Photo Of The Day

Western Americana and Rare Coin experts, Kagin’s, Inc., announced that the firm has authenticated and will be the exclusive seller of a newly discovered photograph featuring several of the Lincoln County Regulators, including legendary gunman, Billy the Kid. The original 4x5 inch tintype not only depicts Billy the Kid, but several members of his gang, The Regulators, playing a leisurely game of croquet alongside friends, family, and lovers in the late summer of 1878. 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. “When we first saw the photograph, we were understandably skeptical - an original Billy the Kid photo is the Holy Grail of Western Americana,” remarked Kagin’s senior numismatist, David McCarthy. “We had to be certain that we could answer and verify where, when, how and why this photograph was taken. Simple resemblance is not enough in a case like this - a team of experts had to be assembled to address each and every detail in the photo to insure that nothing was out of place. “The historical importance of a photograph of Billy the Kid alongside known members of his gang and prominent Lincoln County citizens is incalculable - this is perhaps the single most compelling piece of Western Americana that we have ever seen,” stated Kagin. The Billy the Kid Croquet Match Tintype has been appraised and insured for $5,000,000. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

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. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid, lived a brief and violent life, stealing and killing before his death in a gunfight aged 21. He lived with a gun in his hand – and sometimes, it seems, a croquet mallet.

In a surprising historical twist, the second photo of Billy the Kid ever to be authenticated shows him and his posse, the Regulators, playing the sport in New Mexico in 1878.

The faded image was among a pile of photos inside a cardboard box at a junk shop in Fresno, California, unearthed by a collector in 2010. Randy Guijarro paid US $2 for the image, which is now estimated to be worth millions of dollars. The only other confirmed photo of Billy the Kid, from 1880, sold for $2.3m (£1.5m) in 2011.

The photo was authenticated by a San Francisco-based Americana company, Kagin’s, which identified Billy the Kid along with several members of the Regulators, as well as friends and family. It was taken after a wedding in the summer of 1878, just a month after the gang took part in the brutal Lincoln County war.

When the photo was first brought to the company, its experts were “understandably sceptical”, said David McCarthy from Kagin’s. “An original Billy the Kid photo is the holy grail of Western Americana.

“We had to be certain that we could answer and verify where, when, how and why this photograph was taken. Simple resemblance is not enough in a case like this – a team of experts had to be assembled to address each and every detail in the photo to ensure that nothing was out of place.”

The team spent a year investigating the photo, and even found the location where it was taken, in Chaves County, New Mexico. There they unearthed the remains of the building shown. “We found the old lumber underneath,” said Jeff Aiello, director of a National Geographic “We found those exact rock piers are still there.

The series of photos from the scene left little doubt what game was being played: “It’s clearly croquet. You can see the hoops, the balls, the mallet, the centre peg. They’re all there. It’s a fascinating picture.”

In early October 2015, Kagin’s, Inc., a California-based numismatic authentication firm, determined the image to be authentic. Kagin’s has insured the tintype for $5 million.

Whatever his name or alias at the moment—Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim, Kid Antrim, Billy Bonney—people always called him the Kid. Newspapers pictured him as a king of outlaws; and his highly publicized capture, trial, escape, and end fixed his image in the public mind for all time. He was only twenty-one years old when a bullet from Sheriff Pat Garett’s six-shooter killed him on July 14, 1881. Within a year Billy the Kid became the subject of five dime-novel “biographies” as well as Garett’s ghostwritten account, and that was just the beginning.

In legend, Billy the Kid has been described as a vicious and ruthless killer, an outlaw who died at the age of twenty-one, not before raising havoc in the New Mexico Territory. It was said he took the lives of twenty-one men, one for each year of his life, the first one when he was just twelve years old. He was a rebel without a cause who killed without reason. These and many more accusations of callous acts are examples of the myth of Billy the Kid. In real form, the Kid was not the cold-blooded killer he has been portrayed as, but a young man who lived in a violent dog-eat-dog world, where knowing how to use a gun was the difference between life and death.

William H. Bonney alias Billy the Kid is probably the most misunderstood historical figure of the Old West. He was not a cold-blooded killer, nor was he a robber of trains or banks. Instead he was a gunfighter in a feud between two factions in which both sides stole from each other and killed. The Lincoln County War would have turned out exactly the way it did if Billy the Kid never took part in it. His role in the LCW was minor -he wasn’t the leader but a follower.  Although Billy the Kid was one of many who fought and killed during the LCW, he was the only one that faced conviction and was sentence to death.  So Billy the Kid used his wit and courage to escape his date with the hangman which boost his notoriety even more. If his spectacular escape wasn’t enough, his controversial death was the final dramatic ending to his story. But it wasn’t the end, Billy the Kid lives on in history and legend.

Billy the Kid’s real name was William Henry McCarty, when and where he was born, or who or what happened to his father is not known. It’s estimated that he was born around 1860-61 possibly in New York. History first traces the Kid as a youngster in Indiana in the late 1860s and then in Wichita, Kansas in 1870. His mother Catherine McCarty was a widow and single mother and he had a younger brother named Joseph (born 1863). By 1871, Catherine was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and was told to move to a climate that was warmer and drier.

There’s a mystery with the last name of McCarty; it’s speculated that it may be his father’s name, mother’s maiden name, or the last name of his half  brother’s father.

On March 1, 1873 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Catherine McCarty married a man named William Antrim. Since there were now two Billies in the household, the Kid’s mother referred to him by his middle name, he was now Henry McCarty-Antrim.

 I guess that Billy the Kid’s stepfather never legally adopted his stepsons, since the Kid would also be referred to by his last name “McCarty” in Silver City.

The family moved to Silver City in Grant County, located in southern New Mexico. Catherine was suffering from consumption and her health began to deteriorate rapidly. Then on September 16, 1874, the Kid’s mother died.

