Boyer admits that the origin of the photo isn't clear. But, he says in a recent pamphlet, "If it isn't Josie, it ought to be."
Boyer says he was given the photo in 1956 or 1957 by a woman who ran a cantina in Yuma. Boyer isn't sure, but he thinks the woman's name was Carmelita Mayhew. Carmelita told Boyer that the woman in the photo is a young Josephine Earp, whom Carmelita said she had known.
Boyer says he had doubts about the photo until Ernest Cason, husband of the woman who had helped Josephine write the Cason manuscript, gave Boyer a locket photo of Josephine. The face in both photographs looked remarkably similar, Boyer says, and that satisfied him enough to put the first photo on the cover of his book. (Carmelita and Cason have both been dead for decades, so the veracity of Boyer's story cannot be confirmed.)
Robin Gilliam, a photography expert and history curator at the Silver City Museum in Silver City, New Mexico, says Boyer's photo is bogus.
"Everything about it suggests that it's an early 20th-century print of an entertainer," Gilliam says.
A photograph of Josephine Earp at 18 or so would have been taken in the early 1880s. There's little doubt, Gilliam says, that this photograph was made after 1900 and probably was taken between 1910 and 1915.
"It's clearly from that era. The vamp style, the dark eye makeup. It's a completely different style than what would have been considered a sexy pinup girl in the early 1880s. Even if Josephine Earp had been a pinup, she would have done it in a completely different way."
An original of the photograph with a copyright date of 1914 was recently found; a postcard with the same image was also found, but researchers say its 1900 date is disputed. In either case, both images were far too recent to be Josephine Earp.
The University of Arizona published the book, and it has become a best seller for the college press. University officials did not return phone calls for comment about the book or the photo.