine Ridge Agency had accused Carver of kidnapping Indians for his show and abandoning two Sioux, Eagle Elk and American Bear, in Australia. Carver returned his show Indians to their homes.
While he was on tour in Australia in 1891, Carver developed a melodrama, The Scout, in which he first publicly performed his horse diving act. After the play finished its run abroad and in America, Carver toured his outdoor diving show in America, until his death, in 1927, at the age of 87. The following year, his show became a permanent attraction at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org