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RG3623.AM:  William Frank “Doc” Carver, 1851-1927

Papers:  1881-1972

Size:  Fraction


William Frank “Doc” Carver was born on May 7, 1851, at Winslow, Illinois, the son of William Daniel Carver and Deborah (Peters) Carver.  Not much is known about Doc Carver’s early life.  He arrived at Fort McPherson, Nebraska, in August of 1872.  Carver practiced dentistry there and in North Platte.  Carver filed a homestead claim on Medicine Creek, north of Stockville, Frontier County, and was joined there by his mother and brother in 1874.  He spent much time trapping and target shooting until 1878, when he began his career as exhibition marksman.

Between 1879 and 1882, Carver toured Europe challenging all comers to shooting matches.  That he was an excellent marksman is beyond dispute but the true story of much of Carver’s life is open to question.  His “daring exploits on the frontier” depend almost entirely upon his own yarns, recorded in interviews during his shooting tours, and in these he often failed to agree with himself.  In 1883, Carver and W.F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) staged the first of the exhibitions, which would become famous as the “Wild West Show.”  However, Carver and Cody soon parted ways because of personal differences and for a time, Carver operated his own Wild West Show.

William Frank “Doc” Carver died on August 31, 1927, in California, and he was buried in Winslow, Illinois.


This collection consists of four folders arranged in three series:  1) Correspondence, 1881-1972; 2) Manuscripts, undated; and 3) Clippings.  The bulk of the collection consists of letters Doc Carver wrote to Raymond W. Thorp in 1927.  The letters are lengthy and detailed accounts by Carver of his various “exploits,” most of which involved feats of marksmanship.  Carver also commented on his relationship with W. F. Cody, “Wild Bill” Hickok, and other frontiersmen.  Thorpe published these letters in various wildlife and sports magazines during the 1920s and 1930s.  The manuscripts and newspaper clippings deal with Carver’s feats of marksmanship and other shooting contests.


Series 1 – Correspondence, 1881-1972


    1. Letters of Doc Carver, 1881-1927

Series 2 – Manuscripts

    1. “Dr. W.F. Carver, Evil Spirit of the Plains” by Charles R. Nordin, undated

      “The Great Carver Show,” undated

Series 3 – Clippings

    1. Clippings relating mostly to Carver’s marksmanship

    1. “Great Carver Show” diving horses full page; and miscellaneous [see oversize]


Subject headings:

Carver, William Frank “Doc,” 1851-1927

Cody, William Frederick “Buffalo Bill,” 1846-1917

Hickok, James Butler “Wild Bill,” 1837-1876


Wild west shows


JEP/ht                      10-24-1974

Rev. KFK                03-16-1999