Antrim didn’t want to be burden with two small boys, so he separated them and placed them in foster homes and left Silver City for Arizona.  The Kid now had to earn his own keep, so he was put to work washing dishes and waiting on tables at a restaurant. After a year of no parental guidance and looking out for himself, the Kid quickly fell in with the wrong crowd. One of his troublemaking buddies, Sombrero Jack, stole some laundry from a Chinese laundry cleaner and told the Kid to hide the bundle. The Kid got caught with it and was arrested. The county sheriff decided to keep him locked up for a couple of days just to scare him, but the Kid escaped and ran away.

The Silver City newspaper reported: “Henry McCarty, who was arrested Thursday and committed to jail to await the action of the grand jury, upon the charge of stealing clothes from Charley Sun and Sam Chung, celestials, sans cue, sans Joss sticks, escaped from prison yesterday through the chimney. It’s believed that Henry was simply the tool of Sombrero Jack, who done the stealing whilst Henry done the hiding. Jack has skinned out.”

The Kid fled to one of his foster families and they put him on a stagecoach to Clifton, Arizona where his stepfather was living, but when he found his stepfather he didn’t want him and told the Kid to leave. All alone in a strange desert, the Kid wandered from one ranch to another to find work. For the next 2 years the Kid tramped around as a ranch hand and gambler. He then met up with a horse thief name John Mackie who taught him the tricks of the trade and the two became partners. But after some close calls, arrest, and escaping from custody, the Kid decided it was wiser to give up his new occupation. He returned some stolen horses to the army to clear himself and got work as a ranch hand.

One day while at a saloon in Camp Grant, Arizona, the Kid who was about sixteen at the time, got into serious trouble. He got into an argument with a bully named Frank “Windy” Cahill, who had picked on him numerous times before. After some name-calling, Cahill rushed the Kid and slammed him down on the ground, then jumped on top of him and proceeded to slap him in the face. The Kid worked his hand free to his revolver and fired it into Cahill’s gut. When Cahill fell over the Kid squirmed free, ran off, and mounted the nearest horse and fled Camp Grant.

The Kid didn’t stick around to face murder charges and left Arizona and returned to New Mexico. Now an outlaw and unable to find honest work, the Kid met up with another outlaw named Jesse Evans, who was the leader of a gang of rustlers called “The Boys.” The Kid didn’t have anywhere else to go and since it was suicide to be alone in the hostile and lawless territory, the Kid reluctantly joined the gang.

The gang made their way to Lincoln County where the Boys joined forces with James Dolan, who was currently in a feud against an Englishman entrepreneur named John Tunstall and his attorney and partner Alex McSween. The feud would be famously known as the Lincoln County War.

James Dolan was the protégé of LG Murphy and when Murphy became ill of cancer and hospitalized in Santa Fe, Dolan stepped up to take his place. Supporting Dolan was the powerful Santa Fe Ring (similar to a mafia) in which members consisted of the governor, politicians and attorneys. Tunstall came to Lincoln to start his own business and ranch, but Dolan didn’t like the competition and set out to drive him away. Tunstall refused to be intimidated and instead tried to fight back with legal action. When Tunstall realized he couldn’t fight his enemies the legal way due to the bias Judge Bristol and Governor Sam Axtell, Tunstall decided to fight fire with fire and hired his own gunmen.  The feud then turned into an all out war.

The Boys started to steal Tunstall’s livestock, so arrests were made and the Kid eventually was caught and placed in jail. Tunstall noticed something different about this rustler, he wasn’t rough like the other men, but just a boy who got a bad start in life and was looking for place to belong. So Tunstall gave him an ultimatum: if he testified against the other rustlers, Tunstall would hire him as an employee. The Kid took Tunstall’s offer.

Now fighting for the Tunstall side and in the hopes of a better future, the Kid changed his name to William H. Bonney, but his friends called him “Kid.” Tensions were high and the feud between Dolan and Tunstall escalated in to bloody violence. John Tunstall was brutally murder by members of Sheriff Brady’s posse and the Boys. Tunstall’s ranch hands then formed a vigilante group called “the Regulators.” Now the war was on.

At first the deputized Regulators tried to do things legally by serving warrants, but with the prejudice Sheriff Brady and the bias court system, they couldn’t count on justice being served. So they took the law in their own hands. They retaliated by killing Bill Morton, Frank Baker and William McCloskey.  Then they ambushed Sheriff Brady and his deputy George Hindman in Lincoln. Lastly, they had a dramatic gunfight with Dolan gunman Buckshot Roberts, but during that shootout their leader Dick Brewer was killed.

The Regulators were particular bitter towards Bill Morton, because he led the posse that murdered Tunstall and was one of those that shot him. As for William McCloskey, he was a Regulator suspected for playing both ends of the table and tried to intervene in Morton and Baker’s execution after the Regulator’s arrested them.  As for the Brady shooting, six members of the Regulators (the Kid included) ambushed the sheriff and four of his deputies as they walked down the street in Lincoln to arrest Alex McSween.

The Regulators revenge only made things worse. They were now viewed as the bad guys and warrants were put out for their arrest.

Now the Dolan side struck back. Dolan’s gunmen and newly appointed sheriff, George Peppin and his men, had the McSween house surrounded with Alex McSween and many of the Regulators trapped in side. Dolan sent for Colonel Dudley at Fort Stanton for assistance. The colonel came with troops along with a Howitzer and Gatling gun. On the fifth day of the siege the Dolan side was getting impatient, so they set the house on fire. By nightfall, the house was completely ablaze and heat from the flames were overwhelming. The Regulators began to panic, so the cool-headed Billy the Kid, only about seventeen years old, took over leadership of the men. The Kid divided the men into two groups, he lead his party out the door first and ran in one direction so as to draw the line of fire towards them so McSween’s party could make a run in another direction and get away. When the men began to run out of the burning house the Dolan side opened fire and all hell broke loose. McSween and three men were killed, but Billy the Kid and the others escaped into the darkness.

