Here’s an image of Billy the Kid that probably doesn’t fit the legend. He’s on the left:
Except it does more to show him than just about any other image of the legendary outlaw you might have seen before does – because it really is Billy the Kid, born Henry McCarty, on September 17, 1859.
Until this week, this mirror ferrotype was the only other verified image of the young man who claimed to have killed one man for every year he lived – 21:
The original of that was sold to Florida billionaire William Koch for $US2.3 million in 2011.
This latest find turned up in a cardboard box at a junk shop in Fresno, California. It was bought for $2 in 2010, but for the past year it has been the subject of an authentication project by Western Americana and Rare Coin experts, Kagin’s, Inc.
Kagin’s senior numismatist, David McCarthy, said the team was obviously “sceptical” when it first saw the picture.
“An original Billy the Kid photo is the Holy Grail of Western Americana,” he notes on a recent blog post about the picture.
Here’s the full 4×5 inch tintype:
Kagin’s say it was taken in the late summer of 1878 and features members of Billy the Kid’s gang, “The Regulators”, playing croquet.
“Taken just one month after the tumultuous Lincoln County War came to an end, it is a window into the lives of these gunmen as they were still fighting the injustices of a lawless land. It’s a carefree moment after an important life event – a wedding – which is rich in content, movement and texture.”
Western Americana enthusiast Randy Guijarro led the authentication team and his journey will be the subject of a two-hour documentary airing on the National Geographic channel on October 18, narrated by Kevin Costner.
At the age of 21, in 1881, New Mexico’s governor, Lew Wallace, placed a price on McCarty’s head and he quickly rose to fame courtesy of increasing coverage of his exploits in local newspapers.
McCarty was shot dead later that year lawman Pat Garrett, after a jailbreak in which McCarty reportedly killed two deputies.
The tintype has been appraised and insured for $US5 million ($6.9 million).
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