He is one of American history’s most celebrated and mysterious figures. The legacy of Henry McCarty, aka William H. Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, is one fraught with uncertainty, and part of this disputed legacy is over supposed photographs of the Kid.
Until a few years ago, only one authenticated photo of Billy the Kid existed. The famous snapshot was taken in late 1879 or early 1880 outside a saloon in Fort Sumter, New Mexico. The tintype survived because the Kid gave it to his friend Dan Dedrick, and it was passed down through his family over the years. In June 2011, the original tintype was sold at auction for $2.3 million.
In 2010, a man named Randy Guijarro bought three photos at an antique shop in Fresno, California for $2, or just about 67 cents apiece. After examining the photos closely, Guijarro now believes that Billy the Kid appears in one of the pictures. Not only does the photo potentially show the Kid, but you can also see several members of his gang, known as the Regulators. In the tintype, the group is playing croquet outside a house in the summer of 1878.
The photo was studied by experts and historians for over a year before Guijarro went public with his find in 2015, and the photo was the subject of a National Geographic documentary. The tintype was ultimately valued at $5 million. Despite the appraisal, there are some who still doubt that Guijarro’s photo depicts Billy the Kid.
Fast forward to just a couple of weeks ago. A North Carolina lawyer named Frank Abrams came forward with a photo he claims depicts a group of men, including not only Billy the Kid, but also the man who shot and killed him in 1881, Pat Garrett.
Abrams bought the tintype at a flea market in Fletcher, North Carolina in 2011 for $10. He hung the photo on the wall of his home and didn’t think much about the five men pictured. After Guijarro’s photo made big news in 2015, Abrams decided to take a closer look at his own tintype. After close examination, Abrams believes that the mustachioed man on the far right is Pat Garrett. He also believes the man second from the left is Billy the Kid.
Abrams has enlisted historians and forensic experts who have concluded that the photo does indeed show Billy the Kid and his future killer. The Kid and Garrett were friends who enjoyed gambling together but went separate ways after Garrett became sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico. Garrett gunned the Kid down in Fort Sumner, New Mexico on July 14, 1881. Although the photo seems to be real, Abrams has not had the tintype valued yet – but it seems Abrams may be in for a windfall.
There are many myths and mysteries surrounding Billy the Kid, including details about his childhood, how many men he actually killed, and if he was truly a cold-blood murderer or a young man thrown into dire circumstances during a tumultuous time. This new photograph adds another layer of mystery to his life.
This is a developing story, so we’ll have to see what happens with the new photo.
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