The war was over; the Regulators disbanded and the Kid was now a fugitive.

Billy the Kid was unable to settle down, so he made his living by gambling and rustling cattle. The Kid heard about Governor Axtell being replaced by Lew Wallace, who was now trying to bring law and order to Lincoln. The Kid wrote to the governor that he was tired of running and would surrender to authorities and testify against the Dolan side to have his murder charges dropped. The governor agreed and promised the Kid a full pardon.

The Kid surrendered and testified in court, but the Santa Fe Ring had influence over the court system, so members of the Dolan side, including James Dolan, were acquitted. The Kid was in unfriendly territory and one of his threats was prosecutor attorney William Rynerson, who was part of the “Ring” and wanted to put the Kid on trial for the murder of Sheriff Brady.  The Kid felt betrayed when he learned that Governor Wallace didn’t have the power to pardon him without Rynerson’s cooperation, nor was the governor pressuring the attorney to collaborate. Wallace simply lost interest and left the Kid to his fate. Billy the Kid knew he didn’t stand a chance in court and he had lost faith in the governor, so he escaped.

On the run again and an outlaw, the Kid went back to making a living the only way he knew how –rustling. There were other outlaws and rustlers in New Mexico, much worse than Billy the Kid, but the Kid had gain fame and was singled out by the newspapers who had built him up into something he wasn’t. It was the newspapers who had given him a name that he would forever be known as “Billy the Kid.”

Since the end of the Lincoln County War, the Kid spent the next two years eluding the law and living in and around Fort Sumner (a former military fort transformed into a tiny Mexican village). While in Fort Sumner, he would kill a drunk at a saloon, but the killing was shrugged off and got almost no attention, but unfortunately, the Kid got into more serious trouble that did get plenty of attention. It happened when a posse from White Oaks surrounded the Kid and his gang at a station house, during the standoff the posse accidentally killed their own deputy, James Carlyle. Of course the death was credited to the Kid and destroyed any ounce of sympathy the public had for him, not to mention, any chance for him to get things squared up with the governor to get his pardon.

Before the shooting, Billy the Kid sensed trouble from a man named Joe Grant and he casually went up to him and asked to see his gun. As he pretended to admire it, he spun the cylinder so the hammer would fall on an empty chamber. This wise precautionary move saved the Kid’s life, because Grant then pulled his gun on him and fired. The gun clicked and then the Kid had his turn but his gun went BANG.

As the Kid dodged the law, Pat Garrett was elected sheriff and made US Marshal to hunt for Billy the Kid. He was familiar with the Kid’s habits and hideouts, which may show that Garrett may have been a rustler himself or at one time may have ridden with the Kid.  During the pursuit for Billy the Kid, Garrett ended up killing two of the Kid’s closest comrades, Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre. Finally on December 23, 1880 Garrett trapped the Kid and three other gang members at a cabin in Stinking Springs. After a short standoff, Billy the Kid came out and surrendered.

Billy the Kid was quickly put on trial in Mesilla and was sentence to hang for the murder of Sheriff Brady. After his sentence was passed, the Kid was taken to Lincoln to await his hanging. The Kid was shackled and imprisoned in a room in the Lincoln courthouse as two deputies took turns guarding over him.  On April 28, 1881 the Kid made his most daring escape (which would also be his last). The Kid was successful in getting a drop on the lone guard, Deputy James Bell, by slipping his hand out of the handcuffs and using the heavy restraints to hit the deputy over the head. The Kid then jerked Bell’s pistol and told him to throw up his hands, but instead the deputy ran and the Kid had no choice but to shoot him.  The other guard Bob Olinger was across the street having dinner when he heard the gunshots. He ran toward the building and as the Kid saw him approaching he shot Olinger down with a shotgun.  The Kid rode out of Lincoln a free man and headed to the only place he could call home: Fort Sumner.

Bob Olinger was a bully and an old enemy of Billy the Kid. He took pleasure in tormenting the helpless prisoner and used his shotgun to intimidate him. So when Olinger ran to the courthouse, the Kid didn’t hesitate to shoot him with his own shotgun. The Kid’s original plan of escape was to take Bell prisoner, lock him up, and slip out unseen before Olinger came back.

The Kid decided to lay low long enough until the law would give up hunting him and he could “rustle” up some money and leave the territory.

Garret, who would become a legend in his own right, thought that Billy would surely head south immediately, into Mexico, beyond the reach of the law. Without knowing Billy’s whereabouts, Garrett waited, biding his time. He began to read newspaper accounts and hear rumours of Billy the Kid “sightings” from Mexico to Tombstone, Arizona, to Denver, Colorado, to Austin, Texas. Still Garrett waited, through May, through June, into July.

Garrett, an ex-buffalo hunter, had drifted into east central New Mexico in 1878, a lanky young man well over six feet tall, Garrett had swiftly established a reputation as “a tough, resolute fellow, quiet and soft-spoken but not to be trifled with. ‘Coolness, courage, and determination were written on his face,’ noted one who knew him.” Called “Juan Largo,” or “Big John,” by the Hispanics, he, like Billy, danced at local fandangos to the music of the mariachis. He married an Hispanic woman, and after her premature death, he married another Hispanic woman. Garrett had friends of his own in the region. He won his office on a “law and order” platform in the lawless and disorderly Lincoln County.

Near mid-July, Garrett finally got reliable intelligence on Billy’s location. His quarry, he learned, had not run immediately for Mexico, but had holed up somewhere around Fort Sumner. Garrett got ready to pounce. He enlisted two deputies, John W. Poe and Tom “Kip” McKinney. They headed for Fort Sumner.

