It’s the dream of photographers to take dramatic pictures of an important event…with the potential of winning a Pulitzer Prize. In the Old West, there was no such prize, however. If there had been, one photographer had the opportunity to win it. But he didn’t click his shutter…not even once.
Camillus Sidney Fly, better known as C. S. Fly, was an adventurer, silver miner and lawman…but he is best known as a photographer.
On December 10, 1879, he and his wife, Mollie, moved to early Tombstone, Arizona where they built a boarding house with a photographic studio at street level.
C. S. took pictures of anything that remained stationary for a short period of time, cowboys, Tombstone residents, miners at work, picnics, parades and any fires…including the one that burned his own studio. If there was a vigilante hanging, C. S. was there.
Unfortunately, there was one event that took place in Tombstone that C. S. failed to photograph. That event was the O. K. Corral Shootout.
Now, it wasn’t as if C. S. wasn’t aware of it. It took place right outside his studio. Sheriff Behan hid out in the studio. Billy Claibourne and Ike Clanton, two of the cowboys, escaped through the studio. Maybe it was because he wasn’t there. No. Court records show that C. S. took a gun from the dying Billy Clanton right after the shootout.
OK, so maybe he didn’t have time to set up his camera in advance…but there are no pictures of the scene following the shootout.
Not only that, but weeks later, Morgan and Virgil Earp were shot from ambush…and C. S. Fly didn’t take pictures of either of these events. It’s not known why. Of the tens of thousands of pictures that C. S. Fly took, he missed the very ones that would have made him a household name to anyone interested in the Old West.