Calamity Jane’s Autobiography

46_B3V0496 Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane, born Martha Jane Cannery, a.k.a. Marthy C. Burke (1852-1903) Life and Adventures of Calamity Jane. By Herself. Livingston,  MT, 1896. Second edition, original pink wrapper, engraved portrait on front cover. Studio photo by R. L. Kelly, signed in the plate.

Calamity Jane was the delight of the public and the bane of historians. Ramon Adams claims the only accurate fact in her story is her birth. In this brief account, she piled uncountable untruths on a fascinating life–disguised herself as a boy and joined George Custer as a scout in 1870; dallied with Wild Bill Hickok; was a Pony Express rider in the Black Hills; captured with a meat cleaver the desperado who’d shot Hickok in the back; prospected; drove wagon trains; raised cattle; married Clinton Burke in 1885 and had a baby girl in 1887 in Texas (that she did do); and ran a hotel in Boul- der. This, the personal copy of the bookseller and bibliographer Edward Eberstadt, is one of only a handful of either edition to survive, though thousands must have been printed since they were intended to earn her a living in retirement.