As both The Kid and Garrett certainly knew, Fort Sumner had been the setting for memorable chapters in the history of the Southwestern frontier. During the Civil War, it had served as a concentration camp for the Navajos and Mescalero Apaches, who lost many of their people in the insect-infested fields and fetid waters of the Pecos River valley. It had become the northernmost point on the Pecos River leg of the Goodnight-Loving Trail, which Texas cowmen used to drive tens of thousands of longhorn cattle to markets as far north as Wyoming. After abandonment by the Army in 1868, the fort – the heart of the community – fell into the hands of Lucien B. Maxwell, a cattle baron, and at one time, the largest private landowner in the United States. The former officers’ quarters had been recast as a large and lavish home for the family and servants, much like a Mexican hacienda. The compound passed into the hands of son Pete Maxwell when Lucien died in 1875.

Both Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett knew the Maxwell family well. Neither knew, however, that, by sheer coincidence, they would converge at the Maxwell place on the warm moonlit night of July 14, 1881.

Around 9:00 p.m., said Utley, Billy lounged on the ground with friends in a nearby peach orchard, chatting in Spanish. He wore his customary sombrero, boots, and a dark vest and pants. He rose from the ground, walked out of the orchard, lept over a fence, and disappeared into the Maxwell compound. He either went to the room of a friend (or, possibly, to the room of Celsa Gutierrez, Pat Garrett’s sister-in-law) along the old officers’ row.

Around 9:00 p. m., Garrett, with Poe and McKinney, appeared in the peach orchard, planning to talk in secret with Pete Maxwell, hoping he might know something current about Billy. Garrett and his men kept to the shadows. They saw men sitting on the ground. They heard them speaking in Spanish. As they watched quietly, they saw in the moonlight someone, who wore a sombrero, boots and dark vest, rise from the ground, walk out of the orchard, leap over a fence and disappear into the compound

Near midnight, they moved silently to the southeast corner of the Maxwell house, just outside Pete’s bedroom. Garrett left Poe and McKinney on the porch. He entered quietly through the open door into the darkened bedroom to awaken Pete and question him.

Near midnight, Billy, having taken off his hat, vest and boots, decided that he wanted something to eat. He built a cook fire. He took his knife – and, apparently as a precaution, his Colt pistol – and he walked, in his socks, across the compound to cut a piece of meat from the carcass of a freshly killed yearling steer hanging from a rafter above the porch outside Maxwell’s bedroom.

Simultaneously, inside the bedroom, Garrett started to question Maxwell, who was aggravated about having been awakened.

Just outside the bedroom, on the porch, Billy discovered the shadowy figures of Poe and McKinney. “Quien es?” Billy demanded, leveling his pistol on Poe. “Who are you?” He moved toward the door to Maxwell’s bedroom, probably thinking instinctively that it would serve as a sanctuary.

Garrett and Maxwell heard the anxious voices on the porch. They fell silent.

Billy entered the room, his pistol ready. “Who are those fellows outside, Pete?” he asked Maxwell, according to Utley.

“That’s him!” Maxwell said to Garrett.

Billy, startled, saw the dark form of Garrett. “Quien es?”

“…I jerked my gun and fired,” Garrett would say later, quoted by Utley.

Afraid that Garrett may have wounded a lion in the darkness, Garrett and Maxwell scrambled out of the room, which fell silent.

Garrett said, “…I think I have got him.” They heard nothing.

Garrett watched as Maxwell lit a candle and placed it in the window of the bedroom to light the interior. Garrett, Poe and McKinney peered through the window, and in the flickering light, they could see a figure sprawled on the floor, motionless.

Billy the Kid, with Pat Garret’s bullet lodged in his chest, just above the heart, lay dead. Bereaved Hispanic women gathered at the sound of the gunfire. They carried The Kid’s body to a nearby room, laying his body on a bench. They placed “…lighted candles around it according to their ideas of properly conducting a ‘wake’ for the dead,” said Deputy Poe, as quoted by Utley. The afternoon of the next day, the community buried Billy the Kid in the Fort Sumner cemetery, next to two old friends and gang members.

It is thought the man on the left to be Tom O'Folliard, one of The Regulators and Billy's best friend. On the right is a woman Guijarro believes to be Sallie Chisum, niece of the prominent cattle rancher John Chisum. Charged with protecting Chisum’s cows from the Murphy-Dolan gangs, Billy and his cohorts made periodical visits to the Chisum ranch. Sallie had no shortage of suitors, and Billy stood out among her admirers. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

It is thought the man on the left to be Tom O’Folliard, one of The Regulators and Billy’s best friend. On the right is a woman Guijarro believes to be Sallie Chisum, niece of the prominent cattle rancher John Chisum. Charged with protecting Chisum’s cows from the Murphy-Dolan gangs, Billy and his cohorts made periodical visits to the Chisum ranch. Sallie had no shortage of suitors, and Billy stood out among her admirers. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

A close-up of the figures on horseback thatit is believed to be newlyweds Charlie and Manuela Bowdre. Charlie was one of Billy's most trusted friends and a loyal member of The Regulators. In 1878, he married a woman named Manuela, and two years later, was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

A close-up of the figures on horseback thatit is believed to be newlyweds Charlie and Manuela Bowdre. Charlie was one of Billy’s most trusted friends and a loyal member of The Regulators. In 1878, he married a woman named Manuela, and two years later, was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

A close-up of some unidentified characters in the recently discovered tintype photograph that is believed to include Billy the Kid. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

A close-up of some unidentified characters in the recently discovered tintype photograph that is believed to include Billy the Kid. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

A close-up of the figure that is believed to be Billy the Kid, leaning on a croquet mallet. While croquet wasn't known as a popular sport in the American Wild West, it was hugely popular in England during the 1860s. It is possible that Billy the Kid and his friends were introduced to the game by Billy's boss and mentor, Englishman John Tunstall. By late 1877, 17-year-old Billy the Kid had killed a man in Arizona, and worked on various ranches in New Mexico rustling cattle and horses. Tunstall, a burgeoning cattle rancher, needed more muscle to challenge the cattle monopoly that Irishmen Lawrence Murphy and Frank Dolan controlled in Lincoln County. It was while working for Tunstall that Billy befriended the gang that would later become known as The Regulators. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

A close-up of the figure that is believed to be Billy the Kid, leaning on a croquet mallet. While croquet wasn’t known as a popular sport in the American Wild West, it was hugely popular in England during the 1860s. It is possible that Billy the Kid and his friends were introduced to the game by Billy’s boss and mentor, Englishman John Tunstall. By late 1877, 17-year-old Billy the Kid had killed a man in Arizona, and worked on various ranches in New Mexico rustling cattle and horses. Tunstall, a burgeoning cattle rancher, needed more muscle to challenge the cattle monopoly that Irishmen Lawrence Murphy and Frank Dolan controlled in Lincoln County. It was while working for Tunstall that Billy befriended the gang that would later become known as The Regulators. Photo: Courtesy of Randy Guijarro.

