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Calamity Jane

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Calamity Jane
CalamityJane

Real Name

Martha Jane Canary

Born

May 1, 1852

Died

August 1, 1903

Historical Background

Calamity Jane was a scout for the U.S. military (according to her, initially under Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer) and became famous for having known Wild Bill Hickok, even though their association lasted only a few weeks. She wore men's clothes, spat, cursed, drank and boasted that she could outshoot any man alive. However, she also demonstrated compassion by helping the sick and needy.

Legend and Folklore

Calamity Jane's interesting nickname and rowdy behavior caught the attention of the news press and authors of sensational fiction, resulting in exaggerated tales of her exploits.  She herself participated in her own legend making: her 1896 autobiography largely reinforces popular stories rather than the factual truth of her life. She was usually portrayed in popular fiction as a romantic figure who had a tragic romance with Wild Bill Hickok. The most influential 19th century pop culture figure of Calamity Jane was written by sensational author Edward L. Wheeler in his Deadwood Dick series published in Beadle's Half-Dime Library.  In these stories, Calamity Jane acts in the supportive role of Girl Pard, regularly coming to the aid of Deadwood Dick.  Ultimately, Calamity Jane and Deadwood Dick marry and have a son, Deadwood Dick, Jr., who continues the series.  See Albert Johannsen's authoritative text on Beadle's dime novels for more information:  The House of Beadle and Adams and its Dime and Nickel Novels (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950).  For the most recent and thorough biography of Martha Cannary, aka Calamity Jane, including insightful discussion regarding her fame and creation of her mythology, see James D. McLaird, Calamity Jane: The Woman and the Legend (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005).

Public Domain Literary Appearances

  • Beadle's Half-Dime Library issue #1- (1877-)
  • Calamity Jane: Queen of the Plains in New York's Street & Smith's Weekly (1882)
  • The Life and Adventures of Calamity Jane by Herself (1896)

Public Domain Comic Appearances

  • Cowboy Western Comics #18, 25, 27-pic
  • Jim Bowie #18
  • Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual #1
  • Red Ryder Comics #125
  • Buffalo Bill Jr. #6-12
  • Western Roundup (1952 series) #5
  • Boy Explorers Comics #1
  • Gunsmoke #4: Story claims that Calamity Jane's parents were slaughtered by Indians (this is not true).
  • Cowgirl Romances #1-3: Calamity Jane portrayed as a beautiful, sensitive and romantic blonde.
  • Wild Bill Hickok #16: Calamity Jane portrayed as a beautiful, busty blonde.

Comic Appearances Inspired by Calamity Jane

  • Green Hornet Fights Crime #35-36: Jane Janis takes up the name "Calamity Jane" in the mid 20th century. She is a beautiful blonde detective with strong fighting skills, but no gun.
  • The Westerner Comics #26-33: Patricia Layne becomes the masked vigilante called Calamity Kate to avenge the death of her father and afterwards continues to use her masked identity to fight outlaws.

See Also

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