This image obtained October 15, 2015 courtesy of Kagin's, Inc. shows a tintype of Billy the Kid. It first cost $2 at a junk shop in California. Now it's assessed at $5 million and is going on sale again: a photo of Wild West gunman Billy the Kid. It is said to be one of only two authenticated images of that iconic figure of frontier America. The tintype shot shows the outlaw -- real name William Henry McCarty -- pausing during a game of croquet in what is now New Mexico in 1878 with members of his gang, called the Lincoln County Regulators, and other people, said Kagin's, a firm that specializes in Western Americana and rare coins. The only other authenticated photo of Billy the Kid is a portrait of him taken in 1880. It sold in 2010 for $2.3 million, Kagin's said. AFP PHOTO.

This image obtained October 15, 2015 courtesy of Kagin’s, Inc. shows a tintype of Billy the Kid. It first cost $2 at a junk shop in California. Now it’s assessed at $5 million and is going on sale again: a photo of Wild West gunman Billy the Kid. It is said to be one of only two authenticated images of that iconic figure of frontier America. The tintype shot shows the outlaw — real name William Henry McCarty — pausing during a game of croquet in what is now New Mexico in 1878 with members of his gang, called the Lincoln County Regulators, and other people, said Kagin’s, a firm that specializes in Western Americana and rare coins. The only other authenticated photo of Billy the Kid is a portrait of him taken in 1880. It sold in 2010 for $2.3 million, Kagin’s said. AFP PHOTO.

This photograph of the marriage of Charlie and Manuela Herrera Bowdre was taken by photographer James N. Furlong in New Mexico in 1878. The photo was discovered on Charlie Bowdre's dead body, stained with blood. Photo: Courtesy of Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

This photograph of the marriage of Charlie and Manuela Herrera Bowdre was taken by photographer James N. Furlong in New Mexico in 1878. The photo was discovered on Charlie Bowdre’s dead body, stained with blood. Photo: Courtesy of Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

Englishman John Tunstall was a cattle rancher and merchant in Lincoln County, New Mexico, who hired Billy the Kid in 1877 to work on his ranch. Tunstall's murder in 1878, by members of the Murphy-Dolan gang, was the catalyst that ignited the Lincoln County War. Photo: Courtesy of Center for Southwest Research, UNM Libraries.

Englishman John Tunstall was a cattle rancher and merchant in Lincoln County, New Mexico, who hired Billy the Kid in 1877 to work on his ranch. Tunstall’s murder in 1878, by members of the Murphy-Dolan gang, was the catalyst that ignited the Lincoln County War. Photo: Courtesy of Center for Southwest Research, UNM Libraries.

Possible photo of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. “After I Googled Billy the Kid, I said ‘oh my gosh, he looks like Pat Garrett!” Abrams recalled. “And that’s what got it started.” Legend has it Billy the Kid was killed by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett in July of 1881. Convinced his photo shows Garrett possibly with the Kid, Abrams brought high resolution images of his tintype to meet with local experts. Photo: FRANK ABRAMS.

Possible photo of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. “After I Googled Billy the Kid, I said ‘oh my gosh, he looks like Pat Garrett!” Abrams recalled. “And that’s what got it started.” Legend has it Billy the Kid was killed by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett in July of 1881. Convinced his photo shows Garrett possibly with the Kid, Abrams brought high resolution images of his tintype to meet with local experts. Photo: FRANK ABRAMS.

A close-up of Pat Garrett, who famously killed Billy the Kid in 1881. The following year, Garrett published a first-hand account of his experiences, with the help of ghostwriter Ash Upson, titled The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid, The Noted Desperado of the Southwest. Photo: Courtesy of Center for Southwest Research, UNM Libraries.

A close-up of Pat Garrett, who famously killed Billy the Kid in 1881. The following year, Garrett published a first-hand account of his experiences, with the help of ghostwriter Ash Upson, titled The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid, The Noted Desperado of the Southwest. Photo: Courtesy of Center for Southwest Research, UNM Libraries.

This cabinet card photograph, dated 1874, shows Sallie Chisum (seated) and brothers, Walter and Willie. Today, Sallie Chisum's diary is held in the archives at the New Mexico State University Library. In an entry dated August 1878, Sallie mentions receiving two candy hearts from William Bonney. Photo: Courtesy of Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

This cabinet card photograph, dated 1874, shows Sallie Chisum (seated) and brothers, Walter and Willie. Today, Sallie Chisum’s diary is held in the archives at the New Mexico State University Library. In an entry dated August 1878, Sallie mentions receiving two candy hearts from William Bonney. Photo: Courtesy of Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

Pictured here are members of L.G. Murphy and Company, of Lincoln County, New Mexico. Seated (left to right)—Colonel Emil Fritz and Major L.G. Murphy; standing (left to right)—James Dolan (bookkeeper) and W.J. Marin. It was against the Murphy-Dolan gangs that Billy the Kid and The Regulators fought in the Lincoln County War. Photo: Courtesy of Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

Pictured here are members of L.G. Murphy and Company, of Lincoln County, New Mexico. Seated (left to right)—Colonel Emil Fritz and Major L.G. Murphy; standing (left to right)—James Dolan (bookkeeper) and W.J. Marin. It was against the Murphy-Dolan gangs that Billy the Kid and The Regulators fought in the Lincoln County War. Photo: Courtesy of Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

Owned by the great-great nephew of Sallie Chisum, this photograph is dated 1878 and is thought to depict the start of the 1878 summer cattle drive from South Springs to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. On the right is part of the longhouse, or main house, of the Chisum Ranch, in South Springs.Photo : Courtesy of Jeff Phillips.

Owned by the great-great nephew of Sallie Chisum, this photograph is dated 1878 and is thought to depict the start of the 1878 summer cattle drive from South Springs to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. On the right is part of the longhouse, or main house, of the Chisum Ranch, in South Springs.Photo : Courtesy of Jeff Phillips.

Pat Garrett, second from the right, sitting in front of a Jaffa, Prager & Co. store in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1887. Sheriff of Lincoln County during the Lincoln County War, Garrett was responsible for the deaths of Tom O'Folliard, Charles Bowdre, and, in July 1881, Billy the Kid. Photo: Courtesy of Center for Southwest Research, UNM Libraries.

Pat Garrett, second from the right, sitting in front of a Jaffa, Prager & Co. store in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1887. Sheriff of Lincoln County during the Lincoln County War, Garrett was responsible for the deaths of Tom O’Folliard, Charles Bowdre, and, in July 1881, Billy the Kid. Photo: Courtesy of Center for Southwest Research, UNM Libraries.

Some have said that Billy the Kid was asleep in another part of the house but woke up hungry in the middle of the night and entered the kitchen where Garrett was standing in the shadows. It was from there that Garrett shot twice — hitting Billy once.

Some have questioned Garrett’s account of the shooting, alleging the incident happened differently. They claim that Garrett tied people up and then ambushed Billy the Kid with a single blast from his Sharps rifle. The problem is there is nothing to support these theories of what took place.

We do know that after tracking him to the Maxwell Ranch, Garrett shot Henry McCarty, alias Billy Bonney, alias Billy the Kid, to death. No legal charges were brought against Garrett since the killing was ruled a justifiable homicide.

As with most accounts of this sort where we only know what one man says took place because the other man is dead, Garrett’s story has become legend. And frankly, people can speculate this and that until the cows come home — but Garrett is the only eye-witness to how he killed Billy the Kid.

So whether it’s true or not, that’s all we really have to go on.

The first image on the left hand side is the tintype, (also known as a ferrotype) and is quite damaged and corroded, which was developed incorrectly, giving us this flipped image and false impression that Billy the Kid was left-handed. In 1880, William H. Bonney—better known by his nickname Billy the Kid—posed for a travelling photographer in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Roughly a year later, lawman Pat Garrett shot and killed the infamous outlaw, and later identified him in the picture, shown above, before publishing it in his book, a first-hand account titled The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid. The tintype remained in the possession of a single family for over 100 years. Although other pictures of him may exist, this has been the only recognized photograph of Billy the Kid with full provenance and authenticity for 130 years. In 2011 the tintype sold for $2.3 million to billionaire William Koch, making it one of the highest priced photos in history. Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The first image on the left hand side is the tintype, (also known as a ferrotype) and is quite damaged and corroded, which was developed incorrectly, giving us this flipped image and false impression that Billy the Kid was left-handed. In 1880, William H. Bonney—better known by his nickname Billy the Kid—posed for a travelling photographer in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Roughly a year later, lawman Pat Garrett shot and killed the infamous outlaw, and later identified him in the picture, shown above, before publishing it in his book, a first-hand account titled The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid. The tintype remained in the possession of a single family for over 100 years. Although other pictures of him may exist, this has been the only recognized photograph of Billy the Kid with full provenance and authenticity for 130 years. In 2011 the tintype sold for $2.3 million to billionaire William Koch, making it one of the highest priced photos in history. 

Billy the Kid only walked this earth for 21 years, but his legend lives on over 130 years after Pat Garrett supposedly shot the Kid down. Like all great legends, controversy about the Kid’s life and death abound, but perhaps the most intriguing mysteries related to Billy the Kid surround his grave… From thieves, to cover-ups of the Kid’s death, to the unknown whereabouts of his actual gravesite, Billy the Kid’s grave has become a legend as big as the Kid himself.

If you visit Fort Sumner, NM, you can visit Billy the Kid’s “grave,” at the Old Fort Sumner Museum and you’ll notice it’s caged and secured more than a tiger in a zoo… And it’s for good reason. You see, Billy the Kid’s headstone has been stolen not once, but twice. (Some accounts mention three times, but this has proven difficult to verify. The grave was, however, knocked over and vandalized in the 2000s.)

Billy the Kid’s tombstone was first stolen in 1950 by parties unknown and remained missing until a couple from Texas visited Fort Sumner in 1975 and mentioned when they sold their house in 1969 the new owner found a headstone partially buried on the property. The Branhams, the couple from Texas, and the home’s new owner, Gaylan Wright, gave the stone back to Fort Sumner for re-placement at Billy’s “grave.” (More on why grave is in quotation marks later…) Billy the Kid’s tombstone remained unharmed for 6 years before being stolen once again in 1981, only to be recovered a week later in Huntington Beach, CA.

So with the tombstone back in place and heavily fortified with steel bars, Billy the Kid’s grave and tombstone seem to be safe. The Fort Sumner Museum now boasts all sorts of Billy the Kid memorabilia, and all seems peaceful once again. But is it really where Billy the Kid is buried?

Even if Fort Sumner has the real Billy the Kid buried in its cemetery, they admit they have no clue where within the cemetery he’s actually located. The tombstone and cage are just an approximate location.

grave 2

Grave of Henry McCarty (aka Billy the Kid). Why the big cage, akin to something they use in WWF? It turns out that the real headstone had been stolen three times, the first time back in 1950. It stayed missing for 26 years, before it was found in Granbury, TX (a town once filled with aging outlaws whose deaths were faked). Then it got swiped in 1981, recovered a week later in Huntington Beach, CA, and vamoosed again more recently.

Grave of Henry McCarty (aka Billy the Kid). Why the big cage, akin to something they use in WWF? It turns out that the real headstone had been stolen three times, the first time back in 1950. It stayed missing for 26 years, before it was found in Granbury, TX (a town once filled with aging outlaws whose deaths were faked). Then it got swiped in 1981, recovered a week later in Huntington Beach, CA, and vamoosed again more recently.

The letters below are exactly as Billy the Kid wrote them. There are no corrections to the few errors in his letters and as you will see, he was not the illiterate moron people thought.

On March 13, 1879 Billy the Kid writes to Governor Lew Wallace for the first time.

To his Excellency the Governor,

General Lew Wallace

Dear Sir,  I have heard that You will give one thousand $ dollars for my body which as I can understand it means alive as a witness. I know it is as a witness against those that murdered Mr. Chapman. if it was so as that I could appear at Court I could give the desired information, but I have indictments against me for things that happened in the late Lincoln County War and am afraid to give up because my Enemies would Kill me. the day Mr. Chapman was murdered I was in Lincoln, at the request of good Citizens to meet Mr. J.J. Dolan to meet as Friends, so as to be able to lay aside our arms and go to Work. I was present when Mr. Chapman was murdered and know who did it and if it were not for those indictments I would have made it clear before now. if it is in your power to Annully those indictments I hope you will do so so as to give me a chance to explain. Please send me an awnser  telling me what you can do You can send awnser by bearer I have no wish to fight any more indeed I have not raised an arm since your proclamation. As to my character I refer to any of the citizens, for the majority of them are my friends and have been helping me all they could. I am called Kid Antrim but Antrim is my stepfathers name.

Waiting for an awnser I remain your Obedeint Servant

W.H. Bonney

Governor Lew Wallace’s reply to Billy the Kid’s above letter:

Lincoln, March 15, 1879

W.H. Bonney,

Come to the house of Squire Wilson (not the lawyer) at nine o’clock next Monday night alone. I don’t mean his office, but his residence. Follow along the foot of the mountain south of the town, come in on that side, and knock on the east door. I have authority to exempt you from prosecution, if you will testify to what you say you know.

The object of the meeting at Squire Wilson’s is to arrange the matter in a way to make your life safe. To do that the utmost secrecy is to be used. So come along. Don’t tell anybody -not a living soul- where you are coming or the object. If you could trust Jesse Evans, you can trust me.

-Lew Wallace

After the Kid met with the governor and agreeing to submit to a staged arrest, the Kid writes a note to Governor Wallace about how and when he’ll surrender. He is also concerned that when he’s taken prisoner, Jessie Evans and Billy Campbell may try to kill him. He then recommends how they could be captured.

San Patricio    Lincoln County      Thursday (March) 20th 1879

General Lew Wallace:

Sir,  I will keep the appointment I made but be sure and have men come that you can depend on I am not afraid to die like a man fighting but I would not like to be killed like a dog unarmed. Tell Kimbal to let his men be placed around the house and for him to come in alone; and he can arrest us. all I am afraid of is that in the Fort we might be poisioned or killed through a window at night, but you can arrange that all right. Tell the Commanding Officer to Watch Lt. Goodwin he would not hesitate to so anything there Will be danger on the road of Somebody Waylaying us to kill us on the road to the Fort. You will never catch those fellows on the road Watch Fritzes. Captain Bacas ranch and the Brewery they will either go up Seven Rivers or Jicarillo Montains they Will stay around close untill the scouting come in give a spy a pair of glasses and let him get on the mountain back of Fritzes and watch and if they are there, there will be provisons carried to them. It is not my place to advise you but I am anxious to have them caught and perhaps know how men hid from soldiers better than you. Please excuse me for having so much to say and still remain,

Yours Truly,

William H. Bonney

P.S. I had change my mind. Send Kimbal to Gutierrz just below San Patricio one mile, because Sanger and Ballard are or were great friends of Camuls (Campbell’s). Ballard told me yesterday to leave for you were doing everything to catch me. It was a blind to get me to leave. Tell Kimbal not to come before 3 o’clock for I may not be there before.

The Kid writes to the governor about the accusations in the Las Vegas Gazette concerning his rustling activities and the killing of Deputy James Carlyle.

Fort Sumner       Dec 12th 1880

Gov. Lew Wallace

Dear Sir,

I noticed in the Las Vegas Gazette a piece which stated that Billy “the” Kid, the name by which I am known in the County was the Captain of a Band of Outlaws who hold Forth at the Portales. There is no such Organization in existence. So the Gentlemen must have drawn very heavily on his imagination. My business at the White Oaks at the time I was waylaid and my horse killed was to see Judge Leonard who has my case in hand, he had written to me to come up, that he thought he could get Everything Straighend up. I did not find him at the Oaks I should have gone to Lincoln if I had met with no accident. After mine and Billie Wilsons horses were Killed we both made our way to a Station, forty miles from the Oaks kept by Mr. Greathouse. When I got up next morning The house was Surrounded by an outfit led by one Carlyle Who came into the house and Demanded a surrender. I asked for their Papers and they had none. So I concluded it Accounted to nothing more then a mob and told Carlyle that he would have to stay in the house and lead the way out that night. Soon after a note was brought in stating that if Carlyle did not come out inside of five minutes they would kill the Station Keeper (Greathouse) who had left the house and was with them. in a short time a shot was fired on the outside and Carlyle thinking Greathouse was Killed jumped through the window. breaking the sash as he went and was killed by his own Party they thinking it was me trying to make my escape. the party then withdrew.

They returned the next day and burned an old man named Spencer’s house and Greathouses also. I made my way to the Place afoot and During my absence Deputy Sheriff Garrett Acting under Chisums orders went to the Portales and found nothing. on his way back he went to Mr. Yerbys ranch and took a pair of mules of mine which I had left with Mr. Bowdre who is in charge of Mr. Yerbys Cattle. he (Garrett) Claimed that they were stolen and Even if they were not he had a right to confiscate any Outlaws property. I have been at Sumner Since I left Lincoln making my living Gambling the mules were bought by me the truth of which I can prove by the best citizens aroud  Sumner. J.S. Chisum is the man who got me into Trouble and was benefited Thousands by it and is now doing all he can against me. There is no Doubt but what there is a great deal of Stealing going on in the Territory and a great deal of the Property is taken across the Plains as it is a good outlet. but as far as my being at the head of a Band there is nothing of it. Several Instances I have recovered Stolen Property when there was no chance to get an Officer to do it.

One Instance for Hugo Zuber Postoffice Puerto de Luna, another for Pablo Analla Same Place. if some impartial Party were to investigate this matter they would find it far Different from the impression put out by Chisum and his tools

Yours Respect-

William Bonney

While confined in the Santa Fe jail, the Kid writes four letters to the governor reminding him of the deal they had.

Santa Fe

 Jan 1st 1881

Gov. Lew Wallace

Dear Sir

I would like to see you for a few moments if you can spare time.

Yours Respect-

W.H. Bonney

*************************************

Santa Fe Jail      New Mex

March 2d 1881

Gov. Lew Wallace

Dear Sir,

I wish you would come down to the jail and see me. it will be to your interest to come and see me. I have some letters which date back two years, and there are Parties who are very anxious to get them but I shall not dispose of them until I see you. that is if you will come imediately.

Yours Respect-

Wm H. Bonney

*************************************

Santa Fe in Jail

March 4, 1881

Gov. Lew Wallace

Dear Sir

I wrote You a little note the day before yesterday but have received no answer. I Expect you have forgotten what you promised me, this Month two years ago, but I have not and I think You had ought to have come and seen me as I requested you to. I have done everything that I promised you I would and You have done nothing that You promised me.

I think when You think the matter over You will come down and See me, and I can then Explain Everything to You.

Judge Leonard Passed through here on his way East, in January and promised to come and See me on his way back, but he did not fulfill his Promise. It looks to me like I am getting left in the Cold. I am not treated right by Sherman, he lets Every Stranger that comes to see me through Curiosity in to see me, but will not let a Single one of my friends in, Not even an Attorney.

I guess they mean to Send me up without giving me any Show but they will have a nice time doing it. I am not intirely without friends.

I shall Expect to See you some time today.

Patiently Waiting

I am truly Yours Respect-

Wm. H. Bonney

*************************************

Santa Fe New Mexico

March 27th /81

Gov. Lew Wallace

Dear Sir

For the last time I ask, Will you keep your promise. I start below tomorrow send awnser by bearer.

Yours Respt-

W.Bonney

On April 15, 1881 after his trial and death sentence, the Kid makes one last attempt for outside help. He writes to attorney Edgar Caypless.

Dear Sir

I would have written before this but could get no paper. My United States case was thrown out of court and I was rushed to trial on my Territorial Charge. Was convicted of murder in the first degree and am to be hanged on the 13th of May. Mr. A.J. Fountain was appointed to defend me and has done the best he could for me. He is willing to carry the case further if I can raise the money to bear his expense. The mare is about all I can depend on at present so hope you will settle the case right away and give him the money you get for her. If you do not settle the matter with Scott Moore and have to go to court about it, either give him (Fountain) the mare or sell her at auction and give him the money. Please do as he wishes in the matter. I know you will do the best you can for me in this. I shall be taken to Lincoln tomorrow. Please write and direct care to Garrett sheriff. Excuse bad writing I have my handcuffs on. I remain as ever.

Yours Respectfully

W.H.Bonney

Myth: Billy the Kid’s real name was William H. Bonney

William H. Bonny is actually another alias of Billy the Kid, used during the height of his notoriety, but it is not generally considered his real name. Throughout his life, several different names were associated with this 19th century outlaw and gunman, including:

  • William Henry McCarty, Jr. – Billy the Kid’s official birth name.
  • Henry Antrim – In 1873, Henry’s mother married a man named William Antrim. To avoid confusion with two Williams in the family, Billy the Kid’s mother started calling him by his middle name, Henry, and the boy took on his stepfather’s last name.
  • William H. Bonney – In 1877, Henry Antrim started using William H. Bonney as an alias after he murdered Frank “Windy” Cahill, and escaped to New Mexico to avoid a death sentence. Although the reason for the name “Bonney” is unknown, some speculate that this was his biological father’s name before his mother married a man named McCarty, who may or may not have been his biological father (not much is known of his biological father). McCarty may also have been his mother’s maiden name.
  • The Kid – Many of his associates nicknamed him “The Kid” because of his youthfulness and slender build.
  • Billy the Kid – In 1880, during the final year of his life, newspaper reporters and dime novelists, who often embellished stories about the young outlaw, started referring to him as Billy the Kid. Billy, of course, was used as a nickname for William. As the legend of “The Kid” circulated, so did the nickname that most people know him as today: Billy the Kid.

Thus, William H. McCarty, Jr. is considered Billy the Kid’s real name, not William H. Bonney.

About Billy the Kid

The Death Of Billy The Kid, 1881 – EyeWitness to History

Billy The Kid | HistoryNet

Billy the Kid: New Evidence – National Geographic Channel

Billy the Kid Escaped from Jail – America’s Story from America’s Li

Multimillion-dollar photo of Billy the Kid playing croquet was $2 junk

Billy the Kid’s Two Graves, Fort Sumner, New Mexico

Billy the Kid: A fan of croquet? – The Santa Fe New Mexican: Lo

Billy the Kid photograph fetches $2.3 million at auction – CNN.com

 


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